BOOK REVIEW: Nefarious Artists by Welly Artcore (2023)

A comprehensive reference book detailing more than five hundred punk compilation albums released between 1976 and 1989.

Collections like ‘Now That’s What I Call Punk Rock’ or ‘The Best Punk Album In The World Ever’ are an easy way to cash in, repacking ‘greatest hits’ and flogging them to people with deep pockets and shallow record collections. This book isn’t about that sort of thing.

Compilations are also a good way of helping bands reach a wider audience and helping listeners discover new music. It’s a simple and effective way of a label showcasing their roster. Fans might grab a twenty track album that has three bands they like on, and discover ten more. There have been occasions when I’ve bought compilations on spec and only found one or two bands I like, but those bands have then played a major role in the soundtrack to my life. In some cases, I’ve even become close mates with the bands.

I’m pretty sure I first discovered Cardiff-based band Four Letter Word through a compilation, which is synchronicity, because this book is put together by their singer, Welly.

Not only is Welly a singer, but for many years he was behind the fanzine Artcore and, all too briefly, ran a cracking little record shop/stall in Jacobs Market in The ‘Diff. He also has a side line in designing record covers. This makes him ideally placed to put this collection together.

The albums get half a page each to give them equal billing and are grouped chronologically, with an introduction to each era at the start of each section.

It gets off to a good start and features what I consider, almost fifty years on, to be the greatest Punk compilation of them all, ‘Streets’: featuring The Dogs, The Nosebleeds, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Members, The Lurkers and Arthur Comics (Snivelling Shits).

We also get the collection of live tracks from the legendary Roxy club, which was my first introduction to the infamous Johnny Moped.

And we are only up to 1977.

As the book progresses, the number of albums listed under each year obviously increases. The book stops at 1989 purely because ‘it had to stop somewhere’. It’s a good year to finish, given that the arrival of CDs meant there would soon be a bonkers number of compilations hitting the stores.

The breadth of albums covered is comprehensive,  although Welly is at pains to point out, not exhaustive or definitive. This is just the vinyl compilations from his own collection.  He ignores CDs and tapes and anything after 1989.

What we do get are albums from household name labels, such as Stiff, Alternative Tentacles and Atlantic Records, along with lesser known labels, such as Bluurg, Throbbing Lobster and Groucho Marxist Record Cooperative.

Whilst taken on their own it’s just a collection album descriptions. They do lean more towards descriptions rather than reviews, although there’s far more than just track listing and labels etc. Welly actually sat down and listened to them all when writing about them, which took over a year (I’m surprised it didn’t take longer). Combined they  document the development of Punk over the decade, the emergence of indie labels, for instance, and the evolution of Hardcore. That is, after all, the motivation for putting the book together.

It’s not the sort of book you sit down and read cover to cover, it’s something you pick up to browse through when sat on the bog or when an album or band comes to mind, you can’t remember the details and can’t sleep till you have scratched that annoying curiosity itch. That might sound like it’s a book for a limited readership, and it no doubt is, but hey, there’s quite a few of us anoraks, crate diggers and geeks about.

The annoying thing is I’m trying to kick the habit of buying books and I’ve just discovered an advert in the back of the book that says Welly has another book out: a tour diary through America. Grrrr..

Go here to buy the book(s)