The Boys

The Punk Rock Anthology

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In a better world, the Boys would have been one of the biggest bands to emerge from the U.K. punk scene -- if they were more about having a good time than decrying social injustice of fomenting anarchy, they certainly knew how to write and play a fast, clever rock & roll song with plenty of piss and vinegar, and their first two albums, The Boys and Alternative Chartbusters have stood the test of time better than many of their contemporaries with better street cred. Their third and fourth LPs, To Hell with the Boys and Boys Only, found them moving away from the confines of punk in favor of a sound that was poppier and suggested the more working-class side of glam rock, but the tunes and the energy were still there when they hit fourth gear, and they still had plenty to offer when they threw in the towel in 1981. The Punk Rock Anthology may be a pretty lame title, but it's attached to a comprehensive and thoroughly entertaining two-CD collection that culls the cream from all four Boys albums, along with 7" versions of some crucial tunes as well as demo recordings and alternate takes. The sequence puts the more straight-ahead punk-flavored stuff on disc one, with the pop influences becoming more prominent on the second disc, so if you're looking for more of a revved-up good time you'll be spending more time with the first half of the set. But this compilation does make a compelling case for the virtues of the Boys' underrated later work, and while the liner notes don't offer a coherent history of the band, there's relevant information about every track, along with fine photos of the group in their heyday. The Punk Rock Anthology may have a cookie-cutter title and dull front-cover graphics, but as an overview of the Boys' studio work it's great stuff, and confirms why this band's reputation has only grown with the passage of time.

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