Closer to the Stars: Best of the Twin/Tone Yearsby Soul Asylum
Before they signed with A&M Records for the 1988 album Hang Time (and later broke big in 1992 with Grave Dancer's Union after jumping ship to Columbia), Soul Asylum were generally seen as the "little brother band" of the Minneapolis rock scene compared with relative heavyweights the Replacements and Hüsker Dü. That feeling is born out in listening to their early records, though not in a bad way -- there's a young man's insouciance in the hardcore-inspired blathering of Say What You Will, Clarence that's genuinely winning, and on Made to Be Broken and While You Were Out, their ambition sometimes outstripped their abilities, but the "dammit, I'm serious" passion and anthemic guitar bashing were the work of a band eager to take on the world, whether they were ready or not. Though Soul Asylum became major stars for a while during the early-90s grunge explosion, their later fame never translated into greater recognition for their first three albums, which is too bad -- while Hang Time was the album where the band's elements really came together properly in the studio, listening to the material on Twin/Tone made it clear they were already on the road to something special. Closer to the Stars: Best of the Twin/Tone Years is a 16-track overview of Soul Asylum's formative years, with 14 tunes culled from the first three albums and two tongue-in-cheek covers drawn from the British release of the Clam Dip & Other Delights EP (something that was one of Soul Asylum's trademarks back in the day; too bad they couldn't included the infamous "James at Fifteen Medley" from a radio-promo EP). "Long Way Home," "Never Really Been," and the title cut are as good as anything Soul Asylum cut when they hit the big time, and though While You Were Out deserves a listen on its own, this disc does a great job of making the case that Soul Asylum's indie days are long overdue for reappraisal by fans.
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