Various Artists

Punk-O-Rama, Vol. 4

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It would be inaccurate to say that Epitaph's Punk-O-Rama compilations cater to punk purists 100 percent of the time. Not everything on Punk-O-Rama, Vol. 4, which Epitaph assembled in 1999, is hardcore punk -- some of the material is simply alternative rock with a strong punk influence. But it is safe to say that Vol. 4 is punk-oriented, and it is also safe to say that the CD is, at five dollars, a bargain for North American consumers -- when Vol. 4 came out in 1999, five dollars was less than one would typically pay for a used CD. And even though not every tune on this disc is a five-star gem, most of the tracks are decent or competent; there are no outright duds. Fans of a hardcore punk sound -- as opposed to poppy emocore or punk-influenced alternative rock -- should have no problem getting into Agnostic Front's "It's My Life," the Dwarves' "I Will Deny," or Union 13's "A Life's Story." Meanwhile, the Voodoo Glow Skulls' "They Always Come Back" is an abrasive, forceful example of ska-punk. And the most metal-minded track is Zeke's "Twisted," which could be described as Aerosmith by way of Iggy Pop. There is even a track by singer/songwriter Tom Waits: "Big in Japan." Waits isn't the first name one would expect to see on a punk-oriented compilation, but "Big in Japan" has enough of a punkish edge to fit in -- the tune doesn't sound out of place, and it is one of the best things on the CD. Punk-O-Rama, Vol. 4 isn't ideal but, at five dollars, it isn't a bad way to get acquainted with Epitaph's late-'90s roster.

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