In the Garage, We Don’t Feel Safe

Various Artists
The Rubble Collection: Volumes 1-10

Back in 1984, a guy named Phil Smee had a record label, a vision, and an idea. The label was called Bam Caruso, and the vision behind that label was to drag the flashing lights and saucer-eyed whimsy of Britain’s psychedelic pop scene of the late ‘60s into the present. Though the country’s history of popular music certainly encountered artists with a jones for the eternal lysergic meadow, from Julian Cope’s The Teardrop Explodes to Nick Nicely’s journeys into psychotopia and all points within, Smee had to work as both an educator and a musical archaeologist. Bam Caruso’s dutiful series of LP reissues rose to those dual responsibilities, dragging a few densely-packed years’ worth of remaindered melody to all those with the presence of mind to appreciate what tumbled forth. Seeing as the UK pop charts were mostly filled at the time with the remnants of a new wave dystopia quickly being flooded with overtones both globalist and robotic, this was a notion appreciated immensely by a concerned, vocal minority; those who survived the ‘60s, and those for whom the lures of the time proved an escapist antidote to hairspray and Thatcher rule.
Skip Bifferty

Smee seemed to realize that some of the best tracks of the era–those that were successful in defining not only a memorable whimsy, but those that could accurately recreate the sentiments in the air at the height of Carnaby Street mayhem–were made by bands whose recorded legacy turned out little more than a 45 RPM single or two, or maybe some unreleased acetates. His Rubble compilations followed a blueprint drafted by American garage-punk recyclings like Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets and Greg Shaw’s Pebbles collections, and soon found similar series like Chocolate Soup for Diabetics and Mindrocker sprouting up around it. Despite the competition for worthwhile material out of a finite pool, and the duplicated efforts between some of these collections, Smee managed to bang out twenty volumes of Rubble, all of which are once again made available on two CD box sets of ten discs apiece.

The first of these boxes, covering volumes 1 through 10, is particularly worth noticing; Smee running the gauntlet of curating album after album of relatively unheard artists (Mike Stuart Span, Craig, Wimple Winch, the Glass Menagerie, and Bo Street Runners among the 150+ featured here) with barely a misstep or unlistenable, cloying moment between them. Whatever his criteria was for selection, strong cuts are dispersed throughout, grouped naturally and with a great deal of care. These songs play so well off of one another, it’s as if they were mixtapes made specifically for you, organized by mood, feeling, and other intangibles lost on all but those who’d spent a good chunk of their lives in rapt obsession over the intricacies of head music.

The Kaleidoscopes

Smee’s dedication to a psychedelic awakening is ably recreated by the oft-dubious Fallout organization, packing each disc in an exact reproduction of its original sleeve art, and loading up a 96-page booklet with information on the artists featured, as well as a cross-referenced list of where they appear in the collection. It’s an overwhelming volume of music to tackle at once, but the intrepid are advised to start with Vols. 1 (The Psychedelic Snarl, a strong indicator of things to come), 5 (including the Flies’ loaded, bashing stomp through “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone”), and 9, a volume dedicated to Dutch psych and freakbeat acts. B+ –Doug Mosurock