Various Artists: Wild Things (Vostok)

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Social End Product, by the Bluestars
Various Artists: Wild Things (Vostok)

When John Baker released his first Wild Things LP collection on record back at the dawn of the Nineties (subtitled “Wyld Kiwi Garage 1966-1969”) there was not the plethora of New Zealand music compilations there is today.

Certainly there had been AK79, Class of '81, Goat's Milk Soap and Art for Chart's Sake among others . . . but none of them were quite like what Baker pulled together.

They were all compilations of current or recent music and Baker's Wild Things looked much further back.

Baker's head and heart never strays far from thrilling and formative garage-band rock of the Sixties – although his subsequent Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll drew a Kiwi thread back to the the Fifties – and with Wild Things he almost single-handedly elevated the Bluestars' Social End Product into the pantheon of proto-punk.

If memory serves me well he even released Social End Product as a 45rpm single.

Screen_Shot_2018_05_27_at_9.49.51_AMNo greater love hath any man than to lay down his wallet for the things he loves.

That Wild Things vinyl album included raucous tracks by the La De Da's, the Smoke, the Action, Chants R'n'B (he would later release their Stage Door Witchdoctor album on vinyl), Tom Thumb and others.

Inevitably and happily there was his Volume 2 five years later (“16 Monaural Blasts of Wyld Garage Pop 1966-1968”) with similar hard-edged tracks by the Pleazers, the Four Fours, Ray Columbus in radical rock mode, the Music Conventions (their spectacularly explosive surf rock-cum-sitar freakout Belly Board Beat) and more.

On these records he also rehabilitated – if that's the right word, perhaps “tarnished” might be better – the careers of mainstream pop stars like the Chicks and Sandy Edmonds with their most wild songs Come See Me (with the Pleazers) and Rebel Kind (Doug Jerebine on searing fuzz guitar) respectively.

In the two decades since there have been many other collections of the more white-knuckle end of New Zealand rock in the Sixties and beyond (not the least Baker's Get A Haircut which went from Johny Devlin to the Datsuns) . . . but Baker is now back with another slab of mono vinyl which, confusingly, is entitled Wild Things (and subtitled “16 Kiwi Freakbeat Nuggets from 1966 to 1968”)

It's an album which hasn't fallen far from the original tree we might say: It pulls nine of its 16 tracks from the first Wild Things, one from Wild Things 2 (the Rayders' Working Man) and adds some other unpolished diamonds; Larry's Rebels' psyche-rock cover of the Small Faces' soulful Whatcha Gonna Do About It, Grim Ltd's Milk Cow Blues (recorded live at their final appearance in Palmerston North), the Roadrunners's LSD, the Gremlins' Blast Off 1970, the Troubled Mind's Finders Keepers and Ray Woolf with the Avengers on Little Things That Happen.

Now, in all likelihood, most people wouldn't have copies of the first two Wild Things collections so this one – in a terrific cover photo of the sullen Roadrunners in '66 against a backdrop of a state house wasteland – will come as a fresh blast of foul air from our less celebrated past.

It opens with Bakers' beloved outsider anthem (“I'm a social end product of society . . . so don't blame me”) rocks its way through the La De Da's classic and equally angry Don't Stand in My Way (“or you'll get hurt today”), Edmonds and the Pleazers' Come See Me and on to Tomorrow's Love with the Love classic 7 And 7 Is.

Elsewhere has repeatedly noted the paucity of overtly political songs in New Zealand popular music (yes, you can name some . . . but so few that you can actually name them) but there has long been theme of rebellious dissent, teenage fuck-you, inarticulate but hormone-fueled rage and untutored rock'n'roll anger.

These are the ideas which drive the Wild Things compilations, they are songs of a generation which was pissed off, kicking against the conformity of New Zealand life in the Sixties, didn't want the nine-to-five wage-slave future (the Rayder's furious Working Man which is the equal of Social End Product in its rage) and sometimes inarticulate rebelliousness about a smashed relationship (Tom Thumb's blistering You're Gonna Miss Me).

You can analyse this Wild Things collection – which Baker says is the 26thanniversary redux edition of the initial album – like that as a sociologist might.

But the fact is, this Wild Things – which comes with an insert booklet with period photos and an A5 sheet of band ads from papers, track details and an enormous list of credit/thanks – just rocks with rage and energy.

And it's the sound of Kiwi musicians, off the leash . . . and howling.

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