GREEN PAJAMAS – The Night Races Into Anna (Hidden Agenda)

Just like busses, you go ages with nothing from the GPs and then two albums come along at once. This one is a companion piece to their 1999 collection ‘Narcotic Kisses’, which gathered together rare unreleased tracks, alternate versions and songs gifted to magazine’s cover-mounted give-aways. Here we have another twenty such songs, and once again you begin to wonder how the band can afford to excise these songs from their albums, or just give them away for nothing. Every one of the tracks on here is up to the band’s usual high standard, and with half of them going back five years or more this could be seen as a return to the classic days of the group. We open with a couple of Jeff Kelly’s effortless ballads in ‘Looking For Heaven’ – an outtake from from 2002, and ‘The Memory Of You’, which was a leftover from last year’s ‘21st Century Séance’. Eric Lichter’s ‘Beautiful Deadly’ is OK, but not one of his best songs, and you might see why it remained unreleased, but the next few tracks redress the balance, with ‘I Can’t Wait Anymore’ and the plaintive ‘Holy Names’ standing out. ‘Forever 13’ is classic GPs, with its otherworldly backing vocals and the ringing guitar giving it a decidedly haunting quality. Why this remained unreleased is a mystery. ‘The Haunted Dollhouse’ did see the light of day, albeit on a Ptolemaic Terrascope freebie CD, but it is now available for all to hear, and hear it you should. The five year old ‘She Turns Me On’ is one of their most commercial tunes, and along with ‘Darkness’ provides a couple of rare upbeat moments in a generally melancholy album. Surprise, surprise – Eric Lichter actually writes a song that I like in ‘The 4 Mistakes In Life’, which sits nicely in with the rest of the tracks for a change. ‘When Natalie Sings’ from 2006 sounds like an out-take from my favourite of their later albums ‘Ten White Stones’, and has one of Kelly’s Neil Young-influenced guitar solos, while another Ptolemaic Terrascope giveaway ‘Black Velvet Cat’ closes this fine album. Despite being recorded over such a long period of time this album hangs together really well, as the band have not really changed too much in the last half decade. I would hesitate to recommend it to a novice, though, pointing them in the direction of any one of the band’s last half dozen studio albums as a starting point, and then returning to this collection when they are committed fans. It should take about a day and a half.