Like all the great rock revolutions, punk was fueled by singles. Sure, there were a lot of tremendous albums, but all the artists that cut great LPs also had great 7"s -- and in the case of Television
and Patti Smith
, they had independent singles released prior to their first albums that never appeared on their debuts. Since rock criticism tends to be album-driven, singles tend to get slightly overlooked, and since punk is a rock critic's favorite, some revisionist historians paint the era as fueled by albums, not singles. Rhino's excellent four-disc No Thanks! The '70s Punk Rebellion
corrects that error by focusing on the singles, winding up with a one-stop introduction and summary of the era that is as good as Loud, Fast & Out of Control
, their similar set on early rock & roll. The compilers have bent the rules of punk slightly, deciding to include proto-punkers like New York Dolls
, the Stooges
, the Dictators
, and Jonathan Richman
, and then to not present the cuts in a strictly chronological order. This benefits the album, since these artists are in the same spirit of the bands they inspired, and the sequencing plays like a great mixtape. Rhino has also evenly balanced the set between American and British punk, including both early hardcore punkers the Dead Kennedys and British pub rock renegades like Nick Lowe
and Ian Dury
in equal measure. Though there's a bit of difference between "California Über Alles" and "Heart of the City," they deserve to be paired on this set because they both were genuinely independent, exciting 45s that crackled with energy and captured the spirit of punk, albeit in different ways. And that's what makes No Thanks!
work so well -- it illustrates how diverse punk and new wave were in the late '70s, but it places a premium on adventure and excitement, which means even artier bands like Pere Ubu
come across as pure rock & roll. If there is any flaw to the box, it's that most record collectors will already own the lion's share of these songs -- in fact, if they own Rhino's previous 1993 multi-disc punk retrospective D.I.Y.
, they'll own no less than 53 of these songs (an additional 14 songs have appeared on other Rhino titles, making for a grand total of 67 of 100 songs already released by Rhino). While this is undoubtedly a problem for some collectors, it is also true that it functions more as an overview for fans that don't already own a bunch of this on CD, and on that level it can't be faulted. True, this may contain no tracks from the Sex Pistols
, since John Lydon
refused them permission (allegedly because Rhino chose not to release the 2002 Sex Pistols
box set in the States), but every other major player is here, and the music here is so good they're not missed at all. Finally, if a collector is wondering whether it's worth the expense to buy this box, there are three rare singles that make their debut here: the aforementioned Television
and Patti Smith
singles, "Little Johnny Jewel" and "Hey Joe [version]," plus an early single version of the Pretenders
' "The Wait." (Note: "Little Johnny Jewel" was released nearly simultaneously on an expanded reissue of Television
's Marquee Moon
.) For those that can afford it, that's reason enough to pick up the set.