September 2, 2004

The Curse of The Greatest Hits

When is it appropriate for an artist to release a Greatest Hits CD? It seems to happen in one of several scenarios:

1) The genuine one, after many albums (preferably at least five). Joni Mitchell refused this for years and years because she felt it would "kill the catalog," but Joni is an Album Artiste, so people still buy her. Many big selling artists, like Mary J. Blige, resist this.
2) As a "stop-gap" after a dud CD (see Mariah Scarey). The record company needs some cash to replenish what they lost as they cravenly promoted the craptastic CD. I wouldn't be surprised if Janet Jackson did this soon.
3) As a stop-gap when an artist has no idea what to do next. They have exhausted their sound and seem to be floundering.
4) Contractual Obligation Downfall Record. Often 4 is a result of 3. These artists will never be heard from again. See Kula Shaker.
5) Some artists, like The Bangles or Stray Cats, clearly have no control over their publishing. Chintzy labels are created overnight just to release a new compilation each year! How many Stray Cats collections does one need, especially in the era of the CDR? Do Stray Cats make any money off of these releases?
6) My favorite category is the one-hit wonder has-been also-ran category. Like a hits compilation from Kajagoogoo, Katrina And The Waves or even Jane Weidlin, who never really had even one Billboard hit. These exist! But they never seem to call them Greatest Hit.

Travis has released 4 records, but only two of them really count. No one heard the first, which came out in the shadow of Oasis as a sort of low-rent rip off (minus any genuine "gaggin' for it" laddish swagger). They followed that with The Man Who, a record where they found their honestly twee voice - and a bit of Radiohead's voice too! - and had a hit with the perfect "Driftwood." They met the follow-up challenge with the The Invisible Band,which I like better than The Man Who, even though it was a bit toothless. And then... the DUD. 12 Mammories - no Memories - was lacking in ideas, melody, interesting arrangements (and notably, producer Nigel Godrich). It was, to me, bad enough to sink this band. So now they take the Greatest Hits route? I find it hard to believe they couldn't come up with a new record - is this their way out of a contract? We'll see. Here are the songs for the cleverly titled Singles, out on November 1st:

Sing; Driftwood; Writing To Reach You; Why Does It Always Rain On Me?; Re-Offender; Walking In The Sun; Tied To The 90’s; Coming Around; Flowers In The Window; Love Will Come Through; More Than Us; Side; U16 Girls; Happy; All I Want To Do Is Rock; The Beautiful Occupation; Turn.

There is but one new song - Godrich produced! - called "Walking In The Sun," and you can hear it on their website.

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