Closet-cleaning can be tedious, particularly if the closet belongs to someone else: When bands do itoften to fulfill a contract, or to give fans something to buy between proper albumsthe resulting collections tend to be sub-par stopgaps packed with tracks best left to diehards and downloaders. The Duluth, Minnesota band Low bucks the trend with the fierce grace only a pioneering sadcore group could muster, filling a box set with songs that, for the most part, can stand chin-up with the group's stellar catalog.
A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief (named, presumably, after the old Craftmatic Adjustable Bed slogan) gets off to a fans-only start with lengthy demos from Low's earliest sessions, but quickly gathers steam with a wealth of studio outtakes from 1996's defining The Curtain Hits The Cast. Of particular note is the gentle "Tomorrow One," which wouldn't have matched Curtain's tone, but stands magnificently on its own: In the set's offhand liner notes, the band notes that fans frequently requested the song live, even though it wasn't widely available.
Then there's the staple of every odds-and-ends compilation, the cover version: Low tackles a dozen disparate songs, from John Denver to Jandek. The best of the bunch is "I Started A Joke," made famous by the pre-disco Bee Gees, and rendered even more heartbreaking by singer-drummer Mimi Parker. Also included: versions of Pink Floyd's "Fearless" and The Smiths' "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," two songs that couldn't have sprung from more dissimilar places, but still make perfect sense when drawn at half-speed by Low. And, though they aren't exactly covers, the end of disc two features three hidden tracks of the group performing its own songs in the style of The Misfitsfast, mean, and silly.
Lifetime's fourth disc follows the audio portion's lead, cramming an incredible amount of audiovisual material onto a two-sided DVD. The three fly-on-the-wall documentaries will probably appeal only to diehards, but some of the band's videos (particularly the gorgeously colored "Shame" and "Over The Ocean") deserve a longer life than one appearance on 120 Minutes. Like practically everything Low does, they're made with a smart subtlety and delicate grace that doesn't scream for attention. Unlike the typical odds-and-ends set, A Lifetime Of Temporary Relief could bring more fans into the fold, and it'll surely satiate those who've been listening closely to some of the last decade's most rewarding music.