You can't dispute Liliput's status as pioneers of feminist art-punk. Along with fellow travelers like the Slits and the Raincoats, this (mostly) female Swiss group took advantage of punk's anything-goes attitude and created jittery, spirited pop that was both in step with the times and completely singular. But even if Liliput hadn't paved the way for other guitar-wielding patriarchy-smashers, The Complete Recordings would still prove one thing: They were totally fun. For art-punk historians and adventurous pop fans, The Complete Recordings is as entertaining as it is essential.
This double-CD retrospective gathers 46 songs recorded under five different lineups from 1978 to 1983, including their initial tracks under the name Kleenex (a certain global conglomerate demanded the name change). The early material is a riot of exuberant energy, taking stylistic cues from peers like Gang of Four and Wire--propulsive bass, skittering pop rhythms, slashing guitars--and adding distinctive overlapping vocal patterns, which are sung, shrieked, and hiccupped in three languages and made-up dadaistic slang. More than 20 years on, it still sounds fresh. It's edifying to hear a track like "Ü," with its elastic aggression, cheeky, monkeylike squeaks, and punky-tough guitars, and realize it was recorded by four young Swiss women in 1978, not last week by Le Tigre. Liliput's later material is more deliberately artsy, adding "avant-tribal" influences and more expansive instrumental passages, but it's equally intriguing.