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That's All Very Well But?

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Album Review

Initially planned for release in 1990 but surfacing in 1996 (likely prompted by the continuing success of Stereolab), That's All Very Well, But... is a somewhat haphazardly organized but still essential collection of McCarthy singles, rarities, and Peel sessions in one handy place. It's a great introduction point for anyone wanting to find out more about the band, effortlessly presenting many of the band's best moments at combining political passion with sparkling indie pop music. It's really the second quality that makes McCarthy most memorable; sharp and intriguing as so many of Eden's lyrics are on their own, it's the rushed sweetness of the melodies that put a smile on one's face and ants in one's pants, if one is so inclined. You won't find wry social critiques like "Should the Bible Be Banned," "Charles Windsor" or, perhaps above all else, the vicious portrait of post-Thatcher Britain "We Are All Bourgeois Now" anywhere else that they skip along in such summery, involving ways. Eden and Gane's guitars create a beautiful haze and chime throughout, while the John Williamson/Gary Baker rhythm section, if not as striking as the ones Gane would later work with (Baker is no Andy Ramsey, for one thing), does the job just right in enjoyable late-'80s underground fashion. Eden's bright, gentle voice is the total antithesis to the ranted rampage of, say, Zack de la Rocha, but the messages are no less powerful. The Peel Session tracks, taken from three different appearances in total, generally come across in slightly crisper fashion than the other studio cuts, while occasional touches, like the buried strings on "This Nelson Rockefeller," add just a touch more attractive flair to those studio takes. Alternate versions of "Should the Bible Be Banned" — the second is a touch quieter with more prominent acoustic guitar — are also fun additions.

That's All Very Well But?, McCarthy
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