Compilation albums of this ilk have always been subject to a certain sense of snobbery and suspicion, but even by the standards of a man re-issued and re-packaged more than most, this set is downright bizarre. This is where – to dial a cliché – the joke just isn't funny anymore.
The main problem resides not really in what's being sold, but how it is presented. This is not – as the title misleads – the very best of Morrissey's solo work, but a selection of material from his HMV and Parlophone albums (basically, those released in the early 90s via EMI – an irony in itself given past disputes), a few unreleased tracks and a DVD featuring a performance "rarely seen" to those without access to the internet. Sadly, there is no tacky badge.
Of course, this isn't a criticism of the quality of the songs themselves, although the inclusion of material such as Ouija Board, Ouija Board and Interesting Drug – two of his worst – is bemusing. These days musicians would kill a kitten to make a song even half as good as the glistening stomp-pop masterpiece of The Last of the International Playboys or as powerful as November Spawned a Monster – one of Moz's most original and controversial creations due its subject matter of attitudes towards the disabled. His songwriting skills are not in doubt.
Yet you have to wonder: beyond the most fervent of fans (who'd buy a bottled Moz fart if they could) who is this compilation for? Seeing as it doesn't feature anything from career highlights such as the You Are the Quarry and Vauxhall and I albums, as an introduction to Morrissey's solo work it's woefully inadequate and certainly, as covered earlier, not the very best. For fans there's nothing new here beyond three ‘unreleased’ tracks that they surely already have – even if his solo version of Interlude (originally released as a duet with Siouxsie Sioux) is beautifully sad.
As his re-mastered version of Bona Drag earlier this year proved, Morrissey is perfectly capable of releasing re-issues and best of packages that justify your money; but this is not one of them. Buy it if you like, but make sure you play it loud – there's a barrel being scraped somewhere and it's making an awful racket.
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