October 28, 2003

Album Review

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 and Suicide 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.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Blitzkrieg Bop
  2. White Riot
  3. Heart of the City
  4. Boredom
  5. (I'm) Stranded
  6. Neat, Neat, Neat
  7. In the City
  8. Final Solution
  9. Roadrunner
  10. Little Johnny Jewel
  11. One Chord Wonders
  12. Born to Lose
  13. Search and Destroy
  14. Let Me Dream If I Want To (Amphetamine Blues) [Live]
  15. Oh Bondage Up Yours!
  16. 12XU
  17. Blank Generation
  18. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
  19. Cherry Bomb
  20. Personality Crisis
  21. Teenage Depression
  22. Two Tub Man
  23. Hey Joe [Version]
  24. Your Generation
  25. Lust for Life
  26. Gary Gilmore's Eyes
  27. Saturday Night in the City of the Dead
  28. What Do I Get?
  29. X Offender
  30. Lookin' After No. 1
  31. Don't Dictate
  32. Bingo Masters Breakout
  33. Free Money
  34. The Modern World
  35. Chinese Rocks
  36. New Rose
  37. Ambition
  38. See No Evil
  39. Suspect Device
  40. Mannequin
  41. Baby Baby
  42. Love Comes in Spurts
  43. First Time
  44. Sonic Reducer
  45. Shot by Both Sides
  46. Mystery Dance
  47. Trash
  48. The Day the World Turned Day-Glo
  49. Do Anything You Wanna Do
  50. Ready Steady Go
  51. Teenage Kicks
  52. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
  53. Ever Fallen in Love?
  54. Rocket U.S.A.
  55. Mongoloid
  56. Homicide
  57. Mr. Big
  58. Warsaw
  59. Where Were You?
  60. Lexicon Devil
  61. (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures
  62. The Wait
  63. We Got the Neutron Bomb
  64. Pablo Picasso
  65. Action Time Vision
  66. 2-4-6-8 Motorway
  67. We Are the One
  68. Borstal Breakout
  69. Wasted
  70. Sheena Is a Punk Rocker
  71. I Love Livin' in the City
  72. She's So Modern
  73. Ghosts of Princes in Towers
  74. We're Desperate
  75. You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)
  76. Dancing the Night Away
  77. Hong Kong Garden
  78. Hanging on the Telephone
  79. Top of the Pops
  80. Adult Books
  81. The Sound of the Suburbs
  82. California Über Alles
  83. Another Girl, Another Planet
  84. (I Want to Be An) Anglepoise Lamp
  85. Radio, Radio
  86. Typical Girls
  87. Human Fly
  88. Psycho Killer
  89. Babylon's Burning
  90. If the Kids Are United
  91. Alternative Ulster
  92. Boys Don't Cry
  93. She Is Beyond Good and Evil
  94. Is She Really Going Out With Him?
  95. Get Over You
  96. Love Like Anthrax
  97. Peaches
  98. Into the Valley
  99. You Can't Put Your Arms Round a Memory
  100. Love Will Tear Us Apart