The Pop Will Eat Itself reissue programme comes to a close with the last original album by the original lineup, recorded in 1994: "Dos Dedos Mis Amigos". At the time it felt a natural progression by the band, taking on board the heavier and more aggressive edge of contemporaries such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, and Revolting Cocks, moving away from the more flippant era of sampling to an angrier, and more abrasive sound. For most fans of the band, the true lure of this is the unreleased 1996 album - tentatively titled "A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box" - on the second CD, which takes the "Dos Dedos" template and pushes it much much further, so much further that the boat sank.
"Dos Dedos" sounds the same as ever ; a heavier, darker version of the band, playing much slower, grittier songs : with the trademark samples stripped out, and the high-octane adrenaline rush of the earlier material absent, "Dos Dedos" is a relatively intense record, punctuated mostly by the odd hit single, but, by and large, a new direction for the band. The hits - "RSVP", "Familus Horribilus", "Auslander" and "Everything's Cool" kept the bands trademark sound and reflected a new, more mature edge. Deeper into the record, material such as "Fatman", "Underbelly" and "Menofearthereaper" are amongst the least immediate the band recorded, instead slowly revealing their glories over repeated listening : but some of the songs themselves, simply aren't as strong as previous records. Admirable for never staying still, or repeating themselves, PWEI always seemed to be going somewhere and exploring something new, but the album has some weaknesses which time has not made more palatable. The real draw is the second disc, entitled "A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box" is a different thing altogether.
Recorded by the band after departure of Graham Crabb, his place is taken by The Buzzard, a greatly talented guitar player who appeared on lots of other PWEI records. As a sort of result, the record has swathes of dense, heavy guitar riffs, and a distinct absence of the lighter, faster material. Abandoned by the band near completion when they decided to split, the album is fine, but sounds more like a collection of songs without a cohesive album shape, instead of being a fully finished and fit for release record. Were it released at the time, no doubt it would have signalled a commercial downturn in the bands fortunes, at odds with the Britpop spirit of the era. It's not a bad record at all, but one that really would reward repeated listening, with an absence of obvious singles and with Clint Mansell as sole vocalist is lacking the bands trademark duelling-banjos style vocal interplay. The band played many of these songs live at occasionally shambolic, often spirited, incredibly loud, shows in 1996, and it comes as a long overdue reward for them to finally see release after 17 years, but the wait has not really been worth it. Songs such as "I Am The One", and "100% Is It" are finally heard again after years on scratchy bootleg cassettes, but they aren't really The Great Lost Pop Will Eat Itself Songs.
Where the reissue falls over, is in what is missing and there is easily space for : a multitude of officially released songs from the era (several cover versions and alternate mixes from compilation albums, some vinyl-only instrumental b-sides), as well as some radio sessions. "Games Without Frontiers, "Gimme Shelter", "Friends", "Zero Return", "Intense" and vinyl b-side/Japanese-only album track "Wild West" are all absent ; as well as a radio session cover version of "Come As You Are", and other radio sessions. The reissue features as bonus tracks an instrumental that made a vinyl b-sides, or the US only "Amalgamation" CD (in "CPI#2",), a demo of "Kick To Kill", as well as one radio session song, the radically different original approach to "Babylon".
Whilst the bands propensity for remixes was well known, and resulted in a huge 2CD remix set released, it is no surprise there aren't of those on here. Except a "Die Krupps" remix of "Auslander" that features a different vocal and some fragments of the songs home demo. The vinyl-only full length PWEI remix of "Auslander" is inexplicably absent.
"A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box" is a scant 42 minutes, which leave 37 minutes on the second disc for this extra material, most of which would easily fit on there. You could argue that perhaps 12 new songs is enough, but it's not as if the band will get another chance to reissue these records. On the other hand, as far as reissues and expanded editions go, "Dos Dedos" is an imperfect but weighty release, with 12 unreleased songs, 2 unheard versions, and 2 long deleted songs. So you get two albums, one never before released, for the price of one. At last.