Cast Celebrate Britpop Survival With Deluxe Album Re-issues.
Liverpudlian Britpop legends Cast return with deluxe CD & DVD versions of their 4 original studio albums.
The fundamental paradox with the Britpop movement was that any actual ‘movement’ away from the genre tended to signal the start of a downward spiral - a change of direction didn’t necessarily mean a dip in quality, though – merely a perceived loss of popularity that could spell disaster for a band’s career.
As part of their continued comeback campaign, Liverpool’s (second) finest Cast are treating fans to complete re-issues of their four original albums, packaged as double CD & DVD collections with b-sides, rarities and reams of video content. A collector’s dream, perhaps, but what about the material itself?
Cast’s first two albums (1995’s All Change, and 1997’s Mother Nature Calls) spawned the band’s most notable hits, including Alright, Walkaway, Guiding Star and Live The Dream.
Interestingly, whilst at the height of their 90’s fame, some reviewers weren’t so favourable towards the group, but over time most have seemed to acknowledge that these are, in fact, excellent pieces of work – John Power’s song-writing ability has never faltered over the years, Skin’s guitar work was always progressive and intricate, and the rhythmic powerhouse of Peter Wilkinson and Keith O’ Neill provided some of the era’s most relentless backbeats. John Leckie’s production, too, is unrivalled on these albums – a finely-balanced wall of sound that tailors itself to the music’s rockiest and most psychedelic extremes.
It seems sensible, then, to focus this review on the lesser known aspects of Cast: their b-sides.
Like Oasis, Cast are one of those brilliantly consistent bands, whose b-sides rank up alongside their biggest hits. For So Long, Come On Everybody and Keep It Alive are album-worthy, not throwaway ditties hastily assembled to fill record-label quotas.
The videos, unfortunately, are a product of their time. Produced during the initial period of transition between analogue and digital production methods, stock landscapes, walking in silhouettes and meaningless surrealist imagery are the call of the day – not to the band’s discredit, of course, who are great performers and look most comfortable when owning festival stages.
1999’s Magic Hour is an incredibly strong piece of work – sterling production, orchestration, and forward-thinking soundscapes that the band billed as “21st Century Rock n’ Roll”. The b-sides again are very good, with Get On You placing among the most fun pieces of music Cast ever created.
2001’s Beetroot was sadly the final nail in the lid of Cast’s commercial coffin, one suspects due to the lack of really tangible singles. Desert Drought was exciting at the time, but failed to make any noticeable impact in the charts. Listening to the album again, one wonders why it attained such infamy. The songs are strong, and musically it’s arguably the most sophisticated group of tracks in the band’s entire catalogue. The fusion of experimental Latin, funk and electronica works surprisingly well, but was perhaps too much of a departure from their previous output. Released at the start of the Pro-Tools boon, the production stands up incredibly well, and certainly hasn’t dated as much as their earlier work. It’s slick, glossy and fantastically arranged, and it’s a shame that this was their swan song…until recently.
On the back of John Power’s solo work, the band reassembled for a brand new album, 2011’s Troubled Times, numerous live shows, a live DVD, and of course these stunningly remastered re-issues. After becoming so familiar with the originals, the freshness and clarity of the sound creates a revitalising listening experience, and let’s hope Cast’s regeneration has the longevity it deserves.
The four deluxe CD & DVD reissues are released 3rd February 2014 via Edsel Records.