Shed Seven The Singles Collection
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Never the most fashionable of outfits, York four-piece Shed Seven nevertheless were one of the few Brit-pop bands to sustain a career once the whole scene had eaten itself. They may have lacked the swagger of Oasis, the raw energy of Elastica, and the critical success of Pulp, but their solid brand of anthemic indie rock, backed by frontman Rick Witter's distinctive vocals, spawned an impressive 15 Top 40 hit singles over a nine-year period, before they disbanded in 2003. Now, following the lead of other '90s mid-table indie bands Cast, Dodgy, and Echobelly, they have re-formed for what has turned out to be their biggest-ever U.K. tour, hence the release of their second greatest-hits package, The Singles Collection. This extensive two-CD, 38-track compilation includes all but one of the 15 tracks that appeared on 1999's Going for Gold (only "High Hopes" is omitted), alongside a bonus disc which features 12 B-sides handpicked by the band, and eight previously unreleased songs and demos. Listed in chronological order, the album proves that despite their formulaic reputation, each of Shed Seven's four studio albums showed a steady progression. The likes of early singles, mobile phone ad jingle "Speakeasy," and the plodding "Ocean Pie" are pretty standard indie fare which sounded utterly pedestrian when compared to the colorful output of their more illustrious counterparts. But their breakthrough album, A Maximum High, considerably upped the ante, with its ultra-confident, Smiths-esque sound responsible for five anthemic arena singalong Top 20 hits, including the storming brass band-heavy "Getting Better," and their jangly guitar-led signature tune "Going for Gold," surprisingly the band's only Top Tenner. However, it was "Chasing Rainbows" which belatedly appeared on third album, Let It Ride, that provided the band's career high point, a heart-wrenching melancholic ballad which sounds uncannily like the Killers' more Anglo-centric early material. Although they never reached the same heights again, they were still capable of producing the odd killer single. The shouty terrace anthem-style "She Left Me on Friday" echoes the punchy mod-pop of Parklife-era Blur, "Disco Down," like its title suggests, is an indie disco number full of swirling strings and Superstition-esque funky basslines, while the Franz Ferdinand-style swan song "Why Can't I Be You?" suggested the band's decreasing chart positions weren't the result of a lack of trying. The re-recorded and remixed versions of several tracks and the second disc of rarities means The Singles Collection is more likely to appeal to their loyal following rather than the casual fan who may have picked up their previous compilation. But while they've perhaps unfairly remained a minor footnote in the success of the Cool Britannia era, The Singles Collection proves that when it came to creating admirably catchy guitar pop tunes, not many bands did it better.