Velvet Crush A Single Odessey

I'll just come right out and say it, Velvet Crush are a wonderful, wonderful band. They've managed to show a level of consistency during the past ten years that most other bands can only fantasise about. They are now at that point where they feel the need to dip into their back catalogue and get a little nostalgic about what came before. That translates into the reissue of their first album and a new compilation, both of which are being released on the band's own label. Their debut album, In The Presence Of Greatness, caused quite a few waves in the indie pop world. Of course, it did help that the band had essentially been playing together for years by now (under assorted names, such as the Springfields) and so it didn't really sound like a debut. And having an accomplished as a musician as Matthew Sweet helping out on production didn't hurt either. Sweet also contributed guitar and vocals whenever required, and the resulting album still sounds good after ten years. All chiming guitars and sweet harmonies, it has aged well, and the addition of three bonus tracks (including a Teenage Fanclub cover) makes it well worth investigating. The better of the two, however, is A Single Odessey, a collection of non-LP singles and EP tracks. The 20 tracks on A Single Odessey cover the band's entire career, from their very first seven-inch single in 1990 through to another seven-inch from just last year, stopping at all points in between. Their choice of covers isn't particularly good at hiding their obvious influences (the Byrds, Gram Parsons and Gene Clark), but they do stop short of covering Matthew Sweet (although you can't help but think that they probably do behind closed doors). What makes A Single Odessey work so well is that the songs that were hidden away on the backside of a single or the final track of an EP were just as good as the songs that ended up on their albums. Take "It's Been Too Long And It's Too Late Now," or even "Atmosphere‚" which would eventually end up on the band's finest hour, Teenage Symphonies To God, both are damn fine songs that are joined by so many more on here. So, does this signify the end of the line for Velvet Crush? Hopefully not, because even their most recent material shows that the band still has what it takes to stand head and shoulders above most of the crowd. (Parasol)