Various Artists

Wanna Buy a Bridge?

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Rough Trade, a British indie label founded by Geoff Travis, was rock's first successful collective and a strong supporter of the arty, left-leaning post-punk music that emerged in the aftermath of the Sex Pistols. This U.S.-only compilation introduced Americans to some of the exciting, innovative music released by Rough Trade between 1977 and 1980. The collection's opening number is the closest to Pistols-era punk rock: "Alternative Ulster," a blistering Irish anthem recorded by Stiff Little Fingers in 1978. Next in the collection is Delta 5's "Mind Your Own Business," a 1979 recording that proves that abrasive, self-consciously ironic music can also be incredibly catchy; the guitarist slices through the propulsory funky rhythm created by the band's drummer and two bassists, while the vocalist spits out the words with increasingly intense sarcasm. Other highlights include "Soldier Soldier," a protest punk song by Spizz Energi; the exuberant "Ain't You" by Kleenex, an all-female Swiss band that later changed its name to Liliput; the Pop Group's "We Are All Prostitutes," a chaotic punk-funk-disco political rant with distorted guitar, drums, saxophone, and cello; "Part Time Punks," a beguilingly amateurish name-dropping classic by Television Personalities; the Raincoats' remake of "Man Next Door"; a reggae number by Jamaican singer John Holt (whose "The Tide Is High" became a hit for Blondie); and Robert Wyatt's surprisingly haunting rendition of Chic's "At Last I Am Free." Overall this may be the best single-album collection assembled of post-punk music.

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