The name "Welly" is synonymous with a number of things in the international punk world: fronting the now defunct Four Letter Word for over 20 years, providing art/graphics for record sleeves/shirts, writing extensive liner notes for bands and also for producing the Artcore zine for over 25 years. From a young buck doing a sleeve for a Words of Warning comp seven-inch back in the '80s, Welly has spread his tentacles far and wide, becoming a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of all that we call "punk rock" and a desire to be involved rather than sit back and consume. The other thing you can guarantee with him is that when he produces something he puts his all into it. There are no half measures and that is the case with his recent issue of Artcore, which is actually the fifth vinyl Artcore that he has produced.
The album itself features contributions from bands across the world, from the more "local" bands in the U.K. like Pettybone and Bad Sam to contributions ranging from Peru (DHK), Venezuela (Fracaso), Canada (The Rebel Spell), Australia (Burning Sensation) and, oh yes, the U.S.A. (including Night Birds and Off With Their Heads), amongst others. Thirteen of the 20 tracks have never been released before whilst two have never been released on vinyl. This makes for quite a collector's piece and it also benefits from a front cover featuring a photo by the well-respected photographer Ed Colver.
With the diverse lineup of bands the music never really wains in being an interesting listen and one has to take one's hat off to Welly for bringing this together as he had previously stated he would not be doing any more vinyl releases. This album is worth the money alone for the tracks by the more renowned bands, but the addition of the more obscure outfits just adds to the quality of the package. Rather than write about all the bands here, I'd actually suggest that if you enjoy a wide range of punk genres you should seek this out. However, I will pinpoint one band that was for me a surprising, and extremely pleasing, find. Ruidosa Inmundicia, perhaps the only Spanish speaking hardcore band in Austria, rages in a big way with fantastic female vocals to boot.
Artcore itself is the usual round of opinions/thoughts/etc. from Welly, both in his introduction and also his usual "The Daily Terrorgraph" page, although this latter section is where I often find myself getting tied up in knots at what seems like a stream of, admittedly well-intentioned, consciousness that goes from brain to keyboard to publication, so now, more often than not, I just give it a miss. He does have a knack of including a notable quote though on this page which I always find interesting. In this issue it's from Aneurin Bevan, a fellow Welshman who was responsible for the creation of the National Health Service in the U.K., and clearly identifies his detestation of the Tory (Conservative) party way back in 1948, but a statement which is still relevant for many, decades down the line.
There are interviews with some of the bands on the comp (including Ruidosa Inmundicia and Night Birds) as well as ones with Agent Orange, Arctic Flowers and also Alec MacKaye, and with Welly's breadth of knowledge he can often ask questions in his interviews that gets that little bit more out of an interviewee: the Mike Palm (Agent Orange) being a case in point. The review section is shorter than usual but still contains enough of the acerbic barbs and occasional plaudits being issued to a variety of releases. Sometimes I find his reviews slightly over the top in their criticism but then again, it's his publication so he's entitled to print his own opinion. With contributors providing an assortment of additional articles, it's an informative read as always and I particularly enjoyed the latest write up of the German punk scene from back in the last century.
I'll give one secret away though, although if you've read the previous Artcore it should come as no surprise to anyone to find that the download code for a digital version of the album takes you to a webpage which effectively denounces digital music. I do feel here that although many people have a preference for vinyl, music in a digital format is still a relevant, yet much maligned, format for many too. I love vinyl. I love the feel of it, the smell of it and the sound of it, plus it's always good to have the graphics displayed on a 12" x 12" sleeve as opposed to a significantly smaller CD booklet. However, I listen to a lot of music on the go and as such put all purchases onto my MP3 player--without a download it's a slightly laborious process to transfer. I applaud Welly for sticking to a "real" zine and putting out vinyl music but he might just frustrate a few people (although I doubt he cares!) with his misguided (in my humble opinion) stand against the modern world.