The Best of the Worst: 93-97

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The final release by Memphis' Oblivians, The Best of the Worst: 93-97 is a kitchen-sink collection of mostly previously released material recorded as alternate versions and live takes that will probably be of the most interest to those already schooled in the Oblivians. Introductions to the band are best left to more coherent efforts like the gritty gospel of Play 9 Songs With Mr. Quintron or the punk explosion of Popular Favorites. As ragged as their earlier studio albums were, this stuff manages to get even messier, but with tracks like their cover of Joe Seneca's slow-dancing "Talk to Me," the boys also manage to slip in a few genuinely pretty songs; but don't be fooled, the Oblivians like their rock & roll down and very dirty. The Best of the Worst's liner notes come courtesy of the inimitable Jeffrey Evans and chronicle the band's roots, formation, and a handful of antics that happened in between (including Greg Oblivian's decision to skip out on his former band, Compulsive Gamblers' gig in order to fill in as Evans' drummer in 68 Comeback). Evans also reveals that before they were the Oblivians, the outfit was very briefly (for one show) known as P.P. & the Naildrivers ("P.P." being an abbreviation for Pontius Pilate) and later the Gentlemen of Leisure. Don't expect any juicy details of the breakup, though, as Evans declares that, "How a band ends is less interesting...it's a time bomb. A band has a coupla years to do their best work...After that, you start believing your own bullsh*t." Fair enough. The Oblivians are one of those bands who are hard to describe in a manner that would make them sound the least bit appealing. Words like sloppy, loose, primitive, and noisy often spring to mind, and while they start to sound like a negative thing, they're really not. Even the Oblivians' seeming number one fan, Evans, can't help but describe one of his favorite tracks, "Indian in Me," as being "about as retarded as a song can be." At any rate, the Oblivians' catalog and this best-of are packed with raucous, bluesy garage rock that will have hips shaking for years to come (their raw take on "Locomotion" should replace the original). Points are deducted for failure to include Popular Favorites' "Do the Milkshake"; the song instructs women on how to do the title dance (use your imagination).

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