Thursday, February 14, 2019

999/THE ALBUMS 1987-2007 (4CD box set) reviewed!

999
THE ALBUMS 1987-2007
(4CDs)
(Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records)



The original British Punk scene rose from the underground in 1976 and turned the music industry upside down… at least temporarily. By the following year, Punk was a cultural phenomenon. However, Synthpop and the commercial side of New Wave dominated the charts just a few years later, sending many of the original bands back underground. Some of the lucky ones - The Clash and Sex Pistols in particular - became the ‘faces’ of Punk, still held in high esteem over four decades later. Alongside Stiff Little Fingers, Buzzcocks, The Damned, Sham 69, and The Adicts, 999 has been unfairly considered a ‘second tier’ band here in the U.S., beloved by the fans yet overlooked when music critics discuss the impact of BritPunk ’77 here in the states. So, it may come as some surprise to casual American fans that 999 is still very active in the UK, playing most of the Punk-oriented festivals each year. More surprising than that, the band is still 3/4ths intact – Nick Cash (guitar/vocals), Guy Days (guitar/vocals) and Pablo LaBritain (drums) are still playing it like they mean it. The Lurkers’ bassist Arturo Bassick is the ‘new kid’, having joined the band 26 years ago. Needless to say, 999 were and remain one of the UK’s finest yet underappreciated original Punk bands.

999’s commercial heyday was explored in Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records’ excellent box set 999: THE ALBUMS 1977-80 (read my review of the first box here). The band remained active and released three albums in the early '80s but Captain Oi’s new 999 set, THE ALBUMS 1987 – 2007, skips over those ‘middle years’ and gives us one live album and three excellent studio albums that were released over a 20-year period beginning in 1987. Obviously not as prolific as they were during the golden age of Punk, 999 are still very much worth your time, attention, and well-earned money.

Disc One is the scorching 1987 live album LUST POWER AND MONEY. Alongside classic 999 hits like “Homicide,” “Nasty Nasty,” “Emergency,” and “Feelin’ Alright With The Crew,” you’ll be able to hear lesser known songs like “Inside Out,” “Don’t You Know I Need You,” “On The Line,” and many others. The band’s energy and passion cannot be denied.


Disc Two contains 1993’s YOU US IT!, their first studio album in eight years. The album found the band returning to the edgier sound of their early days. “Black Flowers For The Bride” opens the album with a powerful – and catchy – gusto. The album is filled with loads more great 999 anthems that match their late ‘70s output: “Signed Dangerous Of Hollywood” gallops at a frantic pace; “Bye Bye Bones” mixes menacing Punk with a bluesy Rock feel not dissimilar from an angry CCR; “There Is No Glory In Mary’s Story” is a classic-in-the-making. Hell, YOU US IT! is filled with classics. The songs are still rooted in classic Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pub Rock but the Punk energy is still present and accounted for. Oh, and as for the tunes – you’ll be humming/chanting/fist-pumping in no time.


Disc Three features the TAKEOVER album. Here’s what I wrote about it for All Music Guide: “Though the 1993 studio album YOU US IT! was a great return to form for the band, this follow-up is loads better, filled with fantastic songs and the same energy that fueled their first four albums. Nick Cash still sings like a wildcat roaming the recording studio, while Guy Days remains the more grounded one. Arturo Bassick's simple but very effective basslines carry the songs while Pablo Labritain pounds the skins as if all of their lives depended on it. From the chunky title track to the closer, "Pile Up," this is 999 soaked in adrenaline and a pure, unadulterated love for what they're doing. "Salvage Mission," "Didn't Mean To," "I Can't Wait," and "No Prisoners" are just a few of the tracks that, although more mature in nature, could have fit on any of the first four albums. Certainly, one of the best albums the band has ever recorded, it is increasingly hard to find since the label went belly-up shortly after its release.”


Disc Four contains their 2007 release DEATH IN SOHO, their last studio album to date. Here’s what I wrote for All Music Guide: “Now, 30 years after their initial debut, 999 continue to crank out simplistic yet anthemic punk rock that still sounds fresh, energetic, and fun. DEATH IN SOHO is the band's first studio album since the most excellent Takeover from 1998 and is a welcome return for a band that has continued to carry the punk flag for 30-plus years. While some of the songs don't match up to Takeover's fine mix of classics-in-the-making, it still stands as a testament to the band's talent. Engineered by former Vibrator Pat Collier, DEATH IN SOHO sounds "alive" and electric. Many of the tracks sound like they could have come straight off of the band's late-'70s albums: "The System," "Last Breath," "Stealing Beauty," "Innocent," "The Avenue," and "Gimme the World" are prime 999 filled with energy and great hooks. Now that the band have delivered another fine album, do we really have to wait another ten years for the next one?” (P.S. Twelve years on and we're still waiting...)


And there you have it: Captain Oi/Cherry Red Records’ second 999 box set is an essential piece of British Punk history. If you are only familiar with a few 999 songs, that means you have TWO major purchases ahead of you: THE ALBUMS 1977-80 and THE ALBUMS 1987-2007! Now, we can only hope that Captain Oi can serve up a box with the missing early '80s studio albums CONCRETE, 13TH FLOOR MADNESS, and FACE TO FACE!



Keep on truckin',
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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