Review Summary: Enough to be released.
The Matthew Good Band’s exceptional 1995 debut, Last of the Ghetto Astronauts
, introduced them as the first stars of a new generation of Canadian rock and roll musicians. Released independently on a budget of roughly $5,000, the album achieved considerable airplay, eventually gaining the title of highest-selling independent album in Canada (a title it still holds to this day). In 1999, the polished, radio-friendly Beautiful Midnight
gave the band their first real hits and afforded them the opportunity to expand stateside (which they did only half-heartedly). In between came Lo-Fi B-Sides
, a motley collection of second-rate cuts sandwiching a rather roughshod reinterpretation of a Depeche Mode song. The EP was limited to a mere 5,000 copies and was included as a bonus with purchase of the band's 1997 album Underdogs
The EP’s decrepit-looking cover tells you all you need to know about the level of care this release was afforded. Nothing screams “low-budget” like a bland, easily-faded black cover and a lame choice of font. On a more subconscious level it suggests a group somewhat taken aback by the success of their debut release, yet more than eager to ride on its coattails. Moreover, the fact that the Matthew Good Band were already miles ahead of their nearest independent Canadian competitors in terms of both song quality and sales, yet still decided to include a discrepant collection of (admittedly) sub-par tracks alongside an otherwise solid sophomore album betrays a band so desperately at odds with the suddenness at which their career took off. Indeed, Lo-Fi B-Sides
could so easily have been an apocalyptically disastrous decision; the equivalent of recording suicide. The pool of ideas recorded herein is neither deep nor wide, and with the production abysmal at best, it is a genuine bewilderment that the EP somehow manages to succeed on just about every level – particularly in its de facto capacity as a stopgap recording between the ghetto, low-budget style of Underdogs
and the refined flair of Beautiful Midnight
Speaking of which, the demo version of “Born To Kill” present on this EP is, in some ways, superior to its more polished cousin found on Beautiful Midnight
. Guitarist Dave Genn is allowed more room to express himself, and as a result his lead guitar whines with a greater ferocity, angrily cutting itself into the grooves of the reel-to-reel audio tape. In its prototype form, the song’s lo-fi melancholy is more apparent, resulting in the number somehow managing to drive home a previously undetected mental imagery to complement the song’s more ambiguous lyrics. Genn’s backing contribution to the refrain of the chorus, greatly turned down in the final version, is also awesome to behold. Yet, the B-side “Fated” is perhaps the biggest treat to fans present herein - the song is a three-and-a-half-minute outpouring of Matthew Good Band at their most uninhibitedly Matthew Good Band-ish. Mystic and tuneful all at once, much of the number is like separate yet interlocking pieces of a greater whole. Thanks to the presence of some vividly disturbing lyrics ("There’s a cartoon killer in my living room/Cut you open like candy and pull out your wound”), Genn’s casual acoustic strumming in the background, and a dangerously haunting choral hook, the rest of the song’s shortcomings are only too easy to overlook.
On a whole, the EP’s biggest failing occurs when Good and co. decide to try their hand at covering one of Depeche Mode’s best known songs (“Enjoy The Silence”). Based on the evidence shown here, it is little wonder that the song is the only cover that the Matthew Good Band has ever chosen to officially record. Without any of the verve or the atmospheric blare of the original, the final effect is quite underwhelming – quite like trying out a particularly flat salad dressing during dinner. Although Good’s anxious, quavery vocal lends every moment of the song a certain glow of reinvention, the fact is that as far as covers go, this is nothing to write home about.
In hindsight, it’s almost as if the circumstances in which this EP was recorded made things a little too easy, the band’s financial constraints making for a plausible excuse of forced incompetency and fans were quick to forgive. On Beautiful Midnight
, the band would tear down the walls down again and start over; nowhere is it more true than in the case of “Born To Kill”, where the London Session Orchestra would end up being called in to rerecord the entire string section, so as to deal with the woeful inadequacy seen on the demo version. None of the other tracks present on this EP would make the cut for either of the Matthew Good Band’s two biggest claims to fame (Beautiful Midnight
and The Audio of Being
), which was perhaps for the better. Indeed, thirteen years on, the contents of Lo-Fi B-Sides
have come to be viewed as a bit of an aberration; a relic of an era gone by; their sole claim to the Matthew Good Band canon being their latent inclusion on the deluxe edition of the band’s greatest hits album (see In A Coma
). But don’t let that otherworldly fact deter you from trying this EP out should you find it – as a wag once wrote, they sure don’t make music like they used to.