The better half of the band’s career, collected.
Mike Diver 2011-02-04
The Music’s break-up, in September last year, didn’t exactly set the press alight. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the release of this double-disc compilation – very much a what-it-says-on-the-tin job, albeit assembled with more care than many of its kind – the fact that the Yorkshire-born disco-baggy-gets-psychedelic four-piece were no more might well have passed the casual listener by entirely. But, as its titular time frame suggests, this is far from a complete full stop. It only assembles material – lots of material – from their days signed to Virgin/Hut, home to two of the band’s three studio long-players.
Opening with debut single Take the Long Road and Walk It – released initially via Fierce Panda and limited to a very collectable 1,000 copies – and closing with Breakin’ – from second LP Welcome to the North – and a handful of alternative mixes, this is a fairly chronological journey through the productive first half of the band’s career. Of much interest to fans will be the inclusion of You Might As Well Try to F*** Me, the lead track from the EP of the same name, released ahead of the band’s eponymous debut. From the EP, only one track, Too High, would make the transfer (in a newly recorded guise) to the group’s well-received debut. The other two strays, Karma and Treat Me Right, are included here too, but it’s the provocatively titled number that stands out. Here, frontman Robert Harvey – recently heard guesting on The Streets’ final LP – sounds genuinely charged with energy. Later, his performances would take on a rather distracting preacher-man quality, rhetoric inspired by an increased interest in martial arts and a move to teetotalism getting in the way of the raw passion that surged through The Music’s first wave of releases.
There was more conviction to the mysticism, too, in the band’s initial rush of recordings – no doubt a product of having fewer expectations to live up to, what with their audience far from peaking. So, the five minutes of Karma feel like two, the listener swept up in the storm of whirring, early-Verve-like instrumentation. First LP cut The People (which also fronted a four-track EP) is a rollickingly confident number, rich in lyrical cliché but never in doubt of its own greatness (and it is a fairly great stomp-rocker), and b side Dragon Song is similarly focused in its forceful direction.
Indie music that you could dance to, or dance music you could rock to – however the individual received The Music at the time of these releases (by far their best, as album three, Strength in Numbers, would have been better titled Assembled by Numbers), there’s no doubt an impression was left. At times they showed glimpses of talent that could have elevated them to the status of The Stones Roses and Primal Scream, in the pantheon of northern souls with twitchy soles. At 28 tracks, there’s plenty of forgettable fare included here, but at its best this retrospective presents a band that successfully punched well above its weight.