Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Various Artists • I.R.S. Greatest Hits Vols. 2 & 3

A few weeks ago I reviewed Urgh! A Music War and noted that my favorite compilation of all time is I.R.S. Greatest Hits Vols. 2 & 3. And so, dear friends, I must at long last give you a short review of said favorite so you can better understand my psychosis.

This 2LP variety pack came out in 1981, the year of my graduation from high school. At that time I still hadn't discovered "new wave" or "punk" or "post punk" or "whatever handy genre name is making the rounds this week." Once I started doing radio at my college station, KCMU, I came across our review item. It had a cool cover—all these broken up records—which appealed to my 18 year old sensibility (I only had one then). First song on the album is "Cold Cold Shoes" by The Fleshtones: a nice little organ-driven raver. Next song, "Ain't That a Shame" by Brian James, whoever he was, and not the one Cheap Trick covered on At Budokan. Another great song, and it turned out this guy had been in The Damned, who open side two with "Wait for the Blackout." Now here was manna from, ummm, well not heaven I guess, but manna nonetheless. I LOVE THIS SONG. Almost thirty years after I first heard this song, I still think of it as Numero Uno among The Damned's many fine records. (And you probably know by now that they are my favorite band of all time, above The Beatles, above The Clash, above The Shaggs.) Where most compilation albums would falter, this one stays the course throughout four sides! "Straighten Out" was my first dose of The Stranglers and it had very interesting subject matter. "Urban Kids" by Chelsea—throbbing punk. "Uranium Rock" by The Cramps—nice lo-fi rockabilly, great song, a cover of the old Warren Smith tune. Humans' "I Live in the City" had a great old saying on it ("If you're gonna act like that/you better get on the stage") and was a tough slice of life for a country girl in the city. Now let's head over to sides three and four...

"Fallout" was the first single by The Police, and at the time, had not been released here in the States. Did you know they were actually PUNK ROCK once? Yup. Tom Robinson's Sector 27 does "Can't Keep Away," Jools Holland (years before his MC stint on the BBC) does an old R&B tune in a rockabilly manner ("Mess Around"), plus The Fall, Oingo Boingo, Buzzcocks, Klark Kent (on leave from The Police) and more*, all submitting great tunes that at that time had only appeared here in the USA as expensive import singles (if that).

I discovered so many future favorite bands on this record! It's too bad they can't put this thing out on CD now (it all fits on one), since the rights to these tunes are probably spread out all over the globe and would prove to be a real pain in the John Keister to track down. If you want a good listen at what all those above-named genres were like in the early 80s before MTV, hunt this down, and kill it.
* Henry Badowski, Alternative TV, Squeeze, Skafish (awesome!), John Cale, Payola$, Patrick D. Martin, Wazmo Nariz, Fashion.
5/5 (IRS Records; out of print) (Top image is the original cover; bottom image the later cover.)

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