The Angelic Upstarts never became as huge as they should have, pioneers of the late-'70s Oi! scene whose own impact was derailed by any number of commercial, critical, and social mishaps, even as a host of imitators raced past them to glory. Rounding up all 17 of the group's singles (A-sides only), however, testifies to just how close the Upstarts came to rewiring punk rock for the looming new decade, with the opening salvo of "The Murder of Liddle Towers," "I'm an Upstart," and "Teenage Warning" as portentious a statement of intent as any other band of the age was able to unleash -- and that includes the Sex Pistols.
The heat does diminish as the album continues, and the band's last half dozen or so 45s are essentially the sound of punk-by-numbers. Before that, however, a dynamic cover of the Animals' "We Gotta Get out of This Place," the elegiac "Last Night Another Soldier," and, best of all, the punky-reggae punch of "Different Strokes" (produced by Dennis Bovell), all push the Upstarts so far ahead of the rest of the pack that any latter-day diminishing is easily forgiveable. Packaged with a 12-page booklet illustrating each of the 17 original 45s, The Punk Singles Collection may not offer much to anyone who already owns the other ten Angelic Upstarts albums issued by Captain Oi! over the years. For anybody wondering where to get on board, however, this is the best introduction of them all.