Alternative Hits

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Chelsea's second album was a compilation of past glories, issued at a time when the band itself was apparently falling apart -- in fact, the wholesale departure of his backing band was simply an excuse for Gene October to reinvent the band for the third time in three years, with Alternative Hits now doing double duty as the tombstone over the last lot's grave. Picking up the A- and B-sides of every Chelsea single to date, 14 tracks (upped from 12 on the original vinyl release) trace Chelsea through the brilliant fistful of wrath that was their earliest calling card -- the howling desperation of "Right to Work," the bitter condemnation of "High Rise Living," the squalling street smarts of "Urban Kids," pulling in a couple of tracks from the band's eponymous debut album, then wrapping up with the trilogy of singles issued during 1980 ("No-one's Coming Outside," "Look At the Outside," and the brittle "No Escape.") It's an unbeatable introduction to the band, a one-stop record store if you can't find the original singles, and a reminder that, though Gene October may not have been the greatest lyricist of his age, he was certainly among the most perceptively honest. And that is just as grand an accomplishment.

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