Delving into the dusty archives of your back catalogue to promote a tour has developed into a common trend, especially for those artists whose heydays are becoming increasingly distant memories. Even a group as revered as the Pixies aren’t too proud to step back in time 20 years to flog concert tickets, although that is little surprise given that they were happy to announce they only reformed for the money.
In one way you could look at it as a sad symbol of a career in decline, or even shameless exploitation. But the first rule of the entertainment game is ‘give the people what they want’, and rest assured few punters will be complaining about the prospect of hearing their favourite album played live.
The practice hasn’t escaped Scottish bands. Last December, Idlewild enjoyed five sell-out gigs in a row at King Tut’s, playing a different album in full each night. That amounted to 1,500 fans in total, almost certainly more than Idlewild could draw in a ‘normal’ one-off appearance in Glasgow these days.
Four years ago, Belle & Sebastian played their 1996 classic album If You’re Feeling Sinister in its entirety at The Barbican in London, although the motivation for that show might surprise some.
Frontman Stuart Murdoch loathes the original recording and even contemplated redoing it long after it had been released. But rather than remain frustrated at his inability to rewrite pop history, Murdoch realised his band could do the Sinister songs just as much justice by recording the live performance and releasing it on CD. Which is precisely what Belle & Sebastian did.
The whole issue got us thinking about some of our own favourite records that we’d pay to hear live – on the proviso that the band didn’t spoil it by playing any of their other songs. So below you have The Pop Cop’s top six one-album wonders. Let us know if you agree or if there are any you think we’ve missed.
Stereophonics – Word Gets Around (1997) (1st album of 6)
You’d be hard-pushed to name a more disappointing career than Stereophonics’s. How could a band who made an album this affecting spend the rest of their lives churning out mindless dirges like some sort of walking rock cliché? Perhaps it’s not Kelly Jones’ fault that the doors opened by Word Gets Around exposed him to a world of tour buses, foreign hotels and journalists – killing stone-dead the creative inspiration that made their debut so special. Five Stereophonics albums and 12 years since its release, they’ve never come close to bettering Local Boy In The Photograph.
Stereophonics – Goldfish Bowl
Mansun – Six (1998) (2nd of 3)
This album has to go down as a lost classic. The fact that hardly anyone paid notice of it could perhaps be attributed to the fact that Mansun were a dartboard for the critics, who regarded them and their often-obsessive fans as a dangerous cult. It would be easy to be put off by the sheer pretentiousness of what is essentially a 70-minute concept record, but behind the wilfully obscure lyrics teeming with literary references and OTT artwork is one of the most original and adventurous albums ever created by a mainstream guitar band.
Mansun – Special/Blown It (Delete as Appropriate)
Shack – HMS Fable (1999) (3rd of 5)
The remarkable thing about Shack is that they came out of nowhere to produce this stunning album, then drifted back into obscurity just as quickly. There are no fancy tricks or studio wizardry with HMS Fable – at the heart of its mastery is nothing more complicated than classic songwriting in the vain of REM, Crowded House or The Beatles, their fellow Liverpudlians. Most albums have a standout track but this one has two, with Cornish Town every bit the equal to the much-loved Comedy.
Shack – Cornish Town
Six By Seven – The Closer You Get(2000) (2nd of 8)
The first time you hear The Closer You Get it rattles you like an iron to the face and convinces you that Six By Seven are going to be world-beaters. That feeling is soon wiped out by hindsight and the knowledge that the Nottingham band’s subsequent six albums got sucked into a black hole of quality control. But back to the golden child. It’s brash, arrogant and the fuzzy guitars thunder along like F1 supercars, the breathlessness heightened by the absence of pauses between the album’s monstrously loud tracks.
Six By Seven – Eat Junk Become Junk
Elbow – Asleep In The Back (2001) (1st of 4)
This is the album that should be hailed as Elbow’s masterpiece, not the bafflingly overrated The Seldom Seen Kid – it’s just a shame that few people fully appreciated Asleep In The Back or Elbow at the time. The awesome Newborn showed the Manchester band could do angry and epic in the same breath, but the real gem is Scattered Black And Whites, a Streets Of Philadelphia-esque album closer with brushed drums, rippling piano and untouchable beauty.
Elbow – Scattered Black And Whites
Stephen Malkmus – Stephen Malkmus (2001) (1st of 4)
There’s no question Pavement had their moments of genius, but Malkmus’ first solo album after the band’s fractured split is an infinitely more pleasurable listen than most of what went before. Rejoicing in its kitchen-sink approach to quirky pop, the self-titled album is unashamedly commercial and stupidly fun. Unfortunately, the American’s output has been forgettable ever since.
Stephen Malkmus – Phantasies