“ Released: 29 Mar 1996 / Label: Virgin „
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"The Best Punk Album in the World... Ever! 2" is a compilation album of various punk rock records released in 1996 on Virgin Records.
With this compilation you get 48 songs on two discs of some of the most influential punk rock bands to emerge at the top of the movement. Blondie is here, as is the Pretenders, Stiff Little Fingers, Sham 69 and more. Of course, there are bands that don't get a mention. Bands like Bad Brains, Toy Dolls and Peter & the Test Tube Babies don't get a look in on what is the second of the 'best punk album' compilations. Bands that I wouldn't consider punk are here, though. Bands like the Jam, Devo and Joy Division are definitely not of the genre, though I do like the songs chosen. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Sex Pistols - "Pretty Vacant"
This is my favourite Sex Pistols song. It's easily one of the best punk rock songs of all time and epitomises everything that the genre was in the UK back in the late 1970s. The lyrics are simple but very effective, especially in the chorus where the whole band comes together in unison. It's a song about teenage rebellion against the system, basically telling the kids to do something with their lives or let the system decide for them; it's their choice. I do like the start of this song, and it's a fitting beginning to the album.
Iggy Pop - "Lust For Life"
This is a song which Iggy recorded in 1977 which was co-written with David Bowie, but most people will remember it being played during the opening scene to the 1996 film, "Trainspotting". When I started reviewing this album I gave it a listen through skipping bits here and there before playing it in its entirety and I noticed with this song that it sounds somewhat like The Doors' 1968 song, "Touch Me", or rather, the guitar riff of "Lust For Life" sounds like the keyboards on "Touch Me". Then when I was researching for the album review, I found that Doors manager Danny Sugerman had also apparently said that. Still, it's a good song with great harmony and you can easily spot Bowie's influence.
The Stranglers - "No More Heroes"
This is one of the band's most famous songs and was released in 1977 where it reached No.8 in the UK singles charts. This is a song which I wouldn't necessarily class as punk - it's more New Wave than anything - but it's still a good track and worthy of being included. I do like the heavy and funky bass line on the song and think the chorus is done really well with High Cornwell's vocals on fine form. I've never been a big fan of the Stranglers, but I do like a few tracks of theirs, this included.
Siouxsie & the Banshees - "Hong Kong Garden"
The song isn't my cup of tea to be honest, but I always liked Siouxie Sioux. It was the band's debut single back in 1978 where it reached the lofty heights of No.7 in the UK singles charts. It's a song against racism based on true stories. When Siouxsie and her friends used to frequent a Chinese restaurant named the Hong Kong Garden, skinheads would often come in causing trouble and hurling racist abuse at the workers there. Siouxsie's vocals are definitely done with passion, and I like that.
Spizzenergi - "Where's Captain Kirk?"
This is a song which is well-loved amongst the punk rock community, and one that regularly appears on compilations such as this. I really like the bass line on the track, and Spizz's vocals remind me a lot of Daron Malakian from System of a Down. It has the famous "Star Trek" signature tune in the bridge but done in Spizzenergi's own unique way. The narrator of the song has found himself on the Enterprise and he's asking crew members where Captain Kirk is, but it turns out to be a dream and he's Kirk himself.
Buzzcocks - "Orgasm Addict"
This is some of the Buzzcocks' finest work, and it's clear what the song is about so we'll leave it at that! Pete Shelley's vocals are in fine form and I love the guitar work on the track. It's classic punk at just under two minutes in length and was the band's debut single, although it didn't chart. It's hard to think why it didn't, because it really is one of the best songs on the whole compilation which spans 48 tracks.
Eddie and the Hot Rods - "Do Anything You Wanna Do"
This was the band's biggest UK hit when it reached No.9 in the singles charts, but its inclusion on this album is somewhat of a mystery as it's more of a rock song than anything else. I suppose it's been included on the back of a tour with the Ramones, and they're infamous for having the Sex Pistols open up for them when the notorious punk band played their first ever gig. Musically, it's a pretty good song with a very catchy vocal melody and it's probably one of the best on the album.
