With the Hives establishing a beachhead in the Top 40 for quick-and-dirty garage punk, it’s high time for a single-disc snapshot of the international neo-garage underground. And How We Rock — compiled by Peter Ahlqvist, the proprietor of the Swedish label Burning Heart — is, pound for pound, your best value. TeePee Records’ ambitious A Fistful of Rock ’N Roll series, planned for 13 discs, never made it past Volume 6 — not for lack of available material but, one suspects, because the series thoroughly exhausted its audience. To anyone who’s been following the Scandinavian hard-rock/punk explosion, How We Rock will be almost entirely redundant. But this one isn’t for the collectors: what Ahlqvist has put together is a quickie remedial course covering recent developments in delinquent rock and roll, a signpost to send tourists in the right direction.
It kicks off with a sure-fire lure: "Age of Pamparius," the best song ever written about a pizza parlor and itself the leadoff track on Turbonegro’s 1999 Apocalypse Dudes, probably the best rock album minted since Nevermind. With the notable exception of Backyard Babies, all the major players in Scandinavian rock are represented: the best song off the Hellacopters’ worst album; Gluecifer’s finest moment; the Hives’ "Main Offender"; superb new singles by next-wavers Sahara Hotnights and the Division of Laura Lee. And Ahlqvist’s American selections amount to a subtle but thoughtful rethinking of the domestic raunch-rock canon: scene granddadies New Bomb Turks, Electric Frankenstein, Supersuckers, Rocket from the Crypt (a song from their Vagrant album, though their major-label material was often better), the Dwarves (from their unexpectedly brilliant Epitaph disc Come Clean), the Donnas (their recent single "40 Boys in 40 Nights"), and Zeke (from their recent Death Alley, which is indeed the album to get by them). Even the filler is damn good: Puffball are better at aping Motörhead than Zeke are; and the worst song here, by Danko Jones, isn’t a half-bad Social Distortion homage.