Keeping Track: 5 Essential Punk Complete Discographies
by Chad Jewett
1.) Cap’n Jazz – Analphabetapolothology
Analphabetapolothology, the Jade Tree-released collection from Illinois emo godfathers Cap’n Jazz, is so definitive a release that for most fans of the band the 2-disc anthology of their complete output is likely the only Cap’n Jazz release they’ve ever laid eyes on. But it’s actually entirely fitting that most people’s introduction to Cap’n Jazz is through something as messy, varied, and baggy as Analphabetapolothology, a 36-track jumble that ranges from focused jangle-pop (“Little League”) to noisy algebraic experimentalism (“The Sands Have Turned Purple”) to oddball four-track sketches (“Winter Wonderland”). Analphabetapolothology gives a complete picture of the band not just by giving us everything Cap’n Jazz ever put to tape, but by celebrating the messiness and diversity that defined the influential Chicago quintet.
2.) Minor Threat – Complete Discography
If Analphabetapolothology serves as the alpha and omega of Cap’n Jazz, then the same is certainly true for the 1989-released Complete Discography, which compiled the etnrie official catalogue of hardcore legends Minor Threat. A bargain-priced CD as iconic as Ramones Mania or Misfits for several generations of young punks on a budget, the compilation’s minimalist cover – featuring a young Alec MacKaye (brother of Minor Threat front-man Ian MacKaye), head buried in his forearms – is one of punk’s great totems, an ineffable icon. The music contained within lives up to the album’s striking imagery: declarations of independence (“Minor Threat”), desperation (“Screaming At A Wall”), and indignation (“In My Eyes”), all delivered with the sere, punchy candor of Washington, D.C.’s early-80s punk golden age. The anthology also serves as a historical triptych of hardcore, tracing the genre from its early 80s heyday (“Filler”) through to its blossoming into nascent post-hardcore (“Salad Days”). Minor Threat’s Complete Discography is a time capsule that hints at tomorrow as captivatingly as it records yesterday.
3.) Fire Party – 19 Songs
Dischord Records released more than its share of monumental anthologies. Minor Threat, Embrace, Rites of Spring, One Last Wish, Gray Matter – all released collections of their entire recorded catalogs on the venerable Washington D.C. label. And at the top of that list stands 19 Songs, the career-spanning anthology from D.C. quartet Fire Party. The compilation, which combines the band’s two Dischord-released records, hangs together markedly well as a coherent listening experience, never evincing the sorts of peaks and valleys in quality that so many similar releases feature. Even the two versions of “Basis” – one a studio take, the other gleaned from a Peel session – work as two equally interesting glimpses at the same composition. Instead, 19 Songs works as an album, one that finds Fire Party perfecting their sharp yet massive sound: a combination of post-punk’s atmospherics and post-hardcore’s angles that is easily recognizable in 2017’s punk landscape.
4.) Turning Point – Turning Point 1988-1991
Released by Delaware indie label Jade Tree Records in 2000, Turning Point’s 1988-1991 bundled the New Jersey hardcore band’s 38 recorded songs into one convenient package. Collected beneath a striking photo that features the band assembled for a self-portrait, the camera angled up front and center in the shot, Turning Point 1988-1991 surprisingly works in reverse, beginning with the band’s almost-post-hardcore latter days, then winding back around to its scrappy basement punk beginnings. What becomes central in listening to the collection, whose fidelity drops from the bright clarity of a song like “Behind This Wall” to the fuzzy four-track murk of “Undertow”, is just how far Turning Point were able to push themselves, helping to create a more imaginative, cerebral version of hardcore by the time they called it a day in 1991. Singer Skip Candelori would tragically pass away in 2001, making 1988-1991 not just a comprehensive closing statement for a band, but also a memorial to an artist.
5.) Swing Kids – Discography
Swing Kids Discography is the kind of underground release so seminal that you can draw an entire family tree from it. Solidifying a version of screamo that placed a serious premium on rhythmic and conceptual smarts (just try to guess where “El Camino Car Crash” is headed), the San Diego quintet would eventually branch out into The Locust, Some Girls, Head Wound City, The Album Leaf, and Unbroken. But the band’s gnarled, heady version of post-hardcore would also live on as an inspiration to an entire generation. The Blood Brothers, Orchid, City of Caterpillar, Combatwoundedveteran: all would evince some sonic influence from Swing Kids, making massively heavy music that moved with nimble cleverness.