You could call Chiswick Stiff's poorer brother and, to an extent, you'd be right, but it gets the time line slightly wrong. Chiswick actually beat Stiff to the starting gate, releasing the Count Bishops
' rip-roaring "Route 66"/"Teenage Letter" in November of 1975. Seven months later, they had the first single from Joe Strummer's 101ers
-- the infectious "Keys to Your Heart" -- then followed it up with the updated glam scuzz of Gorillas
' "She's My Gal," neatly establishing an old-time rock & roll aesthetic the label never shook. Caught at the crossroads between pub rock and punk rock, Chiswick initially seemed like trailblazers, but they were soon overshadowed by Stiff, who joyfully played fast and loose with the rules, leading to arguably the first British punk single in the Damned's "New Rose." The Damned later signed to Chiswick but by the time the group's "Smash It Up" turned into a Top 40 hit in 1979, Chiswick had long since established itself as an oddity yo-yoing between odes to oldies, and stilted reconciliations with new wave. All this is chronicled on Ace's 2013 update of the 1992 compilation The Chiswick Story
, which tells the tale from that first Count Bishops 7" to Jakko's "Grab What You Can" from 1982. Chiswick shuttered not long after that Jakko single, by which point it had been a long, long time since they were a driving force in British rock but, as this generous 51-track collection proves, they built up a nice catalog. True, there's a sneaking nostalgia for the years before the Beatles
-- most prominent in Rocky Sharpe & the Replays
, a persistent presence throughout Chiswick's story, and a band that toward the end of their run started to sound like a British Sha-Na-Na -- and the label's attempts at synthesized pop were gangly, but that's part of the Chiswick charm: after two years of blazing glory, they settled into a British eccentricity that remains endearing, if slightly bewildering, all these years later.