Archival cache of Paul Collins hits the spot
Another World (The Best of The Archives) - Paul Collins & The Beat (Alive Natural Sound)
Paul Collins must be a hoarder. Probably a bit of OCD in there too, if you’ll excuse the long-distance and unqualified psychoanalysis. It goes with the pop songwriter turf. And this collection of previously unreleased recordings attests to it.
These songs are from Collins' sock drawer and they go all the way back to 1980. Don't let the demo quality of some of them deter you. There's more than the occasional fleck of gold among the 18 tunes. In fact, it's a rich vein. For example, "Hey DJ" outstrips the previously released version - by a long way.
No need to go into the back story in detail. Collins does that in the liners. This review is the expurgated version. The album comprises digital transfers from cassettes that were carted around the world. In case you didn't know, Collins has plied his trade everywhere since his early days with Peter Case in The Nerves, with The Beat being a an enduring brand name for the man and a number of line-ups. For the most part these cast-offs, woodshedded works-in-progress and curios are substantial in their own right.
The title track gets star billing from its writer and rightly so. It's almost ethereal in the deft lightness of what ended up on tape, put to four tracks in Spain in 1985 during one of Collins' many overseas residential spells. It's swathed in Collins' brother Patrick's guitar jangle, and features some gorgeous vocal harmonies.
"Let's Go" heads right back to the garage and stands out for its raw energy. In spite of its rough as guts sonic quality, you might just mistake "If All Things Were Equal" for a Flamin' Groovies song. Then there's the strikingly Holly-esque "This Heart" (a 1987 outtake) and the sparse but catchy pop of "Baby Baby" (a 1983 demo).
No need for a tr4ack-by-track. You can do your own exploring. Despite (or because of) its archival nature, the collection showcases what Collins does in a way not hithertoo heard. What he does is write great pop songs that are rich in melody and hooks, propelled by his guitar and tailor-made voice. You don't have to be a fan of Paul Collins to "get" this collection. You just need to like guitar power pop music and have two ears. .