Punk has remained one of the most reliable and consistent expressions of youthful discontent since it first appeared on the scene in the late ’60s. From the righteous hardcore anthems of Minor Threat to the pointed humanist screeds of Bad Religion or the nihilistic dirges of forerunners Iggy & The Stooges, punk retains an enduring allure. This is due in no small part to the fact that punk, in its finer expressions, expertly captures both the profound insecurities and limitless possibilities of adolescence.
Drag City‘s reissue of the six extant studio tracks from the essentially unknown Endtables is a crucial document that embodies the genre’s timeless appeal. Recorded in Louisville in 1979 (a very good year for punk in general), the six proper studio recordings on The Endtables run the gamut from scatological ruminations like the hilariously weird “Circumcision” to the absurdist sociological critique “White Glove Test.” What they all have in common is a momentum and urgency that characterizes the most legendary recordings of the era, such as The Buzzcocks‘ early singles or the Circle Jerks‘ debut, Group Sex.
The group was banished to obscurity almost as soon as their lineup solidified and released their debut four-song 7-inch. It would be more than a decade before the other two tracks recorded at the group’s only studio session were finally issued, and it would be 20 more years before Drag City’s definitive compilation was in hand. Rounding out the six studio tracks are six live tunes, including a number of standouts, like the baldly silly “Europe” and the snotty “When Beauty Meets Ugly,” neither of which ever saw proper studio recordings. What these admittedly rough live recordings lack in fidelity they more than make up for in sheer enthusiasm and energy (the onstage banter is great as well) and give a glimpse of a looser side of the band that’s not apparent on the comparatively tight and professional studio tracks. An unedited version of the group’s de facto anthem, “Process of Elimination,” is included, as well.
The Endtables are a footnote in the history of punk, but not for lack of talent. This 13-track collection is a testament to the timeless attraction of punk rock and the imagination and technical prowess of this unjustly short-lived and little heard group.