The Jam - "The Eton Rifles"
I've always admired The Jam, and I think "The Eton Rifles" is a classic song and Paul Weller's bass has a great sound to it, as it plays along to a song that is about violence between the Social Workers Party and rugby playing kids from Eton. As the story goes, the SWP pulled other people into the fight and then turned tails to run, leaving the others to fend for themselves. The song structure is near perfect and The Jam clearly had something special going on when they released this.
The Undertones - "My Perfect Cousin"
I've never been a fan of Feargal Sharkey's solo work, but I enjoyed a lot of the Undertones' stuff. This song reached No.9 in the UK singles charts when it was released in 1980 and was their biggest hit, eclipsing even the great "Teenage Kicks". It's a true story about a cousin of one of the band members who he was always being compared to and hated it. Musically, it's a great upbeat song that lifts the spirits and you can't help but like Sharkey's singing here.
Blondie - "Hanging on the Telephone"
This is one of the very first punk rock songs I can remember when it was released way back in 1978, reaching No.5 in the UK singles charts. It was originally put out by The Nerves two years before this, but I don't think I've ever heard that version. One thing I love about this track is Debbie Harry's vocal delivery. It's that rough and ready singing style which made me take note of Blondie and I can't think of many better songs by the band.
The Saints - "This Perfect Day"
You don't get many punk rock bands from Australia that made it, but Brisbane's finest released this track in 1977 and became the band's only UK hit, reaching No.34 in the singles charts. The song has a unique blend of which I've rarely heard before, and it's a mix of UK punk and US punk - a cross between the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, if you like. It has the snarly vocals of Johnny Rotten, but it also has the drumming style of Marky Ramone. The best of both worlds, it truly is.
The Ruts - "Staring at the Rude Boys"
The Ruts could have been one of the greatest punk bands ever, but for drug problems. This single was released in 1980 and reached No.22 in the UK singles charts, but just four months later singer Malcolm Owen was found dead of a heroin overdose. The song is a guitar-driven punk song with a hint of heavy metal about it - Owen sounds a lot like Paul Di'Anno, who sang on Iron Maiden's first two albums - but it's the guitars which make it the song that it is.
X-Ray Spex - "The Day the World Turned Day-Glo"
I always did like the X-Ray Spex and thought Poly Styrene had an amazing voice, using it well in the punk rock genre. This is one of the best songs on the whole compilation and I still don't quite understand how the band didn't become one of the big things when punk exploded onto the scene. The song reached No.23 in the UK singles charts when it was released in 1978 and despite a couple more charted singles, the X-Ray Spex never did much past that year. Sadly, Poly Styrene died in 2001 of breast and spinal cancer.
Generation X - "King Rocker"
The London-based band rock out with their biggest hit, a UK No.11 single, but many people only remember the band because of Billy Idol, when Tony James of Sigue Sigue Sputnik was also a member. The track has a touch of the Stray Cats meets the Ramones about it and it doesn't really grab me as a song that I like, though I'm not entirely sure why. I think it may be because there's too much going on and not enough makes sense in the track, but either way it's on the compilation and you can't really keep this band off it.
Bow Wow Wow - "I Want Candy"
I've never been a big fan of Bow Wow Wow but when the New Wave band released the song in 1982 it reached No.9 in the UK singles charts, so they must have done something right. It's a cover version from The Strangeloves' 1965 hit but this version by the London-based band which was the biggest of all the covers that the song has had. Anabella Lwin has a great voice on the track but it's one that just goes on in the background when I hear it and I find myself paying little attention. That said, it does still seem to be very popular with classic radio stations.
Adam & the Ants - "Kings of the Wild Frontier"
I loved Adam & the Ants back in the day and although I didn't own any albums, I did buy some singles - this being one of them when it was re-released in 1981. It originally reached No.48 in the UK singles charts two years previous, but the second time out it hit the lofty heights of No.2, kept off the top spot by John Lennon's "Imagine". The song features some great harmony between the marching drum sound and the bass guitar, which play almost continuous, but the guitar and the vocals also sound really good. This is easily one of my favourite songs off the compilation.
B-52's - "Rock Lobster"
Everybody likes the B-52's, don't they? I must admit I've never been a huge fan that's gone out and bought their records but I do like the odd track here and there. I'll also admit I'd never really heard this song until I bought this compilation and at first I thought it was very strange, but it's the kind of song which grows on you. It has a funky beat which gives an Egyptian vibe and the bass riff is a work of art. Most people are going to hate it, though. I guess it's just going to boil down to personal taste more than anything.
