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8/10 NAL 5th February 2015
The TVP's third album was originally meant to be a retrospective to mark the passing of the band. In the end this was only a blip in a lengthy and brilliant career, but it does focus the mind on the excellence of the band's early years, which are showcased here largely in outtake form, with the odd new track thrown in for good measure.
Dan Treacy's art has never been about professionalism, which can be seen from the band's often shambolic approach (the squeaky falsetto backing vocal on 'In A Perfumed Garden', for example, is a trope which really ought to have worn thin by now but, somehow, hasn't). The point was always more about committing an emotion raw onto the vinyl, and this is where they are rarely bettered. Opener 'Three Wishes' knocks the single version into a cocked hat, it's clattering drums and wistful, whistling synth line complementing Treacy's childlike desperation to perfection. In fact, the re-recordings and outtakes here often come across better than the originals, with 'The Glittering Prizes' in particular benefiting from a diffident, winsome vocal interpretation to contrast it the gloriously trashy psych-pop underpinning it.
After this, the joyful silliness of offerings like 'David Hockney's Diaries' would be eclipsed by the raw pain of follow-up album 'The Painted Word', a baleful attack on the twin evils of war and Thatcherism. But 'They Could Have Been...' remains a fine remembrance of the band's early years, more carefree certainly, but with sadness never far away.
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