There are several things that separate Epitaph Records from any other Record Company (corporate or Independent)! For one thing the label was started by a Punk Rock Guitarist (Brett Gurewitz) for the express purpose of releasing his own band's music (that band being the incomparable Bad Religion). Another thing is that they are willing to sign both established artists and new upstarts based on their quality as musicians, not based on how much they might line the pockets of the Suits! Still another thing is that they care about their customers and fans... not in a lip service sort of "Cleveland is the best... Oh, I mean, St. Louis!" sort of way, but in a legitimate "You're why we're here way. Epitaph proves this in a number of ways, not the least of which is knowing their target audience isn't Bill Gates, or even Bill Moyers, but Billy Batson... the Punk Kid down the street (or the aging computer nerd with a scar tattoo of an anarchy symbol still on one arm)! Neither of these are rich people, are they?
In response to this, Epitaph puts out "Poverty Priced" CDs called Punk-O-Rama compillations which feature some of their best artists for dirt cheap prices. Clearly this makes business sense too, because it gives some of their lesser known acts more exposure (that the radio is generally too afraid to give) and keeps kids coming back for more. This doesn't change the fact that Punk-O-Rama is the least corporate-minded of all the Compilations out there (let's see "Now that's what I call Music" come close to this)! K-Tel Records should be shaking in their Pro-Wings right about now!
Punk-O-Rama 8 is no exception to this tradition. Any Punk can agree that $7.99 Retail ($4.99 on sale at Best Buy) is workable, especially considering that Punk-O-Rama 8 is the first Punk-O-Rama Double Album featuring 32 songs packed to the hilt with real Rock and Roll! Like previous Incarnations, Punk-O-Rama 8 features Epitaph talents represented by the original songs, by the original artists in attractive packaging that doesn't skimp just because it's cheap. Unlike (some) previous incarnations, Punk-O-Rama 8 does include a few tracks that fit only loosely into the categories of "Punk," or "Hardcore!"
Because of the Pedigree of Epitaph in general, one wouldn't expect simply radio-friendly ballad-oriented fluff you might hear on other compilation discs. Instead Punk-O-Rama 8 seems to be interested in delivering the purest of Punk to its listeners in as diverse a package as possible. The Distillers' "I am a Revenant" is as different from Rancid's "As Wicked" as can be, yet both are pure Punk (a diverse genre to be sure). Refused's "Coup D'Etat" is wildy heavier than Matchbook Romance's "The Greatest Fall (of all Time)" but they clearly belong on the same label (and the same compilation to be sure).
Epitaph's reliance on true Punk Rock, coupled with their willingness to allow experimentation (they seem to actually care about their artists, not arbitrary rules) keeps the two discs from getting Tedious. While tracks from great bands like Bad Religion and Rancid are straight, classic Punk, bands like NOFX (hilarious in their rhyme, alliteration, and obscure references) throw in reggae influences. The Black Keys' "ThickFreakness" is 100% Blues with only the distorted walking chords even vaguely reminiscent of Punk! Likewise such tracks as "Makeshift Patriot" by Sage Francis and "Bird Sings Why The Caged I Knows" by Atmosphere are actually Punk Influenced Hip-Hop numbers the likes of which haven't been heard on prior Punk-O-Rama CDs. Does this make Epitaph any less of a Punk pioneering label? Hell no! There are more than enough pretenders to the Punk throne out there to choke a Bullock! This does mean that Epitaph has been willing to branch out and allow for Punk and Hardcore influenced bands of other genres. This shows a progressive lean that tends to break the sameness of what some feel Punk is.
If Punk-O-Rama 8 has any flaws at all it's because not all of this is as new or fresh as the sticker on the outside implies. There isn't one, but two Bad Religion songs ("Shatterred Faith" and "Who We Are"). Also the Division of Laura Lee song ("Trapped In") was culled from the same source album as the Division of Laura Lee song that appeared on Punk-O-Rama 7! Seeing as how both Bad Religion songs are excellent and (as far as I can tell) not available elsewhere, and because (in my opinion) One can't have too much D.O.L.L. these are nitpicky items, and don't detract from the overall one hundred + Minute Listen!
Four Stars for Punk-O-Rama 8! It's definitely the best Mix CD of the year (barring my own Big Mixxxes). You might like it if you like real Punk, and own at least one Ramones album and at least one Sex Pistols Album both on Vinyl! You might not like it if your idea of Punk is Green Day. Or if you consider Green Day to be music in the first place! Man does Green Day ever suck the root! Damn it!
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