Various Artists

Vancouver Complication

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A classic late-'70s punk-era city-scene survey (the liner notes for the 2005 re-release specifically mention the Akron compilation on Stiff as the source of inspiration), Vancouver Complication was both an important release for its time and in retrospect an enjoyable period piece. Drums are often muffled or clattering, vocals can be tentatively quirky or brawling sneers -- it's seat-of-the-pants stuff but that's pretty much what had to happen then in order to get on vinyl and be heard at all. The reputation of such groups as D.O.A. and the Subhumans, among others, would grow beyond their appearances here, but even the one-offs and never-heard-agains help contribute to the whole thing. As was so often the case with early punk efforts away from New York and London, many of the efforts were aping to one extent or another (the Pointed Sticks' Anglophilic "The Marching Song" and Wasted Lives' "Wirehead" are just two of several songs that would love to claim they were from Camden instead of, say, Burnaby). D.O.A. themselves were already well under way, Chuck Biscuits drumming like a superstar, but Joey Shithead still had to get the Clash affectations out of his voice, as "Kill Kill This Is Pop" readily shows. In ways it's the bands that were starting to find other less straitjacketed ways around punk inspirations that come up with the lasting winners -- if Exxotone loved Devo and Active Dog XTC, they did so well, while BIZ's straight-faced '50s tearjerker gone wrong, "Pork U," is a murky masterpiece of comedy. Equally funny and a lost power pop classic is the K-Tels' "I Hate Music," a "Losing My Edge" for its time and place. Meanwhile, the U-J3RK5' "U-J3RK5 Work for Police" is a weird brief spaz rant that's somewhere between early Roxy Music and MX-80 Sound and still inhabits its own universe, while (e)'s solo effort, "e925" predates lo-fi as genre signifier by some years. The 2005 reissue adds five tracks of varying worth, including three (one being a ridiculous cover of the Gilligan's Island theme) from the Ramones-sounding, otherwise unheard-on-the-original Rude Norton.

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