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - "Pump it Up"
This is a song I'd never heard before until I heard a cover of it by British rock band, the Wildhearts. Elvis Costello's original version reached No.24 in the UK singles charts and it's a fun song which has a great rhythm to it. The track has also been covered by other bands such as Exodus, Danko Jones and Status Quo. It's a song about sexual frustration but it's also about turning up the volume on the stereo. It's not a bad track but it's not one I come back to that often.
Ian Dury & the Blockheads - "Sweet Gene Vincent"
I loved "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and was surprised not to see it included on this compilation, instead replaced with this number. The first part of the song is done with feeling and the second part is played out with a rock and roll feel. It's not a track I care much for, but Ian Dury was a huge fan of rockabilly singer Gene Vincent, who died at the young age of 36. Dury himself died in 2000 at the age of 57 from cancer.
Nick Lowe - "So it Goes"
This was the first single released by Nick Lowe back in 1976, but it's one I'd definitely not call punk. It reminds me a little of the Proclaimers, even though he's a Londoner. Lowe only ever had four UK singles chart hits, but this wasn't one of them... and after listening to it a couple of times, I can see why. Lowe is a distinguished producer, however, and has mastered tracks from such artists as the Damned, Elvis Costello and the Pretenders.
Mink de Ville - "Spanish Stroll"
There is a distinct lack of American punk bands on this compilation, but fear not - Mind de Ville is here. The song is very Lou Reed sounding and has notes of the Ramones in there and it reached No.20 in the UK singles charts when it was released in 1977. It's not really to my musical tastes because I'm not a fan of Lou Reed and it really does sound a little too much like him. Some will like it, though, so don't just take my word for it.
Pretenders - "Brass in Pocket"
This was a UK No.1 hit for the Pretenders and I love Chrissie Hynde's singing here. The band didn't really hit the dizzy heights of the top spot again, but they did score four more top ten singles. It's a song about a woman that has the body and the looks to secure a sugar daddy and will do whatever it takes to make sure she gets what she wants. It was a song I enjoyed listening to when I was growing up, but it may have been better if they'd have kept out the backing vocals in the chorus.
Psychedelic Furs - "Pretty in Pink"
This song saw two different recordings which were released twice, first in 1981 which reached No.43 in the UK singles charts, and again in 1986 to coincide with the film of the same name which starred Molly Ringwald. This version fared a little better, peaking at No.18. It's a track which sounds good and is played well by the band, but it's one I'd hardly call punk. This is a recurring theme on the compilation, as far as I'm concerned. Having listened to both versions, I can honestly say I much prefer the original. It has more guts, while the re-recorded song is a little weak and watered down.
Boomtown Rats - "Rat Trap"
The Boomtown Rats was a band that I could take either way - I liked some of their releases, I didn't like others. The band scored consecutive UK No.1 singles with this song in 1978 and its follow-up, the huge worldwide hit, "I Don't Like Mondays". It's a saxophone-led track on which the production isn't brilliant. Bob Geldof's vocals are too quiet in the verses and only pick up in the pre-chorus and chorus. If I had the choice, I would have gone for its successor to place on the compilation album, because it's a work of art as most of you would agree.
Sex Pistols - "Holidays in the Sun"
This is a political song about the Berlin Wall, which separated East and West Germany beginning with construction in 1961 until reunification in 1990. Communist East Germany erected the wall, and this is what the Pistols are singing about. Legend has it that Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren sent the band on a holiday to Berlin and their experiences are reflected here. "I'm looking over the wall and they're looking at me" is probably related to the differences between east and West, with East Germany's Communist iron rule being completely different from the freedom of Democratic West Germany. It's a great song, too, with a classic punk riff from Steve Jones and Johnny Rotten's iconic vocals.
The Stranglers - "Something Better Change"
The second track of the Stranglers was a UK No.9 hit back in 1977, and was sandwiched in-between "Peaches" and "No More Heroes". When I listen to the song, I can hear the Offspring's "Original Prankster" in the guitar riff but slowed down, and I'm pretty sure the American punk-pop band 'borrowed' it from the original song some 33 years later. The vocal harmonies are completely different though, but I can't help but notice the guitar similarities.
