It's 2008 and a new batch of MESSTHETICS material is hitting the shelves. I couldn't be more pleased with the first one I've tackled, MESSTHETICS #104 - a collection of simple & sparse rock clatter from South Wales, circa 1977-81. I have this fixed image in my head of music from Wales being written & sung in their impenetrable native tongue, full of double-L’s and Gs. This likely stems from the first Welsh punk rock I ever heard, a track from LLYGOD FYRNING called “N.C.B.” on the first “Killed By Death”-esque comp I bought circa 1988, “Year Of The Rats”. Well how about this – turns out YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS were from Wales. That one guy JOHN CALE too.
In any event, MESSTHETICS #104 collects a large handful of lost 45s and compilation tracks from the southern part of the territory, and it’s certainly the digital debut for just about every last one of ‘em. I myself had heard of exactly two of the groups on here, THE JANET & JOHNS and the PURITAN GUITARS, the latter solely because of their appearance in an earlier “Messthetics” compilation. As always with this series, the results are stellar. This overview of the Welsh scene – and the liners definitely make it clear that it was a “scene” in the Maximum Rock-n-Roll sense of the word – glorifies the homemade, up-by-your-bootstraps approach to musicmaking that swept (often by necessity) the British Isles just after punk. Art students, adventurous punks, angry ex-hippies and experimental weirdos came together to form short-lived duos, trios and combos, often for one track or one 45. Often they struck total gold while barely trying. I am particularly taken by the opening tracks on this compilation by THE CZECHS, who were given exactly four minutes of space on a compilation record, and came up with the brilliant scattershot staccato punk of “Suffocation” in just over three. With 44 seconds to work with, they tacked on a strange space-filler called “44 Seconds”, just so they’d use up their full allotment (“you guys said”). The liners say they insisted they be re-released together, as god and nature intended.
HUGH VOLK, THE JANET & JOHNS and the PURITAN GUITARS also contribute wonderful aural bounties. I’m posting the latter’s “Making It” because it’s so representative of what I love about this era of musicmaking in England – dutuned, strangely out-of-focus, bass-heavy travel through space and time, and still “rocking” through and through. Run, don’t walk to pick up MESSTHETICS #104 – and check out a couple of its heavyweights right here.