Over the Rhine

Besides

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Over the Rhine released this collection of rarities for its fan club in 1997. Its title, Besides, is a clever bit of wordplay (if less than accurate, as only one of the tracks is actually the B-side of a single). The CD shows the band's penchant for musical experimentation, covering a wide range of styles: slightly retextured mixes of album tracks (a more growling "Within Without," a more mellow "All I Need Is Everything"), a playful Nordic new wave number ("Hej"), an engagingly weird, bubbly country song ("Last Night"), and a dark Britpop tune ("Murder"). Many of the tracks show that the band has the good taste to keep its fun-but-subpar material off the albums -- not all bands do. But there are also a handful of songs worthy of major release: a gorgeously haunted acoustic piano version of "Bothered" (the hidden track on Eve), an achingly hopeful new folk song ("Lucy"), and a 13-minute live version of "If I'm Drowning." The band has released two other recordings of "Drowning" previously, but this is the first to capture the electrifying jam session that makes this song a perfect curtain call for most of their concerts: one by one the band members leave the stage, subtracting lead vocals first, then bass guitar, then electric guitar, until all that's left is Brian Kelly's thunderous drum solo. The audience hardly notices that the melody has disappeared. It's that kind of creative musical touch that makes this collection entertaining, even at its weaker moments.

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