Spurts! Punk & Post-Punk From the 70s & Beyond - Various Artists (Festival)
You’d be hard to please if you couldn’t find lots to love here. A whopping 93 tracks spread over four CDs - and it’s all yours for the price of three (large) beers in your local watering hole. Playing it might help you forget that your pub’s now a shiny, yuppy brasserie these days, without a trace of loud music or beer-soaked carpets, and serving food on wooden boards.
Let’s start with the obvious. It's a collection of music that can be labelled "punk" in the broadest sense of the term. Yet, there’s not one selection by the Sex Pistols or The Clash. It shouldn’t faze anyone. If you’e not familiar with their output, are you reading the right e-zine? Rhino couldn’t get the Pistols to play ball for their “No Thanks!” box and nobody shed too many tears. Joe Strummer’s “other” band The 101’ers do get a guernsey. Omitting the obvious leaves room for names that aren't as well known.
Punk has cracked the Big Four-Oh but “Spurts!” delves back further by including cuts by the Velvets, the MC5, the Groovies, the Dolls and the Stooges. It doesn’t limit itself to “punk” (whatever that is) either with the inclusions of Generation X, The Rezillos, the Dictators, the Ramones, News, The Birthday Party, Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers, Radio Birdman, The Saints, The Germs and so on.
It also spans music by what’s loosely termed “new wave” - Rich Kids, Tom Robinson Band, New Order - and includes the less classifiable, like Laughing Clowns, The Fall, Wire, The Flying Lizards and pel mel. It also includes a sizeable chunk of contemporary names like Hard Ons, NOFX, Pennywise, 28 Days, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Royal Headache and (gulp) The Living End.
This collection is a stab at as broad a market as possible, coming out, as it did, as a pre-Xmas package for the kids to buy a parent (or grandparent.) As Santa’s been and gone we have to ask the question about who else but doting offspring or Auntie Edna (who usually gets her brother a gift card for his birthday) would buy ”Spurts”? It’s a rhetorical question with many answers but one is: People with taste who aren’t addicted to MP3s.
Digital music has brought us many things but there are two biggies: Crappy sound and convenience. Where you sit in judgement on the format depends how much you’re willing to balance the former with the latter. It’s all too easy to program yourself a killer soundtrack to the daily commute and carry a stash of the best music on an iPod that’s the same size as Donald Trump’s hands.
But what if you’re not on the commute, you don’t want those little speakers embedded in your lug-holes and you just want to kick back and blast raw punk rawk in your lounge room or at your BBQ at stun volume? This sort of music isn’t high fidelity by any stretch, but it doesn’t deserve to be exclusively heard in its digitally compressed form. A CD can set it free.
People say that punk rock should never be aural wallpaper. Well, one man’s wallpaper is another man’s soundtrack. Why not play punk rock while you’re doing your tax, watching the football, cooking dinner, washing the car or (even better) driving it? Slap all four CDs into a multi-disc player and let it run on the random setting. If you have a single disc player, get off your arse and swap a new disc after 70 minutes.
(You purists might want it all on vinyl but good luck tracking down all of these for a realistic price if you don’t own them already.)
At this point I could give you a track-by-track rundown of what’s on “Spurts” and make the case for this song being included or another not deserving to make the cut. It’s pointless. Firstly, you can dig up the track listing yourself and secondly, our opinion (yours and mine) doesn’t count now anyway. Let’s say about 75 percent of this collection is killer, 15 percent tolerable and the balance dross. That’s not a bad strike rate. Your own results may vary.
“Spurts” might not equal “No Thanks!” as a collated document of classic punk because of its inclusion of contemporary names but it seems churlish to whinge. Let it blast and possibly educate the young people in your life. That's a responsibility we should all take seriously.