Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I broke this one out again the other day and am still a little off-put by it. The SWELL MAPS, birthed in a glam-art-punk acid bath but who soon turned into one of the weirdest batch of experimentalists of the late 70s/early 80s, are here stripped of virtually all non-punk artiface & are presented on this 1999 compilation as a nearly straight-up, balls to the wall punk band. Which they most certainly could be ("Dresden Style", the then-newly-discovered "International Rescue"), but that's not what bothers me. Far from it -- I come away from this every time blown away by just how fierce and non-compliant with trad punk rock these guys were, and questioning why they're not accorded even half the respect of great bands like PERE UBU or even "very good" ones like the early GANG OF FOUR. No, I just don't dig the fact that so many of these songs were remixed to sound like punk rock circa 1999, not 1979, and the fact that, unlike "L.A.M.F. Revisited" or "Younger, Louder and Snottier" or whatever, this fact isn't advertised. Lame. They were loud, and overamped, sure, but not this much. The CD's terrific, and I recommend it wholeheartedly for the unheard tracks, but you'll also need to immediately buy these CDs to get the full picture: "A Trip To Marineville", "Jane From Occupied Europe" and "Train Out Of It". I sold my "Whatever Happens Next..." 2xLP a few years ago. Now why in tarnation did I do that? And can anyone in the reading audience provide a word or two on this collection's subsequent companion release, "Swell Maps Sweep The Desert"? Buy or ignore?