In true iconoclastic fashion, the Varukers were still scrapping away at the punk rock game in the early 21st century, a full 20 years after their 1979 formation in Birmingham, England. Their distribution had never been widespread, and was often shoddy at best. But through personnel upheavals, occasional breakups, and releases appearing fitfully through fly-by-night operations, fans searching for vintage Varukers material often had to make due with so-so latter day re-recordings, or warped eighth generation mix-tapes. And that's no way to fight the man, now, is it? Luckily Punkcore has remedied this problem with Riot City Years: 1983-1984. The Bristol imprint began in 1980 as a platform for Vice Squad releases; as the Varukers' second label, it bore some of their best fruit. Riot City Years includes their first two 7"s for the label, "Die for Your Government" and "Led to the Slaughter". While the title cuts of both burst with scraggly screeds of English second-wave punk guitar and snotty gang vocals, B-sides like the furious, all-treble "All Systems Fail," and the double-time punch of "The End Is Nigh" are just as strong. The 1984 Another Religion Another War EP closes out this retrospective; by this point, the Varukers' rate of speed had reached ludicrous levels (check "Neglected" or "Who Pays?" for proof). While the intensity level was usually just as high for their 1983 album Blood Suckers, the material -- making up the midsection of this comp -- couldn't match the explosive bursts of the 7" releases. But that was nothing new for punk at the time, where shooting first and aiming later often made the statements more resonant. Even with its patches only passable punk, Riot City Years is a strong reissue that puts the Varukers' fiery past in good standing with the punk revivalist present.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus