Velvet Crush Free Expression

Velvet Crush have spent their entire career trying to recreate the music of Big Star, the Byrds and their ilk, reaching a creative pinnacle with 1994's Teenage Symphonies to God. Their attempts to record a follow-up didn’t go well and caused the band to fall apart. Fortunately core members Rik Menck and Paul Chastain got back together with long-time friend and producer Matthew Sweet in 1999 to try to recreate the magic of half a decade before and the resulting Free Expression did represent a return to form for the band. Jump forward four years and that album has been reissued with a second CD of demos, and it has stood up pretty well. The problem, however, is that some of the hero worship goes a little too far on Free Expression, with some of the songs being a little too close for comfort to the likes of the Beatles. The worst offender is "Things Get Better,” but well-versed listeners can spend hours spotting the source material. The bonus CD of demos would be a good idea in theory, but even by the band’s own admission, the final versions are so faithful to the demos that it doesn’t really feel like you are getting much insight into the band’s creative process. Instead, you get a disc of slightly less polished versions of songs when it would have been a lot more satisfying to get unreleased songs or earlier demos. There’s no denying that Free Expression is a good album, but it isn’t their finest work and maybe this lavish treatment is a little over the top. Still, for those who missed out on it the first time round, this is a golden opportunity to overcompensate. (Action Musik)