We Were Young and Needed the Money
[Idaho Music; 2002]
To some, Idaho's entire catalog might as well be a compilation of unreleased material. In a world where the general populace would consider the records that make Pitchfork's year-end top 20 obscure, a band that, after ten years and six studio albums, fails to receive props even from slapdash websites like ours begins to redefine and reshape the term 'unknown.' So it goes with Idaho, one of the more underappreciated 'great' indie bands in America today. And, just like all the others, Idaho's entry in the unreleased comp-camp was simply a matter of time.
We Were Young and Needed the Money is 60 minutes and 17 songs of unreleased Idaho material. In theory, every review of a compilation like this could be a positive one: if the compilation is packed with wholesome goodness, the artist receives accolades as one with the Midas touch; if the compilation is a shit-sink, the artist could be heralded for exercising restraint and discernment on his full-lengths and saving the dreck for a singular, catchall dumping session.
To borrow from Gump, We Were Young and Needed the Money is like a box of chocolates-- though more a Whitman's sampler than a delectable selection of Lindt, as sometimes you get the ambrosial, luscious pleasure of that nugget with the caramel and the nut clusters in it. On We Were Young, these lip smackers come early on-- notably the first six tunes, including "Teeth Marks", an ethereal alterna-rocker recorded in 1995, and "Flat Top", another hard-rocking entry that puts lead Idahoan Jeff Martin's feedback guitar and production talents to ample use. Conversely, We Were Young does feature some significantly bland, backloaded shortcomings, even if the record never delivers a slab of repulsive pink-nougat, or 'cherry-in-the-middle' surprise.
The style on "Teeth Marks" characterizes the feel of the entire album; most of the material was recorded before 1999, when Idaho was still a true-to-form rock 'n' roll act. Thus, like the aforementioned "Teeth Marks", "Come Over", an overdriven, mid-tempo, bitter and bluesy track, would feel right at home on Three Sheets to the Wind or This Way Out. Sad rockers beware, however; there's nothing on We Were Young approximating the delicate, glowing slowcore found on Idaho's last two studio discs, the brilliant Hearts of Palm and the highly enjoyable Levitate. This stuff is mostly Martin with his full-band Idaho posse of old.
With all the strong tracks up front, though, the disc's tail end suffers somewhat: the dull melody on the downtempo "A Second Chance" is a good example of a wise omission from a full LP. "Stayin' Out Front" has its charms, including a conga drum/arpeggiated guitar bridge and some sampled, distorted vocal parts, but fails to come together as compellingly as Martin's strongest work. And the drab baritone delivery and hackneyed lyrics on "Drown" are a pretty ill-advised way to close out the album.
Still, We Were Young and Needed the Money stands as a worthwhile purchase for fans of the band, even if, in terms of a starter album, it understandably lacks the stylistic diversity, top-shelf songwriting and exceptional studio polish of some of Idaho's proper albums. In short, a Whitman's mix of the Midas touch and the discerning song selection, with the decided edge going to Midas.
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and is available here for archival purposes