1. The Who, Odds & Sods
While The Who has released some concept albums with fairly loose frameworks, those albums couldn’t flex far enough to accommodate some of the band’s best songs. The collapse of Pete Townshend’s sprawling science-fiction narrative Lifehouse, as well as a subsequent rock opera called Rock Is Dead—Long Live Rock!, left a handful of gems buried in the rubble. They first came to light in 1974 with the release of Odds & Sods, which—even in its expanded, less-cohesive present form—stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the band’s second-rank albums. At this remove, it’s hard to fathom why “Pure And Easy” didn’t make the cut for Who’s Next, or remember that the anthemic “Long Live Rock” was first released on a collection of non-album detritus. There’s a substantial amount of chaff as well, including a version of “Under My Thumb” that inadvertently omits the lead guitar part, but it grants listeners the chance to hear a band in the process of discovering itself, from the bluesy “I’m The Face” (released when The Who was still The High Numbers) to “Glow Girl,” latter cannibalized for Tommy’s “It’s A Boy.” More than a collection of overly familiar greatest hits, Odds & Sods offers an auditory path into The Who’s burgeoning greatness, as well as sampling the excess and lack of focus that eventually laid it low.
2. The Smiths, Louder Than Bombs
Over its short existence, The Smiths released several essential singles that didn’t make it onto proper albums, including “Sheila Take A Bow” and “Shakespeare’s Sister.” Those and many, many other songs are gathered on Louder Than Bombs, which also adds B-sides like “Stretch Out And Wait” and “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.” (Hard to believe that song was a B-side, but that’s true of pretty much the entire Smiths catalog.) Only completists will want to pick up The World Won’t Listen, which is a slightly inferior version of Louder Than Bombs notable only because it includes a couple of exclusive takes.
3. Morrissey, Bona Drag
After jumping out of The Smiths with the excellent solo debut Viva Hate, Morrissey decided to release a string of singles instead of another album. Since most of the world wasn’t buying singles at that time, the best of those A- and B-sides were gathered as Bona Drag. The disc features two Viva Hate tracks (“Suedehead” and “Everyday Is Like Sunday”) and a bunch of other songs (“Lucky Lisp,” “Disappointed”) that remain among his best. Bona Drag also plays like an album rather than a collection of scattershot recordings.
4. Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991)
Bob Dylan’s vast archive of unreleased material was no secret when this three-disc box set appeared in 1991. The track selection even had its share of familiar material in the form of songs made famous by others, like “Farewell Angelina” and “I’ll Keep It With Mine.” That didn’t make the set any less astonishing, however. Filled with alternate versions of famous songs—“Like A Rolling Stone” in waltz time being the most extreme example—and largely unheard tracks that could easily stand alongside Dylan’s best work, it amounted to nothing less than a shadow history of the man’s career. Some moments even outdid the official record. “Every Grain Of Sand,” for instance, captures a more tender side to Dylan’s Christian period than usually made it onto the often-hectoring albums from that period.
5. Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards
The 2006 box set Orphans retrieves Tom Waits recordings previously dispensed to soundtrack and tribute albums dating back as early as the ’80s and places them alongside never-released tracks from the same span. While three discs of leftovers and rarities might seem excessive, the collection makes it work by bringing thematic order to the seeming chaos. Divided into uptempo numbers (Brawlers), ballads (Bawlers), and more experimental pieces (Bastards), each set captures a lot of good stuff that might have otherwise fallen through the cracks, or ended up lost on the soundtrack to Shrek 2. While longtime Waits fans will get the most out of Orphans, many of the songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a greatest-hits album. If nothing else, the collection proves Waits sometimes does his best work writing for others, whether he’s providing the theme to Roberto Benigni’s The Tiger And The Snow (“You Can Never Hold Back Spring”) or penning a song for Johnny Cash (“Down There By The Train”). Also fun: Putting together a “Tom Waits Sings…” playlist from the covers here, which range from the Ramones to Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs’ “Heigh Ho.”
6. Tindersticks, Donkeys 92-97
Even the double-disc reissues of Tindersticks’ first five albums and a similarly enhanced best-of can’t encompass all the non-album goodness released by this orchestral-minded Nottingham, UK outfit during its most prolific phase. Concentrating on quality rather than quantity, this modest 12-track collection rounds up A-sides, alternate versions, and overlooked strays, producing a surprisingly cohesive disc that’s also less pricy than many of the group’s out-of-print albums. Tops are a version of Pavement’s “Here,” sung in Stuart Staples’ bass croak and taken from a Sub Pop single; a B-side cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”; and “Marriage Made In Heaven,” which finds Staples dueting opposite the charmingly unsteady warble of Isabella Rossellini. Less essential is the French-language version of “No More Affairs,” retitled “Plus De Liaisons,” whose phonetic awkwardness must have made things uncomfortable when Staples relocated to Limousin in France.
