Hothouse Flowers

Live

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Following the disappointing response to 1998's Home, Hothouse Flowers regrouped for a live album that shed some of the grungy, modern rock baggage of their previous outing and concentrated on the group's strengths: Celtic passion; Liam O'Maonlai's Van Morrison-esque caterwauling; and a handful of tunes strong enough to bear the anthemic treatment nearly every song in the band's catalog has received. Recorded at home in Dublin, as well as in Tokyo, and with the Flowers' core trio backed by just bass and drums (plus some programming), some of these tracks do sound improved from their studio versions. Of particular note are a pair of efforts from Born: a stripped-down "Pop Song" carries a rough-hewn beauty, while the already-majestic "At Last," which filches its coda from Pachelbel's Canon in D, gains even more altitude in this setting. Of course, when the bombast lacks a solid framework, songs like "Everlasting" live up to that name in a painful way. The final two tracks are apparently studio cuts (the album includes almost no credits); "Leave Your Troubles Behind" is tarted up like an outtake from Home, with its dance beat and heavily processed guitars, and the fan favorite, "Don't Go," which you'd have expected to be included in the live set, is offered instead in a clubby version that obscures most of the original's charm. The album was originally sold at shows and through the mail, and didn't see an official release, although the band planned to make it available via their website.

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