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4 SKINS (Buy CDs by this artist)
The Good, the Bad & the 4 Skins (UK Secret) 1982
A Fistful of 4 Skins (UK Syndicate) 1983
From Chaos to 1984 (UK Syndicate) 1984
A Few 4 Skins More Volume 1 (UK Link) 1987
A Few 4 Skins More Volume 2 (UK Link) 1987
The Wonderful World of the 4 Skins: the Best of the 4 Skins (UK Link) 1987
Live and Loud!! (UK Link) 1989

One of the mainstays of second-wave Brit-punk, London's harsh and serious 4 Skins — not as intense as Crass, but far more earnest than Sham 69 — endured major lineup changes (they went through four lead singers including, at one point, the quartet's manager) long enough to record three albums in the early '80s.

The studio side of The Good, the Bad & the 4 Skins starts out with a delightful ska-beat tune ("Plastic Gangsters") and then turns angry skinhead generic for shoutalongs like "Justice" and "Yesterdays Heroes." The seven-song live side is equally forbidding (Panther's vocals are especially unpleasant).

With only bassist Hoxton Tom remaining from the first LP, A Fistful of 4 Skins moderates a more musical punk sound that makes adequate material (the group's lyrics are actually pretty sharp) easy to take but hard to remember. Packaged in one sleeve, the first two albums were later reissued in toto as A Few 4 Skins More Volume 1.

The 4 Skins' last release before splitting in late '84 was the live From Chaos to 1984, recorded in a studio before an audience of invited friends. That album comprises one disc of the double A Few 4 Skins More Volume 2; the other is a rarities compilation of the group's earliest efforts, B-sides and other obscure ephemera for the hardcore hardcore. The sixteen-track Wonderful World retrospective collects up a definitive sampling of singles, album cuts and compilation contributions.

[Ira Robbins]