Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

United Kingdom of Punk: The Hardcore Years [Music Club, 1998]
"Perhaps I'm not too clever, perhaps I'm not too bright," yowls Mensi on the debut single from the Angelic Upstarts, who at least I've heard before. Four of these circa-1980 bands are on Oi!--The Album, two are on Carry On Oi!, here's the good ol' Anti-Nowhere League, and that's it--Stateside, these yobs were lucky to see the inside of an import store. None are clever and none bright, at least not so's they'll tell you about it, because where in American hardcore us-against-them is about age, in Britain it flouts class in all its manifestations--not just money, but manners, education, culture. So above all they're rude--the Pistols, the Clash, and Generation X are limp-wristed art wankers by comparison. The rant can get tedious--a song called "Free Speech for the Dumb" ought to be smarter. But 20 years after we sussed that British fascism looks more like a middle-aged housewife than a boot boy downing pints at a football match, these antieverything anthems prove that anyone who pegged them as a menace was neither clever nor bright either. A-