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Weighing in at a handsome 45 songs, Spring a Leak is a comprehensive overview of The Lucksmiths' non-album recordings, gathering 7" tracks, b-sides, compilation songs, live gems, unreleased rarities, remixes, and cover versions. It all comes wrapped up superbly in a deluxe double-CD digipak.
1) Falling Off of My Feet Again (compilation track, Siddeleys cover)
2) Point Being (b-side)
3) The Invention of Ordinary Everyday Things (7" version)
4) Synchronised Sinking (previously unreleased radio session)
5) Postcard (previously unreleased, Simpletons cover)
6) The Year of Driving Languorously (compilation track, radio session)
7) Even Stevens (previously unreleased radio session)
8) There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (compilation track, Smiths cover)
9) Macintyre (7" version)
10) The Winter Proper (b-side)
11) Anyone's Guess (compilation track)
12) $30 (compilation track)
13) Get Well Now (7" b-side)
14) A Hiccup in Your Happiness (previously unreleased radio session)
15) Deep Sea Diving Suit (b-side, Magnetic Fields cover)
16) Punchlines (live on television)
17) Snug (previously unreleased alternative version)
18) I Prefer the Twentieth Century (Hydroplane remix, compilation track)
19) To Absent Votes (b-side, compilation track)
20) Make a Wish (previously unreleased Cat's Miaow cover)
21) Smokers in Love (live, previously unreleased)
22) Are You Having a Good Time?!?! (7" b-side)
1) From Macaulay Station (b-side)
2) I Started a Joke (b-side, Bee Gees cover)
3) Once Again (compilation track)
4) How to Tie a Tie (Pipas remix, compilation track)
5) Rushes of Pure Spring (previously unreleased, Ladybug Transistor cover)
6) Rue Something (b-side)
7) Off With His Cardigan! (previously unreleased radio session)
8) Camera-Shy (live, previously unreleased)
9) Requiem For the Punters Club (b-side)
10) Yunta Hair (compilation track)
11) Dignified and Old (compilation track, Modern Lovers cover)
12) Caravanna (7" version)
13) The Thought That Counts (compilation track)
14) Up (7" version)
15) Boat (Bedridden cover, compilation track)
16) Broken Bones (compilation track, radio session)
17) Danielle Steel (live, compilation track)
18) Dolly (previously unreleased, Sugargliders cover)
19) Shine on Me (7" version)
20) Transpontine (Andrew Kaffer remix)
21) The Tichborne Claimant (live, compilation track)
22) I've Got It and It's Not Worth Having (compilation track, Boyracer cover)
23) Your Favourite Shirt (previously unreleased demo)
Eight years ago, a little-known Australian indie-pop group called the Lucksmiths released their first compilation of non-album material, Happy Secret. Since then, more multi-dimensional Scottish peers Belle & Sebastian have gone on to hit #8 on the UK albums chart and perform before a sell-out crowd at the 18,000-capacity Hollywood Bowl. American songwriters arguably more precious than this Melbourne four-piece, albeit with inarguably better shticks (albums for all 50 states, lyrics with Victorian and nautical themes, Natalie Portman), have become, if not household, then at least dorm-hold names. Most recently, the younger artist who perhaps best embodies the Lucksmiths' cleverness, vulnerability, and sun-worshiping melodic sensibilities, aka Swedish crooner Jens Lekman, has been crowned "a fully realized pop genius" by Slate.
As the Lucksmiths unveil their third non-album compilation, "happy secret" remains as apt a phrase as ever to describe both the band's music and what it feels like to follow them obsessively. Along with a peppy, punning batch of covers, remixes, live recordings, demos, and other rarities dating as far back as 1995, Spring a Leak includes the restrained, elegant B-sides from the two EPs released around the time of the Lucksmiths' eighth-- and most recent-- proper full-length, 2005's Warmer Corners. The ringing chords of jangle-pop predecessors like the Wedding Present and the Pastels resound through phrase-turning tunes about everyday topics: lazy days, drunken afternoons, Scrabble, jokes that have the narrator's sides "splitting" (and his girlfriend, too) and, of course, the weather. Spring a Leak is another treat for longtime fans, and even though, as with 2002 rarities comp Where Were We, it's not the best place for neophytes to start, it's an excellent warts-and-all overview.
