Despite their popularity in the United Kingdom, Black Box Recorder never really caught on in the states, but it isn't really their fault (you could probably say that about who knows how many British groups). Besides their two albums (England Made Me and The Facts Of Life), the group has also been pretty darn prolific, and this latest release is a compilation of all the B-sides and other random tracks that the group has done. In addition to the 12 tracks, the disc contains all four of their videos in Quicktime format.
Even though the release is comprised of B-sides by the group, the strange thing is that it's actually a bit more focused than either of their releases. Besides one glaring contribution, all the tracks are short and to-the-point, and the group changes up their styles a lot more than they did on their last release (which might be expected of tracks culled from different single releases). While I like the sort of dreamy side of the group, it's nice to hear that they can rock out if they want to. I already knew that Luke Haines (formerly of the Auteurs) could crank up the volume and keep things interesting, but lead singer Sarah Nixey doesn't do too bad either when backed with a bit of crunchy guitar.
The release starts out with a batch of very short (all under 2 and a half minutes) tracks that sort of drift along in the same mode without sounding too repetitive. "Seasons In The Sun" drifts along like lazy weekend afternoon until the very end when some feedback and a touch of weird sounds are added for a bit of a rise while "Start As You Mean To Go On" feels like a fairly logical progression from their The Facts Of Life disc with its lyrics about getting older and settling down. The fifth track on the album is a remix of "Facts Of Life," and if the original track wasn't cheesy enough, the Chocolate Layers mix adds sleazy movie samples and other dialogue and turns the track into an overlong mess.
Fortunately, that track is blared out of memory quickly by "Lord Lucan Is Missing." As one of the aforementioned tracks where the group cranks up the guitars, the short track rides a thick bassline until the squalling chorus. "Wonderful Life" is another dark fairy-tale sounding track for the group while the remix of "Uptown Top Ranking" (which adds a dubby bassline and some horns) makes Nixey sound like even more seductive. The group closes out the disc with a cover of David Bowie's "Rock'N'Roll Suicide" that sounds like it's being played at a high-school prom in the 50's. In the end, if you like the group, you're not going to go wrong here. At just over 33 minutes, it's not a very long release if you're just getting into them, but it is a pretty good sampling of the different sounds that they're capable of.