The 10 Best Underground Rock Reissues of 2011

Categories: 2011 In Review

With the back catalogs of classic artists seeing rerelease with crucial bonus material, and boutique labels specializing in reissues of obscurities for niche consumers, 2011 was a superb year for reissues. There was such a wealth of substantive reissues that it was necessary to exclude some of the more prominent rereleases, such as The Rolling Stones' Some Girls and The Beach Boys' Smile Sessions, from this list. Instead, we've collected 10 pivotal rock reissues from 2011 that may not have elicited as much attention, but are equally important.

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Let Love In
[Mute]

The entire Bad Seeds catalog has been remastered and rereleased with bonus tracks and videos, but Let Love In benefits the most from the renewed attention. With Cave receiving attention lately for the primal skronk and dirge of Grinderman and Dig Lazarus, Dig, it's refreshing to hear the Bad Seeds perform so differently, and most effectively, on Let Love In. The delicate restraint and understatement of "Red Right Hand" and "I Let Love In" provides a musical foil for the demented musical somersaults of "Jangling Jack." On "Lay Me Low," an outsider's delusional sense of redemption in death is put to a ballad with grotesque realism and the haunting authenticity that only Cave could muster.

The Jesus and Mary Chain
Darklands
[Edsel]

This year, every Jesus and Mary Chain album was reissued with a second disc of bonus material and a DVD containing live performances or music videos. This sort of deluxe treatment is often bestowed upon groups whose unreleased tracks simply aren't worth paying the extra for if you already own the main album. The Jesus and Mary Chain are a glowing exception. Their B-sides, rarities, and demos are a dynamic and deranged selection of bizarre and beautiful tracks. Darkland's bonus material is a particularly versatile assortment of songs. "Happy When It Rains" is even more poignant in acoustic demo form, and the art-damaged blues of "Shake" -- along with nearly 20 other bonus tracks -- reinforce this band's enduring influence and relevance.

Various Artists
It's All Pop
[Numero Group]

This box set lovingly compiles the entire output of Titan Records, a label that existed from 1978-1981 and released a slew of syrupy power pop and New Wave records by artists in and around the Kansas City area. Titan's founders were adept at discovering talent, but their financial mismanagement led to poor distribution for their artists and a premature demise for the label. Before this impeccably packaged box set, recordings by the likes of Gary Charlson, the Boys, Arlis, and the Gems were very scarce. Thanks to tireless crate-digging by the Numero Group, the rare post-glam rock 'n' roll tunes from Titan are available once again, along with previously unreleased tracks, and at an affordable price to boot.

Nick Lowe
Labour of Lust
[Yep Roc]

Tragically out of print for 20 years, Nick Lowe's second full length is available once again with a wealth of bonus tracks. The reissue of this seminal work of his from 1979, in the same year as The Old Magic, a new album of original material, illustrates what a prolific, journeyman songwriter Lowe is. While retaining the calculated pop sensibility of his first solo album, Jesus of Cool, this album hones a more straight-ahead rock formula. It evokes power-pop, New Wave, and punk equally, but those styles are merely a vessel for Lowe's trademark catchiness and subversive wit.

Crass
Yes Sir, I Will
[Crass]

This year, the entire Crass catalog has been reissued for the first time. The new packages include informative booklets with essays, expanded album art by Gee Vaucher, a wealth of bonus tracks and, most surprisingly, remastered songs. Crass' fourth studio album from 1983, Yes Sir, I Will finds the group at their most sonically esoteric and lyrically focused. Recorded with John Loder at Southern Studios, the record is a nearly relentless wash of guitar feedback and studio manipulation. Song structures are casually shirked, and it is difficult to determine when tracks begin and end, but the drums beat with a tribal fury, and Steve Ignorant shouts an intelligent political screed indicting the socio-political conditions of his country with manic conviction. Although it's often referred to as Crass' most "difficult" record, the noisy production is actually compelling. It easily trumps the experimentalism of shoegaze while delivering volumes of superior lyrical substance.


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