So I finally got my hands on Stephin Merritt’s Obscurities. The definite highlights are “I Don’t Believe You” and “Yet Another Girl” – which I’d already heard – and the previously unreleased “Forever And A Day” and “The Song From Venus” – though “Forever And A Day” had been given as a free download from the album for promotional purposes so by the time I got the actual release I’d sort of gotten what I could out of it, and “The Song From Venus” feels somewhat like it’s missing some sort of chorus.
I can’t help but feel like they could’ve included more on it though. The collection clocks in at just over 38 minutes, and there are plenty of other non-album tracks they could’ve included. Like the alternate vocal B-sides from the digital Distorion singles; Stephin Merritt’s “The Man Of A Millon Faces” and “I’m In A Lonely Way”; and the compilation exclusive tracks “The Meaning Of Lice” from Plague Songs, and “Mr. Punch” from Where’s Neil When You Need Him? But those are all available to buy digitally so they might not be sufficiently obscure. There are also a few remixes and covers, but then there might be possible copyright issues.
The most glaring omissions, to me, are two previously released versions of “Plant White Roses”. It was originally included as the last song on their first album, sung by Susan Anway, but it was removed from the re-released version which combined both of their first albums (presumably removed so it could end with “100,000 Fireflies” instead; it’s not like it had to be cut due to time restrictions). Another version of this song was included on the ’94 compilation 5 Rows Of Teeth, with a very different sound and with Stephin Merritt on the vocals. This version wasn’t included either. Instead we get a third, more minimalist, and definitely more obscure version, with just a guitar and Shirley Simms on the vocals, credited to the band Buffalo Rome. It’s nice, but might be my least favourite of the three.
It would’ve been nice if they’d included all three versions. Perhaps a bit much with three versions of the same song on the same disc, but they sound sufficiently different from one another, and they’re all arguably sufficiently obscure as well – the Stephin Merritt vocal version perhaps the least of the three, since it’s available digitally. This version is also my favourite of the three, and is this week’s featured song.