Just out now are the next couple of chapters in Chuck Warner’s fantastic archival series of wildly obscure British punk-influenced DIY singles and comp tracks from 1977-81, “MESSTHETICS”. Chuck and the Hyped2Death label have pretty much owned this scene from the day he first espied the linkages between strange, low-budget rock/noise/art heroes like Beyond The Implode, The Door & The Window, the Desperate Bicycles and Animals & Men, and when historians look back at when the common threads of these weirdo groups began to be catalogued, they’ll give props to Warner the same way Lenny Kaye gets credit for reviving 60s garage/punk with the first NUGGETS series. I’m still a little in the dark about exactly what this particular volume represents (I will review MESSTHETICS #102, a second volume, sometime later this month). It’s certainly only super-rare, way out of print, wacko, homemade, small-scale stuff from London and its surrounding counties, but is it mostly uncollected until now? I’m far too lazy to go look at all my MESSTHETICS CDs to find out, but I think that the grand majority of these tracks are making their first modern appearance here. Some are actually demos or are marked unreleased, most notably a muted early version of my favorite HOMOSEXUALS track, ”Touch Technique”, yet besides theirs, most tracks are from the vaguest of the vague.
At one point I made a personal comp of the best tracks from the first seven MESSTHETICS volumes, and only one here made the cut, the skeletal & bouncy template song “I Don’t Want To Work for British Airways” by the SCISSOR FITS. Right after that one on this CD is a real whopper, though, “Machine Gun” by THE RICH & FAMOUS, a relatively slick scorcher about a Norwegian female terrorist (!). It’s the best thing on here, and I’ve been playing it to death. Another winner is “Ghosts (The Subway Strummer)” by KAREL FIALKA, who seems to have had the same sort of mystical psych/pop eye that drove his countrymen THE SOFT BOYS and BEYOND THE IMPLODE to medium glory. What’s really special about this particular compilation, though, is how big & bold these formerly lo-fi masters sound. The mixing is off-the-charts fantastic, and everything, even the tinniest, low-press, no P/S, water-damaged 45 from 1979 sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. It also contains 5 mp3s at the end that wouldn’t fit, and wasn’t I surprised to learn that I didn’t have to do cartwheels to get these extras to play in my car this morning – they just rolled right on with the others. 27 tracks, rarely a duffer among them, and yet another reason to trust the Hyped2Death empire with the contents of your wallet.