Nine times out of ten, claiming allegiance to a greatest-hits collection tosses you into the Girl Scouts and grandmas camp. I don’t care if you’re seven-foot-eight with a full beard and playing defensive tackle for the Raiders, if you claim Bob Marley’s Legend is one of the best albums of all time you might as well be crocheting a picture of your cat. In cases of true musicianship, greatest-hits collections only scratch at the surface of the true story. Golden Black, the hits collection – or anthology, since they’ve never charted – of Japan’s rock destroyers Guitar Wolf is one of the few exceptions.
The leather-clad trio stepped into the heyday of indie rock in the 1990s with a fire that could burn a hole through the moon. Senji, Billy and Toru’s early U.S. releases (Wolf Rock, Run Wolf Run) where buried deep in the underground, and it wasn’t until Matador’s release of Missile Me in 1996 that Guitar Wolf’s albums were readily available.
Their sound was unholy, and it proved that pushing the levels that far in the red actually can create a whole new kind of feedback. Missile Me and the other Matador releases, Planet of the Wolves and Jet Generation, were three brutal records full of kamikaze interpretations of 1950s rockabilly. After a handful of brief tours in the States, the legend of Guitar Wolf slowly grew. In 2003, after nearly three years without a U.S. release, Narnack Records took the reigns from Matador and quickly released three more albums indicative of Guitar Wolf’s high-octane power.
With the release of Golden Black, there is now a cohesive anthology highlighting Guitar Wolf’s strongest moments over its eighteen years. But that’s not what makes this collection superior. What makes it such a joy to listen to is that all of Guitar Wolf’s albums were very brief, difficult to find and consistent in style. A collection that runs seventy-five minutes and remasters the songs to play more like an album is worthy of the space on the old shelf. (After Billy’s untimely death at the age of thirty-eight in March and the band’s future somewhat in doubt, that may prove to be quite a relief.)
With everything from the “Jet Generation” anthem, to the furious “Wild Zero,” to the introductory “Missile Me,” it’s all here and perfect for any fan or newbie. Golden Black is pure jet-society rock ‘n’ roll that will grow a rug of hair on the chest of any Girl Scout or grandma.