Paul Weller wrapped up his contract with Go/Island/Universal Records with the release of 2000's Heliocentreic, leaving for the appropriately named indie label Independiente. There was one piece of unfinished business, however -- a collection of the B-sides and rarities he released during his tenure at the label, hence the 2003 appearance of Fly on the Wall: B Sides & Rarities. Like any other popular or semipopular musicians of the '90s, Weller released a lot of material that never wound up on a proper album, as he had to populate the B-sides of multi-part singles in both his United Kingdom homeland and in parts of Asia and Australia, and he also contributed to many tribute and charity albums. So, there was a lot to round up, and Fly on the Wall gathers everything of note (there are few remixes that didn't make the cut) on a generous triple-disc, 39-track minibox set. Given the patchwork nature of the set -- it's a hodgepodge of non-LP songs, live versions, demos, remixes, and covers -- it's not entirely surprising that it's a bit of an uneven listen, particularly when it bogs down in remixes, but there are a few small gems on the first two discs to keep interest. The standout, though, is the third disc, consisting entirely of covers Weller cut in the '90s, and given its own separate title ("Button Downs") and artwork (an allusion to David Bowie's Pin Ups, featuring model Kate Moss as the female). Weller's choice of covers is fairly predictable, fitting right into the vibe of Wild Wood -- Traffic's "Feelin' Alright," Tim Hardin's "Black Sheep Boy," the Beatles' "Sexy Sadie" and "Don't Let Me Down," Rod Stewart's interpretation of "I'd Rather Go Blind" -- but he gives impassioned performances, and sometimes changes the arrangements in subtle, satisfying ways. If the album was available separately, it'd be a four-star recommendation, but as part of Fly on the Wall it should be enough to convince those on the fence to commit to this collector-bait box set.
Fly on the Wall: B-Sides & Rarities 1991-2000 Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Track Listing - Disc 3