Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review: Various Artists - "Show 'Em Whatcha Got California!"

California has always had quite a bit to offer for punk rock. If it wasn’t the Germs and Black Flag starting fights down in L.A., it was Crimpshrine, Green Day and Isocracy filling up an all-ages Gilman, or Lagwagon and Mad Caddies reppin’ the Santa Barbara ‘burbs. But just in case there was any doubt, Durty Mick Records’ Show ‘Em Whatcha Got California! is out to prove its worth once again.

The 24 selections found on this independent compilation range from fairly obscure Golden State punk acts to those that are seemingly exclusively obscure. About the biggest names -- and that term is stretched to its max here -- are groups like long-running Venice thrash attack Beowulf, whose contribution “Drink, Fight, Fuck” rings of Suicidal Tendencies allure, and the Sore Thumbs, whose anthemic, Bay Area working-class punk has leveled alliances with the Swingin’ Utters and all their ten-thousand side projects.

The rest of the collection is a customary spattering of good, bad and downright dreadful. Among those offering up solid and respectable contributions are Misled Citizen, whose track “The Dream” is catchy, if not altogether clichéd and uninspired, and the Dead End Stiff’s speedy pop-punk sing-along “Until the End.” “No One Is Safe” by the 2nd Class Citizens opens with a robust flurry of double-bass drumming before slamming into a more traditional hardcore style and verses of overly-topical political commentary: "Gas prices soar / Overtaxing the poor / Sending us off to war / Just to settle Daddy’s score."

Good punk can be some of the most inspiring and captivating music of its time, but bad punk can be just the opposite. Tracks like Dekoiz’ “No Honor No Pride” is repetitive and stale, hashing out the same lines well past tolerance, while ADS’ “What Is Your Nightmare” wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so incredibly predictable and formulaic. The bottom of the barrel is scraped with additions like Circle 1’s “Dope Fiend Stripper,” which not only borders on unlistenable, but threatens the brain cells of any punk rocker that still has theirs.

So while this comp may not prove without a shadow of a doubt that California is the place to be for punk, the worthy contributions here at least show that there’s still plenty to offer by way of obscure California punk bands.

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