Molten Wax

There are big-name bands -- Hole, Red Aunts, Thee Headcoatees, Geraldine Fibbers, Free Kitten, and the Bags -- as well as obscure and short-lived groups that make up the 48 tracks of the 135-minute collection.

One of the label's most successful alumni, the Muffs, starts off the set with the infectious, heavy-pop stomp of their 1991 declaration "I Don't Like You." At the time, the fledgling two-girl-two-guy band bore as much (sonic) resemblance to Motörhead as it did the Shangri-Las, and this fuzz-drenched freakout captures them at their finest.

Detroit Cobras Rachel Nagy's sultry Grace Slick-meets-Lesley Gore vocal strut on "Ain't Hittin' on Nothin'" is perfectly suited to her group's lovingly maligned R&B. The co-ed combo makes skilled use of distorted guitars played by dual guitarists who actually know how to form complete barre-chords and a rhythm section throbbing with pugilistic sexuality.

The grating bite of Hole's first single, "Retard Girl," released by Sympathy in 1990, shows how far Courtney and company have come from their noisy, screaming banshee roots. Elsewhere, Japan's wildcat garage rockers the 5-6-7-8's give their instruments a vicious thrashing on "Bomb the Twist."

Likewise, noisy girl groups ranging from Free Kitten, the Lunachicks and the Banana Erectors demonstrate that brawn isn't the key to powerful rock 'n' roll -- it's inspiration.

But, as Sympathy releases frequently reassert, frenzied and noisy songs are only a part of quality rock 'n' roll. Just as Holly Golightly's beguiling sneer drives the weary country sway of "Anyway You Like It," the Chubbies' charming sing-along pop of "When I Was Your Girlfriend" shows just how expressive female singers can be. Alright, This Time effectively smashes the conventional definition of girl groups -- be they frenetic garage rock, hummable pop or eruptive punk. -- Dave Clifford

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