Tuesday, September 26, 2023

High Llamas - Retrospective Rarities & Instrumentals [2003] (2 x CD's)

Previously posted June 19, 2019

High Llamas - Retrospective Rarities & Instrumentals [2003] (2 x CD's)

Retrospective, Rarities & Instrumentals is a double-disc summation of the High Llamas' recordings for V2 (and two early records that V2 bought the rights to). The first disc is a collection of 16 songs from the Llamas albums: two tracks from 1992's Santa Barbara, three from 1995's Gideon Gaye, four from 1996's Hawaii, three from 1998's Cold & Bouncy, and four from 1999's Snowbug. The sequence of tracks is quite stunning. Many critics wrote the band off as mere Beach Boys copyists whose albums all sounded exactly the same, but hearing their best songs back to back, one can see they wrote a lot of killer melodies and while the songs are all based on the same template -- soaring strings, smooth harmony-laden background vocals, chamber pop accouterments like vibraphones and bells, Sean O'Hagan's honest and sweet voice, and a classic feel for melody -- there are enough differences to be found from track to track to make this disc a standout. It is fun to see how the early, relatively stripped-down sound of "Apricots" or "Holland" from their first album progresses to the lush, majestic sound of "Nomads" from Hawaii to the intricately arranged and easy listening-influenced sound of "Bach Ze" from Snowbug. Disc two collects 14 B-sides and songs that were bonus tracks on Japanese or U.S. editions of the albums. Three of the songs come from the limited-edition bonus disc that came with Hawaii, including one of O'Hagan's best songs, the arch and lovely "It Might as Well Be Dumbo." The rest of the tracks are a mix of space-age instrumentals and bouncy pop. The rarest track is the previously unreleased "Vampo Brazil," which was recorded for Cold & Bouncy but didn't make the final cut. This is a disc that fans will find to be a real treat, though not as essential as the first disc. Retrospective, Rarities & Instrumentals is the definitive High Llamas record. It makes a strong case for them as one of the best pop bands of the 1990s and is a heck of a lot of fun to listen to also. (AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra)




Track lists

01    Checking In, Checking Out    5:45
02    Glide Time    4:26
03    Nomads    4:01
04    Literature Is Fluff    4:58
05    Bach Ze (Edit)    4:55
06    The Sun Beats Down    3:57
07    The Goat Looks On    6:13
08    Harpers Romo    4:20
09    Ill-Fitting Suits    3:59
10    Three Point Scrabble    5:23
11    Sparkle Up    4:53
12    Triads    5:49
13    Green Coaster    4:05
14    Apricots    2:19
15    The Dutchman    4:30
16    Holland    4:06

01    It Might As Well Be Dumbo    4:53
02    Over The River    4:06
03    Beachy Bunch    2:49
04    Janet Jangle    3:48
05    In The Yacht    6:16
06    Vampo Brazil    5:24
07    Mini-Management    9:04
08    Shuggie Todd    3:39
09    Harmonium    5:46
10    Stop Trainer    3:33
11    Elliot Bridge    3:31
12    Hi Ball Nova Scotia    4:47
13    Showstop (Op Art Informal)    4:59
14    Homespin Rerun    3:49
15    Cropduster    7:48



  1. I always had a soft spot for the High Llamas and their strangely wonderful, offbeat, out of time music. I didn't know this compilation yet, thank you BB! Best, TC

    1. I also have a soft spot for the High Llamas, TC.
      I've followed them since 1992.
      The only album I don't have is Sean O'Hagan's solo project High Llamas - High Llamas [1990]

  2. Hi, Pete The Plumber.
    I have pretty much all their albums. The only album I don't have is Sean O'Hagan's initial solo project High Llamas - High Llamas [1990]. I will probably post them as a box set at some stage, keep your eyes peeled.

  3. Used to listen to this band a lot when they were releasing albums; great stuff! I only had this collection in 192kbps so thank you for the upgrade!