Various Artists

Pub Rock: Paving the Way for Punk

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Few Americans were at all aware of the British "pub rock" movement until after it came to a halt, when several of the scene's major figures (most notably Nick Lowe, Ian Dury, and Joe Strummer) won an international audience in the wake of the late-'70s punk/new wave explosion. Consequently, "pub rock" is often seen as a key precursor to British punk, but while that's not incorrect, pub's influence was a matter of attitude rather than musical approach. The pub bands shared punk's contempt for the overblown pretension of '70s rock, but while the Damned and the Sex Pistols responded by stripping the music down to its frame and souping it up, the pub rockers preferred back-to-basics R&B and country-rock (the Band's first two albums were a key influence for many of the pubsters), and the "pub rock" handle had more to do with a common desire to play no-nonsense meat-and-potatoes barroom rock than any specific musical approach. While Pub Rock: Paving the Way for Punk is hardly the definitive chronicle of U.K. pub rock (that would requite a box set), it's an admirably concise and accurate introduction to the pub movement, featuring the scene's relative stars (Ace, Brinsley Schwarz, Dr. Feelgood, and Kilburn and the High Roads), entertaining lesser-knowns (Ducks Deluxe, Chilly Willy and the Red Hot Peppers, and Bees Make Honey, whose "Music Every Night" sounds like the official pub rock theme song), a pair of relevant roots rock ringers (Graham Parker and Dave Edmunds), and Eddie and the Hot Rods, whose charging cover of "Get Out of Denver" marks the spot where pub and punk met (even more so than the 101'ers' "Keys to Your Heart," featuring a pre-Clash Joe Strummer). Enriched with entertaining and well-informed liner notes, Pub Rock: Paving the Way for Punk is a superb one-disc overview of a much-misunderstood musical movement, and it sounds great accompanied by a cold lager and a packet of crisps.

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