7-8. The Walkabouts, Death Valley Days: Lost Songs And Rarities 1985 To 1995 and Drunken Soundtracks: Lost Songs And Rarities 1995-2001
It’s a lonely lot being an American fan of The Walkabouts. Although the band originally hails from Seattle, its dark-tinged roots music has found far greater favor in Europe. The Walkabouts are more likely to play live in Slovenia, where singer Chris Eckman now lives, than anywhere in the lower 48. Knowing where to start with their formidable back catalogue, which goes back a quarter-century, isn’t easy, but apart from the 2002 best-of Watermarks, these two collections are as good a place as any. Of particular use for neophytes trying to get a handle on The Walkabouts’ sound is the sprawling selection of cover songs, which neatly sketches the boundaries by running the gamut from Jacques Brel to Neil Young. Townes Van Zandt himself would have given a tipsy thumbs-up to the lurching take on “Sanatorium Blues,” while Carla Torgerson’s breathy harmonies add a note of grace to the fragile melancholy of Big Star’s “Big Black Car.” The Walkabouts don’t just make these songs their own, they claim a place for their originals right alongside them.
9. Suede, Sci-Fi Lullabies
Like The Smiths, Suede seemed determined to carry on the great British tradition of releasing singles that worked like miniature albums, two- or three-track releases sporting B-sides as strong, or sometimes stronger, than the tracks they supported. As good as any of Suede’s proper albums, Sci-Fi Lullabies collects B-sides released between 1992 and 1997, a tumultuous, prolific period in which the band seemed on the verge of defining British music for the 1990s. That didn’t happen, but Suede’s pre-burnout legacy remains remarkably strong, and decidedly incomplete without such flipside classics as “My Insatiable One” and “The Living Dead.”
10. Archers Of Loaf, The Speed Of Cattle
Archers Of Loaf, the raucous, more straightforward cousin to Pavement in the ’90s indie-rock boom, released just four regular albums, but had enough great stray songs to pack The Speed Of Cattle. A Merge Records single (“What Did You Expect?” backed with “Ethel Merman”) is included alongside a pair of rare killer tracks of wildly varying length: the swift, poppy “Mutes In The Steeple” and the epic, lumbering “Bacteria.”
11. R.E.M., Dead Letter Office
There’s some pretty dreadful stuff on this R.E.M. rarities collection, a contract-obligation-filler that appeared toward the end of the band’s tenure on the indie label I.R.S. in 1987. (For starters, they should have stayed far away from the Aerosmith song catalog.) But it remains a worthwhile album both because it sent a new generation of fans out in search of the Velvet Underground and Pylon originals that inspired R.E.M.’s cover versions, and because of songs like “Ages Of You” and “Bandwagon,” which deserve a life beyond their stint in ’80s college-town jukeboxes. (The CD version also includes the masterful debut EP Chronic Town, which ups the collection from “pretty good” to “indispensable.”)
12. Pete Townshend, Scoop
The Who practically invented the idea of the “odds and sods” collection with Odds & Sods, but Pete Townshend, the band’s chief songwriter-guitarist, took the B-sides/outtakes/ephemera concept one step further with Scoop, an eclectic collection of home recordings that cast the previous 20 years of his career in a different light. With The Who, Townshend frequently struggled to reconcile his deeply personal lyrics with his penchant for grandiose concepts, while on his solo albums, he frequently vomited the contents of his subconscious over state-of-the-art pop. Scoop shows a more relaxed Townshend, kicking around ideas without the sense of pomposity or commercial urgency that would kick in later. In addition to capturing some well-known Who songs in early forms, Scoop collects examples of Townshend toying with jazz-fusion, synth-pop, and folk-blues, and contains material intended for The Who’s problematic Lifehouse project, including the lovely ballad “Mary.” Scoop doesn’t top The Who at its best, but it’s arguably the best record Townshend ever released under his own name.
