It may not be decent, but we're in love with Lookout! Records. The Berkeley label best known for introducing the world to Green Day and nursing Rancid's baby steps turns a ripe 15 years old this week. In honor of the occasion, we're counting down the five best Lookout! records of all time. (OK, apart from the obvious: we didn't count records by Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine and Green Day. That would be cheating.)
5. Yeastie Girlz: Ovary Action 7-inch (1988)
This short-lived a capella three-piece rap group's only release--the label's ninth--was as much an answer to Operation Ivy's butter-knife bluntness as to the Beastie Boys' early misogyny. Smart, sassy and fun, this was the first of many Lookout! releases to divorce straight-faced self-righteousness from politics.
4. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: The Tyranny of Distance (2001)
Too many mid-to-late-'90s Lookout! records were slicked-up rehashes of early pop-punk masterpieces. The Tyranny of Distance marked the label's comeback and introduced the new Lookout! as mature and sophisticated but as punk-rock as ever.
3. Pinhead Gunpowder: Jump Salty (1995)
Aaron Elliott and Billie Joe Armstrong are well-represented on this compilation of their early singles. Super-zine Cometbus proves Elliot can write his way into anyone's heart--and then there's that Billie Joe kid with the voice that moved a million units.
2. Blatz: Cheaper than the Beer 7-inch (1990)
Trading off gutter-punk snarl and X-Ray Spex-esque wail, punk-scene politics and a sloppy rhythm section, Blatz typified Lookout!'s early days. "Fuk Shit Up" puts the Germs to shame; "Blatz to the Future" anticipates Berkeley's favorite pastime of attacking punk-rock careerists: "If you want money so bad, become a whore."
1. Mr. T Experience: Love Is Dead (1995)
Lookout! co-owner Molly Neuman once wrote, "The entire livelihood of Lookout! is based on the Ramones being the center of the musical universe." If so, this album is Lookout! Records. MTX and its superior pop smarts stood head and shoulders above the neo-Ramones crowd. 1995 was also the year Green Day's success turned Lookout! into a multimillion-dollar operation. Lookout! founder "Uncle" Larry Livermore eventually sold the label, and the doctrinaire punk types never forgave. But we'll always have Love Is Dead to remember the good times by.
See www.lookoutrecords.com for more.