Sham 69 - "If the Kids Are United"
This is a song I've always liked and is quite an anthemic number from a truly underrated punk rock band. The band had four UK top 10 singles, and this was their first when it reached No.9 in 1978. It's a song about showing pride in the music and uniting together to keep hold of this special thing called punk. It's one of the best punk songs ever in my opinion, and I can imagine the audience in fine form during the sing-a-long chorus. The guitars sound really good here and Jimmy Pursey's spitting vocals are a joy to listen to.
The Vapors - "Turning Japanese"
I must profess that I've never been a big fan of this song but I can understand why it's on this album. The main guitar riff is played in an Oriental style which sets it apart from other tracks. When I was younger I didn't really understand the song and thought it might have been poking fun at Japanese people, but I learned its true meaning when I grew up. The song is about all the things you want to do when you finally meet the woman of your dreams but it's not everything you imagined and you start to turn into something else.
Buzzcocks - "I Don't Mind"
Another Buzzcocks song, and while I like the band (as I mentioned on the first CD) I do feel that they could have put someone else in the place of this song. This track was released in 1978 and reached No.55 in the UK singles charts. It sounds a lot like the Monkees but with a punk edge to it especially in the chorus, and I think I like that. That said, make a 3rd compilation album and hold it back for that. I'm sure they could find some more of these bands to add to it, as well as other artists who don't seem to be on the discs.
Penetration - "Don't Dictate"
This is a band I don't really remember and know very little about but vocalist Pauline Murray has a really great voice. It's the kind of singing style that doesn't really belong with punk but she makes the most of it anyway and the song is pretty good, albeit a little simple-sounding. By that, I mean it's almost like she's detached from the band and they're just backing her. If you can imagine Debbie Harry crossed with Siouxsie Sioux, then you have a rough idea of what Pauline Murray sounds like.
Skids - "The Saints Are Coming"
This is what Big Country's Stuart Adamson was doing before he formed the pop group in 1981 and some people, including myself, wish he'd have stayed true to the punk rock roots. The song reached No.48 in the UK singles charts but it was popularised by Green Day & U2 in 2006 when the two groups collaborated on an album which was in aid of Music Rising, an organisation linked closely to the problems of Hurricane Katrina. The song has a huge chorus which is definitely the highlight but I do like the heavy-hitting bridge as well.
Dr Feelgood - "She Does it Right"
This is a pretty decent song but I'm not so sure it can be classed as punk. The track didn't chart when it was released in 1975 and I'll guarantee most of you wouldn't know one other song of theirs other than "Milk and Alcohol". Regardless of that, I like the beat of this tune and the main riff has a decent hook on the end of it. We're getting to that age now where a lot of these artists are old or no longer with us, and sadly the band's vocalist, Lee Brilleaux, died at the age of 41 of lymphoma.
Richard Hell & the Voivods - "Love Comes in Spurts"
About the only thing I actually know about this band is that a certain Marc Bell (Marky Ramone) was one of the founding members, so at least something of the iconic New York punk pioneers is on this album. The song is certainly very early punk and first saw the light of day in 1977, but it stands the test of time quite easily. It's not the sort of song I enjoy, but I do think it played a prominent role in the advancement of the punk rock genre, and that's why I admire it. However, it is to be said that the guitars sound out of tune though I think that was intended, and that classic Marky beat is prominent even then.
Dead Boys - "Sonic Reducer"
This begins with a spatial sound which incorporates an "Eye of the Tiger" guitar strum before it launches into the punk-driven main part of the song. The band features the legendary Stiv Bators on vocals and he gives an amazing performance here. This is the feel good song of the album as far as I'm concerned and I really like it. Sadly Stiv died at the age of 40 as a result of being hit by a car in Paris, France. The Dead Boys only put out two full albums, but achieved a lot with those two.
Patti Smith Group - "Rock & Roll Nigger"
You might think this is a controversial song because of the use of the N word in the title, but Patti Smith is hitting out against society in the 1970s for the way African American people were treated. I'll guarantee, though, that the song won't get much airplay in this day and age because people might see it as a racial slur. Patti has one of those distinctive voices that is easy to recognise and this song is great up until the point where Lenny Kaye takes over the singing. I think it would have been even better had Patti sang it all the way through.
