Five Men in a Hut
(A's, B's, & Rarities: 1998Ė2004)
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2006, Volume 13, #12
Written by John Metzger
Gomezís stint with Virgin Records was relatively short-lived, though having produced enough material in the span of just six years to fill four albums and a pair of rarities sets, it was a remarkably prolific era for the ensemble. Of course, it also goes without saying that, considering the sheer number of songs that the band concocted, not everything that it recorded for the label was realized completely. Much like its companion piece Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, the recently issued Five Men in a Hut (Aís, Bís, & Rarities: 1998Ė2004) makes this notion readily apparent. Part of the problem was that Gomezís fusion of Britpop with American folk and blues wasnít always as seamless as it could have been; although the trio of fully capable craftsmen who were supplying songs to the outfit never had a shortage of ideas, the manner in which these concepts were explored occasionally lacked a focal point.
Containing 36 tracks that are spread over the course of two complete discs, the retrospective compilation Five Men in a Hut (Aís, Bís, & Rarities: 1998Ė2004) undeniably is a tad overstuffed with material. Gomezís wayward experimental tendencies have the unfortunate consequence of making the distance between the stellar singles ó such as the heady, Travis-oriented inflections of Sweet Virginia; the horn-splattered Shot Shot; the sun-speckled, Oasis-on-a-country-bender Catch Me Up; and the explosive, Who-tinted pop of Silence ó somewhat unfathomable for all but the most devoted followers of the ensemble. After all, despite the varying, ambient textures that were applied to cuts like Royalty, M57, Pop Juice, and Butterfly, itís obvious why they were relegated to being collectibles. Elsewhere, the vocoder-laced ZYX is so laughable that it ought to have been left in the vault, while the outingís two previously unreleased tracks (Old China and Diskoloadout) come awfully close to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Thatís not to say that there arenít some true gems scattered throughout Five Men in a Hut, and many rightfully will cheer the inclusion of the spooky, theremin-kissed Step Inside; the melancholy Flight; the beautiful, hypnotic Best in the Town; the urgent, steady-rolling Blind; and the giddy, Doors-meets-Beatles-infused Dire Tribe. Regardless, casual fans ought to hold out for a more concise, singles-oriented collection because Five Men in a Hut (Aís, Bís, & Rarities: 1998Ė2004) is too odds-and-sods-minded for its own good.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box