Review: “The Ecstasy Of The Agony”

Various Artists
““The Ecstasy Of The Agony””
(Alternative Tentacles)

Winning the award for the largest compilation I’ve ever seen, Alternative Tentacles cleared their entire catalog (assumingly) and put together a disk containing 30 tracks by 30 different artists.  Since Alternative Tentacles has always prided itself on its diversity, nothing could reflect this more than this release.  Name checking down the list saw a bunch of credible and known inclusions (NoMeansNo, Pitchshifter (live), SNFU, Los Infernos, Jello Biafra, Lard) but it’s the goal of compilations to let the listener walk away with some new tunes as well.  The opener by The Causey Way is what the Sex Pistols might have sounded like if they embraced more electronica elements.  A 14 second song grindpunk blast by Ratos De Porao.  Some eclectic poetic bad singing in true Wesley Willis form in, “Termites ate my house up” (which is also the main bulk of the lyrics repeated).  Some lesser rock from Black Kali Ma shows even the sloppier offerings here at least have attitude.  Amebix offer a sort of early Megadeth in a garage type thrash punk.  NoMeansNo of course comes through with an interesting, “Hello/Goodbye” spoken lyric against the cryptic title of chorus.  Fartz throw down amphetamine punk super speed (Zeke fans get on this).  The live Pitchshifter song “Un-United Kingdom” shows they can represent their hard-edged electronic presence in front of a crowd (which is always a plus for electronically pushed bands).  Dead&Gone offer a creepy tune that gives you that staring at roadkill feel.  Pachinko throws down a grumbly attention getting romp that lasts about 1:24.  Queen Bee has a punked up B-52’s sound (minus that annoying dude) and made me shimmy (which I don’t do often but when I do…look the fuck out).   There’s also various spoken word pieces by Jello Biafra, Angela Davis and others to add to the informed.  The running theme (if there is one) is of creativity and diversity.  Most bands here easily qualify as “eclectic” compared to what is normally thought of as marketable music so I applaud Alternative Tentacles for being a force for originality.  Seriously, this has to be one of the most remarkably diverse collections of music ever assembled and that alone should spark your interest.  Lovers of all things music shouldn’t hesitate to track this down and add a band or two to their listening palette.