The Boo Radleys
The Best Of
here’s a serious sense of déjà vu accompanying this fifteen-track, hour-long Best of the Boo Radleys compilation, coming as it does less than two years after the 2 CD Find the Way Out anthology, which collected material from the Liverpool band’s entire career, including a handful of b-sides and rarities alongside that one single everybody knows and those other singles everybody ought to know.
No such archival addenda are proffered here, although the (largely chronological) tracklisting isn’t as predictable as you might think; as this is a Sony release there’s nothing from the band’s pre-Creation days, and their final swansong album, Kingsize is ignored too, meaning that three of the Boo Radleys’ six albums are completely unrepresented. That’s kind of OK though, because the three albums that this collection does cull from, Giant Steps, Wake Up! and C’mon Kids are all absolutely splendid records.
Even more oddly, not all the group’s singles from those mid-‘90s halcyon days are included— “Wish I Was Skinny,” “What’s in the Box (See Whatcha Got)” and “Ride the Tiger” are all missing, replaced by (terrific, in fairness) album tracks like “I’ve Lost the Reason” and “4AM Conversation.” Martin Carr, quondam Boo’s guitarist, songwriter, and leader, had nothing to do with the release, and presumably no one else in the band did either. Apparently Find the Way Out was originally conceived as a one-disc “best of” and grew beyond itself; it seems that Sony have now got the collection they wanted.
Despite this ontological oddness regarding its conception, the compilation serves as a timely reminder of just how terrific a band the Boo Radleys were in their pomp. This shouldn’t be a surprise, really—forget Oasis, Primal Scream, SFA, and My Bloody Valentine; the Boos were Creation’s best band, combining super-sweet singable pop with head-spinningly bizarre abstraction. Their outrageously wonderful guitars, rhythms, horns, and more were tied together by Carr’s “selfish” songwriting instinct, which compelled him to try and destroy his creations by taking them in an array of directions no-one else would dare to travel.
Obviously the set kicks off with “Wake Up Boo,” the band’s solitary top ten hit. Cynics might dismiss it as featherweight next to the group’s more out-there material, but a dozen years on and it still sounds fresh, energizing, and personal; perfect pop, in other words. Stand-alone single “From the Bench at Belvedere” remains a lolloping sing-song groove, and “Lazarus” still sounds like the greatest song to hail from Merseyside since at least 1968. The band’s second-biggest hit, “C’mon Kids” (named in tribute to The Hudsucker Proxy), showcases the Boo’s propensity for heaviosity, its flying riffs, monster groove, and deranged shouting landed in the top twenty over a decade ago and still sounds brilliant.
Rather than tailing off, the album tracks and other singles that make up the remainder of the disc prove just how consistent the Boos were, from the startling dynamics of “Leaves and Sand” to the straightforwardly wistful (but far from cloying) “Reaching Out from Here.” In choosing a handful of less-obvious tunes (“Spun Around,” “Stuck On Amber”) interest is maintained, and the Boos’ depth and range is more than hinted at.
In fact the whole package is nicely done; there’s no brutal remastering to obliterate the subtlety and shape of the songs, some thought has gone into the sequencing (the CD ends with a refrain of “Oh what a time we had,” from “Get On the Bus”), the cover is nice, and the sleevenotes (which, oddly, quote the Find the Way Out review linked above) are brief but adequate. Fifteen songs and not a less-than-ace one among them; The Best of the Boo Radleys easily matches the best of any other band you care to mention.