(Wildside)

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Review: Russell Baillie

The tracks of this compilation remind how Wildside outfits have worn the rock'n'roll pants around here in recent years.

Actually trouser-wear is a handy way of defining the progress of the Auckland label and its bands - Head Like A Hole (now HLAH) came right, musically speaking, when they started wearing them; Pumpkinhead sported short-long rap-metal baggies in a career that was similarly cut-off; Muckhole took the boardshorts option for their surfpunk sprints; the Hallelujah Picassos' camouflage combats suggested their reggae-rock rebel chic; Dead Flowers went from grunge jeans to powerpop plaid.

Yes, well, it's a theory.

Pants aside, just collating this 21-tracker from Wildside's near-decade would seem fraught with a few tailoring problems.

Like trying to find a balance between its three principal bands (Shihad, HLAH, Dead Flowers - all now at the third or fourth album stage and possibly deserving of individual retrospectives), the acts that fell by the wayside along the way (Pumpkinhead, Bilge Festival, Hallelujah Picassos), and the relative newcomers who range from the young pop-smart Breathe to the veteran noiseniks Bailter Space ... well it's a lot to fit in.

So it doesn't always make for a cohesive collection, and the tracks' chronological hurdles aren't really much of a history lesson.

There are noticeable absences, too, such as anything off Shihad's ground-breaking debut Churn, or HLAH's third and arguably best album Double Your Strength.

But Finger Lickin' Good does offer something that towers above all that - a distillation of a decade's worth of sound and energy spent making the Kiwi rock moshpit as exciting as any in the world.