Various Artists

Peace War

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This massive international punk compilation was organized by the infamous MDC and released on the band's R. Radical Records label in 1984. The worldwide hardcore scene was at its peak at this point, still underground enough to repel corrupting outside influences like major labels and heavy metal, but already hardened into a rigid aesthetic and political dogma that often encouraged groupthink and musical conformity. Peace War documents the state of Reagan-era hardcore, just before the popularity of extreme music spread through decidedly non-radical camps and into the mainstream. Among the 55 bands on board are well-known acts like the Dead Kennedys, Crass, Butthole Surfers, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and D.O.A., but the best tracks are courtesy of obscure groups representing local scenes from Argentina to South Africa to Japan. Most of the bands included retain, either through design or some bizarre quirk of ineptitude, a stamp of individuality on their sound that makes this an entertaining collection. The Italian bands, such as Negazione, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, and Declino, provide the most brutal attack, creating a blurry din of speed, distortion, and hoarse caterwauling. Japan's G.I.S.M. stands out with a metallic crunch, cartoonish vocals, and great lines like "They detest to awake you from fool." Taking the prize for the shortest tracks are PPG (aka Pounds of Polluted Garbage) and Zero Defex, both from Ohio, who turn out moronic anti-nuke anthems with skills so rudimentary they defy description. Other highlights include great breakneck rock from nearly forgotten bands like Iconoclast, the Offenders, Reagan Youth, and the Dicks. An extensive booklet insert is packed with political rants, cartoons, and suggestions for further reading, making explicit the double-LP's theme of activism and action against a corrupt authority. Plus, each band is provided with a full page to express their ideas (and plug their wares) with printed lyrics and crudely effective collage art. Peace War was reissued on CD in 1997 by New Red Archives, dampening the archival quality of the compilation somewhat by tacking on a few tracks from some of the label's current Clintonian punk bands.

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