It seems I almost always have to start my reviews with some sort of backstory, and this time is no different. Several months ago, an Excel file was posted on the forums that challenged the owner to match pictures of 270 music artists with their pictures. In the middle was a picture of two nerdy looking guys with thick glasses. For some reason, I said to myself, "They look like the antithesis of your average rock star, so I'd probably like their music." These two guys turned out to be the co-frontmen of The Proclaimers, twin brothers Craig and Charlie Reid. Browsing through Barnes and Noble a few weeks later, I spotted their best-of album somewhere between The Pretenders and Primus. A quick listen proved my hypothesis to be correct. I shelled out the fifteen dollars and popped it into my CD player on the way home.
The Proclaimers are not your typical rock stars. As I said, they look more like they belong in a NASA control room than making records. They openly sing songs about getting married and wanting to be a Chistian, all the while keeping their thick Scottish accent throughout their singing. Part of their appeal lies in this carefree attitude to the music -- obviously someone this unconcerned with their external image is probably going to concentrate on making good songs. And with the backstory and some musings about the band's image out of the way, let's delve into what really matters -- the music.
As with a lot of the music I listen to, if you're looking for lightning fast guitar solos, bass riffs that sound like bowel movements from Hell or lyrics that will make you think about the pettiness of your personal existence, you're looking in the wrong place here. The closest comparison in styles I can think of is with the Everly Brothers. The songs are full of simple, yet catchy country-folk pop rock hooks. Throw in some incredible vocal harmonies from the brothers (who happen to share vocal duties), and you have a general idea of the band's sound.
The instrumentation, while not dazzling, is definitely adequate. Ranging from soft piano ballads to the brothers singing with only an acoustic guitar to full-band ensembles, all of the songs share the same common energy, but they each have their own identidy. This is rare for me, but the thing that really graps me about this album is the vocal work. As I already mentioned, the brothers Reid sing in their native Scottish accents. In addition to having a unique vocal sound, they are top-notch vocalists. Their songs are almost always sung in tandem, and the harmonies are perfect. In short, if the vocals catch my attention, you know they have something going for them.
The best-of spans The Proclaimers' four previous albums, which were recorded over a period from 1987 to 2000. It generously supplies twenty tracks, which considering the fact they have only released four full-length studio albums. And almost all of the twenty are great songs. From the pounding beat and call-answer vocals and guitar of There's a Touch
to the emotional I Want to be a Christian
to the ubiquitous I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
, there is hardly a weak point on the entire album. They can be political without being pretentious on Cap in Hand
, or they can write a great self-mocking acoustic song in the form of Throw the R Away
. They even throw in a stellar cover of Roger Miller's King of the Road
as well. Simply put, their anti-hero attitude throughout the album combined with excellent pop musicianship makes this a unique find.
This album shows that The Proclaimers are more than just "You mean those two goofy dudes that sang that 500 miles song, right??" If you are in the mood for some lighter music that you haven't heard eight hundred times before, I strongly recommend this album. It proves that sometimes the best music is easily missed in the mire of today's market-oriented bands and artists. I picked this album up on a whim, and it lies up there with Blur's Best-of and Frank Zappa's Apostrophe
with my favorite 'accidental' album purchases.
Final score: 4.5/5