Hagerstown, Maryland's the Left formed to flip the bird at the tedium of their hometown, and on the band's two mid-'80s EPs, It's the World and Last Train to Hagerstown (both on Bona Fide), the band did more than that, fusing together '60s, '70s, and '80s punk with alchemical skill and black humor.
Jesus Loves the Left (which compiles the two EPs and other unreleased tracks) is a loving repository for the band's short history. It kicks off with the opening chords of "Hell," the best song on It's the World (and one of the best songs of the past 30 years), crashing through your speakers when you press play. Brian Sefsic's sneer meshes perfectly with guitarist Jim Swope's keening chords: "There's a place/That they call Hell/Where they don't treat you all that well." The disc rarely falters after that—tracks from a 1992 reunion sound nearly as strong and sarcastic as those from the band's prime.
But you'd be forgiven if you end up lingering on the first eight It's the World tracks. On "Attitudes," a song that sums up all that is good about life and the Left, Sefsic sings with both Iggy-esque detachment and real wistfulness: "And thank you, God, for putting me on this earth/And all the wonderful, beautiful things you've given me." Then he adds, "Let's name a few," and Swope launches into a raw and sophisticated solo that takes the song in a completely unexpected direction.
And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment