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Stay Golden, Smog: The Best of Golden Smog - The Rykodisc Years

Golden Smog

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Album Review

Between 1992 and 2007, Golden Smog, the engagingly shambolic alt country stupor-group featuring members of the Jayhawks, Wilco, Soul Asylum, and Run Westy Run, cut two EPs and three full-length albums. That may not seem like much of a catalog from which to draw a "Greatest Hits" album, but Stay Golden, Smog: The Best of Golden Smog, The Rykodisc Years doesn't even dig that deep. Stay Golden, Smog gathers eight of the fourteen songs from the Smog's first full album, 1995's Down by the Old Mainstream, and eight of the fifteen tunes from the follow-up, 1998's Weird Tales. As the title would suggest, Golden Smog's two most recent efforts, released by Lost Highway Records, aren't represented here, and their debut EP, 1992's On Golden Smog — originally released on a small Minneapolis indie label and later reissued by Rykodisc — is ignored. At this writing, the entire Golden Smog catalog is in print, and all of this begs the question: what exactly is the point of this album? There's no arguing that there's plenty of fine music on this collection; Golden Smog may have started as a drunken goof among a handful of friends, but there was an undeniable chemistry between the participants, and with the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Gary Louris, Dan Murphy, Marc Perlman, Kraig Johnson, and Jody Stephens on board, it's no surprise that this disc features some really fine songs played by friends who know how to make them work in the studio. Unlike most side projects, Golden Smog was capable of coming up with material worthy of the members' day jobs (such as "Won't Be Coming Home," "To Call My Own," and "Pecan Pie"), and to bait the hook for completists, this set tosses in two unreleased tracks, a rough early take of "Until You Came Along," and a cover of Brian Wilson's "Love and Mercy." But as an overview of Golden Smog's career thus far, Stay Golden, Smog leaves too much by the sidelines to do the trick, and since Down by the Old Mainstream and Weird Tales are in print and available at mid-line price, this disc isn't even especially cost effective. In short, only the most casual observers or superfans desperate for the two unreleased songs need concern themselves with this.

Biography

Formed: 1989

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A boozy, side-project covers band that gradually evolved into a kind of roots rock supergroup, Golden Smog was a loosely affiliated unit comprised, at various times, of members of Soul Asylum, the Replacements, Wilco, the Jayhawks, Run Westy Run, and the Honeydogs. The group first came together in the Minneapolis area in the late '80s as a country-rock reaction to the punk and hardcore sounds that dominated the Twin Cities' musical scene at the time; eventually Golden Smog became something of a fixture...
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Stay Golden, Smog: The Best of Golden Smog - The Rykodisc Years, Golden Smog
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