Wow, how daring – a mix of screamo hardcore, dance party music, and metal. Argh, grind, party party good times, chug chug chugga, FUUUUUUCK YOOOOU!, weedle weedle weedle, GET ON THE DAAAAAAANCE FLOOOOOOOR!!!, boom boom boom, bang bang bang. You’d have just as good a time taking a Refused album, a Pantera album, some newer metal album like Bring Me The Horizon or Mastodon, and any random collection of that autotuned party music so popular with the kids today, and just skipping from track to track randomly. Or pat yourself on the back for bravery while playing all of them at the same time. It’s not like mixing electro beats with loud guitars has been anything new and different since the eighties; at least the prime practitioners from back in my day like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Atari Teenage Riot mixed those elements into one unified sound, not just a random juxtaposition of five different bands that happen to play in the same tempo. Irredeemable shite.
Now this is more like it! BOC have more compilations than original releases on the shelf nowadays, but this one at least has its priorities in order: the entire first disc is compiled from the era of the first three albums, including a few fiery live versions from 1974’s On Your Feet Or On Your Knees. (I’ll try to overlook the fact that they omit the band’s best song, “Dominance And Submission”, despite ample running time, as it’s the collection’s only major oversight by my account.) BOC were the American answer to Sabbath in those years, a little lighter and less plodding on the surface, but lyrically much creepier, darker and more cryptic. Their finest years would come to an end shortly after the release of their fourth studio album, Agents Of Fortune, and the second disc of this anthology dips as a result. But also shows their late-career quality control spiking upward for the release of Fire Of Unknown Origin, whose four contributions weigh as strongly as most of the prime-era material. Sound quality is a major improvement from the CDs I picked up during the “Nice Price” eighties so I found it highly worthwhile. But honestly if you wanted to get the remasters of those first four albums plus Fire of Unknown Origin and leave it at that, I wouldn’t say you were missing much.
I dug the work of Donovan “Don’t Call Me Don” Leitch a lot when I was a little kid, so I suppose it’s natural that I still do, even though a quick spin through his catalog confirms that he represents a lot of the twee, hippy-dippy cutesiness I find repellent in modern artists. But that’s the luxury of getting old isn’t it? As long as we liked it when we were young, we can always assign some level of “quality” to it that makes it automatically better than that shit the kids are coming out with today. Anyway this has probably all the tracks you’d expect to hear, plus a few deeper tracks that are new to CD in America. And it’s not all weak and fey – the guitar playing on “Hurdy Gurdy Man” is closer to the Butthole Surfers’ cover than I remembered, and “Season Of The Witch” is always going to be the kind of track you want to have handy at Halloween time. A keeper.
This show, which was broadcast shortly after its recording by the BBC, has long been known as one of the Todd bootlegs to get. I brought this CD over to my friend Brad’s to compare to his cherished and well-worn vinyl copy of Nimbus Thitherward, which we never had to take out of the cover. He had listened to it so much over the last thirty years, he had memorized some of the talking between songs, and made a positive ID right away. He also knew right away without having to do an A/B comparison that the sound quality of the new disc “blew away” the boot, though he did note that one song heard on the LP version was cut from this release. If you are the type of person interested in live Rundgren, then this is most assuredly for you: for newbies, it’s the best live document of his prime period yet to surface and for old-timers, it’s most likely an upgrade from the version you already own.