A catch-all collection of singles from the second phase of this long-running British indie band, "Broken Record Prayers" contains some fantastically deft pop nuggets with surreally self-referential ("...I don't really have a French girlfriend/I just made her up for the song/The world will end December 2012/Good luck to you all") and pop/cult-culture ("Jack Nance Hair") touches, outspokenly left-wing and/or pro-creative lyrics, and a dizzying array of songwriting styles and playing techniques. The obvious product of restless souls with deep record collections, this collection boasts such instant classics as the blasting, propulsive "Love Without Lies" -- sounding like the demented offspring of a forced union between The Pixies and Elastica, the truly lovely "Books Of California" replete with la-la-la-la-la-la-las, and the disarming "You Can Hide Your Love Forever" (which I'm told is their best known song). They also neatly span the gulf between hi-fi and lo-fi, managing to sound fresh and loose even though there is clearly some agile song-crafting and arranging taking place behind the scenes.
I stumbled into this band after hearing a song on a Kill Rock Stars compilation ("One More Summer Before I Go"), but I had no idea of their sheer variety and breadth, not to mention their high ratio of insanely memorable, highly literate material. Very British, very good. I'll be digging into the back catalog.