“Bullsheep Detector – Welsh Punk Compilation 1980-84″

Now, I like punk, especially “early” punk from say 1976-85. And I did once spend the night in Cardiff, Wales. Those two things combined, however, don’t mean that I know jack about the early Welsh punk scene, so that’s why I’m glad Antisociety Records put out this cool comp last year…. and just as glad that my friends at Hi-Voltage Records in Tacoma chose to stock it.

This is actually a nice, high quality release. The jacket is a gatefold that actually folds open even further to be more like a poster, with a collage of various band and fan pics, lyric sheets, cassettes, etc, and the record itself is nice, thick vinyl. So far, so good. The danger with these comps, in my experience, is that often the recording quality is shoddy. Understandable given that there was so little mainstream interest in punk, which meant that the bands often played shows with poor quality PAs that were turned up WAY too loud, and that no one with decent equipment was recording them. So how does Bullsheep Detector fare from a recording quality standpoint?

Pretty damn good, actually. There are a few live clunkers that sound like they were recorded by someone wrapped in styrofoam standing outside the club, but overall the recording quality is solid and I don’t feel like I desperately need an EQ. Antisociety packed a lot of music on here with 20 different bands included, so even with the notoriously short duration of punk songs you’re getting a solid record full of music. The label also did a good job of mixing styles, with some bands playing more rock-like punk a la The Clash, while others had obviously made the move toward hardcore and speed.

The comp opens with one of its best tracks, and interestingly the only one that appears to be song in Welsh – “Dim Heddweh” by Yr Anhrefn, a band known for singing all their songs in their native language. It along with “Y.O.P” by No Choice. have that lighter, more early rock ‘n’ roll type punk sound, and I also liked “World Depressions” by Classified Protest which was harder and faster. On the reverse side the quality continued with Condemned’s “American Cowboy,” the super fast “Icons of Filth” by No Fucking Choice, and the fast funky bass line on “No Label” by The Truth Is. The few misses, like Dead on Arrival’s “Child Molester,” are generally due to horrible sound quality, due in part I’m sure to a lack of material – for example, Dead on Arrival never released a studio album and what little is out there all appears on comps (and I suspect on live bootlegs). There’s not much you can do if you have a band that was important to the scene but left no quality recordings, and you just have to make do with what’s available.

This is a top quality early punk comp, and while I was a bit hesitant at the price (I think this was around $20) since I’ve been burned by hollow sounding recordings before, Bullsheep Detector certainly exceeded my expectations. I won’t claim I’m any closer to being an expert on Welsh punk, and I certainly am no closer to deciphering the language, but I did come away with a good listening experience and, more importantly, a new handful of bands to look for when I’m crate digging for vinyl gems.

 

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