13. Bruce Springsteen, Tracks
For the first quarter-century of his career, Bruce Springsteen was as prolific as he was meticulous, which meant that for every one of his thoughtfully assembled albums, he would record hours of material just as good or better. Even when Springsteen finally opened his vaults for the four-CD Tracks box set, he under-filled the discs, leaving a lot of fan-favorite outtakes for the bootleg market. Nevertheless, Tracks holds a significant place in the Springsteen canon, documenting the progression of his style by collecting the songs he cast off. The E Street Shuffle outtakes alone are a treasure trove, with the jumped-up R&B workout “Thundercrack” and the organ-and-sax-driven rocker “Seaside Bar Song” sounding like a road map to Born To Run and beyond. And the River outtakes show how The E Street Band developed into an ace unit, capable of matching Springsteen as he generated one brisk, rockabilly-influenced song after another in the late ’70s. Tracks even illustrates how fallow Springsteen’s creativity became in the ’90s, when he was holed up with session musicians in Los Angeles. In short: the set tells a story, and though it might seem like it has an unhappy ending, Tracks eventually paved the way for Springsteen’s reunion with The E Street Band, and the late-career revival we’re all still enjoying.
14. Pavement, Westing (By Musket And Sextant)
There’s a lot of noise and half-song chaos on Westing (By Musket And Sextant), but the 23-track disc offers a clear snapshot of the path to Pavement’s classic debut full-length, Slanted And Enchanted. Many of the songs drift off into static-y nothingness, but enough are great—including “Box Elder,” the instrumental “Heckler Spray,” and the killer “Debris Slide”—to make the compilation stand up as something of a lost classic.
15. Jawbreaker, Etc.
Beloved punk band Jawbreaker released four albums in the space of seven years, but some of its finest work isn’t on any of them. Like any good DIY outfit, Jawbreaker appeared on a slew of compilations and split singles, many of which quickly went out of print (and often fetched big bucks on eBay). Etc. collects them all, with liner notes from each band member: old favorites (“Equalized,” “Caroline,” “Better Half”), classic non-album tracks (“Kiss The Bottle,” “Sea Foam Green,” “Housesitter,” “Sister”), a bevy of excellent unreleased songs (“First Step,” “Friends Back East,” “Friendly Fire”), and more. Beyond that, Etc.’s chronological track listing tells Jawbreaker’s rise and fall in 20 songs, from humble beginnings (“Shield Your Eyes”) to the backlash from its decision to sign to a major label (“Friendly Fire”). The bloated, major-label-funded version of “Boxcar” provides a fitting coda.
16. Pet Shop Boys, Alternative
Like many B-sides collections, the Pet Shop Boys’ 1995 double-CD roundup Alternative has been rendered semi-redundant, since many of its selections eventually appeared on deluxe editions of the Boys’ albums early in the ’00s. Nevertheless, the fans who swear by Alternative not merely as a great album in itself, but as the London duo’s best full-length, have a point: in sheer numbers, it has more great Pet Shop Boys songs than any other album. Some of them rank with the Boys’ best: “Your Funny Uncle,” “I Get Excited (You Get Excited Too),” “We All Feel Better In The Dark,” “Too Many People,” and the immortal “Shameless,” Neil Tennant’s ultimate statement on one of his favorite topics, the lure of celebrity: “We will do anything to get our 15 minutes of fame/We have no integrity/We’re ready to crawl.”
17. Jawbox, My Scrapbook Of Fatal Accidents
Until the 2009 reissue of 1994’s fantastic For Your Own Special Sweetheart, Jawbox’s My Scrapbook Of Fatal Accidents was the only easy place to find “68,” a B-side that eventually became a fan favorite—reason enough to buy the compilation. Scrapbook collects numerous live tracks (a Peel session, a festival) along with alternate versions of album tracks, unreleased songs, and a cluster of covers. Cover songs tend to occupy the least essential parts of a band’s catalog—along with that peak of artistic self-indulgence, the covers album—but Jawbox injects enough of its own personality into them, especially The Big Boys’ “Sound On Sound” and The Cure’s “Meathook,” to make the tracks compelling on their own.
18. Fucked Up, Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009
Any punk band that spent enough time in the underground has likely left a trail of compilation tracks, singles, and other miscellany in its wake. The phenomenon was especially pronounced in the ’80s and ’90s, though progressive hardcore band Fucked Up proves the tradition hasn’t disappeared in the digital age. The sprawling collection Couple Tracks: Singles 2002-2009 catalogs the band’s evolution from more straightforward hardcore to template-breaking punk phenomenon across 25 tracks, including demos, alternate versions, and live material. With Fucked Up’s future perennially in doubt, fans have no choice but to treat this as another full album, not an odds-and-ends compilation.
