Josef K The Only Fun in Town/Sorry for Laughing

As quaint a notion as it may seem now, in the early '80s there was a movement of UK guitar bands that felt not only an artistic but a moral obligation to evolve pop music into a creature it had never been - in the sounds it alchemised, the ideas it sung about, the poses it presented for the cameras. Scotland's Josef K possibly were the most convictive of all, breaking up less than three years after they formed so as not to become boring. In retrospect, it was a masterstroke; judging from these two CDs, which contain virtually everything the quartet recorded, they didn't waste a minute of their time. Josef K's sound was like the indignant rage of punk kept at a low simmer, bubbling just beneath the surface of dry, tersely strummed guitars and speed-funk bass, nervous and hurried but also determined and remarkably assured. Young and Stupid, a collection of their singles, demos and a Peel Session, charts them from their intriguing first steps (debut single "Romance") to their final moments of sounding like the most vital band in the world (the scorching "The Missionary," a sort of summit meeting between Captain Beefheart and Chic). In 1980, the band recorded what was to be their debut LP, Sorry for Laughing. Deciding at the last minute that the results were too tame, they re-recorded it in the form of the darker, fiercer The Only Fun in Town. Thought to be a ludicrous decision at the time, history (and this two-on-one CD of both albums) proves they were right. The post-punk era produced few greater works. (LTM)