You wouldn’t know it to listen to their records, but West Los Angeles’ 100 Flowers started as a joke, a black-humored parody of the punk scene. As the Urinals, they recorded a pair of 1979 7-inch EPs and a single for Happy Squid, then got serious, changed their name and got real serious. In their second incarnation, the trio played arty, poetic music that is kinetic in spite of occasional murkiness.
100 Flowers owes a mild debt to the Fall, although its more melodic guitar sound is all-American. Dispensing with such concepts as verses and choruses, the trio favors subterranean funk grooves and drones; the effect is impressive if limited, and wears thin over the record’s course. The five-song Drawing Fire EP benefits from stronger material. With songs that build but never cop out with climaxes and releases, this is how R.E.M. might have sounded as a punk band.
Neatly recapitulating 100 Flowers’ entire existence, the 28-track 100 Years of Pulchritude combines the album, EP, both sides of a 1982 single and three compilation contributions. Two previously unreleased cuts offer a bonus to real fans.