19. Prince, The B-Sides (from The Hits/The B-Sides box set)
Well of course: Prince was the greatest recording artist of the ’80s, with a simply daunting string of classic albums, singles, and B-sides. In a way, it’s too bad The B-Sides hasn’t been made available away from its parent three-CD box set of singles, because a generation of ’90s alternabrats who dismissed him out of hand as a cheesy relic would have a CD to guide them through his cooler secret history: early new-wave squawk like “Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)” and “Horny Toad,” the oddest holiday record in R&B (“Another Lonely Christmas,” about getting drunk on daiquiris when your loved one has died), weird proto-ambient (“God”), good jokes (“La, La, La, He, He, Hee”), and a handful of what-do-you-mean-these-weren’t-A-sides in the all-time dance bombs “Irresistible Bitch” (Ice Cube’s favorite Prince song, naturally) and “Erotic City,” and the brooding “17 Days,” the flip of “When Doves Cry,” and just a notch below its level. As a whole, The B-Sides is slightly messy, but still more consistent than almost any of Prince’s post-1993 albums.
20. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Flashback
Musically, what you see is what you will always get with Joan Jett: a live show will feature everyone’s favorite hits, a handful of other decent things, and precisely the kind of energy one expects from maybe the friendliest hard-rock icon ever. So there’s no question that the 14 years’ worth of material—B-sides, live versions, outtakes—on Flashback coheres. But Jett’s music is best when it’s a little frayed, and that’s what Flashback delivers, from the radio-unfriendly version of The Rolling Stones’ “Star Star” (a.k.a. “Starfucker”) to a live “Cherry Bomb” with L7 to “Activity Grrrl,” her collaboration with Bikini Kill. And really, is there anyone better suited to covering Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel”?
21. Dinosaur Jr, Whatever’s Cool With Me
It seemed almost scandalous that two of Dinosaur Jr.’s best songs, delivered near the height of the band’s commercial peak—“Whatever’s Cool With Me” and “Not You Again”—weren’t available on an album, but just as part of this eight-song odds-and-ends set. That’s since been remedied, with both included on a greatest-hits set, but this disc is still worth tracking down for “Sideways” and a cover of David Bowie’s “Quick Sand.”
22. They Might Be Giants, Miscellaneous T
Before they became the geek-rock superstars they are today, John Flansburgh and John Linnell were one of the better singles bands of the alternative era. Drawing from four of their early singles, the B-sides collection Miscellaneous T actually outshines its origins more than once: the nasty payola anthem “Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal,” the bitter-romance ode “I’ll Sink Manhattan,” and the goofy, likeable “The Famous Polka” are all A-list material. There album also contains some terrific new takes on previously issued material; the Josh Fried remix of “The World’s Address” is a winner, sounding for all the world like a future echo of Beck, and the alternate version of “Kiss Me, Son Of God”—a crazed bit of class warfare filtered through Frank Sinatra and chanson—is far superior to the original.
23. Iron Maiden, Best Of The B’Sides (from the Eddie’s Archive box)
A double-CD set released as part of the sprawling Eddie’s Archive box set, Best Of The B’Sides came out almost 30 years into the band’s career, but it was worth it for fans. Not only does it feature a handful of excellent original songs that could easily have made it onto their official studio releases (including “Invasion,” “Judgement Day,” and the killer lead-off song “Burning Ambition”), but it’s an absolute treasure trove of cover versions. A band with as many chops as Maiden can’t help but collect a bunch of swell covers over the years, and Best Of The B’Sides puts the best on display, including top-notch interpretations of Jethro Tull’s “Cross-Eyed Mary,” Free’s “I’m A Mover,” UFO’s “Doctor Doctor,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown.” As if all that weren’t enough, there are also blistering live versions of “Remember Tomorrow” and “Wasted Years.” The set does exactly what such comps are supposed to do: show listeners what a band is capable of outside the confines of the album.
24. Oasis, The Masterplan
During its ’90s heyday, Oasis had a simultaneously frustrating and exciting habit of relegating some of its best songs to B-sides, like an epically snotty cover of “I Am The Walrus” and the majestic “The Masterplan.” Oasis was never shy about stealing from its heroes: on “Acquiesce,” the Gallaghers righteously borrow from their own “Cigarettes & Alcohol” for a killer track that would stand out even on the band’s oft-transcendent first two albums. This squirreling away of great songs was bad news for people who bought Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, but good news for completists and consumers of its odds-and-ends collection The Masterplan, an essential document of a bygone era when the increasingly irrelevant band had more catchy songs than it knew what to do with.
