Closer to the Stars: The Best of the Twin Tone Years
The hipsters who worship at the altar of the Replacements and Husker Du seem all too reluctant to give respect (or even props) to the mighty Soul Asylum.
Perhaps that attitude will gradually change with this latest retrospective repackaging; you won't find "Runaway Train" on this one. When that song became a runaway hit in the early 1990's Soul Asylum was widely said to have Souled Out. It wasn't fair then and it doesn't matter now. The work they did for the quintessentisl Minneapolis indie label Twin Tone Records in their earlier years is so solid it justifies any alleged subsequent mistakes.
This anthology is made up entirely of songs from the band's three Twin Tone albums and the odd EP "Clam Dip and Other Delights" (with a cover parodying Herb Alpert's famous "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" -- Alpert was a founder of the label, A&M, that was about to sign the band) from the brief period when Twin Tone and A&M were partners. That means there are a few tracks each from the Bob Mould-produced "Say What You Will," and the two superior follow-ups, "While You Were Out," and the near-masterpiece "Made to be Broken." From these life affirming releases have been culled some true (and truly unheralded) songs that are absolute classics: the title track, "Closer to the Stars," "Another World Another Day," the ballbusting "Tied to the Tracks," and the elegantly aggressive closer "Ship of Fools." The previously-almost-impossible-to-find tracks from the Brit edition of "Clam Dip" are "Juke Box Hero" (the Foreigner song) and a Janis J cover. Both are pretty much superfluous.
What is significant is the fact that Soul Asylum has a new recording scheduled for release this summer. The thusfar untitled record includes bassist Karl Mueller on all tracks. Karl died of throat cancer about a year ago. He was sort of the Sterling Morrison of Minnesota. Definitely not a flashy guy, his sturdy playing anchored the group even when it went unnoticed, when the bass guitar wasn't exactly the loudest, most dominant instrument in the mix. Nevertheless, Karl was an important and powerful presence and his passing garnered little or no notice (let alone grief) from the far too fickle and forgetful rock community.