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Louder Than War review 'Nefarious Artists'

"A comprehensive run-through of punk compilation albums from Welly Artcore will make a perfect Christmas gift for the punk rocker in your family" says Nathan Brown.

 

Are you tired of the curmudgeonly punk rocker in your life ruining Christmas, scowling at the sound of Christmas songs and providing class analysis of all the soaps? Then this book is the solution. Plonk said ageing punk in the corner with Nefarious Artists enjoy the ensuing peace and goodwill.

 

The compilation album was how I got to hear some of my favourite songs. A 1979 Cherry Red sampler, Labels Unlimited, revealed Holocaust by Crisis and Big Time by Rudi alongside a series of other goodies such as the Newtown Neurotics. The Bullshit Detector albums on Crass showcased early songs by anarcho-punks like Anthrax and Omega Tribe. The P.E.A.C.E. album in 1984 opened up my eyes to the breadth of the international hardcore punk scene as did Pusmort’s Cleanse The Bacteria. The We Don’t Want..series of compilations from Mortarhate did similarly for the UK punk scene. Then there are the likes of Punk & Disorderly and A Country Fit For Heroes. I could go on…and on and on and on. Suffice to say, the humble compilation album was a crucial part of the punk culture during the years covered in this book, before you could just jump online and listen to the latest recommendations from your internet punk rock brethren and sistren.

Welly Artcore has assembled a comprehensive rundown of comps across the punk milieu between 1976 (“the compilation that first bore the word punk”) and 1989 (“because I had to stop somewhere”). He owns a copy of every one of the records featured herein and just finding the time to list them, let alone sit down and listen to that many singles, albums (and double albums is a huge commitment. In the book, he mentions that he owns 800 comps, but on the blurb, it says over 500 are covered in the book. Either way, it’s a huge undertaking. It means this book includes the famous, the obvious and the ones that will have gone under your radar. As he notes in his introduction (“Liner Notes”) you can track the development and shift in the global punk scene through these records. Major labels disappear, independent labels flourish, DIY takes centre stage, and the music – like time itself – speeds up.

 

Welly manages to combine the zeal of the enthusiast with the analysis of a historian. As a graphic designer, he made the effort to scan in the cover of every record so you can instantly recognise them in the wild and created a suitable cover image, complete with a fake “Used” price sticker – a nice touch. The equivalent of the Observer Book Of Punk Compilations. Occasionally Welly’s trademark sarcasm and wit creep in (take the book title for starters) but for the most part you get a half-page (occasionally full-page) synopsis of the record identifying highlights and points of interest. And I trust Welly’s judgement.

The timeline is divided into four eras: 1976-1979; 1980-1982; 1983-1986, and 1987-1989. Within each of those categories, the records are listed alphabetically. At the end of the book, the entries are listed by year rather than era. There is also a complete A-Z index at the back if you want to pick out an individual record to see exactly what Welly said about it.

 

 

Review by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on his Louder Than War archive here.

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