So, ten years eh! What better way to celebrate than a retrospective release? ‘Bottled At Source – The Best of The Source Years’ is the Turin Brakes way of looking back on the past ten years. The package includes a bonus disc with rare and unreleased tracks. But the first disc should not be overlooked.
All the singles are included here, which makes this a rather obvious disc. The singles got the most radio (and television) airplay and may have found a place in the heart of casual listeners. In this aspect, the compilation is more of a greatest hits than a best of (although it could be argued, of course, that these singles are also the best tracks). Generally, this singles-only approach works. Added to the singles are tracks the band liked enough, perhaps could-have-been-singles. Included here are the iconic ‘Ether Song’ and ‘Feeling Oblivion’. A notable missing track though (and perhaps an unforgivable one), is ‘Rain City’. A song that gathered quite some popularity thanks to an appearance on ‘The O.C.’ (and its soundtrack). It’s impossible to see why the song is popular enough to remain in the top spot of the Last.fm chart, yet still not popular / good enough to appear here. Interestingly, ‘Capsule’ (from the ‘Something Out Of Nothing EP’), which was used on ‘One Tree Hill’ did make the second disc (although this might have been thanks to the fan voting system). Also ‘Dark on Fire’ is included (which was used in ‘Gossip Girl’ last year).
All in all, this is a nice set of songs that should bring some listeners a déjà-vu or two. On the other hand, it can be argued that a stronger set of songs could be compiled of Turin Brakes’ back catalogue.
The most interesting for the fulltime fan must be the bonus disc, featuring b-sides and unreleased tracks. The disc starts of with a nice, intimate demo of ‘Underdog (Save Me)’, or in this case ‘Underdog (Sally)’. This version of the classic song is slower, yet features many of the components the finished version has (awesome guitar parts by Gale, for example). The main difference here are the lyrics. The first verse is almost completely different, the same goes for the chorus. Though this version makes it a bit easier to understand the ‘Underdog’ sentiment, it’s quite easy to see why they rewrote the song and changed the chorus to ‘Saaaave meeeee’ instead of ‘Saaaaaaaaallyyyyy’: the lyrics of the first verse are a bit ‘everyday’, like “I’m walking down the street and thinking about you.” Then again, the second verse (which is the same as ‘The Optimist LP’ version) makes more sense in combination with this first verse.
Next on the disc is ‘Balham to Brooklyn’, an intimate b-side, which still sounds good, even if you’ve heard it many times before. One can’t help but notice a similar subject (United States versus London). The next track, a demo of ‘Mind Over Money’, is certainly less ground-breaking than the ‘Underdog (Sally)’ demo. Though it is certainly interesting to hear the track a bit more stripped down, while some sound effects (like the closing door) are already there, it’s not that much of a ‘must-hear’.
The b-sides that follow are quite odd, perhaps due to the fan voting? Who knows… The catchy ‘Everybody Knows’ and the emotional ‘Lost and Found’ are up first, followed by the haunting ‘Where’s my Army?’ Though nice, this last one is also a less accessible track. It’s interesting that this track made the cut instead of live performed b-sides like ‘Lasso’ and perhaps ‘Jet Trail’. ‘So Long’ (yes that IS Gale singing – isn’t it awesome?) rocks things up a bit and remains one of my favourite b-sides ever. ‘Moonlight Mile’, the Rolling Stones song referenced in ‘Fishing For A Dream’, is included here, which is a nice gesture since it was previously only available on the ‘Late Night Tales’ compilation. The cover gets off to a slow start, but once the nice organ kicks in, it’s all good music.
‘Atlas Of The World’, from the ‘Fishing For A Dream’ single, is next, which remains quite bland, even when it’s not preceded by it’s a-side. It surely doesn’t compare to some older b-sides. The live version of ‘Asleep With The Fireflies’ is pretty good, while ‘Capsule’ (included in TV series ‘One Tree Hill’ last year) is a perfect example of the darkness and hope that seems to define some of the songs from the ‘Dark on Fire’ era.
The never-heard-before b-sides then! The acoustic vibe of these songs is the first thing I noticed. Though there are some strong songs here, it’s also quite clear why these songs didn’t make ‘Dark on Fire’: the songs are just really different. ‘The Seagull’ is a very strong song to start with. Classic guitar strumming and nice harmonies. Though ‘I did a very bad thing’ isn’t what I would call ‘imaginative songwriting’, the melodies are gorgeous enough to make up for that. ‘Time Machine’ is a nice little acoustic ballad, though in my humble opinion it gets a bit too dramatic when the chorus comes ‘round. It has lovely slide guitar though. This song was destined to become a ‘Stalker’ b-side, but when that release was changed to download-only, the song was shelved.
‘Cumulous Clouds’ is a better song, with a nice funky, stripped-down vibe. The chorus is, once again, very lovely. The final new track, ‘Rise’, has a nice build up, and might be the reason why ‘Lasso’ was left off this compilation. The song is a bit more electric and has some repetitive elements, but remains interesting ‘till the end. The compilation ends with the epic session track, ‘Nessun Dorma’. The track feels a bit odd, it’s style is very different, after all and it’s so epic that it’s probably more than understandable why they chose this track as the final track.
All in all ‘Bottled At Source’ makes an interesting compilation, though there are some notable missing tracks, most importantly OC-soundtrack ‘Rain City’, which remains one of Turin Brakes’ most popular works to date. The reasonable mid-price this can be bought for, ensures good value. It’s certainly nice to see most of Turin Brakes’ highlights gathered together in one place. What sets this compilation apart, though, is the fact that the band and the label actually put some thought into this ‘best of’ compilation. This has certainly paid off in the look, feel and sound of this compilation. This special limited edition will not be available forever, so if you’re going to buy this, please buy it before it is deleted. The bonus disc of b-sides and unreleased tracks is certainly worth a listen. And for the casual listener the first disc should certainly spark some ‘Ah, is that song by the same band as that other one? If only I had known!’ Well, you’re just in time for the next album, mate!