Oh, reissues, you make me smile. But in a quasi-ironic, super skeptical sort of a way. Collectors love you and record companies exploit you to fill their already too full coffers. You’re full of B-sides, rarities and poorly produced live tracks.
Reissues, you’re like unwanted children, who, if they’re lucky, are able to ingratiate themselves into the hearts of their reluctant guardians. This is your story.
Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain: LA’s Desert Origins is a two-disc set containing the original Crooked Rain album and dozens of rarities, including 24 previously unreleased tracks pulled from radio shows, studio sessions and a few Crooked Rain tracks recorded with their notorious ex-drummer Gary Young.
As far as reissue rarities go, the extra tracks on LA’s Desert Origins are unusually good. Songs like "Raft," "Coolin’ By Sound," "Exit Theory" and "Strings of Nashville" could have easily made it on the original album, and half-songs like "Flux=Rad" and "JMC Retro" are, if not genius, at least cool confections. Pavement’s track off the No Alternative compilation, "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" is hilarious, beginning with Stephen Malkmus giving a mini-history of R.E.M., including his admission that "Time After Time" off 1984’s Reckoning was his least favorite song, and ending with a bizarre musical dramatization of General Sherman’s march on Georgia.
The Legacy Edition of The Clash’s London Calling, however, is only for the Clash-obsessed. I can’t imagine who else would find the extras exciting. Remember a few years ago when they released all the sessions the Stooges recorded for Fun House? And we all got to hear Iggy Pop perfect his screams on "TV Eye"? That’s what the Vanilla Tapes, the lost tapes of Mick Jones-produced demos of various London Calling tracks, is like. Though the CD booklet treats it like some kind of Clash Rosetta stone, I’d like to treat it how mischievous tourists treat the Blarney stone, if you know what I mean. (If you don’t I mean urinating upon it.)
Hearing the London Calling tracks before they were finished is just boring. The reason the band probably hasn’t released them until now is that they’re just skeletons of the songs on the album. I’m sure most great bands have demos of songs they were tinkering with, but the song’s eventual greatness doesn’t justify us hearing it in its infancy. Is it any coincidence this stuff is being released after Joe Strummer’s death? Alive, he probably never would have approved its release. The Legacy Edition leaves a poor legacy, and when you’re talking about an album as brilliant as London Calling, that’s pretty sad.