Grade The Embarrassing Beginning

Anonymity loving geek rock aficionados the Aquabats deliver 13 songs from over the course of their unsettlingly and inexplicably long career. Perhaps it's the fact that their music, which skips from Devo-inspired artsy new wave to Frank Zappa weirdness to high energy Latin jazz, usually within the same song, is so interesting and infectious that it has helped them through the cape crusader gimmick. But even without the benefit of their hysterical stage antics, which is the case on record, the band is still a lot of fun. This record is a great way to get familiar with the band or round out you Aquabats collection. Grade's ironically named collection, The Embarrassing Beginning, is anything but. The 15-track disc brings together hard to find and never released gems, including all the songs from the out-of-print 1994 split with Believe, as well as some demos form the original sessions and acoustic re-workings of a couple of songs from their most recent record, Under the Radar. About the only tracks that seem out of place are the three released only 18 months ago as the Triumph and Tragedy EP, which is still available. It would have been nice to get some of the miscellaneous contributions from EPs and singles instead. But hey, there's no such thing as bad Grade. The same goes for Florida-based Avail enthusiasts Hot Water Music, who give us this sort-of best of their EPs and seven-inch collection. It would have made more sense to simply put all the non-album tracks on instead of picking and choosing some. Of course, the ones they've chosen are mighty fine, so who am I to complain? As a bonus, if you buy the disc through mail-order from the record company or from the band at a show, there's a second disc of rarities and demos dating back to 1994. A much better way to go. (Victory)