Various Artists

Messthetics No. 8

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In terms of chronologically charting the development of the British punk scene's D.I.Y. sensibilities, Messthetics No. 8 marks the series' acknowledgement of Year Zero, opening with the debut single by the Desperate Bycycles and following through, 18 tracks later, with their follow-up. Based in London's New Cross area, the Desperate Bycycles formed in 1977 specifically to find out how little money a band could spend on recording, manufacturing, releasing, and distributing its own record. "Smokescreen" came in (and went out) for just a few hundred pounds, and proved to the world that record companies really were little more than a readily dispensable extravagance, especially if all you wanted to do was make a record. Actually having a hit, of course, was another matter entirely. But countless thousands of other bands followed the Desperate Bycycles' lead -- and that's on top of the hundreds featured in the Messthetics series. Devoted to the letter "D," Messthetics No. 8 is devoted in the main to the years immediately following the Desperate Bycycles' debut -- that is, 1977-1980, with a mere handful following D.I.Y.'s development into the 1980s themselves. Some genuine forgotten gems emerge, among them Dry Rib's nearly seven-minute "Alaska," Dislocation Dance's freakishly discordant "It's So Difficult," the Dangerous Girls' rattle and humming "MO7S," the Delmontes' proto-Depeche Mode, semi-Sisters-ish electrobash "Gaga," and the Deep Freeze Mice's "Dr. Z," one of the highlights of their immortally titled Teenage Head in My Refrigerator album. A few bands outstay their welcome a little -- Danny & the Dressmakers, the Digital Dinosaurs, and the Dogmatic Duo get two tracks where one would have sufficed -- and the album's overall mood of edgy experimentation away from the precepts of pure punk adrenalin is upset by the inclusion of the Dole's "Hungry Men...," a jokey slab of Shapes-influenced silliness set to a distinctly Stranglers-shaped keyboard motif. Then again, it was the need for wild variety that saw the D.I.Y. boom take off in the first place -- if these bands all wanted to sound the same, they would indeed have chased major-label deals.