Various Artists – To The Outside of Everything: A Story of UK Post-Punk 1977-1981 compilation review
From the team that brought us the Manchester North of England and Silhouettes & Statues: A Goth Revolution boxsets comes this 111-track post-punk behemoth…
Post-punk has been a venerated historical genre for over a decade now, ever since Simon Reynolds’ tome, Rip It Up And Start Again; longer, in fact – since Franz Ferdinand, The Rapture et al started making their post-punk-inflected music at the start of the century.
To The Outside Of Everything… almost serves as a monumental full-stop after all that retro-angular rock action, perhaps as a bid to telegraph the message to today’s bands: enough looking back, now start operating in the spirit of original post-punk and forge your own path into the future.
The title of this five-disc box is taken from the lyric to Shot By Both Sides. Is this Cherry Red positing Magazine’s debut salvo from March 1978 as the first post-punk single (other contenders include Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Hong Kong Garden and Public Image Limited’s debut Public Image: First Issue)? Or are they proposing that it was the genre’s quintessential release? It was supremely post-punk: it had the urgency and energy of punk, but it had another quality, a progressive musicality, as well as a sense of philosophical quest, that were hallmarks of post-punk.
The other parts of this boxset’s title – the UK bit and the 1977-1981 part – are also interesting, suggesting that post-punk was largely a UK phenomenon (were Talking Heads, Television and Devo post-punk, or something else?). It is also worthwhile considering if “post-punk” was already happening parallel to punk rather than after it, when you consider the output in 1977 of Wire, Ultravox! and others.
“Meanwhile, the collection’s full-stop point is 1981, which is inarguable: that was the year post-punk experimentation acceded to “new-pop”: post-punk with funkier rhythms, catchier tunes and shinier pop production.” – Paul Lester
Whatever the facts and theories (and post-punk has inspired more theorising than perhaps any other genre or era), To The Outside Of Everything is a thoroughly absorbing amalgam of pioneering electronica (Throbbing Gristle’s United, The Normal’s T.V.O.D., Human League’s The Dignity Of Labour Pt.1), quirky/serrated/avant- funk (PiL’s Death Disco, Gang Of Four’s Damaged Goods, 23 Skidoo’s Last Words, The Pop Group’s We Are All Prostitutes, The Higsons’ I Don’t Want To Live With Monkeys), John Peel perennials (The Fall’s Repetition, Glaxo Babies’ This Is Your Life, Swell Maps’ Let’s Build A Car), gloomy proto- goth (Echo & The Bunnymen’s The Pictures On My Wall, Joy Division’s Transmission), and groups who provided a bridge between post-punk and new pop (Fire Engines’ Get Up And Use Me, Josef K’s Radio Drill Time, Associates’ The Affectionate Punch).
Indeed, two outfits – Scritti Politti with Skank Bloc Bologna, Adam And The Ants with Cartrouble – make post-punk cameos here, ahead of their metamorphosis into defining new pop stars, and there are even early glimpses of Thompson Twins (Squares And Triangles) and Blancmange (Overspreading Art Genius). A fascinating collection.