Various Artists

Live from the Masque: The Definitive Collection

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I might be talked into the wisdom of condensing into one handy disc the three individual CDs that formerly made up this series, when released in 1996 by X's Exene Cervenka on her Year One label -- the first volume of which, Forming, was originally released a few years before that on Masque booker Brendan Mullen's own label. Those three CDs splendidly documented the boiling 1977-1978 L.A. punk rock scene. But I can't understand why this CD is only 35 minutes. Hello? If we must edit each of the 12 band's sets from six or seven songs each, why must we make do with only one or two tracks instead? And just as perplexing, why remove the group that would do the most to sell this: X themselves? All that said, for those who do want the most succinct and tightly edited document, outside of X's mysterious exclusion (and the apparent lack of extent tapes of the other groups who played these Masque benefit shows), the label did an excellent job of picking these 16 tracks. So anyone who missed Year One's issues should still run -- don't walk -- to the store to get this. The riotous inspiration running through this stunning scene is as frenzied fun as on the two seminal, hard-to-find CDs compiling all the Dangerhouse label's astonishing singles of these bands. The best of them all, the absolutely ungodly Weirdos, rip apart "Teenage"; the Dickies are preserved doing the otherwise lost "Shake and Bake"; the Skulls sound typically lewd on "Building Models"; and the underrated F-Word destroy "Hillside Strangler." These smokin' raw but clear tapes are enough to short circuit every neuron in your brain! Buy this, and when you're finished playing it 150 times, start the difficult search for the Dangerhouse and Year One comps.

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