Sometimes there’s no justice in this world. For proof of this fact, look no further than the career trajectory of Mclusky.
During their all-too-brief time together Andy Falkous (guitars and vocals), John Chapple (bass) and Matt Harding (on drums, later replaced by Jack Egglestone) toured relentlessly, gave great interviews, and most important of all, recorded some incredible music. Between 2000 and 2005 Mclusky released three albums and numerous singles of twisted, fist-pumping, white-knuckled punk-rock that not only kicked like a mule on steroids, it was witty and clever to boot. And then in January of last year, they ruined everyone’s fun by splitting up. The bastards.
In spite of the fact they did pretty much everything you think would be required to crack the glass ceiling of the mainstream, Mclusky were barely blip on the radar. It’s tempting to cast around for someone or something to blame for this heinous miscarriage of justice. You can line up the usual targets; apathetic kids, self-aggrandising disc jockeys, magazine editors more interested in promoting a certain zeitgeist than they are in actual music and a record-buying/downloading majority who choose to have their aesthetic values spoon-fed to them rather than think for themselves. But the cold truth is more prosaic than that. Contrary to the line promoted by feel-good pop culture, nice guys occasionally finish last, there aren’t lights at the end of every tunnel, and sometimes everyone goes home crying.
This is a reality Mclusky were all too aware of before fortune decided to fart in their collective face. They railed against it on 'Whoyouknow', took the piss out of it on 'To Hell With Good Intentions' and then tried to act as a pick-me-up to every be-suited unfortunate stuck working alongside them in it at "hopeless, hepatitis, piss-rag, Molotov cocktail, mono-brow shithole(s)" across the land with 'There Ain’t No Fool In Ferguson'.
Only time will tell whether Mclusky were this generation’s musical corollary to Bill Hicks or whether you are, in fact, reading the first of a planned series of insane missives written by an individual destined to be a starving, naked shut-in by the age of 35 with facial hair reaching down to his ankles. In the meantime, Too Pure has seen fit to release Mcluskyism, a compilation that avoids the usual stigma associated with 'best of' assemblages (that they’re aimed at winning new converts rather than satisfying a fanbase) by arriving in two formats.
The uninitiated will want to plump for the single disc version containing all the A-sides. As it says on the tin, it’s a collection of all the tracks that first (or exclusively) saw the light of day in single release format. Sequenced in chronological order, its interesting to hear the trio develop from the shouty-thrash shenanigans of their earlier tracks (the noise-distortion-scream-freakout, _ ‘Joy’_ and the buzzsaw-guitar driven ‘Rice Is Nice’) into the ferociously tight punk rock monster they became when Steve Albini stepped in at the dials. All the crowd pleasers are there from _ ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’, right the way through to _ ‘Without MSG, I Am Nothing’ (which was never released as a single, but was tacked on anyway).
Of course, the faithful will probably own all these tracks in one format or another, and so would be better off shelling out a little extra cash for the 3-disc version. Along with the aforementioned A-sides, it comes with a disc containing nearly every single B-side (the live version of 'Friends Stoning Friends' from the Alan Is A Cowboy Killer single is curiously absent) and a disc of C-sides. The first half of the latter is a real sketch book of a CD, collecting demos and out-takes of varying quality. The second is a recording of Mclusky in concert at ULU at the end of 2004. It wasn't the band's best show by a country mile, but until a DVD is compiled (if indeed one ever is), the live tracks serve as a nice memento for any fan lucky enough to have caught a show.
All told, there is a downside to Mcluskyism; listening to it for the umpteenth time, a fan can’t help but feel the raw, hollow ache of melancholy. After all, one of the reasons this package is in circulation is because Mclusky are no longer with us and the music scene is all the poorer for it. Underrated. Criminally ignored. Exhibit A in the argument that begins with the line; "Kids today, eh? Whaddatheyknow?" Choose your hyperbole and then slap your money down on the counter. The first essential compilation of the year is in the shops and it may be the last you’ll hear from this band. If you have any taste you’ll buy a copy when you’re finished reading this. If you have any heart, you’ll buy two – and give one to a mate.
9Nick Cowen's Score