For more than two decades, the post-punk wiseass subgenre Nomeansno helped steer still loses out to the arch sound of its better-looking cousins -- the ones back East -- who wear fashionable leather and prune-swallowing looks on their skinny mugs. The Vancouver veterans admit the supposed frivolity of their lengthy career. "How f*cken [sic] old are Nomeansno?" the bathroom graffiti captured for the cover of The People's Choice reads. "Give it up grand dads." And this from a community happy to welcome Mission of Burma (active years: 1980-1983) back to the fold! The gall. People's Choice combines Nomeansno rarities with highlights spanning most of the band's Alternative Tentacles years, particularly Wrong, Sex Mad, You Kill Me, and Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie. Its most vital work always shared space with well-meaning art rock noise, inside jokes, and lack of interest, detours that are always a detriment to legacy. However, People's Choice burns that chaff off, choosing 15 strong cuts that showcase the group's cutting post-punk urgency, its embrace of arch jazz rhythms, and most of all its influence on the work of everyone from Fugazi ("Victory"; "I Need You"'s dual vocal screed) to the Tragically Hip (the meandering swagger of "The River"). A competition pitting Nomeansno against the usual aesthetic heavyweights of post-punk -- as well as retrospectively lauded peers like Minutemen and Hüsker Dü -- is partial fantasy. But People's Choice puts it in perspective. The domestic violence nightmare "Dad" crosses Jonathan Richman with Suicidal Tendencies, dubby new wave pulses through "Body Bag," and rants like "Sex Mad" and "It's Catching Up" refuel on their own manic internal combustion. People's Choice illustrates Nomeansno's fiery performances, flair for cultural recklessness, and its still-resonant influence. Let the wiseass revival ignite.
People's Choice Review
by Johnny Loftus