Black Box Recorder – The Worst of Black Box Recorder

Black Box Recorder
The Worst of Black Box Recorder

As intriguing as it would be for a band to release an album of their very worst material, this isn’t such a project, and neither is it a best-of compilation. It’s just a B-sides and rarities disc, released in large part to allow fans a glimpse at each of the four videos made by the band and banned from MTV. But we’ll talk about the music here, first, because that’s what’s important.
Black Box Recorder have always been a fairly eerie and moody band, with their depressed-sounding female singer and dark poppy overtones. That’s never been as clear as on their cover of Rod McKuen’s “Seasons in the Sun,” done all slow and scary. Chocolate Layers (two members of Pulp) remix the band’s stellar song “The Facts of Life” and almost make it even better, adding in samples and clever loops but resisting the urge to pick up the pace, instead keeping it a moody piece with a bit more beat focus. “Uptown Top Ranking” is a cool electronic cover of a 70’s German disco reggae song, oddly enough, and it’s done well here in BBR style. The last track is a cover of David Bowie’s “Rock n Roll Suicide,” and it’s done here in 60’s pop love song style, moody and fitting.
Although it’s the covers and remixes that make this album the most fun, the B-sides are good too. “Watch the Angel Not the Wire” is a moody, ominous pop song that would have fit perfectly on the band’s most recent album, but “Jackie Sixty” is better, with a bit more soul feel buried beneath the band’s soft pop. “Lord Lucan is Missing” is a bit more rocking and loud, which helps break up the moody overtones and gets more of a British pop/rock sound. Just when you think the band is all about doom and gloom, “Wonderful Life” is pleasant and soft and seems, at least on the surface, to be much cheerier. “Factory Radio” is just so quiet, so pleasantly soft and slow, it really showcases the excellent vocals.
I suppose the video for “Child Psychology” from the first Black Box Recorder album was banned merely because of its chorus of “Life is unfair / kill yourself or get over it,” as the black and white video is anything but controversial. There’s nothing controversial about the other videos at all, and the depiction of the male and female singers in “The Art of Driving” as crash dummies driving a car is well done. And the video for “The Facts of Life” is even better and cute as two kids prepare themselves for school.
I like this band, and it’s important to note that while the mood and tone of most of their songs is dark and brooding, the songs themselves are not always so. They’re much more pop focused, relying on those gorgeous, brooding vocals and layers of keyboards. Even on their B-sides and rarities album, they show off their talent as intriguing and completely fresh songwriters.