UK record label Past & Present makes a business of unearthing overlooked music from the past. The label’s most recent release, Vile Vinyl Vol. 1, collects several hard-to-find tunes from a the foremost era of garage rock. Though previously released on the High Noon label in 1985, this collection finds its first release on CD and comes with a much-needed re-mastering. The rough edges that define garage rock remain intact despite the sonic upgrade, and these songs overflow with the energy associated with the genre’s best music. The CD also offers a set of liner notes that contain welcome, if brief histories on each of the 15 artists.
All are worthy of inclusion, but one track breaks with the boy’s-club feel of the collection: the Belles’ “Melvin”. This all-girl group from Florida revises Them’s “Gloria” and gets cast as forerunners to the female punks of the ‘70s and the riot grrls of the ‘90s. Like many of the tracks on this compilation, “Melvin” represents what happens when inspired young people reinterpret pop culture in their own voices. Songs throughout ring with familiar progressions and inflections that clearly bled through from the hits of the day. These reinterpretations, however, can sound positively triumphant when executed with the level of passion on display here.