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The Penetrators - Don't You Tell Me...

The image depicted on the cover of the Penetrators’ Basement Anthology (1976-1984) is a confusing one at best. A few dudes leaning up against a brick wall – assumedly in the group’s hometown of Syracuse, New York – find themselves amidst some foot traffic. So, one’s left to wonder, who’s in the band?

The guy to the left of frame seems to just be passing through, but what about the jovial looking chap with the hat on, smiling and looking off to the left? The uncertainty that the cover image purports is really indicative of the entire album. In this day of unearthed classics and the like, discs like the Penetrators’ are gonna be snatched up pretty immediately. Of course, if that were to happen to you here, you’d be one sorry record collector.

Released on San Diego’s Swami Records, Basement Anthology (1976-1984) is ostensibly a collection of tracks that really never needed to be recorded in the first place. And while that seems harsh, when a highlight of any recording has a title like “Teenage Lifestyle,” listeners should be heftily warned.

Apart from the all too apparent clunker are the sporadically included live tracks. One of the more egregious inclusions here is “The Scandalizer.” The ensemble, while most likely having a pretty good time, turns in a tune that comes off as a cut rate bar band. Considering the time period that this was all set down – and what else was happening in the underground music scene – there could easily be a number of other groups featured on such a release – the one’s that deserve it, you know?

With all of the refuse spread out over the albums eight teen tracks, there’s sure to be a few to any listener’s liking. And there are. “Shopping Bag,” despite the fact that the song sounds as if it’s all going to come crashing down around you, retains a decent sense of melody and sports one of the most remarkable choruses on the album.

Unfortunately, since the compilation covers such a long period of time, listeners are punished by hearing the Penetrators musically develop over its expanses. Early period tracks arrive with the group just sounding like an inept garage act. By later in the game, though, it’s all ‘80s pop and rock.

“I Call That Love Too” grants listeners a sappy love song with enough rhythmically incompetent lead guitar as to turn anyone off immediately. It’s too bad that the vocals, crooned chorus and ohhhhs that litter the rest of the song take the effort to an even darker and more terrifying place.

It’d be good to figure that the lesser moments here are mitigated by the sparse highlights. But really, there’s just too much nonsense to get through to enjoy this disc at all. So, despite the disc looking as if it might hold some long lost gem, the slab’ll probably be put to good use as a bookmark – but only if you don’t particularly care for the tome that you’re currently reading.