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Not a loss of Protein: Pure Audio Blu Ray Audio Review
on 30 May 2014
The album is of course a landmark for anyone who likes rock music. This review is about the audio presentation.
Being the owner of around 50 albums in surround formats, I'm not entirely convinced that classic Punk Rock is a genre that would be well served by 5.1 mixes. However, we've not really had much of a chance to find out, have we? The only true Punk Rock album I have in surround is "Germ Free Adolescents" by X-Ray-Spex, one of the very best albums in the genre and that's on a DVDA - it rips out of the speakers, but the bass is whacked up so high in the mix that it no longer sounds like a punk rock album.
Most original Punk Rock is pretty trebly. I've been in the market for a hi-def version of "Never Mind" for a while and have followed with interest comments here and elsewhere online regarding the quality (or not) of the recent CD remaster, earlier pressings and so on. I'm not a vinyl purist, but do own multiple copies of different pressings of this album, the original CD issue, the first Pistols box set and "Kiss This", which is for my money the definitive Pistols anthology.
The absence of a 5.1 mix - typical of Pure Audio, who are always bleating about how they include surround mixes where possible (this album was recorded in 1976/77, guys, come on!) - was initially a disappointment, but a run through at high volume reveals that this is well worth buying for Pistols fans. Despite being produced by Chris Thomas, it's worth remembering that the band didn't want to sound like Pink Floyd or even Roxy Music (a band they liked). Although you won't discover many new layers of detail in the sound (how CT layered that guitar), this is a roaring monster, albeit very dry -there are no really warm tone colours or lush timbres here after all - so the music seems very arid and flat compared to contemporary recordings and a lot of classic rock. But it's not supposed to sound anything but the antithesis of lush - yet its still full, satisfying and colourful in its own way. 'God Save the Queen' sounds particularly good and 'New York' is a total joy as ever- if only more people raved about the album tracks instead of going on and on about the 'big four' singles.
As for the bonus cuts, I'd have much preferred 'I Wanna be Me' be included to complete the actual b sides run associated with the album, but no, we get a load of live recordings instead, which are fairly pointless on a hi-def issue given the lo-fi recording quality.
Listening to the DTS version on a fake 5.1 setting on my home theatre setup, I found the drums particularly satisfying, especially the cymbals and in the spaces between the elements of the kit - a lot of the time, the mix is very full, but in more spacious tracks like 'Submission', the detail does bleed through more. The vocals sound good too, but the bass and kick drum aren't too overemphasised, as I was worried they would be.
Overall, this isn't a groundbreaking leap forward in sonic quality, but it has certainly put me off buying Japanese SHMCD versions or any other future variant until a 5.1 version comes along, though as I say, I don't think a huge amount of sonic information would be gained in a surround mix. We do need more hi-def versions of Punk classics though - I think albums by The Stranglers and Buzzcocks (especially those produced by Martin Rushent) would really benefit from 5.1, being louder, lusher records.
Gripes: as ever, this Pure Audio disc starts playing as soon as the menu screen comes up, before you have any chance to select which audio option you want to go for. This is infuriating and I wish they'd stop issuing discs with this stupid lack of attention to detail. Additionally, the folding design of the inner booklet, although ingenious, is virtually impossible to refold correctly.
in short, a good version of a classic, but compromised by poor decision-making and presentation by Pure Audio.