The two-CD collection, When All Else Fails...a.k.a. Early Recordings, gathers together three different recordings by Swiss trio 16-17: 1984's Hardkore & Buffbunker (disc one, tracks 8-12), 1987's 16-17 (disc one, tracks 1-7), and 1989's When All Else Fails (disc two). This live album by the industrial punk jazz band was released on May 20, 2005, by Savage Land.
AllMusic staff writer William York calls the formula simple: "maniacal drumming, noisy guitar, and paint-peeling saxophone steamrolling ahead for three to five minutes at a time".
And the Dusted Magazine writer Doug Mosurock reviews: "By the time of 1989’s When All Else Fails LP, 16-17 had become, unbelievably, even more aggressive, this time as a result of Kneubühler adding new technologies and a whole palette of unconventional sound-generating devices to his setup. The approach here is positively industrial at times, as on “Pedestrian Dub,” where sax and guitar are infused with enveloped, processed barbs that make each bleat and downstroke sound like wavering sheet metal, and Remond’s shell tones all the more alien. The cyclic rhythms of their earlier work reappear on “Who Planned All This?” and “Clap Trap,” but the rictus of dance rhythms and the drive to innovate moved the band beyond earlier works..."