Kris Needs To Try Harder
When it comes to compilations, there are two litmus tests that every savvy audiophile should have on the ready. The first is the “New Knowledge” test. Look over the track listings and ask yourself, “How many of these bands have I heard of before?” If the answer is less than twenty-five percent, you’ve got a good one. The second is the “Younger Sibling” test: would you give this compilation to a younger sibling to introduce them to the genre? Two notably triumphant examples were the more recent Well Hung (a collection of Hungarian funk rock from the Soviet era) and the irreproachable Nuggets. Both comps introduced us to bands most of us had never heard of, and in a large way challenged the conventional chronology of rock history. Kris Needs Presents Dirty Water 2: More Birth of Punk Attitude is an example of the opposite: a compilation that fails both tests with flying colors.
Though he’s said in interviews that he avoided the obvious choices except where necessary, his obvious calls are glaringly so, as if Kris Needs were merely scanning the Wikipedia entry on “punk.” Of course, there’s going to be a Velvet Underground song, at least one Patti Smith song and one for anyone else deemed a “godfather of punk.” What’s frustrating is not that he chose songs which were obvious choices (with the glaring exception of “Suffragette City”), but that he chose bands that were obvious, but picked their most obscure, and least representative, songs. “Black to Comm,” for example, is a great MC5 song, but it’s not their best, most punk or most appealing song by a long shot. When Kris Needs does decide to take a more obscure tack, his inclusions are only tenuously related to the theme. While Woody Guthrie certainly inspired rockabilly imitators, you would hardly know it just from listening to Kris Needs’ choice “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.”
When Julian Cope wrote the trilogy of Krautrock-, Japock-, and Psychrock-Sampler, he was the first person to admit that there were people who knew more about those three genres than he did, and that his books were meant to be more of a jumping-off point than a strict canon. That simple act of admittance is part of what’s made Julian Cope an undisputed authority. Kris Needs, on the other hand, seems to be telling us that we need to accept his opinions ipso facto because he’s Kris Needs. After listening to this compilation, however, the credibility of his position is entirely undermined.