Rhythm & Views

Various Artists

The golden years of Slash Records infiltrated the record collections of the willing starting in 1978, with a Germs EP as the label's inaugural release.

In those days, Slash was an indie label documenting a nascent yet burgeoning underground in Los Angeles, its base of operations. (It would later strike a distribution deal with Warner Brothers that upped its profile considerably by actually getting its releases into stores.) Although most of its output was off the radar at the time of release, much of the music popped quietly in the decades since, going on to be recognized as some of the most potent and enduring rock music of the decade.

This is no mere hyperbole. Check out some of the albums Slash put out in that period, many of which were only heard on college radio and covered in 'zines, instead of being seen on MTV or reviewed by the likes of Rolling Stone. (This was, of course, before the Internet, when there really was such a thing as the underground, when a person had to be tenacious to find the records one was seeking out: They worked harder, followed it for passionate reasons and knew less than anyone now who spends an hour or two whipping around the Web each day.) Slash bestowed upon us life-changing albums, such as X's first two releases, which are widely regarded as the best stuff by the band, which embodied early L.A. punk as much as anyone in that era; the first four Violent Femmes platters, most notably the 1983 self-titled debut, which has become a sort of adolescent angst touchstone in the same way of The Catcher in the Rye; Dream Syndicate's 1982 debut full-length, The Days of Wine and Roses (actually released on Ruby, a Slash subsidiary), one of the edgiest and most durable rock and roll albums of the '80s; and nearly a decade's worth of material from the pride of East L.A., Los Lobos.

This is just a sampling of the goods Slash had to offer; it would be almost as easy to wax poetic about releases by the Gun Club, the Del Fuegos, Robyn Hitchcock, the Misfits, Fear and the Blasters. And like with other like-minded labels, there was no "Slash sound" beyond the fact that it specialized in the documentation of anything good and dangerous in the City of Angels (though it often stretched beyond).

Somehow, it managed to stay solvent into the '90s (Los Lobos' cover of Richie Valens' "La Bamba" likely had everything to do with it) and released some better-than-average, if not life-changing, albums by Soul Coughing, Grant Lee Buffalo, L7 and Faith No More.

In 1996, Warner Brothers sold Slash to London Records, which fell under the umbrella of Polygram. In 2000, the label was scrapped, a casualty of the elephantine merger of Polygram and Universal.

Which brings us to the inaugural release of the new Slash, whose official title now includes a slash and the non-word "BiggMassive," a nod to returning label founder Bob Biggs and his new partner, Will Fulton, whose two bands--Shiner Massive and Shiner Massive Sound System--are slated to have the first all-original releases of the new imprint. (The label is again distributed by Warner.)

This comp, then, attempts to cover Slash's entire history, as well as its future as Slash/BiggMassive, in a mere 13 tracks, which is obviously impossible. While we're treated to early treasures (X's "The World's a Mess [It's in My Kiss]" and "Los Angeles," the Gun Club's "Sex Beat," the Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone"--inexplicably titled "Gone Daddy Gone/I Just Want to Make Love to You" here, even though it's the version we're all used to hearing--as well as tracks from the Germs, the Misfits and Fear) and '90s highlights like L7's "Pretend We're Dead" and Faith No More's "Epic," it also includes one track each from the Shiner Massive camp--and they don't bode well.

Shiner Massive's "The Sky is Falling" is one part Chili Peppers-esque generic funk-rock, one part Ad Rock rap and all parts bland misguidedness. Shiner Massive Sound System--the group's dub offshoot--turns in "Here We Come," which features those skittering beats, spy theme samples and fake Jamaican accents that hailed the '90s "electronica revolution" that never happened. Slash, once known for being groundbreaking, has become Slash/BiggMassive, whose goals now seem to want to echo its new moniker.

One more thing: Slash is obviously still stuck in the 20th century as far as its marketing tactics are concerned. Everyone knows this half-assed compilation should be priced at a label-introductory price of about five bucks. It lists at $12.98.

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