Various Artists

Hard-Up Heroes, Vol. 7: East Coast Punks

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A wide-ranging reminder of the days when the New York punk scene was at its peak, East Coast Punks shares with the themed compilations which emerged in the day a distinct lack of initial promise. There was a time, after all, when the media ached beneath the Big Apple's biggest bits, and a generation ached to hear them. But Television, Talking Heads, the Heartbreakers, and Suicide didn't have record deals, and they weren't turning up on compilations either. Instead Tuff Darts were on the CBGB live album, the Dictators had been kicking around for a few years, and the Marbles had a single on Ork. Years later, of course, collectors kill for such treasures, which is why Tuff Darts' killer Sire album isn't available on CD and no one remembers just how much like the Flaming Groovies they used to sound (seven tracks from that sainted disc open this collection), why the Marbles' "Red Light" 45 is worth next month's mortgage at least, and why the Dictators, represented with two cuts from the Manifest Destiny masterpiece, are still staging sold-out reunions. So that justifies the copied-off-the-vinyl aspects of this album -- what about the rest of it? The Blondie chunk is a bit of a rip-off, as the five live-on-Beat Club tracks are available officially on the X Offender video/audio CD and the 1976 outtake, "Scenery," has turned up on a comp as well. But a "live in San Francisco" version of "Presence Dear" is great, even if does sound suspiciously like a BBC TV appearance which showed up on VH1 Europe back in 1996, and "Rip Her to Shreds" has a ragged charm for those who don't already own the lo-fi boot it was taken from -- crackles and all. And that goes for a crop of live and TV Ramones performances, and a "Blitzkreig Bop" that sounds so slow that it's astonishing anyone ever got excited about it. "Rockaway Beach" goes on so long that one can hear the tide going out, "I Wanna Be Sedated" kind of sounds like it has been, and listeners can probably think of their own jokes for the rest. It's a patchy grab bag then, but in a way that's a good thing, because it means it's just like the comps people used to buy way back when -- except this time, listeners care about the bands who are on it.

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