The Mother Hips’ve been around long enough and released a helluva ‘nough material that this collection of rarities and demo tapes, Chronicle Man, is gonna be for the band’s ready-converted disciples first and foremost. That being said, I still have my bones to pick with the set, as well as a few highlights of note. Let’s get down to it...
The problem with a compilation like this, fishing through decades-old material for an album’s worth of songs to appease the cult, is that you’re bound to end up releasing a handful of content that’s already been given the unfavorable once-over. Sure, this is a for-better-or-worse situation, but I have to assume the Hips had their reasons for leaving at least some of these tracks alone back in their early heyday. ‘Rediscovering’ one of ‘em here doesn’t do much good if the end result is a vanilla demo that lacks enough polish or grit to stand on its own—(see “Barefoot Sea Chantey”)—then it’s just hip Christmas stocking filler, and who needs that?
And then there are the explosive goodies that should’ve seen the light of day years ago—“You Can’t Win” and “Loup Garou” are fun Petty-esque hat tips, and “Rich Little Girl” is just what an album of leftovers deserves—maybe a little unpolished, a little sloppy, but there’s that soul you can’t just let die in a storage box-coffin somewhere.
But mostly, this record will satisfy those simply looking to expand their Mother Hips collection, add a bag of B-sides to their playlists, catch some old hooks that never quite sunk in. As an example, the eponymous “Chronicle Man” has questionably thin lyrics and a few too-monotonous rolls for a normal release, but there remain unpolished sonic snippets of gold that deserve at least a brief moment of recognition. Songs of this ilk are the bones of Chronicle Man, and if that’s your cup o’ tea, dig in. Otherwise, the Hips have got a couple hundred more tracks for you to sift through.
Chronicle Man is set for a July 15 release.