I tried to like this CD. Really.
But in light of having seen these musical geniuses in person, I am utterly convinced these songs should have stayed locked up in the studio or safe deposit box until such a time that the band has been broken up for a decade. Then, when everything else the band ever recorded has been released, maybe, just maybe, this release should have been foisted on the public.
For as much as I adored seeing this band live in April 2007, this 2-CD release of B-sides is overwhelmingly ugly. Aside from the opener "The Bottom Half," these songs are unimpressive from a band that is very impressive.
"Bright Lights, Big City" is a failed experiment to mix a funk song and a hard rock distorted guitar riff. Throw in some electronica reminiscent of the 80s pop and you have a mess. "Great American" and "Higgins" are equally disheartening; "Great American" is a failed New Age excursion that is more embarrassing than interesting, while "Higgins" attempts to find a reggae groove and surrounds it with grand horns that are out of place.
"Atmosfarag" tries to use a sampling about the Browning family circus to hold itself into coherency, but like the other material the stuff that supports the samples is not interesting either. "Red Room" follows with the worst vocals on this release. Delivered into a boring monotone drone, it is quite grating to listen to this track. The song dips into mundane lyrics that aren't worth repeating here.
This release is definitively "The Bottom Half" of the barrel, failing to hold my attention. Yes, fine, there are a lot of experiments and dippings into multiple genres. Great. The obvious risks are not limited to the first CD though. The entire 'bonus CD' contains 28 tracks, some short, some long, including three versions of "Words." It's obvious the band liked this track but it just grates on the nerves. As for the others, well, there is not a sane reason why the jumbled mess called "Fresh Start" ever had to be released, and just what is "Ocean Billy" supposed to prove?
Quoting that awful '70s hit "Seasons of the Sun" ("We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun") makes the uninteresting unbearable. Sloppy musicianship and an uninteresting melody are uncharacteristic of the band but dominate this release, which are the tracks deemed unworthy to make the 2006 disc Safety in Numbers.
I will continue to give this band the benefit of the doubt in a live setting, but I will very timidly put their next CD in my player.