Collecting their b-sides from the Side One Dummy years this release comprises several acoustic tracks, covers, radio spots, live and digital exclusives. For completist (for which I am one) this will round out their early years from unknowns to knowns. Some of the tracks are different versions of their more notable songs.
Let me first state that I truly enjoy all of these songs except maybe one. I think what really comes through is the bands talent at writing songs and Brian Fallon’s ability to alter and tweek these songs in multiple ways giving new layers and depths to songs that are already pretty deep. Some of the acoustic tracks are just Brian and his guitar, others are truly different acoustic tracks with added instruments, changed tempos, altered lyrics and a different vocal delivery. Examples of this can be heard in track 7, “Great Expectations,” and track 10, “Boxer,” to name two.
As for the covers on this album the one that I like the most is “Tumbling Dice.” Now, it may just be due to my love of the Rolling Stones but I could listen to this song over and over again. I’ve heard many covers by The Gaslight Anthem up to this point. Their iTunes Session album consisted mostly of covers and there are numerous others to be found on YouTube, this band seems to have an uncanny ability to take songs and present them faithfully or recreate them as their own. I’ve always enjoyed covers and I think it is a great way to also get to know the band and those that influenced them.
The Bad and Ugly:
I’m joining the two categories here because I do not have too many negative criticisms to warrant seperating the two. For the bad I would choose the “State of Love and Trust Live” tack. It is not that I dislike the song and I understand the band loves Pearl Jam, for me, it is a personal preference that there isn’t much to distinguish it from their studio recording of it. The real benefit of having this album, as stated above, is the difference from the studio recordings that set it apart.
As for the “ugly,” I would lean towards the selection and their availability already. Most of these tracks can be found elsewhere and I would have enjoyed more. Last year I purchased the “singles collection” boxset of 45s. All of which are the same as the B-Sides LP. The packaging was better and had a nice asthetic that cost more but gave more, I feel. Is it more convienent to have them on one LP and not having to go through the process of switching out 7” after every song, yes, but the tedium is overshadowed by the presentation of each single and the collectors item that accompanied.
Addressing the song selection, though I enjoyed what was given I would of loved to have a double album comprising all that which is hard to come by. For example, the “Antonia Jane” and “Queens of Lower Chelsea” tracks came from the KEXP interview Brian did just prior to the release of “American Slang” LP, on that performance were other songs too that I would have enjoyed as well as the version placed here. Furthermore, versions of “She Loves You” BBC and the record store release of “Misery” EP would have rounded it out nicely.
The Wrap Up:
All in all I”m happy with the release. Gripes aside, it is a good rounding out for fans. Will this bring in new fans? That is something I’m not so sure of. Those already familiar with the band are fully aware of their talent and ability to change up songs for different presentations. If anything it further demonstrates the song writing and crafting of the band to make songs that are good in any setting.
Til next time and please remember that I don’t really know anything, I’m just half assing it.