There's always something missing in best-of compilations: a track or two cherished by fans of the specific artist, a sought-after B-side or 12" mix, or a different version of a song heard only on the radio. Listen On: The Best of the Railway Children doesn't include two tracks that are generally considered to be the band's finest moments: the hummable "Brighter" from 1987's Reunion Wilderness and the lovelorn "A Pleasure" from 1988's Recurrence. The number of tunes from 1990's Native Place is surprising given the tepid reaction many listeners and critics had with that album. However, there was really nothing wrong with Native Place; it was just slicker than the Railway Children's previous efforts. Listen On grabs "Every Beat of the Heart," "Music Stop," "Something So Good," "You're Young," and "Collide" from Native Place, and they're all admirable choices. The acoustic strumming that opens "Every Beat of the Heart" conforms with the group's signature sound, but the song's beefed-up guitars and glistening keyboards disappointed the band's hardcore followers when it was originally released. The more commercial production on "Every Beat of the Heart" doesn't hurt it at all; while it doesn't have the intimate feel of "Monica's Light" or "In the Meantime," the warmth in Gary Newby's vocals isn't suppressed by studio gloss. The Byrds-like '60s jangle of "Everybody," originally available on the cassette single of "Every Beat of the Heart," should quell fans upset by the abundance of Native Place tracks. "Monica's Light" and "In the Meantime" echo the Smiths' adolescent melancholy without Morrissey's histrionics or deadpan humor. They're also more downbeat, reflecting the group's pre-Native Place period. Although Listen On isn't truly representative of the Railway Children's most laudable work, best-of collections usually aren't. Listeners who become hooked on the album should look for what wasn't included.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Sutton