Although Chron Gen's debut LP hit #2 on the U.K. Indie Chart in 1982 (and nearly cracked the country's Top 50), neither the band nor the album has received the sort of reverent treatment lavished upon their more famous, "classic" (first- and second-wave) oi! contemporaries. So, while records by bands like the Business, the Cockney Rejects, the 4-Skins, Cock Sparrer, the Exploited, and the Angelic Upstarts were relatively easy to find, Chronic Generation was out of print for the better part of two decades. Thus, with the exception of a few tracks (more often than not "Puppets of War," "Jet Boy Jet Girl," and "Misadventure") found on the occasional oi! or street punk compilation, Chron Gen fans had to make due with whatever used or dubbed copies of the band's music they could locate. Thus, when Razor Records re-issued Chronic Generation with a dozen or so bonus tracks in 2006, punk fans had a reason to be excited.
In addition to the album of the same name, Chronic Generation also includes a smattering of live cuts and the entire Outlaw EP, released several months after the LP.
One of the reasons for the album's long tenure in out-of-print purgatory, I suspect, is fairly evident upon listening through the album. With the exception of a spirited cover of Elton Motello's tale of adolescent bisexual rejection, "Jet Boy Jet Girl," Chronic Generation hasn't really got any truly great songs on it. Although "Reality (#2)," "Puppets of War (#4)," and "Outlaw" each charted, they are, ultimately, merely very good tracks. The entire album, in fact, is very good and thoroughly listenable from start to finish. Still, without the sort of standout tracks (again excepting "Jet Boy Jet Girl") that would make their way onto compilations and mix tapes, interest in the band was simply not strong enough to warrant (read: "justify the cost of") constant in-print status after their break-up in 1984.
This is a shame, of course. If anything, Chron Gen is much more melodic than the many of the aforementioned contemporaries, earning favorable comparisons to the Buzzcocks and other poppier punk bands from the era. For me, though, the one thing that I keep thinking about when listening to Chron Gen is just how wonderful an introduction the band is to early British punk. I mean, you've got the stereotypical bits of picayune misanthropy ("You Make Me Spew"), self-aggrandizing Clash-style sloganeering ("Chronic Generation"), a danceable pogo-punk love song ("Jet Boy Jet Girl"), chugging Cold War nihilism ("Puppets of War"), snotty defiance ("You'll Never Change Me"), and post-punk ("Disco Tech"). And all of it is damn fine.
Track 2. "Jet Boy Jet Girl." One of the most anthologized, most thoroughly sing-alongable Chron Gen songs out there. They do, however, make the song less risque than either the Elton Motello or Damned versions, altering the lyrics so that "He gave me head" becomes "He gave me Hell."
Track 5. "You Make Me Spew." Thoroughly juvenile, "You Make Me Spew" makes Chron Gen seem as stereotypically Britpunk as "I Don't Care About You" made Fear emblematic to Americans of a certain era. And as dumb as the song is, you'll be singing it, trust me.
Tracks 11 & 17. "Reality." Take the Exploited, feed them to Paul McCartney, wait a few days for him to "process" his meal, and put it on your turntable.
Track 12. "Living Next Door to Alice." A punkier version of Smokie's glam-rock version of New World's bit of pop vocal fluff. Given that Glyn Barber now sings for Rebel Rebel, a Bowie-inspired glam rock tribute band, I suppose it's not too surprising that his earlier band covered the song. I just wish they would have had the benefit of having heard Gompie's "Alice! Who the Fuck is Alice?" before recording. As an added bonus, the recording includes the band arguing, Sex Pistols-style, in the studio.
Tracks 13 (studio) & 23 (live). "Puppets of War." The menacing guitars, again, are a poppier version of the sort of thing I'd expect from the Exploited (though I may be the only one) on tracks like "God Save the Queen"
Track 21. "Disco Tech." I should hate this song with its mock dance beat and trite anti-club scene lyrics. But I really like it. Sue me.
Track 22. "Clouded Eyes." Pretty straight-forward pop-punk with wonderfully melodic guitars and one of Barber's best vocal performances.
Sobriquet Grade: 88 (B+).