El Paso expats the Rhythm Pigs' first two albums are collected for this archival compact disc release. Applying the lessons of hardcore (breakneck speed, stop-start rhythms, lefty politics) to funk-based rock, the trio scores an equal number of hits and misses among the 28 tracks, but the strongest material still stands years later. The first 13 songs come from the self-titled debut and are plagued by cheap production and ambitious arrangements that the band sometimes struggles to execute. A jangly post-punk cover of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" (the recognizable theme from numerous Peanuts television specials) aside, much of Rhythm Pigs is repetitive and the songs are washed in enough guitar flange to obliterate any identifiable qualities. The more assured Choke on This follows the same blueprint, but a dynamic sound, tighter playing, and better songwriting results in a minor classic. The Rhythm Pigs have issues with censorship, nuclear carelessness, and American manifest destiny, common complaints all, but they tackle these serious issues with a down-to-earth maturity and humor that many of their contemporaries lacked. An exception is "Little Brother," a tirade against hardcore fanzine Maximumrocknroll; though the song rocks hard, its petulant lyric concerns inter-scene politics that few will care about, outside of a small circle of friends (whatever the problem was, it must have been real important at the time). Regardless, the band sounds great on Choke on This, flying through the set with an airy velocity and negotiating lurching changes in rhythm and texture with aplomb. Vocalist and bassist Ed Ivey's voice is stronger than on their debut, and guitarist Greg Adams' acoustic instrumental "Arkansas" soars (the song returns in full electric flower as "Arkansas [Slight Return]"). Punk fans won't find pure thrash here, but the energy level is high and the Rhythm Pigs' mid-'80s work anticipates the funk-metal-hardcore crossovers that proliferated several years later, though intellect is accentuated here rather than aggression.
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