First and foremost, I must extend massive kudos to Fearless Records for seizing control of the ATDI musical empire from the defunct Grand Royal company and continuing to enhance the band's legacy. Their catalog is too influential to be unceremoniously buried in a dusty vault somewhere.
Like most hardcore ATDI fans, the thirst for ANY uncovered or remastered material is undeniable, irrefutable, and insatiable, despite the fact the band has dissolved and forged ahead with Sparta and The Mars Volta. As the old adage explains, the sum of the parts is not greater than the whole, and I believe ATDI fits that statement like a full five-finger glove. This sonically pleasing compilation is evidence of that.
Just taking a quick gaze at the tracklist would make most ATDI fans salivate. You get tantalizing selections culled from *most* of their albums, rare compositions previously only available on vinyl (or in illicit mp3 form), and a bonus DVD featuring long forgotten videos and the treasured "Relationship of Command" documentary / press kit. These is no doubt this release will be pleasing, even temporarily soothing, to the ATDI fan that is perpetually yearning for more. But will it be enough?
A four star rating seems trifling, despite the fact this compilation will be taking up residency in my CD player for an extremely long period of time. There is something intrinsically unsettling about this release that leaves me still unsatisfied and unable to drive the final nail in the ATDI disbanded coffin once and for all. I believe this confounded sensation stems from the odd inclusions and, more critically, exclusions. The fact there lacks a single representation from "Acrobatic Tenement" ("Initiation" here is the Lamacq version) is disconcerting. The omission of "Invalid Litter Dept." is downright perplexing, especially if this CD was released purportedly as a career retrospective.
However, despite these minor grievances, I covet this CD for many reasons, most notably the previously unreleased "This Night Has Opened My Eyes." Who knew that ATDI could pull off this uncanny Smiths cover with such ease, grace, and (...gulp...) authenticity?! The other rarities are tasty treats, allowing me to replace the inferior mp3 versions I once had to download due to lack of turntable ownership. Finally, the mastering is impeccable, especially with the some of the older material. All the tracks are normalized to a consistent volume, making the disk a coherent, pleasurable listen from start to finish.
To truly capture the visceral essence of ATDI, I would have suggested a few ideas to Fearless during the planning phases. While the DVD is an exercise in nostalgia, I would rather see a 2-disk set with disk 1 encapsulating additional album material and disk 2 exclusively devoted to the rare gems. This way, disk 2 could include some of the tracks that simply could not make it due to space limitations, such as "Catacomb, "Catacombs", "Extracurricular", the remaining Lamacq tracks, as well as some other live material.