Onetime rock critic Mike Saunders, whose claim to posterity (and the explanation for his nom de rock) is having coined the phrase “heavy metal,” spent the entire ’80s playing in LA’s rude, stupid and rarely funny punk joke Angry Samoans. Amazingly but efficiently, The Unboxed Set recapitulates the band’s entire studio catalogue — 43 songs in all — on a single 76-minute CD, complete with properly grumpy liner notes by the band’s other mainman, guitarist Gregg Turner. Anyone with a hankering to hear the original versions of “My Old Man’s a Fatso,” “Get Off the Air” or “They Saved Hitler’s Cock” can now indulge with lubricated ease.
Anyhow, Saunders went solo in the ’90s and made better use of his time. Forming a new band in the same modest punk-pop style but with a marginally less lethal sense of humor, the singer/guitarist issued a series of good-natured mini-albums: Plays the Hits of the 90’s, Ted Nugent Is Not My Dad! and My Girlfriend Is a Rock. Those records are all collected (along with five tracks from two singles) on the 22-cut Next Stop Nowhere. Although Saunders’ originals (“Let’s Burn the Flag,” “High on Drugs,” “I Don’t Like This World Anymore”) are passable, he reserves his real enthusiasm for lovingly rendered covers chosen from various revealing fan/collector compartments: obscure punk (the Nervebreakers’ “My Girlfriend Is a Rock,” the Dictators’ “Next Big Thing,” pre-Redd Kross Red Cross’ “S&M Party”), ’70s glam (Sweet’s “Wig Wam Bam”), ’70s trash (two by Lobo!), British pop rarities (Dave Davies’ “This Man He Weeps Tonight”) and country (Merle Haggard’s “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive”). Years of effort have turned Saunders into a more than adequate artless singer, and the band’s playing skill matches the complexity of the material. If less than significant, this lightweight romp is at the very least easily enjoyable.
The Samoans, with Saunders again at the helm, got busy again in 1996.