The Vancouver Complication album

vancouver comp lp

The Vancouver punk/new wave/indie scene’s signature artifact is the Complication LP, released in August 1979 by Pinned Records. The idea of a full-length album grew from (Quintessence Records and SnotRag staffer) Grant McDonagh’s idea to include a sampler flexi-disc EP with an upcoming issue of SnotRag. SnotRag and Public Enemy contributor Steve Macklam suggested creating a full-length album, inspired by other cities’ scene compilations being released at the time. Fellow writer Phil Smith, and coordinator Nancy Smith (no relation) rounded out the project crew. Multi-band showcase concerts were organized to raise money for recording, printing and pressing. Macklam found Chris Cuttress, a CBC sound engineer who had a studio in his basement and was willing to record the bands. (Pinned Records was Cuttress's label.) Engineer Jay Leslie assisted Cuttress on all the tracks, except for a couple of contributions recorded by bands at other studios. The album’s booklet insert was printed by Rebel Crime Press (Dave Gregg’s after-hours operation secretly based in his employer's print shop).

The album included tracks by DOA, the Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, K-Tels (later renamed Young Canadians), Active Dog, Wasted Lives, UJ3RK5, No Fun, Private School, Dishrags, B.I.Z. (for “Brad, Ian & Zippy”), Exxotone, the Shades, Tim Ray, and [e?]. The LP’s detractors complained about the dizzying mix of styles on the album, sequencing hardcore punk next to new wave pop and quirky art-rock experimentalism. However, it was the compilers’ intent to create a true snapshot of the variety styles found in the halls and nightclub stages of the Vancouver scene. It was that stylistic heterogeneity that appealed to some of the LP’s out-of-town fans, such as Jello Biafra (who strove to keep his own label Alternative Tentacles similarly weird and challenging), and Jack Rabid, founder and editor of NYC’s Big Takeover.

Vancouver Comp in GS

In 2004 Sudden Death Records reissued the Vancouver Complication on CD; adding extra out-of-print tracks from the Dishrags, Tim Ray, and Rude Norton.

Les sez: Although, production-wise, it sounds thin as piss on a plate now, there were a few tunes that augured to the more full-bodied sounds that were to come from Vancouver punk. Highlights include K-Tels' I Hate Music, Rude Norton’s Gilligan’s Island and Sea Cruise, Subhumans’ Death to the Sickoids, and the Dishrags’ I Don’t Love You.