Various Artists: Punk-O-Rama 8

Adam Williams

Various Artists

Punk-O-Rama 8

Label: Epitaph
US Release Date: 2003-05-20
UK Release Date: Available as import

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.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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