Releasing an album’s worth of b-sides and rarities after only one full-length is a might hasty. Though some bands have debuted with singles collections (i.e. Stereolab), few have compiled a full half-hour of outtakes in one year’s time and considered it a standalone record. This is likely because few bands release that many singles from their first album, but with Maxïmo Park’s A Certain Trigger came four individual single A-sides, each with a seven inch and a CDEP with varying b-sides, adding up to the fine collection, Missing Songs, which doesn’t even include the acoustic versions of album songs or remixes that have also been released on certain singles. That means the band actually had to do a little editing to get to this record, which, interestingly enough, makes for a fine mini-album all on its own.
Maybe it’s just because I became so enamored with the Park after Trigger that I can’t help but love most of the tracks on Missing Songs. But, even putting that album aside for a moment, these songs are quite impressive in their own right. More impressive than the typical crop of throwaways, the nine songs (not counting demo versions) here hold their own, despite not quite being A-side material.
Displaying the band’s jerky, new wave punk sensibilities at their most neurotic and manic, Missing Songs has a rather hefty handful of standout tracks. “A19,” the first of the bunch, is a synth-heavy track that comes close to achieving single-worthy accessibility. The band’s cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation,” meanwhile is cold and robotic and quite bizarre, but nonetheless fun and quirky. “Fear of Falling,” which was even nominated for the Trebblie for Best B-side of 2005, is easily one of the best here, with its surf-rock chorus of “ooh-wee-oohs” and peppy bassline. “A Year of Doubt” is a jangly, bouncy good time as well, doing away, temporarily, with the band’s typically distorted Wire-like power chord jumble. The real surprise, however, is the quiet, acoustic “Stray Talk,” which finds the band sounding humble and bare, but still quite enjoyable and catchy.
At first, I admit I found this collection a bit premature, but the band has proven they certainly have enough material to fill a disc full of outtakes. And it just so happens that they’re pretty darned good. It may be a dangerous precedent to set, but if they keep up this level of prolificacy, they’ll be ready for a box set in two or three years.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.