Despite the typically cumbersome title, The Handy Wah! Whole is indeed a handy and portable compilation of Pete Wylie's output from the late '70s through the late '90s. The two-disc set expertly selects the best-known moments of Wylie's scattered and occasionally great career. Early post-punk anthems like "Better Scream" and "Seven Minutes to Midnight" highlight the first disc, along with fine album tracks like the instrumental "Seven Minutes" lead-in "The Seven Thousand Names of Wah." The second disc covers the less productive years, including Wylie's solo single from 1986, "Sinful." (The 1991 hit remix of the same song also makes an appearance on the second disc.) 1998 comeback single "Heart as Big as Liverpool" is another bright spot, proving the artist to have just as much wide-eyed enthusiasm two decades into his career as he did when he first started. Even if you don't feel as if you need anything Wah!-related past 1982 and don't care for the genre hopping of the later periods (see the failed but ambitious gospel two-parter "The Story of the Blues"), the extensive compilation is priced as a single disc. Wylie might not have ever attained the creative or popular heights of former colleagues Ian McCullough (Echo & the Bunnymen) and Julian Cope (the Teardrop Explodes), but his productive career has resulted in its fair share of enthusiastic and powerful music that bleeds confidence and defiance. This might offer more of a complete picture, but fans of the late-'70s/early-'80s post-punk sound might be better served by Castle's 2001 reissue of Nah = Poo -- The Art of Bluff, the band's tough-as-nails debut.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2