Angelic Upstarts

The EMI Years

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In many ways, the Angelic Upstarts are remembered as a second-string proto-Oi! act, sort of a little brother band to Sham 69 (Jimmy Pursey was an early champion of the Upstarts), which shortchanges their talent, their ambition, and their politics. Though they emerged from the same working-class street punk scene that birthed Sham 69, and vocalist Mensi (aka Thomas Mensforth) and guitarist Mond (aka Ray Cowie) could crank out the same sort of "we're the kids and we're pissed off" pub chants, their first two albums are cracking sharp British punk, and they were willing to embrace an angry but progressive leftism that would have put off most of the street bands. But while the Angelic Upstarts cut two solid albums for Warner Bros., their albums for EMI were more problematic; 1981's 2,000,000 Voices was a more polished variation on their earlier stuff, but 1982's Still from the Heart found them moving away from standard-issue guitar-based punk for a broader, more pop-oriented sound that still retained the same political stance in their lyrics, with mixed results. The EMI Years devotes half of its 18 tracks to nine of the 14 songs from 2,000,000 Voices, already available on CD, alongside three tunes from Still from the Heart, four live recuts of earlier tunes, and two non-LP single sides. While Still from the Heart's standout track, the powerfully dynamic "Soldier," has been included, it makes for strange bedfellows compared to the more orthodox punk material surrounding it, and the live songs are simply inferior substitutes for material from the first two albums. Fans of the Angelic Upstarts would be better off picking up CD reissues of 2,000,000 Voices and Still from the Heart rather than this disc, which in its attempts to bring the two albums together robs them both of focus and context.

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