Complete Albums, Singles and BBC Collection

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Dismiss McCarthy as merely the band Tim Gane was in before he started Stereolab, and you're missing out on one of the more interesting, exciting, and unique indie bands of the late '80s. Mixing jangling, Byrds-ian pop with lyrics that advocated every left-wing cause under the sun, the group was unlike anything else happening in the indie pop world at the time. Perfectly balanced between vocalist/lyricist Malcolm Eden's impassioned calls to overthrow modern society and Gane's inventive guitar work, their sound is very much of its time, but has stayed relevant enough that their three albums were constantly reissued. In 2014, Cherry Red decided to gather up all the band's work in one place and the Complete Albums, Singles and BBC Sessions Collection was released. It's fascinating to hear how fully formed their sound and approach was from the beginning. Early singles like "Red Sleeping Beauty" show the band was right up there with the Smiths as far as balancing jangling guitars and morosely beautiful vocals, and debut album I Am a Wallet fairly bursts with wonderfully hooky indie pop and melancholy ballads, both of which fill the listener's head with ideas, but never preach. McCarthy's next record, The Enraged Will Inherit the Earth, further refined their sound by adding subtle new twists to the arrangements and stretching the songs past the two-minute mark, with a few, like the brilliantly bleak "Boy Meets Girl So What," going past five. By the time of Banking, Violence and the Inner Life Today, the music was mature enough that it wasn't a very far leap to Stereolab's richly drawn retro pop. The connection is very clear on songs like "I Worked Myself Up from Nothing," which features vocals and keys from Laetitia Sadier. Again though, the Stereolab thing is almost beside the point, because what McCarthy did over their short life span was impressive enough, even without spawning one of the most important groups of the '90s. The fourth disc here is made up of three Peel Sessions and one Janice Long session recorded between 1986 and 1988. While the recordings aren't that different from the album versions, it's nice to hear them slightly rougher around the edges and it's a nice addition to an already absolutely vital collection. McCarthy were a one of a kind band that totally deserve the treatment Cherry Red has given them here, and if this collection reaches new ears and inspires more indie pop fans to write songs with a knife between their teeth, then more the better.

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