Big Hits of Middle America Volume III (Twin/Tone Records) 1979. This one lined the used record stores pretty regularly in the 1980′s in Saint Louis. It is an early two record set of the first wave of Minneapolis bands centred on the crucially important Twin/Tone label. I remember picking it up for six or seven bucks at the Record Exchange on St Charles Rock Road. I fuckin’ loved it and hated parting with it years later when I sold it for 50 bucks in order to pay billz. I mean some of the tracks on here are throwaways in that skinny tie/new-wave bar band sorta sense but some of the tracks on here are just plain amazing. It along with most of the Twin/Tone back catalogue has been tragically out of print for a long time. However, you can purchase this entire release digitally as well as read the liner notes at the Twin/Tone website.
Probably the most amazing song on here is Listen by NNB which sounds like some sort of unholy Ubu/Endtables alliance over this kick-ass Johnny Thunders type guitar line. Who were these NNB guys? The other NNB song on Big Hits (Uruguay 1983) is good too and they also released the track Slack which ended up being comped on the Bloodstains across the Midwest Compilation in the early 1990s. Where Slack is all dynamics and atmosphere, Listen is full throttle. From what I can tell NNB were the first real art-punk combo from Minneapolis and deserve to be better known. C’mon guys! You musta recorded more shit. I’ll release it. Last Days Records 001 – NNB. Have your people call mine. We’ll do lunch.
Seriously though. I would release an NNB CD. If the songs I have heard by them are any indication, it would be amazing too.
Another cool band on here are The Suburbs, still playing in their early punked out style. The Suburbs went on to become a pretty cool little new wave combo but never really caught on with the Duran-Duran set. Next thing we all knew, new wave was out of style and “authenticity” was in. The Suburbs had missed their moment. If The Suburbs had only released their first EP, the World War III 7inch and these tracks off of Big Hits, they would be remembered as a great, weird Midwestern punk act. I’ve included Urban Guerrilla to give you an idea how cool they were.
Another interesting band on this comp are The Commandos. Most people know them as the Suicide Commandos and they were Minneapolis’ first punk act. They were not really an art punk band but instead played a more stripped down, fast rock-n-roll. Their lone LP on Blank Records is considered by many to be a KBD classic. I think it’s OK. I mean tracks like Mosquito Crucifixion and Shock Appeal are brilliant and all but some of it drags. By the time they recorded their tracks on Big Hits they had removed the “Suicide” from the portion of their name. I think these songs represent them at their peak. I have included the Steve Aalmas penned You’re Not the First One. A song that sounds like it could have been written in his next group Beat Rodeo.
The rest of the tracks by The Commandos, The Suburbs and NNB on Big Hits are great too. In fact, there are a lot of other choice tracks by acts like The Pistons, The Hypstrz, The Swingers and more on this compilation. I do not know why this release isn’t more talked about. It has gotta be one of the best time capsules from the first wave of Midwestern punk/wave I can think of. Go to Twin/Tone’s label and download yourself a copy of it. You won’t be disappointed.
Big Hits of Mid-America Volume III (Twin/Tone Records)
She Got Sex (The Pistons)
Foundry Joe (The Swingers)
Land of The Free (Buzz Barker and the Atomic Bums)
6654321 (The Hypstrz)
Weekend Warrior (The Commandos)
Paper Girl (The Jets)
Urban Guerrilla (The Suburbs)
Chains (The Wad)
Swan Lake, MN (The Swan Lake Six)
Ailerons O.K. (The Suburbs)
Uruguay 1983 (NNB)
Misery (The Pistons)
Sugar My Road (Bob Ivers & Ice Stars)
Losin’ My Grip (The Swingers)
Lover Boy (The Jets)
Where the Beat Goes On (Fingerprints)
Bad News From Phoenix (Curtiss A and the Originals)
You’re Not the First One (The Commandos)
The Ballad of Roy Orbison (Yipes)
Complicated Fun (The Commandos)