Stiff Little Fingers - "Suspect Device"
A Northern Irish band that formed during the Troubles in Belfast and a song about the problems the citizens of the city faced during those times. In fact, SLF made a whole album in regards to the atrocities which claimed the lives of innocent people, soldiers and civilians, and it's this track which stood out on that debut album. This is what punk rock is all about and anyone who knows the genre will tell you that Stiff Little Fingers were at the forefront of the movement. The melody on the song is great and it keeps up a fast pace throughout.
999 - "Emergency"
This is a dud on the record and I can't understand how it got on the compilation at all. There is very little guitar work and when there is it's simple one or two chords. The vocals are dreadful as well, but I'll guarantee some people like the band, though I'll never know why. Not a lot else I can say here, because I don't want to criticise it too much and I can't praise it.
The Damned - "Smash it Up"
This track has a huge chorus which is easy to sing along to. The Damned needs no introduction, though many will only know Captain Sensible who played guitar in the band and Rat Scabies, the drummer. The track reached No.35 in the UK single charts when it was released in 1979, but it's much better than that in my opinion. It's an anarchist's anthem and the lyrical content is probably why it was banned by the BBC, thus receiving no airplay. Shame really, because the punk movement was in dire need of freshening up around this time and more recognition would have brought it back into the mainstream.
The Tubes - "Don't Touch Me There"
Another song which is in no way, shape or form, punk rock. This is practically 50s and 60s pop reminiscent of Bill Haley or the Shirelles. Not sure what to think of the song, except that it's plainly awful and if I never have to hear it again I will be happy with that. Quite possibly the worst song on the whole of the album, and there are some stinkers here, as I've previously pointed out and may point out again over the course of the review.
Flamin' Groovies - "Shake Some Action"
First thing I notice about this song is that it's been ripped off some 5 years after it was released in 1976. The culprit was Tommy Tutone in 1981 when he released "867-5309/Jenny", written by Alex Call and Jim Keller. Incidentally, fans of Tutone say Bruce Springsteen ripped off the same guitar riff, so who's kidding who here? This is another track which is not punk by any means and if you like the Beatles, you're going to like the style of this song, especially in the vocals which sound a lot like John Lennon.
The Banned - "Little Girl"
This track reached No.36 in the UK singles charts when it was released in 1977 - a song which could well be classed as a one-hit wonder - and a year later, they had split for good. This is actually a cover version of a 1966 song by Syndicate of Sound and has been punked up but not by much. It looks as though the last quarter of this compilation isn't punk and I can't understand why that's been allowed to happen. The vocals are done in a good style but the guitars are too soft and this track doesn't amount to much.
Wreckless Eric - "Whole Wide World"
This song is 168 seconds long and it takes a minute of that to get going, which is bizarre for a song so short. It's not brilliant if you ask me, although it does have an almost catchy chorus. Further on it has a technique similar to Ramones songs which are boppy and it doesn't really work here. This is another example of taking a compilation album too far and it's another song which shouldn't have been on it.
Teardrop Explodes - "Treason (It's Just a Story)"
This was a band which largely enjoyed underground success but had a little bit of mainstream rewards with three top 40 UK singles. This song wasn't one of those which begs the question, why choose it for the compilation? Julian Cope has had a good deal of airplay as a solo artist over the years and you can hear his influence on this song, which sounds a lot like the Jam, though most bands around that era did sound a lot alike. It's not a song for me because it's a little too pop-orientated, but some will like it.
Wire - "Outdoor Miner"
You're either going to love this song or you're going to hate it, and although the band is still going since 1977 they have rarely charted but seem to have a cult following of fans. The song itself is more soft rock than punk, though some would class it as post-punk I suppose, and you can hear how it's influenced the likes of R.E.M. and Blur amongst others. For me, it's too soft and its nicely-nicely approach isn't something I like.
Devo - "Satisfaction (I Can't Get No)"
If you could choose one from any number of Devo songs to go on a compilation, I'm sure you wouldn't choose this cover of the Rolling Stones' classic hit, but that's exactly what's happened here. I've never really been a fan of Devo and I don't understand their musical style so I can't really say for sure if this is a good cover version or not. To my ears it sounds like Devo has murdered the Stones' version but I'm sure people who like the band will say otherwise.
