Let’s all collectively and safely push rewind back to the days of yore when the word “rewind” was actually non-ironically popular and current to discuss the power and viability of the multiple artist compact disc compilation. CD comps were often safe and inexpensive gateways/investments to many (formerly) unknown bands, songs, labels and genres for a plethora of curious music fans across the entire globe. Although some of these multidimensional and multifaceted releases still come out to this day, most are exclusively in digital form, making the actual physical compilation a more than dying breed that will probably eventually become extinct in favor of the streamable playlist.
Read below for some major reverence toward 15 classic scene compilations from the archaic days of the CD. The majority of said releases cost less than a six-pack of Crystal Pepsi did back then and could go for slightly more than a keg of it right now. We’re covering nearly every single genre underneath the broad and diverse “alternative” spectrum. Enjoy and listen to every single song if you’re feeling frisky!
1. DGC Rarities Vol. 1 (1994)
Let’s start this off with this (probably unintentional) misleading entry: DGC Rarities Vol. 1 is the first and last compilation from the David Geffen Company in this series. Still, rare and unreleased tracks from Nirvana, Weezer, Beck and 11 others make this 1994 release a solid and sterling start to this compilation list. Plus, you’ll never listen to Nirvana’s “Stay Away” the same again.
2. Punk-O-Rama, Vol. 1 (1995)
The granddaddy of all aggressive music compilations features Bad Religion, NOFX, Rancid, the Offspring, and Pennywise, and that’s just the first five tracks. Spawning nine sequels, Epitaph Records proved they had cornered the marketplace on the word “punk” with these releases and even had a few tours in the comp’s name. We wanna riot.
3. In-Flight Program – Revelation Records Collection ’97 (1996)
This aerial compilation is probably best known for featuring Zack De La Rocha’s pre-Rage Against The Machine band Inside Out, but powerful tracks from Sense Field, Texas is the Reason, Gorilla Biscuits, Shades Apart and more deserve a universal rise as well. If you went to a punk or hardcore show in the early ’90s, you likely saw the Revelation Records logo on at least one T-shirt and this disc at at least one merch booth. Let’s bring this scene back!
4. Hey Brother… Can You Spare Some Ska (1997)
Before you do anything else, listen to track nine (My Superhero’s “Another Kind”) on this 24-track LP and marvel at the fact that the band were not a household name. Sad! Now go back to the start and simultaneously zap and skank through fun songs by the Hippos, RX Bandits, Home Grown and so many more ska-punk titans of the late ’90s.
5. Give ’Em The Boot (1997)
We’re attempting to list one album from each label here, but there’s a minor loophole: Hellcat Records is a subsidiary of Epitaph Records, making this addition fair game. You’re welcome, Tim Armstrong. Taking its name from the chorus of Rancid’s staple song “Roots Radicals,” this 1997 release featuring Rancid (of course), Hepcat, the Pietasters and Dropkick Murphys had six sequels, one DVD and one separate record featuring 26 Latino acts from the L.A. ska/punk scene called Dale La Bota, which is Spanish for “give ’em the boot.” Spirit of the streets!
6. Honest Don’s Welcome Wagon (1997)
Speaking of subsidiaries, we’re starting with this one before we get to the incredible Fat Wreck Chords’ edition a bit later in No. 11. Honest Don’s Records was an offshoot of FWC that leaned slightly outside “The Fat Wreck Chords Sound” of the mid-’90s, and bands such as Mad Caddies, Dance Hall Crashers, Teen Idols and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes all were welcomed to some much-needed exposure to a wider audience. Get it?
7. The Duran Duran Tribute Album (1997)
The words “Duran Duran” and “scene” don’t often get lumped together, but Goldfinger frontman/alternative music Godfather John Feldmann proclaimed his love for the band so frequently, a Warped-esque (more on that festival in the next addition) anthology of Duran Duran songs done in an aggressive manner made a lot of sense in the late ’90s. Goldfinger open the 15-song compilation with “Rio,” and acts as diverse as Reel Big Fish, Jimmy Eat World and Wesley Willis Fiasco (yep, the Wesley Willis) make for an interesting (and not in an ugly painting way) experience. Hold back the rain.
8. Mailorder Is Fun! (1998)
Alkaline Trio’s two precursor bands, Slapstick (ska punk that came out and broke up while the third-wave ska revival was killing it) and Tuesday (emo just before the word was a household name), are both featured on this Asian Man Records compilation along with the Trio. Another band worth mentioning here is Slow Gherkin for their version of “Hava Nagilah,” which may as well have been called “SKAva Nagilah.” Mailorder Is Fun! had a sequel in 1999, but Joyce Manor deserve some more love, so we’re pining for a third edition this century featuring the Asian Man Records alums.
9. A Compilation Of Warped Music (1998)
On its fourth year, Warped Tour proved its value outside of the underground and successfully arrived on your home stereo as a part of its first official compilation. Warped’s relationship with your car started with a bang, as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Use For A Name, Bouncing Souls, Descendents and 21 other bands were featured on a single disc. Eventually, the compilation became so successful that it had to be a dual-CD release, and said releases consistently occurred each subsequent year till Warped’s sad cross-country end in 2018.
10. BASEketball: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1998)
Just as South Park was taking over the planet (and, in a crazy twist of fate, it’s still going strong over 20 years later), its creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone starred in a WTF cult comedy called BASEketball. This is the only soundtrack edition on this list, and its inclusion is justified with tracks from Smash Mouth, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Nerf Herder and the Dickies. FYI: Reel Big Fish is in the movie, too! Take on me, indeed.
11. Short Music For Short People (1999)
One hundred and one songs by 101 different bands on one CD! Thank you, Fat Wreck Chords!
12. Take Action! Vol. 1 (1999)
Sub City Records and Hopeless Records put together a wonderful philanthropic compilation series/spring tour called the Take Action tour to alert its listeners/attendees about the many issues around the teenage suicide epidemic and ways to assist with potential prevention. The first release came out in 1999 with the Weakerthans, Dillinger Four, Against All Authority and Kid Dynamite, and there have been 10 others since. Here’s to 11 more!
13. Punk Goes Metal (2000)
It’s hard to think of a time that existed before Fearless Records’ Punk Goes series, but let’s start with the only genre of music that truly matters: Metal! On this 2000 compilation, AFI covered Guns N’ Roses, New Found Glory took a stab at Warrant, the Ataris paid tribute to Skid Row and 14 other bands shredded metallic jams for your earbuds. With its most recent release less than a year old, the Punk Goes series (which also paid tribute to pop, acoustic, crunk and many more genres) is extremely successful, making it the scene’s version of Now That’s What I Call Music!
14. Another Year On The Streets (2000)
A lot of people associate Drive-Thru Records (mentioned below) and Victory Records with alternative music in the early ’00s, but Vagrant Records’ legacy should never get lost in the shuffle. Two volumes followed after this initial 2000 release, but the first edition of Another Year On The Streets opened strong with Alkaline Trio, Saves The Day, Rocket From The Crypt, and the Get-Up Kids. Crawl to your discman and spin this 20-track disc right now.
15. Drive-Thru Records Greatest Hits (2005)
This record has been playing since the day you’ve been with him.