June 22, 2003

Various Artists "Lookout! Punk Rock Seven Inch CD Volume One 1988-1989"

You knew it was bound to happen--punk rock nostalga. Of course, it's only fair for a long-running, still fertile and popular record label to want to document their back pages, especially considering that the current age bracket of new punkers weren't even born when these singles were originally released. Frankly, it's also amazing to me that it's been a decade and a half! Who knows where the time goes! Anyway, Lookout! has certainly become a household name, thanks to years of consistently well-loved releases. Hell, they practically created pop-punk, but let's not hate them for that, okay?

This release makes perfect sense, simply because many of the single bands were one-offs, one-single-wonders, or would not be of interest now. I mean, would Joe Green Hair rush out to buy a discography compilation of a little-known band who self-released an album and broke up three years after he was born? Idealists say yes, but reality says no. Still, it's kind of amazing listening to several of these singles again. I've got a few of these myself, and I haven't really listened to them in ages, so this was a nice little trip down memory lane.

It's pretty amazing, listening to these records now, because these bands sound far, far removed from the whole "pop-punk" image that has haunted Lookout! for years. From the amazing thrash of Plaid Retina, who fly through twelve songs (proving Slayer was already an influence and providing a legacy that still exists to bands like The Locust and Black Dice) to the poppy and forgotten punky Blondie-ish Kamala & the Karnivores, this is a forgotten side that deserves to be documented. About the only record on here that should be forgotten is the Yeastie Girlz, an acapella girl group who sing about masturbation and other lovely things. It wouldn't be so bad, really, were it not for the fact that it's basically the same melody line with different words. It's certainly a historical document of that era, but does it stand up on its own merits in 2003? Not really, no. Sometimes the joke just isn't funny anymore. The other bands on this collection are Isocracy, Surrogate Brains, and Corrupted Morals, and all are pretty darn good, too.

There's a lot here to digest--47 songs--but if you listen to them as individual records, you'll really enjoy it, and if you're old like me, you'll probably remember some of these records, too! All in all, a fun stroll down memory lane; kudos for Lookout! for not only remastering these songs but also for reproducing the sleeves in their entirety. (One complaint--where is Isocracy's cover of "Freebird"? Was it cut for legal reasons, or was it just a joke?)

--Joseph Kyle

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