on 26 September 2005
The b-side is in danger of becoming a dying art now that the ridiculous rules which govern chart singles have effectively retarded creativity by punishing artists for producing material (multiple format releases, no more than 3 tracks on one CD and 2 on another, the rise of MP3s, falling single sales and rising album sales etcetera, etcetera). These days it seems that too many bands witlessly throw live, acoustic or remixed versions of singles onto b-sides, and fail to use them as a vehicle for creativity and myth-building.
Embrace, like The Boo Radleys, Talk Talk, early Stone Roses, Super Furry Animals, Blur, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, Radiohead and many, many others (The Beatles, Orbital, The Pixies!), have always put quality tunes on their b-sides - from their earliest EPs to their most recent singles, consistently burying tracks where only the completist will find them, often hiding away far more interesting songs than they've released as singles or released on their albums. Finally record company people have seen sense, and this compilation, which culls songs from both their early days on Hut to work with their current label Independiente, gathers together (most of) the best ones onto one fantastic CD, which showcases Embrace as far more than the anthemic balladeers their public persona might paint them as.
Dry Kids (B-Sides 1997-2002) is being touted as a companion to Fireworks (Singles 1997-2002), but to be honest it pretty much trounces that collection and is easily the equal of Embrace's best studio albums (for my money Drawn From Memory and Out Of Nothing). Some of the bands very, very best songs are here - the sweetly melodic title track, the seethingly angry Blind, the schizo punk Brothers & Sisters, the Verve-play-Otis Stax meltdown I've Been Running, the caustic balladry of Madelaine and the heavily-sequenced disco noise of Flaming Red Hair are all fantastic. Too Many Times is a jerking, Fugazi-esque rocker and Feels Like Glue is an ENORMOUS, expansive psychedelic pop groove, while Butter Wouldn't Melt and Love Is Back are almost impossibly delicate, and songs like Milk & Honey and The Shots Still Ringing could easily find a place on radio playlists. If you factor in the mad dancefloor pull of the dubbed-out One Big Family remix, plus a handful of other great tunes, this 18-track, 78-minute collection is a terrific snapshot of one of the best and most productive bands working today.
The only complaint is that not every great b-side the band have done could fit on here, meaning that if you want to hear equally awesome tunes like Get On Board, If You Feel Like A Sinner, The First Cut, Red Eye Shot, Come On & Smile and You've Only Got To Stop To Get Better, then you'll have to track down the original singles they were released on.
Check out the (excellent and extensive) sleevenotes too - they offer a real insight into how each song fits into the band's history and bring further value to this already great value package, with both some amusing anecdotes (about Rolf Harris?) and thoughts on the band's own favourite songs. I know, because I wrote them.