Homicide: The Best of 999

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The acceptable, happy face of London 1977 punk and new wave after their first two (best) LPs, this quartet after 1978 eschewed the rebellion and social comment they'd only barely dabbled in anyway and became one of the big fun-time bands, anticipating Madness and others. The smokin' "Nasty Nasty" and "My Street Stinks" and the chilling "Homicide" of their '77/'78 days morphed into such stinkin' drunk sing-alongs as "Feelin' Alright With the Crew" and "Boys in the Gang." Which is to say that 999 came from R&B and rockabilly roots and returned more to them as they went along, producing an enjoyable hybrid of hard-enough guitars with a simple pub-riffing base that played well with discerning fans wearying of the hard-and-fast dictates of a punk. The problem with this so-called best-of, however, is that Cleopatra were unable to secure the rights to the first two LPs from EMI U.K. A mere six songs from that era appear, and only as passable live renditions from a decade-later concert (released as Live and Loud). Drat and double drat! "Definitive" this sure ain't! Homicide is, however, a nice sampler of the diminished, but still worthwhile 999 that's continued since. 1980's The Biggest Prize in Sport dominates with five tracks, though the most thrilling moment is provided by 1981's Concrete, the taut, neo-Western "Obsessed," as Cash's typically optimistic, bellowed squeal takes on a lascivious crackle. Yes! Go buy those first two LPs if you can find them, or the two previous, way-superior, import vinyl best-ofs, Singles Album or Identity Parade, then check this out! A lesser 999 is still enjoyable.

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