Cast - The Collection

by Alexander Segall Rating:5 Release Date:2014-01-27

Reissues are a funny old thing. The complete Rolling Stones, Clash or Stravinsky might make some form of sense – era or genre-defining artists who shook the tree of music and reaped the new and interesting fruit. Even looking more parochially, the reissues of complete works of Blur marked the end of a definite chapter; likewise, the constant repackaging of The Beatles testifies both to their immense influence, and the huge sales they can generate.

Conversely, unless you were born between about 1978-82, were keenly into your Northern Britpop, and still love a jangly guitar, the Cast reissues are unlikely to spark much dsire. They do represent pretty good value for money, if endless b-sides, remixes, live sessions, demos and a performance DVD float your boat. 

In brief – All Change is The La’s with John Power singing, and being slightly less ethereal.  Mother Nature Calls toughens things up a bit; Magic Hour is a holding pattern with a brilliant lead single in 'Beat Mama', and Beetroot is a last, bewildering gasp at diversification that falls particularly flat. What’s interesting is the slow slide away from the creative peak of the early 90s, indicated by the quality of the extra tracks.

On All Change, the b-sides are proper, fleshed out songs - 'Satellites', the b-side to 'Finetime', being a stand-out example. The second disc continues this remarkable burst, with non-album singles in 'Flying', unreleased tracks like 'All in You', and some properly decent live recordings ('Sandstorm' fairly leaps from the speakers).

Likewise, Mother Nature Calls’ additional tracks are pretty good but there’s a slight dropping off in the sheer number of new or unreleased tracks. Some of the b-sides are alright, but as with the album itself, the band (and Power in particular) began to sound a lot more like The Beatles than feels entirely comfortable. The additional disc has a load of b-sides, 'Flow' being a pretty good, stompy rock number but otherwise there’s a slight increase in the frequency of acoustic versions and the dreaded mid-90s curse of the remix. 

That slide continues on Magic Hour. Apart from 'Beat Mam', the big success story, the additional tracks are more live performances than b-sides, indicating, if nothing else, more time spent perfecting a smaller amount of material. It’s still pretty good, if you like the ever-more insular and vague, cod-spiritual lyrics. They might have been revelatory live, but from the recordings here, Cast sound just like the records. Yes, they got a tiny bit heavier, but really, this was just more of the same in an ever-changing pop world. 

The final album of their career doesn’t even get a second disc, the atmosphere around the band being what it was in 2001. Beetroot is, frankly, appalling, and the only bonus material is one song, 'Cobwebs', that the label doesn’t even dare describe (is this a b-side, an unreleased demo, or what?) and three remixes of two songs. By 2001, of course, Cast’s brand of Britpop was going down the pan – Oasis were no longer relevant, Blur were falling apart, Kula Shaker had disappeared up their own arses and bands were looking back to the 70s and 80s for their inspiration.

This collection is a poor excuse to empty the archives and squeeze a last bit of cash from the fans who will buy it anyway. 

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