When it comes to first-wave U.K. punk, the canon favors a handful of bands while paying cursory attention to worthy contemporaries. Take 999. As this compilation proves, the quartet was the sonic equal of The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, and The Damned.
This set does an admirable job of distilling the band’s discography (11 studio albums over four decades) down to 40 tracks, for if 999 fell short of other punk bands in accolades, they far outpaced them in longevity.
From the opening salvo “I’m Alive” and punk anthems like “No Pity” and “Nasty! Nasty!” to tracks like “Made A Fool Of You,” the collection points to another area where 999 outpaced their peers – their musicality. In “Titanic (My Over) Reaction,” lead guitarist Guy Days plays single-note lines that are actually valid orchestration.
In the insightful liner notes, frontman Nick Cash also recalls how 999 attempted to adapt as punk gave way to the next wave. As a result, “Fool” and other songs have more in common with, say, The Jam and The Pretenders. Cash’s voice may be an acquired taste (reminding the listener of The Only Ones’ Peter Perrett), but ultimately, 999 is two-guitar rock deserving a retrospective listen.
This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.