Arriving almost a decade too early to capitalize on the mid-'90s dance boom which saw the Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and Underworld conquer the charts as well as the underground rave scene, Manchester outfit 808 State may not be a household name, but without their pioneering fusion of acid-house, ambient techno, and pulsing breakbeats, it's unlikely that the likes of "Firestarter," "Block Rockin' Beats," or "Born Slippy" would have ever seen the light of day. Released 13 years after their last compilation, Blueprint, Best Of shows just how far ahead of their time they were, with electro maverick Aphex Twin doffing his cap to the influence they had on his career with a remix of "Flow Coma," contributions from Björk ("Qmart"), and the Manics' James Dean Bradfield ("Lopez") inventing the whole guest indie vocalist-does-dance music shtick which has since become the norm, and the blissed-out sax-led "Pacific State," still sounding as euphoric 20 years after it became one of illegal warehouse culture's most iconic hits. With only one album (2003's Outpost Transmission) recorded in the intervening years, some might question the necessity of a new collection. Although it shares nine of its seventeen songs with its predecessor, this career-spanning set is no cynical cash-in, thanks to a treasure trove of obscure remixes, "revisited" versions, and a brand new composition, "Spanish Ice," which proves that Graham Massey, the only original member left, has lost none of his knob-twiddling magic. The tracks that have been tinkered with are more subtle reworkings than radical overhaulings, with only Monkey Mafia's dancehall-tinged treatment of Top Ten hit "Cubik" providing any notable difference, but it's a testament to the band's innovative sound that the majority of cuts still sound fresh whether they've been left intact or not. Elsewhere, there are appearances from Elbow's Guy Garvey on the Scott Walker-esque "Lemonsoul," Simian on the slightly more mellow remix of "606," and legendary producer Trevor Horn on the radio edit of "Plan 9," an inclusion from their 1989 Quadrastate EP ("Firecracker"), a mash-up of a rarity previously only available on the Blue Bell Records compilation, Hear You Soon ("Metaluna"), and 1988 debut Newbuild album track, "Compulsion." There are a few notable omissions, particularly the two hits with British rapper MC Tunes and the Top 20 single, "One in Ten," but nevertheless, Best Of is still an appropriately titled collection which shows that where 808 State led, others followed.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien