His Master's Voice

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His Master's Voice, the second posthumous collection of the Neurotics is as deserved and terrific as 45 Revolutions a Minute: Singles 1979-1984 (this has one or two common tracks). A reasoned collection that includes the more indispensable A-sides plus half of Beggars Can Be Choosers, half of follow-up Repercussions and, sadly, only three cuts from their last and best album, Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks. This is indeed a carefully selected overview of one of post-punk England's best and most overlooked alternative talents. For instance, the late '70s and early '80s punk numbers that make up the first half of this album are anything but by-the-numbers. Main man guitarist/singer/writer Steve Drewett was too clever, too well-educated, and too human to cling to punk glories or recycle its common riffs, and his lyrics largely defined the sociopolitical game in a way you wish more artists did and would. An unapologetic socialist driven by a heart apparently as big as his tall frame, Drewett deftly avoided sloganeering or preaching, instead presenting real people in real crises, highlighting social dilemmas, howling for a better shake, and confronting with intelligence as well as guts and passion (and sometimes big doses of humor) the evils in government, the unquestioned socialization process, the press, religious extremity, senseless violence, and most of all, the apathy of youth that's largely given up on the idea it can effect any real change. It's all here and damn if Drewett isn't backed by some of the brightest, catchiest guitar-pop songs this side of Buzzcocks and the Jam and early Ramones, as well as spirited, excellent backing from drummer Simon Lomond and bassist Colin Dredd. And as the early punk-ish pop days give way to their more mature, knowing approach, they never lost their immediacy and their greatness just increased: The latter half of this LP is as vital as it is first-rate. In the end, the shame is that Neurotics only rose out of cult status in Germany, where they drew big crowds and from whence this retrospective emanates, and that most Americans never heard about them since they never enjoyed a U.S. release of a single record. This is a CD to make up for all those wrongs in a big hurry. Hell, you'll clamor for a second volume; everything Neurotics did for a decade was gold.