Punk compilations must be some of the most dangerous compilations to invest money in based on what you hope to get out of them. Pretty much anybody can pick up a guitar and start strumming and screaming and call it a band. This is especially the case when a record label trying to promote its bands puts out that compilation. You’d think that a label would be discriminating in the bands it signs, and that on a comp album, they would go to some lengths to feature the best songs by those acts. As Boycott Radical Records proves, this isn’t always the case.
If you like Radical Records or the acts that record on the label, then you’ll probably enjoy this disc. It’s certainly targeted specifically to a certain type of fan, and certain set of punks. This is the kind of music for those of you wearing faded black leather jackets with three inch spikes and a Crass bandana sown to the back. This is for punks who enjoy shows where people haul tins of lager into the air, scream “Oi!” and look for a good fight. This is music to get a black eye to.
Not that I’m knocking the lifestyle. It’s just that this isn’t likely to appeal to any musical aesthetes out there. There’s plenty of energy and vitality on this album, but the songs are often pretty indistinguishable from one another.
Twenty-five songs on one disc isn’t bad for the money, that’s true, even when those songs come from only nine acts. But whoever chose the arrangement for this compilation was either lazy or has no sense of composition, because the order of bands on the first nine songs is the same order on the next nine songs, and so on. They might as well have put all the songs by each band back to back for all the creativity this shows.
The bands that appear are as follows: Blanks 77, Road Rage, Inspecter 7, The Booked, The Agents, I.C.U., Sturgeon General, The Cuffs, and Social Scare. The songs by Blanks 77 (“I Wanna Be A Punk,” “Radio Hits,” and “Search and Destroy”) are so standard that they’re completely unremarkable. Same guitar chord, garbled lyrics, and pounded drum skins in each song. If you’re looking for Black Flag, keep looking. Road Rage keep the energy high and the screaming going, although they have slightly more talent in terms of their ability to play. “Borderline” is a good example of speeded up punk perfect to slamdance to.
Acts like I.C.U. have such poor production value on some of their songs that you might as well be listening to a wall of noise with screaming lyrics that somehow come over as whispers. The Cuffs, prototypical Oi! Punk, are amusing for the fact that hey sound almost like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones without the ska horn section.
The Agents mix things up a little with some ska-punk, and their song “Come My Way,” is one of the few on the album in which you can actually make out the words. “Hello” continues this and shows them to be some of the most accomplished musicians on Radical. In the same vein, Inspecter 7 sends up solid ska-punk songs “H.C.S.” “Regret II,” and “Quick Work.” This is definitely the highlight band of the album, and these three songs are probably the best on the disc.
One of the possible benefits to Boycott Radical Records as a compilation album is that it isn’t too varied and the songs sound similar, so you’re able to listen to the whole thing all the way through and not feel the songs are too contrasted. Except for The Agents and Inspecter 7, most of the music is straightforward, loud and punk. If this is how you like your tunes, smash a beer can on your forehead (or the forehead of the angry punk next to you) and raise your voices and fists in a resounding “Oi!”