ALBUM REVIEW: No Future Complete Singles Collection: The Sound of UK82 (Captain Oi!/Cherry Red)

Set up by Chris Berry and Richard Jones in Malvern, Worcestershire, in 1981, No Future quickly became an iconic indie punk label, whose releases were a watchword for quality.

In little over two years they gave many important third wave bands (what became known as UK 82) a chance to release their music.

They released 27 singles (both 7” and 12”), and, for what I believe is the first time, they’re gathered in their entirety on this 112-track set, which also includes two joint releases with Skull Records. And while No Future releases have been compiled before, it’s never been this comprehensively.

The label owners’ ethos was simple; there were no contracts, they released what they liked, and split any profits 50/50 with the bands. Demos flooded in from all over the country. Who needed London-based record labels and A&R men? The nation’s youth were doing it for themselves – and these were kids from council estates, not art schools. No Future became home to bands like Blitz, The Partisans, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, and Red Alert, among others.

Blitz’s All Out Attack EP (above), the first release on the label, quickly sold out, and had to be repressed .It went on to sell more than 25,000 copies – an astonishing number for a label run from its owners’ bedrooms! The band, from New Mills in Derbyshire, included punks and skins, who didn’t always mix well, and the fact their debut was rough around the edges adds to its appeal. They were a good fit for No Future, and released two more essential singles (Never Surrender/Razors In the Night and Warriors) on the label, as well as their debut album, which got into the national Top 30 chart!

The Partisans, from South Wales, were another fine band who made their first record with No Future, the excellent single Police Story/Killing Machine (below). Both sides are here, as is the equally good follow-up, 17 Years Of Hell.

The seminal compilation A Country Fit For Heroes, released in January 1982, featured 11 bands who No Future thought deserved to be heard; the likes of Blitzkrieg, Violators, The Samples, One Way System, Crux and Attak all went on to record singles for the label, though a second volume in April 1983 was less successful (though it included a couple of fine bands in Eastbourne’s Criminal Damage and Lowestoft’s A.B.H).

It’s not always the better-known names whose songs stand out though; The Insane’s El Salvador was a blistering take on what was happening in the civil war-wracked Central American republic, while Manzanar, the B-side of Channel 3‘s turbocharged I’ve Got A Gun (below), opened our eyes to the horrors of American concentration camps during the Second World War. They didn’t teach you that at school – not mine, at any rate. Who said punk wasn’t educational?

Dead Hero by Worcester band The Samples is an anti-war anthem which still sounds great today, while The Wall, from the North East, jumped aboard for a final fling with their Day Tripper EP, built around their cover of the Beatles song. The 7in had four tracks, but there were 10 on the cassette, all included here. I’d never heard it all before, but Spirit Dance, Funhouse and their take on Slade’s When I’m Dancing are all decent tunes, if a little out of keeping with the label’s usual punk/oi sound.

By the summer of 1983 the musical landscape was shifting, evident from the Bowie-covering single Suffragette City by Rose Of Victory (featuring Nidge and Mackie from Blitz), and the goth-leaning horror punk band Screaming Dead, whose two singles jointly released by No Future with Skull Records are also included.

The label’s final throes saw two of its go-to bands release singles which served as a fine epitaph, The Violators’ Die With Dignity 12in, and the There’s A Guitar Burning EP, by Red Alert (above). No Future had run its course, but what a legacy.

It would cost you hundreds of pounds to obtain a full set of original records now, so this is an affordable way of owning No Future’s entire singles output. It’s a shame it’s in a flimsy cardboard slipcase instead of a sturdier clamshell box, but I’ll give the contents 10/10 for the first 18 months, and 9/10 overall.

Gary Welford owner