Among Spring a Leak's vault-clearing 45 tracks, many of the best should give those just discovering the Lucksmiths an idea what to expect from the band's previous outings. A spirited cover of the Modern Lovers' "Dignified and Old", a version of the Magnetic Fields' "Deep Sea Diving Suit" with guitarist and primary songwriter Marty Donald making a rare appearance on lead vocal, and a disappointingly tame male-female duet rendition of the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" point to three of the most readily apparent influences on the Lucksmiths' songs.
Scrappy-sounding recordings from TV and radio appearances here tend to make up with singing drummer Tali White's infectious energy what they occasionally lack in audio fidelity or performance perfection. Either way, it's a cold bastard who can't break a smile at upbeat older songs like balloon-flying "Up" ("I'm an idiotic Icarus"), nicotine-nicking "Smokers in Love" ("You spend Thursday on your backside whistling 'Friday on My Mind'/ Super-supine"), and character study "Danielle Steel" ("A kingdom for a horse/ A condom for a lover"). "Synchronised Sinking" sees White pounding away on his stripped-down, stand-up drum set, his tenor lacking its usual Mozzy polish but no less dapper as he dispenses advice "on a barstool basis"-- "explain, or you'll explode." On Pacific-gleaming triumph "Camera-Shy", Donald's lyrics make old Polaroids and his own wistful self-loathing come alive. Between time-signature changes, the housebound "Broken Bones" finally finds a downside to inactivity.
Hell, the Lucksmiths could've easily stopped there and played defense against the critics, but this is a generous compilation, rewarding equally generous listens. An alternate version of the leisurely paced "Caravanna" doesn't change much from 1997's A Good Kind of Nervous original, but it should introduce a new audience to its vivid depiction of wanderlust unfulfilled: "If either one of us could drive/ We could drive away," White sings, ultimately conceding, "I wish there was some furniture that I could rearrange." Newer songs from 2006's A Hiccup in Your Happiness and 2005's The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco EPs, such as "To Absent Votes" and "The Winter Proper", may slow down the tempos too much for those who listen to the Lucksmiths solely for giddy bursts like bassist Mark Monnone-penned "T-Shirt Weather" (not on this double-disc set), but their nuanced, subtly unfolding narratives of the extraordinary amid the ordinary mark some of the group's finest songcraft to date.
On Spring a Leak, the Lucksmiths give more of themselves than we've come to expect in an age when technology and ubiquitous, freely available reviews seem to have led bands to iron out their idiosyncrasies. If this means skippable joke tracks like mildly amusing (one time) classic-rock diss "Are You Having a Good Time?!?!" and the concise, at least, "$30", or a few mediocre remixes, then it also means cover songs-- of tracks by Simpletons, the Ladybug Transistor, and the Bedridden, among others-- that introduce new audiences to the broader, still mostly below-the-radar world of twee-as-fuck indie-pop groups.
The Lucksmiths, like the Smiths or the Modern Lovers' Jonathan Richman, are an act whose best moments are scattered throughout way too many releases to purchase feasibly all at once, with even extant singles collections leaving out some career highlights. Still, Spring a Leak is, if not Louder than Bombs mind-blowing, still far more comprehensive than Richman comp Home of the Hits. Yeah, the handful of subpar tracks drag down the rating a bit, but whether we're talking Aussie indie pop or Southern rap (UGK, dudes), it's tough to punish a group for refusing to rip off their fans. With even users of the MySpace-band-besieged Wikipedia questioning the "notability" of Spring a Leak, the Lucksmiths must still be a relative secret; happily, there's no reason to keep them that way." Rating: 7.8 — Marc Hogan, Pitchfork Media