I've owned vinyl copies of How Could Hell and the debut EP since the early 80s. To this day, the debut EP is still my favorite Bad Religion record. Back when I was discovering the joy of replacing my old worn out vinyl with CD re-releases, they released "80-85" which contained How Could Hell, the first EP, the Back To The Known EP, and some compilation tracks. When I listened to that CD for the first time, I was sorely disappointed to discover that the original EP sounded very different from my own recollection. It sounded like they may have started out as the same tracks I remembered, but had then been edited and altered with alternate takes, overdubs, a remix, and other such shenanigans. I found out about this new release, which is more or less a re-master of the 80-85 CD. I hoped that now finally I'd have the original versions of the first EP tracks on CD, but to no avail... this is the same stuff from the 80-85 CD. Damn it. Why not use the originals? I hate to say it, but I'm betting the old original master tapes have been lost forever.
[EDIT 1/11/13: After all these years, I finally found out what the deal is: the debut EP was originally released as a 7 inch, then later it was remixed and re-released as a 12 inch. Thinking back, I remember listening to and looking at the jacket of the 7 inch... but it wasn't mine, it belonged to a friend. I probably listened to his copy and loved it and then bought the 12 inch when it came out a bit later. Back then, I guess I never noticed a difference. Obviously they chose to put the original 7 inch version on the CD. Hard to blame them, I suppose. However- I may be biased, but it's only logical that the remix was an improvement over the original... otherwise what's the point? And after comparing both versions closely, it's even clearer to me now that there's more of a difference than a mere remix. The drum tracks are completely different performances.]
I'm taking off another star because it still annoys me that BR continues to stubbornly deny the existence of their second LP, Into the Unknown. In 1983 BR released an album of songs that would have made Journey and Boston proud, with slick spaced-out cover artwork to match. Dominant keyboards, acoustic guitars, 10+ minute songs, a conceptual quadrilogy... Somehow BR had become 70s arena rock. I suppose initially there was some shock that I had to get over, but I honestly dug it. Not only were some of the songs great (especially the first three: It's Only Over When, Chasing the Wild Goose, and Billy Gnosis) but I saw it as a response to the punk scene itself. In 1983 the scene had become unbearably conformist. If you didn't sound and dress according to accepted hardcore norms, you were rejected. It seemed like just the sort of thing BR would do, to release an album that was basically a big middle finger F-YOU to all of that. But the next thing I knew (and I'm talking like maybe a year later,) they were refusing to acknowledge the record's existence, or making flippant excuses like "We were doing too much acid when we made that album." When they left it off of 80-85, I was disappointed in them, because leaving it out is a lie. At least it isn't quite so much of a lie to leave it off of this CD, but I'm sure some younger fans must wonder why they titled a record "Back to the Known."
Whatever. How Could Hell Be Any Worse is an all time L.A. hardcore classic, up there with Circle Jerks- Group Sex, Adolescents self titled LP, Black Flag- Damaged, Social Distortion- Mommy's Little Monster, etc., and Back to the Known was a great EP. Buy buy buy.