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SEX PISTOLS, Nevermind The Bollocks (35th Anniversary Super Mega Deluxe Box Set)   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Monday, 24 September 2012

Ever feel like you've been cheated?

What's the point? What is the point? As if the Sex Pistols haven't already been fleeced enough, here comes the far-from-final exploitation. If 1992's Kiss This, 1996'sThis Is Crap, 2002's Sex Box, 2006's Spunk, the 2007 vinyl reissues, and this years Jubilee picture discs aren't enough, here comes The Final Rip Off. Until the next one.

It's not cheap. It's not skimpy. It's a bizarre, cardboard fetish object designed to sit on your shelf and be admired. It's the nostalgia and commodification of the past turned into its most extreme form. Sure, you get a ton of stuff. But you don't need a Sex Pistols flag, or a fake reproduction 7”, or postcards, stickers. About the only you don't get is a reproduction death certificate.

You get the original album, remastered. I have no idea if this sounds different. The original sounded good enough at the time. From a distance of 35 years, it now sounds tame. It sounds as revolutionary as the first Elvis single did in 1989 : the sound of the door of history slamming shut. Most remastering involves whacking up the volume and squashing the dynamics, and I haven't the interest or care in investigating. It's not as if I haven't heard this record enough times over the years.

CD2 means you get a slew of demos : most of which have been heard in multiple forms multiple times over the previous demo releases. There are 9 previously unreleased versions on these demos, but these are largely identical to the original, much heard demo versions : different mixes or different performances, but with differences so marginal as to be unworthy of a £95 price tag. The majority of these extra songs – the b-sides, the live stuff, the demos, have been scattered across the ether over the past four decades and the additional, unreleased stuff so marginal compared to the past releases that it is difficult to justify buying. Remember that 1996's “This Is Crap” contained around 18 songs a lot of the bands demo material (6 of which are directly duplicated here), and 2002's “Sex Box” contained almost everything else. The other, numerous unofficial demo LP's contain so much material that keeping track of what they did record and was subsequently released is both boring and tedious, matched only the proliferation of 1973 Stooges demos. By the time you get to the fifth demo of “Submission” you may keenly expire of boredom and repetition.

CD3 contains the live material : There's two live shows from Trondheim and Stockholm,both of which have mostly been heard before in dodgy Sex Pistols CD land of the late 80's and early 90's. There's a DVD with bits of old gigs taken from amateur recordings and some videos and other detritus, much of which overlaps the live CD. It is an unfitting live document. 2002's Box also contained a second CD of demos. And a third CD of live material. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

DVD : since fuller sets exist on film of Stockholm and Penzance, why then are only portions of the show included? It can't be because there isn't enough space on the DVD. 4 songs are missing from Stockholm, and much of this live stuff has also been on the “Classic Albums” DVD. Why not the whole of the show? There are only 3 songs from Penzance as well. You could easily add one (or two, if you were canny) live shows. Say Winterland 1978, and Japan 1996, or Longhorn. Or the Classic Albums documentary. Or perhaps a documentary that details the bands post-split lifespan ; the uncountable live releases, the brazen filthy lucre reunions, the utterly bizarre merchandising.

What isn't there? A DVD of the final 1978 show, or the 1996 Japanese live video. Both are officially currently unavailable, and sorely missed. You can argue the over-riding definitive documentary of the time “The Filth & The Fury” exists, and you don't need another. I agree. The only thing you really need out of this set is the previously unissued studio recording of “Belsen Was A Gas”, which is cheap and scrappy. Ultimately, this set is both a treasure trove of rare and unreleased stuff, and a bucketload of useless crud.

It's not even all the Sex Pistols songs. “I Wanna Be Me”, and the seven cover versions which plumped out their post-split discography are absent in their studio incarnations. The 2002 Leftfield remix of “God Save The Queen” is absent.

Given the haphazard release strategy (the 3CD+DVD contains a different configuration of live material to the 2CD version, and the digital download yet more, different live stuff)., it is obvious that this has been largely prepared with either a callous disregard, or no thought at all, applied to the bands previous releases, or and with one eye on ruthless exploitation of a tiny gene pool of material with no consideration for the quality of what exists : some of the live stuff is definitely subpar. Ultimately the Sex Pistols slender ouevre of 21 songs is one that has mercilessly exploited endlessly over the past 35 years, with an unending stream of often pointless and redundant repackaging. This is yet another one of those. It is a sumptious, indulgent, grotesquely packed set : it offers undoubted value for money if you're into useless tat and balderdash, and if you absolutely must have yet another book, yet another set of amateurishly recorded live material, and yet another bunch of demos that barely differ from the last one, then this is this weeks Sex Pistols box set for your delectation.

Sure, there's loads missing and the set is staggeringly incomplete with a shortage of decent live footage from 1978, 1996, or 2002, or those cover versions. Still, you've got to keep something back for the 36 ½th anniversary box set. Ever get the feeling you've been.... ?


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