"Postpunk" is a pretty wobbly term, and the liner notes to the "Postpunk Chronicles" three-CD set don't quite nail it down. Punk, we're told, nearly obliterated "the tyranny of musical technique." Which doesn't explain why most of the groups here have technique to spare -- unless "technique" simply means guitar solos. More to the point, postpunk (or "new wave" ) was rock's return to traditional values after the dead end of pomp rock, art rock, et al. Punk skewered pretension just enough to make musicians too self-conscious to insert a Bach chorale into a pimply mini-opera.
So, rediscovered terseness is the common thread, and it ain't much to hang 48 varied cuts on. Do Throbbing Gristle fans really want to hear Simple Minds? Are Mission of Burma and Thomas Dolby admirers ready to join hands? Well, maybe, now that Iggy Pop and Heaven 17 can be seen as having been cut from the same zeitgeist cloth. But this collection reveals the beginning of the serious Balkanizing of the "rock" audience. Only collectors and rock critics will feel compelled to hear this all the way through.