Following hot on the heels of Cherry Red's seemingly exhaustive box set Winds of Time: The New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979-1985, which covered the big names and obscurities of the era, Jobcentre Rejects: Ultra Rare NWOBHM 1978-1982 delves even deeper into the fringes of the scene. The songs here are by bands who never made a ripple, much less a splash, and are taken from small-run singles, the kind that probably sold to the band's family and close friends and not many more. The lack of success and record sales don't mean that the bands were failures by any means; the quality of the songs here is shockingly good, and given a break here or a lucky bounce there, any one of these forgotten bands could have been as big as Motörhead or Judas Priest. Maybe they were lacking the right look or didn't play the game quite right, but judging by how immensely hooky and fun a song like Overdrive's "On the Run" is, for example, or how blearily raunchy Speed's "Down the Road" is, there was a bunch of great rock & roll bubbling way under under the surface during this time. Some of it leans toward beery, pub rock singalongs (Spider's "Children of the Street"), some of it is thunderingly blues-inspired and full of thick swagger (Metal Mirror's "(Living On) English Booze"), and some of it treads close to the more melodic realm of power pop (Frenzy's super-hooky "Thanx for Nothin'"). Mostly, though, it's good old hard rock and metal that's delivered with a wink or a punch and usually a memorable melody. Sometimes all at once, as on the very Thin Lizzy-ish "Don't Show Your Face" by Energy or the similarly Lizzy-inspired "Never on a Win" by the Next Band. These songs, and many others on the collection, show that Phil Lynott's crew were indeed a towering influence for hard rockers, revered for the way they blended the power of metal with the lyricism of classic rock and the attitude of punk. Nobody here quite rises to their level, but the effort they put into trying to get there makes for fun listening. The sweat, beer, and abandon all the bands put into their songs -- which could have been their one shot at recording -- gives the collection the feel of a garage rock comp along the lines of Pebbles. It's the sound of kids taking the music of the day and cranking it out the best they could, sometimes ending up sounding silly but every now and then coming up with something worthwhile. The guys behind Jobcentre Rejects did an amazing job of excavating these scuffed and slightly intoxicated gems; hopefully it's only the beginning of their efforts.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra