Essential Punk Rock is far too short and too limited in its choices to be considered anywhere close to essential. Certainly one cannot argue with the selections of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.," the Buzzcocks' "Orgasm Addict," X-Ray Spex's "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!," and Wire's "12XU." The New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis" isn't really punk but it is a great song from one of the band's that inspired punk, so you can let that slide. Where the collection falls apart is with the Nosebleeds' "Ain't Been to No Music School," the Stiffs' "Tomorrow's Still Alive" and Sham 69's "You're a Better Man Than I." These may be great songs but they don't belong on any disc titled "essential." Add to that the inclusion of the Damned's "Life Goes On" from 1982 instead of one of their early tracks, and what you have is a seriously flawed collection that doesn't live up to its name and is not worth owning.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra