SMASH UP DEBRY – V/A (Gearhead)
THINGMAKER – V/A (Gearhead)

Compilations tend to receive a bad wrap from some – and often for no good reason. In fact, they’re often a great means of wrapping your ears around the output of some bands outside the usual radar screen, often at a budget price. The decision on which one upon which you should splurge your hard earned is a personal choice, but the label name a compilation carries isn’t a bad form guide. To that end, you probably can’t go far wrong with anything from Gearhead, whose output is consistently good.

– the 'zine and the label – long ago established some sort of pipeline for the current wave of Scandi bands to make a mark in the USA. Along the way, they also provided a home for a sprinkling of homegrown acts, many of them on these samplers.

First, to the "Smash Up Derby" collection which lays 24 (count 'em) tracks on you, from the likes of the Hellacopters, The Sewergrooves and the Flaming Sideburns. None of those names should be unfamiliar to regular Bar patrons, especially those with a Scandi bent. The Stateside contingent is headed by the New Bomb Turks, the Dragons, the Donnas and the Hard Feelings.

Twenty of these songs come from Gearhead albums, EPs or 7" singles, but the three bonuses, as the label folks say, really are bonuses as they’re previously unreleased. "You Don’t Want My Name" is a typical piece of tearaway rawk from Sweden’s Demons. "And She Said Yes" is an OK thing from New Bomb Turks while "Altamont Boogaloo" is a cool instrumental from the loungey Hypnomen.

The most notable inclusion for me is the 7" of the Dragons’ "Woah Yeah". It’s actually inferior to the album version, in my opinion. Oh, and the Nads’ song "Saigon Hooker" is a catchy track (but hopefully not in the same way as the song’s subject).

"Thingmaker" ups the rocking stakes just a fraction with "Chosen One" (the obvious Dragons single from the "Sin Salvation" album) and the Riverboat Gamblers’ furious "What’s What" making early contributions. Some decry the Gamblers for a lack of tuneage. Dunno if I buy that, and if you’re considering tracking down their full-length, this is a pretty representative sample.

This time around, there are four unreleased cuts (by New Bomb Turks, the Turbo ACs, Rock 'n’ Roll Soldiers and American Heartbreak) and all of them work to varying degrees.
The presence of the Nomads is welcome anywhere. Is it just me but is "Let’s Go to the Dragstrip" one of the best things on this? The Wildhearts have a newie out on Gearhead and showcase it with "Putting It On". The song’s too slick and compressed in a disturbing Def Leppard way for these ears, but others will disagree. NRA kick up a storm on "Why Did I Listen to You" and are definitely worthy of a listen.

All the usual Gearhead suspects are present (Hellacopters, Turbo ACs, Hypnomen, Demons and Hives), so if you have all their output then you’ll probably give this a miss. For the rest of us this makes great car driving fodder and way more listenable than 99.9 percent of what’s on the radio. Purchase with confidence. The Barman