So for the past five days or so, I've been listening to one of two things: the amazing, amazing, amazing La Roux album or [more often than not] that piece on the left - the 22-disc, damn near complete Girls Aloud singles box set.
I've always had a love/hate [see what I did there?] thing with the Aloud. On one hand, they've released some of the best pop singles of the decade - "Sound of the Underground", "Love Machine", "Biology", "No Good Advice", all brilliant. On the other hand, they've released some of the worst, most unnecessarily pointless cover versions of the decade: "Jump"? "I'll Stand By You"? "I Think We're Alone Now"? I really don't think anyone was crying out for updates of those. [I used to think "I'll Stand By You" was their worst recorded moment, but then I came across their cover of Wheatus' "Teenage Dirtbag" - hardly what you'd call listenable in the first place - on the b-side to the quite lovely "Whole Lotta History" and I very quickly changed my mind.]
Anyways, the box itself cost close to $100 and was a solid 8+ week wait between order and delivery. So was it worth it?
Er, yes and no. Yes, I'm a completion freak and having pretty much everything all in one place is amazing. This box also marks the CD debut of a solid chunk of tracks that were previously digital, promo or vinyl [usually picture disc] only, so that's nice as well. And who doesn't love a good megamix or four? On the flip side [see, I did it again], many of the whopping 151 tracks that make up the box don't exactly beg for a second listen. Especially on the singles for the second, third and fourth albums when pretty much all of the remixing duties were handled by some faction of the Xenomania team - who produced the singles in the first place - things tend to get a bit tedious. There is a bonus disc of previously unreleased tracks - plus - however it is only 8 tracks - minus - and a good chunk of those 8 are just alternate lyric versions. Bonus disc fail.
That said, there are some gems buried in here - many pretty readily available on a sub-$5 CD single eBay or the Amazon marketplace, but that's besides the point - and it is kind of a badge of honor to be able to say "I made it through the Girls Aloud box set and lived to tell the tale."
If anything, it's nice to finally have one of their top 3 moments - rare for such a group, a picture disc vinyl-only b-side, the early-90's dance-act-with-female-guest-vocalist-esque "Memory Of You" - in CD quality. [Even if the bass is a little less exciting in HQ.]
As an art object, A+. As something you'll want to pull out and listen to over and over....notsomuch. Oh well.
10 choice cuts:
"Androgynous Girls" [b-side to "Love Machine"]
"Memory Of You" [b-side to "The Loving Kind"]
"Nobody But You" [b-side to "Biology"]
"It's Your Dynamite" [b-side to "Untouchable"]
"Girls Allowed [Almighty Mix]" [b-side to "Jump" - total club cheese but it's tolerable that early on, plus it's one of their finest non-single tracks to begin with]
"Some Kind of Miracle [Illicit Mix]" [previously unreleased, on 'The Rarities Disc']
"Life Got Cold [29 Palms Mix]"
"Biology [Benitez Beats]"
"Girls Aloud Megamix" [b-side to "Something Kinda Ooooh"]
"Whole Lotta History [Acoustic Version]" [quite lovely version of an underrated single]
bonus: "I'll Stand By You [Gravitas Vocal Dub Mix]" and "See The Day [Soundhouse Masterblaster Mix]" [completely ridiclous clubbed to death overhauls of two snorefests]
Things to avoid:
Any cover version that isn't "Girls On Film"
Any Tony Lamezma remix after your first two - "The Show" and "Love Machine" pop up first and they're probably your best bet.
"Girls on 45 Volume 2" - it just doesn't work for some reason, though the other megamix and album medleys are good fun
The edit/dub versions of the remixes - especially during the 'Out of Control'-era when they're all stacked in a row. Nice to have, yes. Nice to listen to back-to-back-to-back, no.
The interviews on the "Sound of the Underground" and "The Show" discs - all they do is reinforce my idea that the girls only wanted to be famous and became pop stars because they happened upon the opportunity, not because they care anything about music.