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Suspect Device review Nefarious Artists

"More than once this book sent me to the end of my record shelves pulling out copies of compilations I’d just read about to have a listen, often for the first time in years."

“The Evolution And Art Of The Punk Rock, Post-Punk, New Wave, Hardcore Punk And Alternative Rock Compilation Record 1976-1989” is the somewhat lengthy subtitle of this huge tome, and pretty much tells you what you're going to get here. The compilation album was invaluable for those of us who discovered punk rock a year or so after the initial explosion, when we didn’t have the money to buy all the records we wanted, or the knowledge to know which bands to look out for. I started buying records in 1978, but I had to save up my pocket money to be able to afford a single, and that took a while, so I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, however, by 1979 when we went to secondary school, there were people there who were also into punk, and some had older siblings who had records. I was able to borrow one of these records to tape, it was a compilation album called ’20 Of Another Kind’, it included bands I already knew, but it also opened my eyes to some bands I hadn’t yet discovered, including a song called ‘Suspect Device’ by a band called Stiff Little Fingers.

This was what was great about compilations, there were so many bands bringing records out it was hard to keep up, especially when you didn't live in a big city and your local record shop was just a small chart return shop, so these records were invaluable. I loved compilations and more would follow, especially when I got a paper round and had a little more money of my own. I picked up ‘The Roxy London WC2’, ‘We Do ‘em Our Way’, ‘The Rare Stuff’, ‘Back Stage Pass’, the ‘Jubilee’ sound track (that I bought for ‘Plastic Surgery’ by Adam & The Ants), any thing that looked punk or had at least one band I knew on, then into the 1980s it was ‘Bullshit Detector’, ‘Wessex ’82’ and ‘Punk And Disorderly” and on and on. In Nefarious Artists, Welly does a good job in detailing these albums and showing just how many compilation records came out in the early years of punk rock, from all over the world. He has limited this to the years 1976-1989, and it’s still over 400 pages long. I think 1989 is probably as good a place to stop as any, there were some good compilations released in the 1990s, but once you got into the 2000s, with a few notable exceptions, the compilation seemed to lose it’s appeal and it’s value, as new music started to become easier to find elsewhere, but those early records still hold a special place in my heart, even if I bought them just for one or two tracks or bands. It’s amazing how many compilations there were during this time, and some of these I’d never heard of until I read about then in here, plus there are quite a few I wish I’d known about at the time and some that I would always see in record racks, but never picked up. It also highlights that punk rock was a global phenomenon, something that the records mentioned here no doubt had a big part in fuelling.

More than once this book sent me to the end of my record shelves pulling out copies of compilations I’d just read about to have a listen, often for the first time in years. There is a lot of information here, each entry has the bands included, the sleeve design and pressing information and a little background if relevant. Welly doesn’t just limit himself to those releases he likes, there are compilations listed that he’s not keen on, but that also deserve a mention, even if just for context of what was going on in the world/punk at that particular time. I also like that 7” compilations are included too, as some of them were as important to me as the LPs; ‘Wessex ’82’ for example not only had exclusive tracks from Subhumans and A-Heads, but also a cool family tree of the bands featured.

This is a reference book that will sit alongside Ian Glasper’s series of books as an important document of our punk rock history. 

Earth Island (Tony)

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