Various Artists

Apocalypse Always

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A diverse sampler from Jello Biafra's label, Alternative Tentacles, Apocalypse Always is not as great as many of the past compilations to come out on this once important label. Included are several tunes from past recordings by M.I.A. and Evan Johns & His H-Bombs, which Alternative Tentacles has reissued on CD, quite a few exclusive tracks, some numbers from several new bands on the Alternative Tentacles roster, and a bunch of snippets from a series of spoken word CDs featuring various political activists like Howard Zinn and Angela Davis. The first track, and among the best, features Biafra talking about his discovery of the Ramones in the '70s and how he caught them in concert in Denver, CO, opening up for some country-rock bands. It's one of the finer tributes to Joey Ramone, who passed away in 2001. There's also a neat tune from the Flaming Stars, who sound like an even more low-key Velvet Underground and are completely unlike anything else on this loud, art punk-oriented label. Also, the relatively new Phantom Limbs have a groovy garage tune with plenty of atmospheric organ called "Look Ma, No Hands." But many of the other cuts are less inspired. Mumia Abu-Jamal, phoning in from Pennsylvania's death row, has a very generic, left-wing response to the September 11 attacks, talking about how poverty is a much worse injustice to most Americans than terrorism. Why the two need to be compared to each other is anyone's guess. His words are expressed in a series of clichés. Also, Biafra teams up with Randy Bachman, Chris Houston, and Garnet Sweatshirt for a wanky industrial-rock version of the classic rock staple "American Woman," which will only leave the listener perplexed as to why it ever happened. Generally, this sampler is a not very crucial mixed bag.

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