The two new songs are as forgettable as they are just fine; "Message to the Boys" (docked for debuting on Jim Rhome's "show") and "Pool and Dive" neither celebrate nor tarnish the lovable losers' legacy, and as much as the fan wants to cheer the reunion that really wasn't (Chris Mars isn't playing drums, merely singing), I would have preferred "Swingin' Party" or "Favorite Thing" (or "Fuck School" and "I Hate Music," for that matter) in their stead. But what's a modern-day best-of without newcomers who wouldn't qualify as, you know, best-ofs? Gotta have something to sell, even if it's semi-damaged goods.
That said, this second Mats comp (the first being 1997's all-Warners catalog All for Nothing/Nothing for All, with its second disc of outtakes and B-sides that deserved better) is a compelling listen, at the very least because these five songs sequenced in a tidy, heartbreaking row--"Within Your Reach," "I Will Dare," "Answering Machine," "Unsatisfied," "Here Comes a Regular"--will ultimately stand as the band's legacy, the standards in the back catalog. That's not to diminish the overall greatness of Pleased to Meet Me (repped here by another heart-stopper, "Skyway") or the hit-and-miss charms of the Twin-Tone releases and major-label breakthrough Tim, only to recognize that the drunken, smart-ass slob shtick stuck because the audience wanted the band to pretend it was about nothing more than a fuck-yeah good time, when in fact Paul Westerberg was mastering the misery deep down in his big, broken heart. Now, when's The Shit Hits the Fans coming out on CD? Enough of this sober repackaging; bring on the Thin Lizzy and Skynyrd covers already, jeez.
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