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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The 10 Best Underground Rock Reissues of 2012

Posted By on Wed, Dec 26, 2012 at 3:30 AM

Recent years have given rise to many record labels devoted to reviving forgotten artists from all genres. In record stores you will find new collections of Thai funk from the '70s, field recordings from Ghana, and represses of punk 45s originally released in editions of only 200 -- all the result of reissue imprints' tireless work to bring scarce obscurities to a new audience. It's a rewarding time to be an archivist or enthusiast of obscure music from the 20th Century. For this list, we combed the underground rock reissues for 10 of the most essential albums resurrected in 2012.

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The Avengers

The Avengers (Pink Album)

[Water]

Plagued by bootlegging for decades, this seminal San Francisco punk album finally finds a legitimate reissue by way of local imprint Water. The Avengers were pivotal proponents of San Francisco's initial punk scene in 1977, and this collects their complete recorded output from the '77-'78 period. Since then, vocalist Penelope Houston has established a substantial solo career, but her early sonic outing as one of the first snarling frontwomen in punk remains as iconic and moving today as ever.

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Shoes

One in Versailles

[Numero]

Numero reissued the first three full-lengths of this essential Illinois power-pop group this year, along with a collection of demos, but Shoes' first offering was arguably the most anticipated. A collection of the group's 1975 home recordings, One In Versailles was originally self-released in an edition of only 300, making it a highly collectible power-pop rarity ever since. Its appeal isn't just the scarceness, though. Shoes would go on to achieve moderate success as major-label recording artists following the post-"My Sharona" power-pop boom, but the intimacy and charm of these home recordings would never be matched.

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Rockin' Horse

Yes It Is

[Sing Sing]

English duo Jimmy Campbell and Bill Kinsley released Yes It Is in the early '70s to very little acclaim, but the few devotees sung their praises loud enough to make it a rare cult favorite. This year's reissue ought to reinstate its relevance to more than collectors and historians. Blending Merseybeat, R&B chops, and an impeccable pop sensibility, Yes It Is is fraught with more poignant hooks and beautiful vocal harmonies than lesser, more popular groups write over the length of an entire discography. Perhaps dismissed as a Beatles pastiche originally, Yes It Is today sounds today like an absolutely essential pop masterwork.

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Cleaners From Venus

Midnight Cleaners

[Captured Tracks]

Released individually and as part of a Cleaners From Venus box set from New York imprint Captured Tracks, this marks the first time Midnight Cleaners has appeared on vinyl. Originally released on cassette in 1982 with nearly negligible distribution to a largely unimpressed market, Midnight Cleaners is now available on the ideal format for the masses to discover. Combining a firm command of lush, psychedelic pop with the instrumentation of UK post-punk, this is the group's most realized early full-length. "Factory Boy" and "Only a Shadow" contain two of the most exalted choruses from the eclectic English post-punk period.

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Monochrome Set

Strange Boutique

[4 Men with Beards]

The austere demeanor of 1980s English post-punk groups is making a strong reappearance in modern rock groups, but it's more often in the vein of a group like Joy Division than Monochrome Set, whose aesthetic is more complicated and difficult to ape. Its debut full-length, resurrected this year by Bay Area reissue titans 4 Men With Beards, reveals an oblique approach to pop that willfully sacrifices accessibility for more high-brow pretense. This is evidenced in titles like "Ici Les Enfants" and "Espresso," but patient listeners will discover an ambitious album of lofty gems and esoteric themes.

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Sam Lefebvre

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