After the release of Once Upon A Time Called Now, the lion’s share of Longstocking’s story had been told. The band had walked the trail in much the same way other groups had; they had released a couple of singles prior to their only full-length album, and the band broke up before the end of that same year. There just wasn’t a whole lot else in the band’s canon to put out – but Jealous Butcher has exhumed everything they could find and assembled one more release: the nineteen-track compilation Singles & Demos. Of course, the obvious question that any critic could ask (and several likely will) will be how viable this release really is, but those who hear it will happily attest to the quality of Singles & Demos 1994 – 1998; because the Longstocking catalogue is so thin but the band is so good, this comp doesn’t at all feel like it is despicably opportunistic.
Running front-to-back with Singles & Demos 1994 – 1998 is just about as easy as one might expect – for those familiar with the band. The singles which appeared on Once Upon A Time… (“Goddess” and “Equator”) sparkle in this context, but the greatest standouts are cuts like “Yarnspinner” (which mirrors but predates Soul Coughing’s penchant for weaving samples seamlessly into the composition of a song by a couple of years), “Tired of Dying” (which is a fantastic, straight-ahead rock song that tackles the concept of depression without bothering to include any artifice) and “Child Star” as well as “Never Nowhere” (which each place the greatest emphasis on great songwriting over canny cliche), and they really do ring through as thought-provoking cuts lost to time.
Perhaps because a couple of the weaker songs Singles and Demos generate the greatest interest for one reason or another as the runtime plays through, this review may read as an outline for how weak the album is – but that’s not the intent at all. As one listens, it’s really easy to find some really strong material in this running, and those songs deserve the greatest attention – they are just not entries which register as quite as good as cuts that fans know appear all over Once Upon A Time Called Now. That’s the problem here; the album comes from an era when albums of cast-off material still had potential to be incredible (as was the case on Incesticide and Pisces Iscariot) – but Singles & Demos 1994 – 1998, while respectable, does not feature much which transcends the album’s station. [Bill Adams]
Longstocking’s Singles & Demos 1994 – 1998 compilation is out now. Buy it here, directly from Jealous Butcher Records.