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ALABAMA 3 - Hits And Exit Wounds   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Thursday, 22 May 2008

a mostly random assortment of good songs ...


After ten years, 16 albums, and a handful of poorly charting singles (one of which came out without the record company even telling the band), Alabama 3 - hailed as ‘A Monumental Waste Of Time’ by the NME - finally hit ‘Greatest Hits’ territory. Which, given that they’ve only had - at best - one hit, is a bit of an oxymoron. This compilation proudly boasts ‘Unreleased Material’, but in actual fact there’s nothing on here that hasn’t already been heard before. At best, “Hits And Exit Wounds” will serve the casual fan and the vaguely interested with a primer, an introduction.

If you see this is as anything other than that - if you wanted a chronological anthology of their finest moments, a true ‘best of’, or anything like that you’ll be sorely disappointed. “Hits And Exit Wounds” is a mostly random assortment of good songs (and despite what it tells you on the tin, there’s no unreleased material on here).

To some, humour has no space in music. So A3’s bizarre makeup - a mixture of a communist blues gospel choir and Elvis-lovin’ techno punks - sounds as incongruous on record as it does on paper. As a theory, it just doesn’t work : like cabbage ice cream or curry spaghetti. But in practice, when blended deftly into a cohesive whole, Alabama 3 songs manage the best thing that any music can do : it transports and elevates. When you put on an Alabama 3 record, you’re sucked into a world of their own creation, akin to a great film, where everything else in the world disappears but this strange invention.

Like many bands, perception is that the first ten years are the best : after that they start to stagnate and become a tribute to themselves (and very few bands actually challenge this convention to any realistic degree). For Alabama 3, they do now appear to have ceased the musical evolution, and thus the now refine the template, rework the ingredients - but as with any band, when you have the same ingredients, the same input, the output is almost always going to be substantially the same. Thus, the music on here, whilst the work of committed human beings with flair and wit and no shortage of style, becomes, when placed in a non-chronological assortment, similar but not quite homogenous. As a result, the compilation is ‘top heavy’ and leaning towards their earlier material, though there has certainly been no shortage of Alabama 3 albums, with one coming out roughly every two years, aided and abetted by satellite releases of live recordings, out-takes and remixes that appear very frequently on their website.

A good compilation, like any good record, film, or book, has a narrative sense : a story, a process moving from stasis to crisis to resolution, a flow of musical and lyrical points that make sense and enhance and complement their counterparts. You can’t (or shouldn’t) just throw together stuff randomly and hope it works : when you do that you get films like “Inchon” and “Alien Vs Predator” and records like “The Very Best Of Motorhead, Part 3” : meaningless slops of stuff produced without care or thought in order to guarantee a throughput of radio friendly unit shifters. “Hits And Exit Wounds” sounds exactly like what it is - a selection of songs with no one specific aim, feel, flow, structure or theme. As a record, the committed A3 fan can find little to recommend a purchase as they’ve got it all already. To those who like the theme tune for The Sopranos and want to know more, start here.

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