Whilst not setting the world alight as much as some of their peers did in 1979, Bristol’s Vice Squad carved out their own little niche in the crazy world of punk, thanks in no small part to their iconic vocalist Rebecca Bond, better known as Beki Bondage. Whilst Vice Squad enjoyed only moderate success Bondage’s name crossed over into the mainstream with appearances on the cover of NME and Smash Hits. Championed by John Peel, on the back of their first couple of E.P’s, Vice Squad went on to record their incendiary debut album No Cause For Concern in 1981 which included their take on the Bob Dylan classic The Times They Are A Changing as well as the anthemic Last Rockers and it’s right there where this set picks up. Cherry Red Records have collected the bands first three albums along with an Odds And Squads collection (see what they did there) and a live recording to put together a package that serves as both a collectible for the established fan, or as an intro to the band for those that missed the boat
All three albums perfectly capture the dark vibe surrounding Britain in the grip of rising unemployment and recession in the early years of Thatcher’s 11 year reign, whilst managing to remain positive in sound at least. Their second album Stand Strong, Stand Proud, the last album to feature the original line up contains tracks that would become Vice Squad classics and is perhaps considered their best work, if only for the call to arms that is the title track.
Beki departed the band shortly after completing a US tour and was replaced by Rebecca Rumbelow or Lia if you prefer, who brought a certain musical credibility to the band with her background in synth pop. At this time there was more upheaval in the band with several line up changes and the band were dropped by EMI, but they soldiered on nevertheless and released the more new wave orientated Shot Away whilst not straying too far away from their signature sound.
The previously mentioned Odds And Squads is very much for collectors only, with demo and single versions to nerd out on, but the package is rounded off nicely by a live set- Live And Loud taken from the 80’s, making sure that the best version of Vice Squad is represented in all it’s forms. And if you like what you hear then you’ll be pleased to know that the band, led once again by Beki Bondage, are still around, doing what they do best. These Cherry Red collections are consistently hitting home runs and this Vice Squad boxset is right up there with the very best of them… Chris Andrews