Nefarious Artists: The Evolution and Art of the Punk Rock, Post-Punk, New Wave, Hardcore Punk and Alternative Rock Compilation Record 1976-1989 By Welly Artcore, 414 pgs.

Mar 19, 2024

When reviewing anything, it’s always best practice to leave yourself out of the conversation entirely and let the piece of art being discussed take center stage. But, for this book, I feel like a little background is in order so it’s understood just how entirely this labor of love checks all the boxes for me. I was a teenager in the early ’90s in a nondescript suburb in the Midwestern United States. In those pre-internet days, compilation records and label samplers were the fastest (and usually cheapest) way to find as many bands as possible as you dove into subculture and tried to make sense of it. It’s impossible to overstate how much Let Them Eat Jellybeans and Dangerhouse, Volume One meant to me as a fourteen year old. I played the cassettes until they broke.

The author of this book, Welly Artcore, has had a long and storied career in punk rock since the second wave, singing in Four Letter Word (among others), creating album covers, writing books, and running his own fanzine, Artcore, for the last thirty-five years. For his latest project, he’s taken that love of the compilation record to the nth degree, creating an indispensable history using witty, informative reviews and full color pictures of over five hundred records from punk’s inception to 1989, when cheaper CDs started to so thoroughly inundate the market that it would require several more volumes to cover it all.

This book is probably best used as a reference, and the two different indices (alphabetical and chronological) speak to that, but taken as a whole, and read cover to cover, one is able—through his meticulous research and witty write-ups—to track the rise and fall of different subcultures and trends over the relatively brief period of time it’s documenting. A great book on the shelf for even the casual record collector, but absolute manna for those of us who grew up flipping to the reviews first whenever we picked up a new issue of our favorite fanzine. My hat is off to Welly. –Justin Bookworm (Earth Island Books, Pickforde Lodge, Pickforde Lane, Ticehurst, TN5 7BN, United Kingdom, earthislandbooks.com)

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