VARIOUS ARTISTS: Smash the States: CD

One of the truly great things about compilations that has been more or less lost since punk rock became the music industry’s latest cash cow is that they were once a great way to get acquainted with what was going on in other parts of the punk rock world, both within a certain geographic area and within a sub-scene. In some cases, they were the only way less affluent scenes could prove their existence to the larger world, and many of them became classics in their own right. In the U.S. alone, Flex Your Head, Boston Not LA, Not So Quiet on the Western Front, Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death, No New York, Yes LA, and the Rodney on the Roq and Life Is… series introduced the likes of Minor Threat, Void, Jerry’s Kids, The Freeze, Gang Green, MDC, 7 Seconds, Urban Assault, Flipper, Whipping Boy, Big Boys, Dicks, DRI, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, DNA, The Germs, Black Randy, Shattered Faith, Black Flag, Saccharine Trust, and literally hundreds of others. In recent years, however, the once-noble compilation format has seen its reputation sullied by ignoble labels showcasing the meager efforts of their talent pool, much of which sounds indistinguishable from one song to the next, and faux “regional” comps that are often nothing more than thinly disguised versions of the aforementioned label showcase format. Thankfully, though, it appears that the true “scene” compilation is making a comeback, thanks to the likes of Hostage Records, Lengua Armada, and a few others. Which brings us to this bad boy. Subtitled as “redefining punk rock from the South,” a large contingency of the bands here represent the Carolinas, but other parts of that area of the United States are represented as well. The sounds are diverse in execution, with nary a band sounding like another elsewhere on the comp, even though much of what is on here could fall under the “hardcore” umbrella. Most significant is that the lion’s share of the groups here do not seem to have any professional affiliation with Suicide Watch Records, who put this out. The only significant gripe I can muster is, outside of email/web addresses, there’s a lack of info about the bands provided here. Sure, it saves on printing costs, but, being the curmudgeonly old schooler I am, I like info on the band—in all its spelling error-riddled, cut-out-of-magazines-and-pasted-helter-skelter glory—being provided with the comp. Outside of that, you could do much worse than picking this up and marveling at the racket being raised by the likes of Allergic to Bullshit, My So-Called Band, New Mexican Disaster Squad, Carrie Nations, The Fighting Mailmen, Forgotten Youth, and a bunch of others. Does it rival Flex Your Head? No, but it isn’t 1981, and this is one cool-ass look at what’s going down in the Southern underground circa 2005.

 –jimmy (Suicide Watch)