One of the most enduring power-popsters of our era, no one has been more loyal to the style than Paul Collins. Yet no contemporaries of comparable devotion, including Shoes, Matthew Sweet and the late Tommy Keene, have struggled in quite the same relative anonymity. Still, the native New Yorker has remained both prolific and proud over the years, sans much high profile critical recognition or commercial success, and has now seen fit to compile and present a cross section of his work to the world in the form of the aptly titled Another World: The Best Of The Archives
Founding member of the legendary proto-punk band The Nerves (with Jack Leeauthor of the band's "Hanging on the Telephone" which eventually became a hit for Blondie and Americana master Peter Case
), Paul Collins started his solo career with the release of his album The Beat
(Columbia Records, 1979), notably under the management of the late legendary rock impresario Bill Graham. In the interim, the songwriter/guitarist/vocalist has continued to travel the world as he did as a teen and in so doing, has released more than 11 studio albums as Paul Collins, The Beat or Paul Collins' Beat
Over the course of approximately fifty-five minutes playing time on this vault collection, the playing, singing and writing sounds unremittingly fresh, natural and unself-conscious, as if it was all recorded just as Collins was hitting his stride. The acoustic guitar underpinning of "Baby I'm A Fool" hearkens to the man's solo work in more roots-oriented realms of folk and country, but Paul also makes unmistakable the connection with his fundamental influence of Beatles-derived English rockdespite the absence of any drums with the traces of electric guitars.
And his point further resounds when similar textures, plus mellifluous vocal harmonies, appear in such quick succession on the next cut "Witches Falls." The resonance will elevate in tunes like "Hey DJ" (and its spoken word counterpart "Station ID") depending on the listener's demographic, but empathy based on shared cultural history isn't wholly necessary given the wholly vivacious, infectious feel in these performances. Even without a tangible contemporary update a la the Replacements, for instance, Collins is no mere nostalgist: he evokes a place and time to be sure, but the emotional response he conjures is authentic not contrived.
This anthology is culled from songwriter/vocalist/guitarist's personal archives and represents yet another testament to his faith in what he does. He applies meticulous attention to detail in its compilation of tracks dating back to as early as 1978, taken from a collection of cassettes by way of recording studios proper, such as The Big Apple's Sterling Sound, but various and sundry locations such as the San Francisco rehearsal hall site of "If All Things Were Equal."
Considering these vintage sources, the general uniformity of the sound is all the more remarkable. As remastered by Justin Perkins, the audio invariably delivers the punch the songs and the musicianship demand. For instance, during "On The Highway;" the bluesy fillips in Larry Whitman's lead guitar are as noticeable (though definitely not intrusive) as is the flair in Prairie Prince's drumming.
Both the vinyl and CD packages of Another World: The Best Of The Archives
come complete with extensive liner notes by the man himself, (plus some choice period photos documenting a youth decidedly not misspent). And it's no small selling point for the compact disc configuration that it contains the bonus of four tracks not on the vinyl: like the rest of the content, "Girl from New York City," "Let Me Into Your Life "It Takes A Big Man," "There She Goes," have never been released before in any form. That prolific output is another indication of the fertile imagination this musician/songwriter/bandleader has brought to bear, constantly and consistently plumbing the possibilities in a bedrock style of contemporary rock.
A balding and often bespectacled appearance these days renders an image more the scholar than the perpetual adolescent Paul Collins purports to be in song, so it's appropriate he's recently published a memoir whose title, I Don't Fit In
(Hozac, 2020) might well encapsulate his career path. Yet this is an artist who's come to flourish by skillfully creating a niche almost all for himself, at least in terms of his main output over the years. Consequently, this retrospective is proof positive of his indefatigable work ethic, boundless energy and stalwart belief in the power of that unique flash point that can occur with the right combination of guitars, bass, drums and voices.
Hey DJ; On The Highway; Another World; Lonely Teardrops; This Heart; Baby, Baby; Baby I’m A Fool; Witches Falls; 8 AM; If All Things Were Equal; How Will I Know?; Girl From New York City; Let’s Go!; No Faith And No Religion; Station ID; Let Me Into Your Life; It Takes A Big Man; There She Goes.
Paul Collins: vocals, guitar, drums; Steven Huff: bass, backing vocals; Chris Von Sniedern: bass, backing vocals; Peter Case: vocals; David Hayes: backing vocals, keyboards, bongos.