Public Image Ltd - "Death Disco"
PiL was formed after John Lydon left behind his Johnny Rotten image with the Sex Pistols in 1978. While this isn't the band's most famous song it still broke into the UK singles charts at No.20 when it was released in 1979, but a lot of that success is down to the slap-happy groove of bassist Jah Wobble which gives the band a unique sound. Couple that with Lydon's now not so angry and strained vocals and you have a sure fire winner. I like the groove in this song and I like it a lot, but punk it really isn't.
Joy Division - "Love Will Tear Us Apart"
This band could have been a lot bigger than just two studio albums and four UK top 40 singles but for the tragic event which took place in 1980 when singer Ian Curtis committed suicide through bouts of depression and epilepsy. It's a pretty good bet, though, that Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris would not have formed the very successful New Order if Curtis had lived, but Joy Division had something really special going for themselves. Now, once again, this isn't punk rock, but it is a very good song and Curtis was a great singer who reminds me a little of Jim Morrison. Throughout the song you can hear the influence the three surviving members took to New Order, but it's a huge shame Ian Curtis couldn't be there to hear what they did.
John Cooper Clarke - "Beasley Street"
Hailing from the city of Salford, Greater Manchester, JCC is a very unique individual. His songs aren't sung in the style of a vocalist, but are spoken word more than anything, and they're practically poems. I admire what he's done here but this track doesn't belong on a punk album, sadly. This song has opened my eyes to the possibility of purchasing some of his material, so it can't be all bad!
I'm not sure why the need was felt to put out another "Best ever..." album. If you already have one, there can't be another, right? There are some very good songs on here and there are some not so good songs, but most of all there are some tracks which can't really classed as punk and I'm surprised they have been included. This album seems to focus a lot on new wave and I think they may as well have split it in half and put those songs on a separate album while focussing on punk rock for 20 songs or so. My rating would have been higher had the compilation organisers put a little thought into it and gone with pure punk, instead of post-punk or not punk at all.
1. Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant
2. Iggy Pop - Lust For Life
3. The Stranglers - No More Heroes
4. Siouxsie & the Banshees - Hong Kong Garden
5. Spizzenergi - Where's Captain Kirk?
6. Buzzcocks - Orgasm Addict
7. Eddie and the Hot Rods - Do Anything You Wanna Do
8. The Jam - Eton Rifles
9. The Undertones - My Perfect Cousin
10. Blondie - Hanging on the Telephone
11. The Saints - This Perfect Day
12. The Ruts - Staring at the Rude Boys
13. X-Ray Spex - The Day the World Turned Day-Glo
14. Generation X - King Rocker
15. Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy
16. Adam and the Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
17. The B-52's - Rock Lobster
18. Elvis Costello and the Attractions - Pump it Up
19. Ian Dury and the Blockheads - Sweet Gene Vincent
20. Nick Lowe - So it Goes
21. Mink DeVille - Spanish Stroll
22. The Pretenders - Brass in Pocket
23. The Psychedelic Furs - Pretty in Pink
24. The Boomtown Rats - Rat Trap
1. Sex Pistols - Holidays in the Sun
2. The Stranglers - Something Better Change
3. Sham 69 - If the Kids Are United
4. The Vapors - Turning Japanese
5. Buzzcocks - I Don't Mind
6. Penetration - Don't Dictate
7. Dr. Feelgood - She Does it Right
8. Skids - The Saints Are Coming
9. Richard Hell & the Voidoids - Love Comes in Spurts
10. Dead Boys - Sonic Reducer
11. Patti Smith Group - Rock & Roll Nigger
12. Stiff Little Fingers - Suspect Device
13. 999 - Emergency
14. The Damned - Smash it Up
15. The Tubes - Don't Touch Me There
16. Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action
17. The Banned - Little Girl
18. Wreckless Eric - Whole Wide World
19. The Teardrop Explodes - Treason (It's Just a Story)
20. Wire - Outdoor Miner
21. Devo - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
22. Public Image Ltd. - Death Disco
23. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
24. John Cooper Clarke - Beasley Street
My rating: 7/10