25. Smashing Pumpkins, Pisces Iscariot
Whatever synapse in the human brain is responsible for self-editing, Billy Corgan obviously doesn’t have it: There’s nary a half-sketched musical idea that the Smashing Pumpkins leader hasn’t committed to tape, then buried on some vinyl-only Japanese import. Of all the myriad collections of cast-offs that couldn’t be squeezed onto the band’s already-blubbery official albums, Pisces Iscariot is the most consistent, keeping fickle new fans interested and ably filling the gap between Siamese Dream and the double-stuffed Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. Like most of the group’s pre-Adore albums, the songs are split between the slick-and-shiny side of grunge (“Frail & Bedazzled,” “Hello Kitty Kat”), mellow dream-pop (“Soothe,” “Obscured”), and nitrous-oxide psychedelia (“Starla”), any of which could have stood toe-to-toe with anything on Siamese Dream. Of course, there are also several go-nowhere duds (the listless “Blue”; James Iha’s AM Gold soft-rock pastiche “Blew Away”), as well as the first appearance of Corgan’s famously stream-of-consciousness prattle in the liner notes. (“Kerry and D’arcy tried to talk me into putting this on the album and I was tempted, but no, I just couldn’t see it in there amongst the tall trees. Not as much shade or room for the little ones.”) But thanks to the inclusion of squeaks-and-all demos and left-field covers—most notably, Corgan’s melodramatic take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”—Pisces Iscariot feels more like enthusiastic over-sharing than self-indulgence, from a time when Corgan still recognized the difference.
26. Nirvana, Incesticide
Self-deprecating to a fault, Kurt Cobain was prone to dismissing his work as just a synthesis of his many influences. Sometimes that was tongue-in-cheek, as when he described Nirvana’s sound as “like The Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag.” Occasionally it was confessional, as when he admitted “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was his attempt to “rip off the Pixies.” Most often, it was highly reverential, as with the liner notes he wrote for this stopgap compilation of demos, alternate takes, and BBC radio sessions—a gushing valentine to semi-obscure groups he loved, which, among other things, single-handedly led to the rediscovery of The Raincoats. But Incesticide did more than just name-drop: It outlined all the odd musical scraps that made up Nirvana’s unique yet heavily indebted sound—everything from its sludgy, Dale Crover-backed earliest demos to half-serious covers of quirky Vaselines and Devo tunes to the unabashed power-pop melodies of “Sliver” and “Been A Son.” As such, it’s an essential Rosetta stone for understanding the band, and even better, it culminates in what may be the band’s finest moment: the lacerating “Aneurysm,” in which Nirvana joins all those disparate, sparring voices into a single primal scream.
27. Danko Jones, I’m Alive And On Fire
Lots of bands use up their first and greatest creative burst on their debut albums, but Canadian power trio Danko Jones nearly exhausted itself with singles and stray songs in the six (!) years between forming and releasing a proper album, 2002’s Born A Lion. Luckily, the group captured the early energy on various singles and EPs, which are conveniently collected on the bruising, excellent I’m Alive And On Fire. Think Rocket From The Crypt, Kiss, and Motörhead, with a killer sense of humor. Danko is still around and rocking, but the group has yet to match the power of early songs like “Sex Change Shake” and “New Woman.”
28. Modest Mouse, Building Nothing Out Of Something
Isaac Brock is the rare songwriter who isn’t limited by his pet lyrical obsessions, and those obsessions—metaphysics, automobiles, and twisted slices of blue-collar life, to name a few—have helped tie three collections of Modest Mouse’s non-album tracks into cohesive wholes. The first and best of those collections, 2000’s Building Nothing Out Of Something, dusts off the stray killers from the band’s days on the Pacific Northwest indie circuit, providing an effective bookend for that era of the band, as well as a decent entry point to its early, lo-fi days for those who jumped on after The Moon And Antarctica. Standouts like the loping “Never Ending Math Equation” and a heartbreaking take on Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” capture elements of the band that didn’t make the major-label jump—Brock’s turntablist-esque guitar scratching and Nicole Johnson’s glazed-over background vocals, respectively—but lines like “I’m on a road shaped like a figure 8 / I’m going nowhere but I’m guaranteed to be late” prove in an appropriately paradoxical fashion that the more things change about Modest Mouse, the more they stay the same.
