I’ve always wondered about greatest hits albums. On one hand, they are a great way to save money if you only like a band’s singles. But if I like a band, I’m not settling for a repackaging of stuff I might already have. Then, of course, there are those one hit wonders that get greatest hits albums. Information Society has one, while Jesus Jones and EMF each have two to their names. Huh? How does this kind of thing happen? Maybe they had hit singles I’d never heard of in their native country, but Information Society is from Minneapolis, so when did they have other hits? Oh well, I digress. The whole point of this is to tell you that there is one essential greatest hits package you should have in your collection, and no, it’s not the Eagles. It’s Japan’s native sons, garage rock heroes Guitar Wolf who bring 26 examples of their fire breathing badness to Golden Black.
Earlier this year, different acts put their hearts on their sleeves for Guitar Wolf (as well as Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf) on I Love Guitar Wolf Very Much, a tribute to the Ramones meets Sex Pistols meets limited English ball of fury. Guitar Wolf is itself a celebration of the spirit of rock and roll. There is no denying their energy, intensity, or their reverence for rock in its purest, undistilled essence. Fuzzy guitars, badly recorded, with barely intelligible lyrics screamed over them is what GW is all about. “Rock `N’ Roll Etiquette,” which in itself is a confusing proposition, sounds like `rock and roll highchair,’ “Wild Zero” like `wise up!‘ And really, who cares? It’s not about whether the lyrics even make sense, it’s about absolute abandon to the primal force of punk.
One of the reasons this collection is essential is the fact that some of these songs and albums are out of print in the states currently. Sure, you can spend your money on imports or rare copies on eBay, but this album is what greatest hits comps should be about, funneling a large body of work into an enjoyable and representative package. One does not really need a box set of Guitar Wolf tunes; that might go a little far. Instead, this numerically correct A to Z of the band with a cult following is perfectly digestible, if not even just a tiny bit long. Most of the songs from this comp, though fairly spread out, come from the album Jet Generation, including the outstanding cover of “Summertime Blues.” The price of either album is worth it just for that particular track.
As reported earlier, Guitar Wolf suffered a loss this year as a heart attack claimed the life of Billy, a.k.a. Bass Wolf. In true Ramones style, Guitar Wolf plans to carry on with a new Bass Wolf. So, let this `greatest hits’ compilation stand as a testimony to the awesome power of rock and roll, and to Billy, one of the most badass bass players in history.
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols
Ramones – Ramones
X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents