Cherry Red Records have released yet another box set full of CDs. Coming from their Captain Oi division, the label has devoted a box set to the career of UK punk rockers the Adicts from 1982-87. Like many of the bands on Cherry Red, the Adicts have somewhat of a cult following and aren’t all that well known by the casual music listener. However, a CD set like this is good to have around as it could introduce a new generation of fans to this music. For what it is, The Albums 1982-87 gives listeners a good batch of albums to listen to and explore.
A little history
The Adicts formed in Ipswitch around 1975. The bands consisted of singer Keith “Monkey” Warren, guitarist Pete Davison, bassist Mel Ellis and drummer Michael Davison. The band stood out from their competition due to their image. Taking inspiration from A Clockwork Orange, the band wore all white clothing and black bowler hats- topped off with Warren decked out in face paint. The band have been recording and touring for many years on/off, being able to keep some of the original members with them. As of 2018, the band are still touring.
Musically, the band can be compared to any punk rock bands from the mid to late 1970s. With the Adicts, their songs have a fun, pop hook to them (a la the Ramones) but still maintain this snotty, bad boy attitude (a la the Sex Pistols).
Box set details
In this box set, you’re getting 5 CDs in total. As per usual with Cherry Red’s box sets, the CDs are kept in cardboard sleeves- which are housed in a clam shell-like box. You also get a booklet, which includes some pictures and new clips of the band from back in the day. The liner notes provided don’t necessarily tell you the band’s story but it does tell you about the recordings and how the singles charted.
The music provided here is the music the band released on Razor Records. The band’s debut album, Songs of Praise, was self-released in 1981- which is why it’s not here on the box set. While it would’ve been nice to have Songs of Praise in the set, you can easily purchase the album with this set (although some copies are a little pricey). After the release of Songs of Praise, the band were signed to Razor Records. With that, the 5 CDs in this set include:
– Sound of Music (1982)- the band’s second studio album
– Smart Alex (1985)- the band’s third studio album
– Fifth Overture (1986)- the band’s fourth studio album (fifth release if including the 1979 EP Lunch With…)
– Rarities, a collection of singles, B sides and bonus tracks on previous reissues of the other albums
– Live And Loud, a bootleg-quality live recording from 1982 that wasn’t released until 1987
Unlike most of the sets I’ve reviewed, I’m fairly new to the music of the Adicts. I first heard of the name several years ago in my Last.FM recommendations and I always meant to check them out. After listening to these albums, I can say that I do like the Adicts now. However, I think I could’ve done without some of the music here. That’s not so say it’s bad but having purchased many Original Album Classics and Original Album Series box sets, there’ve been times where I’m not too crazy about a few releases. Let’s break this down album by album here.
Sound of Music is a solid album from top to bottom. Comparing it to Songs of Praise (which I listened to streaming prior to this), they are kind of the same album. If there were any differences, I’d say that Sound of Music is a little more diverse in the lyrics. Songs like “Chinese Takeaway” and “Disco” are bouncy pop punk fun while “Joker in the Pack” experiments punk rock with violins! These guys also show they have a sense of humor- a very cheeky one too. This can be found on songs such as “My Baby Got Run Over By a Steamroller” and “Easy Way Out,” which are both songs that deal with dark subjects. Just look at the devilish grin of Keith Warren on the cover and that’s the album in a nutshell.
Smart Alex stands out immediately for its 80s studio quality production. Whereas their first two were raw, this one sounds a little bit polished. I’m surprised to see on some websites that this album gets low ratings. I actually like this one: there’s more diversity here and I actually like production. Personally, I think it gives the music a 50s rock n roll throwback styled sound- especially with songs such as “Troubadour” and the slight doo wop-riddled “Bad Boy.” Other highlights include the anthem-driven title track, the alternative “Jelly Baby” and the 50’s inspired “Runaway.” Overall, I think this is a good album.
Fifth Overture is a real clunker in their discography. I guess it was their attempt at being commercial. While the music here isn’t bad, it just doesn’t sound like an album by the Adicts. The production on here is very polished, so polished to the point where I don’t think you can call this punk rock. The group had also added a keyboardist around this time, which sticks out like a sore thumb here. Highlights? The Roxy Music Avalon-esque “Sure Looks Pretty” is at least solid while “Don’t Let Go” has some cooking guitar riffs.
The Rarities disc is a nice addition to the box set while the Live And Loud album is a neat archival release. Even though it’s not a proper album, Rarities does have a good flow of songs. As for Live And Loud– it’s a decent live album. It gives you an idea as to what a Adicts show was like back in the day but I wouldn’t say it’s essential.
The Albums 1982-87 is another impressive release from Cherry Red Records. While I did enjoy most of the set, I don’t see me going back to some of the albums here- given that some of them aren’t proper albums (Rarities) or just aren’t all that good (Fifth Overture). There have been other sets released similar to this, including the 2002 release The Collection– which features Sound of Music and Smart Alex plus some bonus tracks. If I had gotten the Adicts albums prior to Cherry Red’s set, I would’ve gone with that release. However, this new set is all up to date: the music there has all been remastered and is nicely packaged. Even if there’s an album you’re not too crazy about, you can leave it to the side and come back to it later. For me, I’ll be listening to Sound of Music and Smart Alex for now.
If you’re new to the music of the Adicts, I’d recommend listening to a few songs before taking a dive into this set. If you’re already a fan of the Adicts, it’s a no-brainer: you’ll love this set.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.