For those music aficionados who had lamented the gradual demise of punk rock, take heart, guardians of the flame remain among us and their name is Epitaph Records.
In the fine tradition quietly established over the past decade or so, Epitaph continues to give the finger to the musical establishment by releasing a brilliant twin CD compilation, Punk-O-Rama 8, comprised of 32 songs highlighting mostly the best of punk's new age.
Anchored by heavyweight Epitaph artists Rancid and Transplants, the two discs proceed at a brisk pace, restoring our collective faith that punk is not dead, but rather poised for a mass resurgence. The majority of tracks embody the sneer and rage of punk's aesthetic, while offering a polished musicality not present in much of the genre's past offerings.
Listen to the brilliantly hilarious NOFX; bask in the Flipperesque glow of Ikara Colt, Randy, Guttermouth, and Tiger Army; rejoice in the shrieking anger and disillusionment of Raised Fist and the Bouncing Souls; you will find yourself transported back to the heady days of the Repo Man soundtrack. Punk has not offered so much, nor looked so promising in nearly two decades. Even grizzled veterans Bad Religion stand tall with their trademark "R.E.M. on acid" ruckus.
Punk-O-Rama 8 is not merely a portal back in time, but also a sign of musical things to come. Tracks by the International Noise Conspiracy, Millencolin, Pulley, and Bombshell Rocks meld present day pop aggression, (perfected by Green Day and the Offspring), with equal parts certified punk attitude. These bands may not be ready to displace MTV darlings/poseurs Sum 41 or Good Charlotte on regular rotation, but listeners will know that what they're hearing is the real deal.
With so much quality material to showcase, are there any obvious standout moments on either disc? In addition to the fine contributions, (and uncanny resemblances to vintage Clash), of Rancid and US Bombs, the Distillers put forth an exemplary effort with "I Am a Revenant". Brody Armstrong is a dead on vocal ringer for Courtney Love, back when the former Mrs. Kurt Cobain was a pissed and hungry young artist. Even more impressive however are the tracks "Coup D'Etat" and "Gonna Be a Blackout Tonight" by Refused and Dropkick Murphys respectively. This pair could easily carry the album on their own if necessary. An added bonus for anyone feeling inclined to revisit the heyday of the wonderfully cartoonish Dead Milkmen, need only fire up Turbonegro's deliciously idiotic "Train of Flesh".
As solid as Punk-O-Rama 8's material is, there are the occasional and forgivable shortcomings. The Matchbook Romance song "The Greatest Fall (Of All Time) is weak and achy, despite its background screeching, and the spoken word rants of Sage Francis and Atmosphere are woefully out of place.
These minor failings aside, Epitaph has put together a tremendously satisfying package from its roster of acts. Not only does Punk-O-Rama 8 present an outstanding value for the album buying public, it renews our confidence that the bubblegum punk dreck foisted upon the world must still be measured against the genuine item. Remember when Henry Rollins, Darby Crash, and Jello Biafra were the main players on the scene, and feel good in knowing that a new punk dawn is upon us.
So get ready to hit the pit and pogo, and don't forget to salute Epitaph in the process.