Ah, Brighter. If you needed melancholy, intimate, gently heartbroken indie pop to keep you company as you curled up under your blankets and felt blue, they would never let you down. Their brief catalog is sad and blue from start to finish. An apt comparison would have to be the Field Mice if you took away any glimmer of happiness and that band's willingness to experiment. Brighter were mostly content to stay within the bounds of the sound they sketched out on their first release: ringing guitars, drum machine, melodic bass, and above all Keris Howard's almost painfully personal lyrics and bedsit perfect voice. Matinee have done indie kids everywhere a big favor by rounding up the band's three singles and one 10" EP they recorded for Sarah between 1989 and 1992. (The group also released two flexi-discs that sadly don't appear.) Each song is a steady stream of sadness, but the standout songs are the epic "Noah's Ark," the almost peppy "I Don't Think It Matters," and their musically sunniest song, "Poppy Day," which ironically boasts the lyrics "The sun rarely shines without you." You know from the resignation in his voice that the sun hadn't shone on Howard for quite a while. Oh well, his sadness is indie pop fans' gladness, and this collection brings a feeling of warm nostalgia for the old-timers who lived through it and a feeling of happy discovery for those who enjoy the bands that Brighter influenced (like most of Matinee's early-2000s roster, especially Keris Howard's group Harper Lee). 2002 brought Matinee's great Razorcuts retrospective, and then 2003 brought this superb collection, making you wonder what 2004 would bring. Maybe an Orchids box set? A Harvey Williams retrospective? Once again Matinee proves itself to be just about the best pal an indie kid could have.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra