The Boo Radleys

Find the Way Out

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By 2005 -- in America, anyway -- hearing the story of how the Boo Radleys didn't make it was more common than hearing any of their actual music. The recap: the Liverpool band came up shoegazers, became pop songwriters, and blew up with a single that shone like gold. But then they tore stardom to shreds with a brilliantly noisy follow-up, and disbanded soon after releasing a frustrated swan song. Since that awkward end the Boos have been a footnote for some, a pleasant memory for others, and a reason for fanatical devotion to still more. So ideally, Find the Way Out pleases all parties. It's a two-disc, fully remastered, 35-song chronological recap of the band's eight-year career, painstakingly compiled by guitarist/songwriter Martin Carr both to tell the Boo Radley story and satisfy the diehards. It begins with two songs from Ichabod & I, the noisy (and rare) 1990 debut that shoved American alternative rock into a wall of Kevin Shields-ian distortion. The dynamic between Carr's roaring guitar and Sice's effortless songbird vocals on "Catweazle" would define the group's sound. "Happens to Us All" is here too, as is a demo version of "Hip Clown Rag." There are highlights from the Boo Radleys' Rough Trade singles and EPs, including the incredible funky blister of "Kaleidoscope" and "Everybird"'s blend of pedal stomp crunch and twining acoustic strum. The set includes the lengthy 12" version of the 1992 Creation single "Lazarus," as well as its B-side, "Let Me Be Your Faith"; devotees might wonder where "At the Sound of Speed" is, but they'll have to make do with the creaky, gentle "Cracked Lips/Homesick" -- a Giant Steps-era B-side -- or any of the five songs from that album. The brassy, handclapping "Wish I Was Skinny" and "Best Lose the Fear"'s fuzzy psych-pop are highlights, showing off the Boos' songwriting development. Of course Find the Way Out's second disc starts with "Wake Up Boo!" -- it's their career definition and ultimate death knell tied up in an unstoppably glorious pop experience. The nine-minute version here -- subtitled "Music for Astronauts" -- trips out at the end in a way Super Furry Animals would soon perfect. Its flip, "Blues for George Michael," is another epic, and "Find the Answer Within" (from the Wake Up! LP) rarefies Carr's guitar to a conventional jangle. 1995's "From the Bench at Belvidere" is a breezy masterpiece of lilting piano and dripping guitar notes; there's even a flute solo. (Pray that Teenage Fanclub someday covers this.) C'mon Kids, the blaring fame freak-out album that followed the popular embrace of Wake Up!, is represented here by four tracks, and the finale Kingsize gets three. (The previously unissued "Tomorrow" is a faraway trumpet, rainy streets meditation with the gem lyric "trap set in the slums.") By Find the Way Out's end you're either convinced of the Boos' place in the U.K. music canon or mad at Carr because he didn't include your favorite song. But either way you've walked the band's creative arc with one of its creators. And that's way better than just hearing about it.

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