Various Artists

Messthetics No. 6

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The Messthetics roundup of British D.I.Y. punk and post-punk continues its alphabetical trawl through the forest with an almost star-studded roundup of the letter "B" -- and a couple of "A"s thrown in at the end. And, it must be said, after the high standards of the five preceding volumes, this one actually reaches even higher. Such gloriously familiar names as Avant Gardeners, Honey Bane, Big in Japan, and the Bouncing Czechs weigh in with early vinyl sides that really should have been anthologized in their own right by now, while a couple of tracks from the Bloated Toads' Happy Home EP pinpoint a group that hovers so firmly in the heart of early U2/Virgin Prunes territory that it's hard to believe the bandmembers are from Brighton. There's the usual smattering of Mach-ten punk shockers, of course -- the Bleach Boys, Blanks, and Base, for starters, were all slashed from much the same safety-pinned cloth. But there's also a healthy gathering of far unhealthier pursuits. Beyond the Implode seems to be thinking in a distinctly pre-goth manner, while the Bearz have a breathy pop vibe that almost reminds one of vintage Milk & Cookies -- and that's a comparison you don't hear very often. Elsewhere, the Balloons' "Jean Paul's Wife" is all hesitant bass and startled insect guitars; B-Film's "Night Running" is a languorous bass-driven slide through thick, scratchy atmospheres; and Bee Vamp's "Valium Girl" sounds like the Cure rehearsing with Lora Logic. It also asks what, for the seasoned Messthetics listener, is the very pertinent question, "Tell me, do you ever get headaches?" Well?