29. Versus, Dead Leaves
One of the best indie-rock bands from the ’90s, Versus was also sorely underappreciated, to the point where not a lot of people seemed to notice when the group fizzled out around the turn of the millennium. Led by Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups, and featuring a couple of other Baluyut brothers, the New York outfit—which lost its steam when Richard moved to San Francisco—made several great records, not the least of which was Dead Leaves, a 1995 collection of 7-inches, compilation contributions, and unreleased material. Technically, the band’s second full-length, Dead Leaves, feels like a real record because the 12 tracks were recorded during two concentrated periods of time, and not a single track reeks of being a throwaway. So while some of early indie rock’s shining moments haven’t aged that well, Dead Leaves stands tall on a set highlighted by “Tin Foil Star,” “Crazy,” and the one-two punch of “Bright Light” and “Merry-Go-Round.” (That last is one of the band’s catchiest numbers, and is also a little silly: It’s an anti-office-drone song in which Baluyut declares that he doubts he could ever wear a business suit or “drive the company car and eat at the cafeteria.”) Baluyut moved back to New York a few years ago and has officially put the band back together with Toups, though due to the high bar they raised with Dead Leaves (and later, with Two Cents Plus Tax), it remains to be seen whether they can make good on the promise that their next record will be their best.
30. The Jam, Extras
As great as The Jam’s hybrid of punk, mod, and soul is, leader Paul Weller rarely wrote an album without a couple of clunkers. Singles were always The Jam’s stronger point—and that’s proved by Extras, a collection of B-sides and demos that in many ways eclipses about half the band’s full-length catalog. In particular, the latter-day B-side “The Great Depression” stands as one of the best, most bitterly catchy tracks the group ever recorded, and “Shopping” is a jazzy ballad that presaged Weller’s subsequent project, The Style Council. And while the staunchly traditionalist Weller was never shy about putting covers on The Jam’s albums, some of his greatest versions of other people’s songs—including gorgeous, often unexpected renditions of classics like Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” The Chi-Lites’ “Stoned Out Of My Mind,” and The Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing”—can be found here.
31. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, B-Sides & Rarities
Consistency has never been a problem for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Yet it’s still surprising how well the sprawling, 56-track B-Sides & Rarities holds up as a work of its own. Spanning 1984 to 2004, the set gathers hastily sketched outtakes and even studio improv, as well as the typical B-sides, acoustic versions, radio sessions, soundtrack contributions, and tribute-album throwaways. Only none of it sounds thrown away: The traditional song “The Willow Garden” is given fresh gravitas and deathly beauty, and the group’s rendition of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Helpless” is haunting enough to stop hearts. But the overlooked, off-the-cuff Cave originals, like the perversely upbeat “Good Good Day” and the Dirty 3-backed “Time Jesum Transeuntum Et Non Riverentum,” are what make B-Sides & Rarities the equal or better of just about any Bad Seeds full-length.
32-33. The Wedding Present, Tommy (1985-1987) and Singles 1989-1991
British band The Wedding Present has released as many compilation albums as it has proper ones, and each offers plenty of aggressive, jangly pop that can’t be found anywhere else. Tommy collects the earliest recordings with the fastest strumming on songs like “Go Out And Get ’Em Boy!”, while the more pragmatically named Singles 1989-1991 double-disc is the only place to find the band’s best song: “Crawl.”
34. Belle & Sebastian, Push Barman To Open Old Wounds
Riches await those who can get past the confounding title of double-disc collection from 2005. Always as concerned with putting out quality singles and EPs during its prolific heyday, Belle & Sebastian released an embarrassment of great material between 1997 and 2001. There are some throwaway tracks here and there, but songs like "Dog On Wheels" and "Put The Book Back On The Shelf" have justifiably become as beloved by the band's fans as the material on their proper albums.
35. The Clash, Black Market Clash
The Clash always had more ideas than fit neatly on its albums, and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. When the group tried to squeeze them all in at once, the result was the overstuffed Sandinista. Previously, The Clash did a brisk business churning out B-sides that showed the group’s appreciation for R&B and reggae, and tried out notions odd even by its genre-defying standards. 1980’s Black Market Clash compiled nine tracks that were at the time unavailable to American fans, including a great cover of Toots And The Maytals “Pressure Drop” and the immortal single “Bankrobber” (joined here to its dub remix, “Robber Dub.”) A later CD version, Super Black Market Clash, expanded the album to 21 tracks and gathered even more B-sides, while dropping some tracks subsequently available on other collections. Confusing? Yes. But both albums show it often pays to hunt down the rare stuff.