Admittedly, starting with a group of B-sides is not the ideal scenario. But Amazon had a Lightning Deal, and I have little impulse control when it comes to acquiring music. Poor Mrs. Snilch Report.
So common sense aside (clearly never a problem for me to ignore), Rise Against tiptoes the line between hardcore thrash and pop, where melody and poetry rubs shoulders with pure noise and screaming. It's an intoxicating combination that's tough to beat.
At times, lead singer Tim McIlrath sounds like a screaming version of Against Me's Laura Jane Grace (a.k.a., Tom Gabel pre-gender re-assignment surgery).
It's smart, SMART music, sharp tempo changes, and (well) smart, SMART lyrics. Even as a collection of B-sides, they show their expertly deft handling of this medium. Highlights like "Elective Amnesia," "Dirt and Roses," "Ballad of Hollis Brown" (a country folk rock thrash), and "Lanterns" make you wonder how some of this stuff did not make it onto their albums. And great covers like Survivor's "Any Way You Want It" and Nirvana's "Silver" round out a very stout collection.
Sure, some songs don't work. But surprisingly, that's the exception rather than the rule. I think it's the best B-sides compilation I've heard since Sugar's Besides in 1995.
CD Placement rating: Portable CD Case.