Album Reviews

The Connells: Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best Of The Connells (Concord/Bicycle Music)

The Connells
Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best Of The Connells
Concord/Bicycle Music Company 

Pity about The Connells. The Raleigh-based college rock band always seemed to be one or two steps out of time with the music world. They always seemed to barely miss the mark on their “next big thing” status. They formed in 1984, yet quickly found themselves a home at TVT Records—primarily known for TV theme compilations—and carved out a niche of writing and releasing well-thought out college rock.  Truth be told, I was always ambivalent on them; I wasn’t a fan, but i didn’t dislike them, either. So when newly released greatest hits album Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best of The Connells showed up in my mailbox, I took it in stride; I haven’t played Fun & Games or One Simple Word in nearly twenty years. Thus, this set  offers the chance to reevaluate their work.

An interesting phenomenon arises, though: my feelings about their music haven’t changed in two decades, yet I’m much more receptive to what I’m hearing. Sure, their music is quiet, gentle, overwhelmingly earnest yet completely sincere, but that’s okay. They always seemed to be one step out of step with the trends of the era; when R.E.M. and college rock groups were becoming big, they were recording like-minded delicate roots-rock numbers like “Fun & Games” and “Something To Say,” yet when the trends suddenly became harder, darker, and grungier, they doubled-down on the twang and jangle, with wonderful numbers like “Stone Cold Yesterday” and “One Simple Word” existing in a scene that didn’t appreciate such subtlety. (Then again, that formula would puzzlingly result in a major European hit single, “’74-75,” a languid, mawkish ballad that seems like the last song that would ever be considered a hit single.) Their late 90s output would turn up the guitars and rock just a bit, with numbers like “Maybe” and “Still Life” falling in line with the burgeoning alt.country movement, the perfect pasture for these country-tinged roots-rockers.

The nice thing about this set is that it reminds that even though The Connells might not have been innovative rockers, their music was still charming in its simplicity and earnestness. Then again, I’m not a kid anymore, and the delight of simplicity that The Connells offer is something I appreciate more nowadays. That I’ve listened to this collection way more than I expected to when I first received it says much; I never would have thought that I’d be hoping their back catalogue gets a reissue campaign. That might never happen, so in the interim, Stone Cold Yesterday: The Best Of The Connells does an excellent job of reevaluating a band whose talent was taken for granted in its prime but is now ripe for revision. 

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