Formed in 1976 by the founder of the trailblazing punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue, Mark Perry's pioneering Alternative TV were one of the first important U.K. punk bands, but they soon evolved into one of the first post-punk outfits -- Perry was less interested in the rapidly established status quo of punk than in music that challenged expectations and expressed his frustration with the world around him, and even at their most approachable, Perry and his collaborators showed little interest in pleasing the masses who were digging Sham 69 or the Damned. In Control is a compilation drawn from Alternative TV's more accessible material -- these 17 tunes are all recognizable as punk rock, falling outside the period of Perry's fascination with synthesizers and sampling, and feature covers of songs by the Ramones, Chelsea, and Frank Zappa. But this is still punk that's smart, ambitious, and emotionally confrontational; the melodies are adventurous by the blama-lama standards of first-era punk, often displaying the influence of prog rock, and Perry's lyrics contain little sloganeering and plenty of thoughtful dissection of society, culture, romance, and the media. In Control is neither as fractured or as comprehensive as 2003's double-disc collection Action Time Vision: The ATV Anthology. But someone looking for a (relatively) easy way into the ATV catalog would do well to pick this up; it presents some fascinating music from a vital artist, and pulls together some of Perry's more user-friendly work without compromising his viewpoint.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming