Various Artists

Nothing Short of Total War

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As a label sampler, there's a lot to complain about with Nothing Short of Total War: the album has a very heavy emphasis on Sonic Youth and related projects, as well as more than its fair share of Steve Albini. That's probably understandable, considering who was bringing in all the money, but it does give short shrift to other artists on the label who were also certainly worth some attention, like Band of Susans or, more egregiously, the Mekons. It's a moot point anyhow, because there's precious little on this album that can be had elsewhere, with most tracks exclusive to this sampler; that's right, kids, it's a rarities CD with lots of tasty tidbits of noise-drenched rock from some of the most respected indie artists from the mid- to late '80s. If you think that Blast First is just going to hand it to you on a silver (OK, aluminum) platter, though, think again. Annoyingly, the 20 tracks here are presented as a single 72-minute track on the CD, without any timing information included to help you sort out what's what -- just tiny little bits of found sound (interviews, radio snippets, etc.) wedged randomly between tracks. In the end, it's a nice collection of tracks from the label's best artists, but it's hardly essential -- all the best tracks have appeared on the artists' other albums, and the remaining tracks are more curiosities than anything.