"And I know, it ain't gonna last"
Today's post is brought to you by the letter M and the concept of the Best Of album...
You know that Christmas is approaching when all the new Best Of compilations start to leak out. In the next few weeks, we are treated to hits compilations from Oasis, U2 (again?!), Meat Loaf, Girls Aloud (already?! Bet it's ace though), Sugababes and probably shitloads more. With this in mind, we here at Yer Mam! have decided to take a look at a couple of the better ones that your sixteen year-old nephew probably will actually thank you for buying them.
The Essential Mercury Rev - Stillness Breathes: 1991-2006 is a largely brilliant two-disc document of one of the best American bands of the 90s. Mercury Rev mined a stream of psychedelic strangeness, not dissimilar to fellow cosmic jokers, The Flaming Lips in the early part of that decade, before making the transition to American gothic neo-classicists with aplomb later in the decade. Stillness Breathes tries to give you a flavour of both sides of this band, but places detrimental emphasis on the newer stuff.
For instance, on the first disc, the 'hits', we get two tracks from the brilliant debut, Yerself Is Steam ('Chasing A Bee' and 'Frittering') and just one from equally impressive follow-up, Boces (the beautifully twisted 'Something For Joey'). We also get one-off single, 'Car Wash Hair' from this period, but the likes of 'Meth Of A Rockette's Kick', 'Bronx Cheer' and 'Coney Island Cyclone' (which is represented on the second disc in a slightly different form) wouldn't have gone amiss. Patchy, but infrequently excellent transitional album, See You On The Other Side is represented by two tracks ('Everlasting Arm' and 'Empire State (Son House In Excelsis)'), but the rest of the disc is taking up by their admittedly safer, yet often, in my opinion at least, better later material.
The problem I have with this is that, in Stillness Breathes' striving to cover all aspects of their back catalogue, great songs from certain albums are left off in favour of lesser tracks from lesser albums. Three tracks from last year's disappointing The Secret Migration, and while 'In A Funny Way' deserves it's place for marrying Motown to Nitzsche, 'Black Forest (Lorelei)' and 'Diamonds' pale in comparison to everything else here. The fantastic 'Vermillion' would have sat much better.
So, if we're knocking two of The Secret Migration's allotted tracks off the tracklisting, then we can find room for some more early stuff, or in fact, more songs from their career highpoint, 1998's Deserter's Songs. The omission of 'Tonite It Shows' and 'Delta Sun Bottleneck Stomp' is glaring in light of The Secret Migration's heavy misrepresentation, although the inclusion of 'Goddess On A Hiway', 'Holes' and 'Opus 40' is welcome.
These are all minor gripes though, coming from a fan who already has everything that the first disc of Stillness Breathes has to offer and I have to agree that as a snapshot of a band's career, for a newcomer this will be enlightening, if perhaps slightly misleading. The album's second disc of rarities is there to ensnare people who have Mercury Rev's back catalogue already and is a fitfully brilliant listen, taking in rare tracks, covers and remixes in a wildly uneven, yet occasionally eye-opening (their version of 'Streets Of Laredo' is particularly excellent) manner. There's a part of me that wishes David Baker would have had some input though.
Fuck yeah! One of the most underrated British bands of the late-90s, Mansun have finally got a Best Of collection! Seriously, before Mansun's ambitions overtook their ability, their output was, by and large, superb. Legacy: The Best Of Mansun collates most of their singles and throws in a few album tracks for good measure. The only problem I have with this excellent compilation is the sequencing.
The album is frontloaded with most of their best stuff, leaving the second half to drag along with the likes of 'Getting Your Way', 'Fool' and the woeful Suede-pastiche, 'Electric Man'. Not to worry though, as the first half of the record is an absolute blast. Kicking off with 'I Can Only Disappoint U' (the only saving grace from shite final album, Little Kix) before taking in modern classics (honestly! I mean it!) like 'Legacy', 'Stripper Vicar', 'Being A Girl (Part One)', 'Wide Open Space' and 'She Makes My Nose Bleed'. The fact that the album runs out of steam towards the end is kind of symbolic of Mansun's career. They burned bright for a little while before their pretensions towards arena rock got the better of them. They'd have been better suited sticking to strange concept records. An absolute must either for those in the dark or those who followed the NME in dismissing them as proggy charlatans.
While we're on the M theme, isn't this just the most preposterous and most fun thing you've heard in a long time?
Apologies for the shitty bitrate, but it was the best I could find. Also, apologies to people who expect better from me.