Review Summary: A worthy gathering of rarities, on which there are several noticeable gems
After only two albums Fightstar (well their record company according to them) had enough material from b-sides and special radio performances to release a compilation. ‘Alternate Endings’, like other compilations, does sound very much like songs put together from different periods. This does not detract, however, from the quality of the music. There are stronger and weaker tracks, but in general this a great collection of very well done, covers, b-sides and live songs which are good enough to be on any album by this band all on one lovely CD.
One of the weaker tracks is probably the first, an acoustic performance of ‘Floods.’ I was surprised to hear not quite up to par vocals from Simpson, who I think is often a very strong vocalist. This is by no means a bad song, and on reflection a sensible choice to start with as nearly everyone listening will be familiar with the original. But, given a choice I would definitely chose the ‘loud’ version. After ‘Floods’ comes the only unheard track when this compilation was released, ‘Where’s The Money Lebowski?’ and it is certainly one of the best on here. Strong riffs are coupled with outbursts of screaming make great heavy song and any lingering doubts growing as a result of the shaky ‘Floods’ should be put to bed.
Next comes a cover Flaming Lips’ ‘Waitin’ For Superman.’ This feels more stripped back and toned down from the original, but a nice piano, drums and great vocals by Simpson create a very respectable cover. We go back to Fightstar’s beginning with ‘Amethyst’ (with the ‘Hazy Eyes’ hidden track) from their EP ‘They Liked You Better When You Were Dead.’ This is not an acoustic version of a familiar song, like ‘Floods’ and the next track ‘99’, it’s exactly what was on the EP. Which does make me wonder why it was included if there was nothing new to it. Especially ‘Hazy Eyes’ which in my view was the worst song off the EP but still made it onto ‘Grand Unification’ and now this. Neither are at all terrible, and ‘Amethyst’ is very good, one of the band’s finest, but for the majority of people who know the songs, they are unnecessary. ‘99’ is another acoustic, a good one too which and is certainly stronger than the ‘Floods’ acoustic version. ‘In Between Days’ is solid cover of the The Cure, upbeat and very enjoyable. It’s stripped back, but not too much is taken away and is easily recognisable against the original.
The next three songs carry on from each other quite well, from the mellow ‘Shinji Ikari’ to the upbeat, almost poppy ‘Dark Star’ and then ‘Gracious which brings in some heavier aspects to accompany the tuneful side. Alex Westaway is prominent on vocals on all three which is good to hear as has decent vocals and adds something else, but its not until towards the end of ‘Gracious’ that the really record comes to life again with Simpson’s growl and stab of guitar distortion after a couple of the more average songs.
‘Fight For Us’ builds on the ending to ‘Gracious,’ but goes much further and becomes one of the band’s heaviest. The chorus is oddly bland though, Simpson sings forcefully but doesn’t scream as he does on much of the song, and it doesn’t feel like its enough when it’s along with the great musicianship on this. Thankfully it comes together during the bridge and chorus, and Simpson unleashes himself, even if for only a few seconds. ‘Hold Out Your Arms’ contrasts ‘Fight For Us,’ but this is not in terms of quality. Metal riffs are traded for basic acoustic guitars and Fightstar show their other side is just as good. Westaway and Simpson compliment each other very well and deliver two excellent performances.
‘Nerv/Seele’ comes across as the stand out of the album. It incorporates everything Fightstar do almost prefectly, their beautiful, lighter side is mixed in with the harder, more brutal one, with Simpson successfully showing off his full range vocals, and the constant changing of style works very well. ‘Zihuatanejo’ tries on the fine form, another change from the crashing end to ‘Nerv/Seele’ as a slow, tuneful track builds well to a decent ending. But this song seems to get lost amongst the surrounding ones, and ends up being an average compared to others around it.
We return to covers for the last two, ‘Breaking The Law’ from Judas Priest and ‘Minerva’ of Deftones. ‘Breaking The Law’ is the cover on the album which is most likely to get an opinion from people it has been changed greatly from the original. But this is not because it has been done acoustically, Fightstar have made what can best be described as a much heavier, maybe more modern version. They have added lengthy screams and growls and turned up the volume on everything. Personally I do not think this is a negative. But for people who love the original, it could be difficult as it has been changed so much. But I think it’s very well done, and Fightstar have definitely made this their own. The band does however, do an acoustic version of ‘Minerva’ and this is the best cover on the disc. They manage to capture the beauty and emotion of the it do a great song perfect justice from the soft vocals to the wonderful atmospheric sounds.
This is a great compilation of b-sides and rarities from Fightstar. The covers are done well, though ‘Breaking The Law’ may divide opinion. The album is constantly changing from one song to another in terms of the style of tracks, which in itself show the diversity of the band, and this comes together of ‘Nerv/Seele’ which show both ends of their spectrum. The inclusion of ‘Amethyst’ and ‘Hazy Eyes’ particularly is peculiar when there are other b-sides the band had done which have been left off. There are some weaker tracks like the acoustic ‘Floods’ and you could argue this is a slightly pretentious release after just three years and two albums, but overall the content of the album is very good, and certainly worth getting for fans, and will greatly reduce the time spent searching around, trying to find all their b-sides.
‘Where’s The Money Lebowski?’