In case you don’t know, Samiam is, for ease of identification, an emo band with punk and alternative leanings from the Bay Area—think a less punk and more alternative (and accessible) Jawbreaker with a more consistent catalog. Anyhow, I was rather suspicious of this when I first heard about it. I swear by the band’s Billy and Soar LPs. However, I am generally not thrilled with live recordings, and these songs were recorded during the band’s Clumsy and You Are Freaking Me Out periods, which aren’t bad but not my favorites. Upon having listened to this compilation, I must say that my apprehension was a bit unfounded. My latter worry, that this would have been solely a retrospective of the Clumsy and Freaking eras, was assuaged by the presence of selections from Billy and Soar (and even one from the first LP!). The rest of my trepidation gave way when I found that the live tracks were mostly done live in the studio and on radio stations, and the rest of the live ones didn’t sound like shit. These recordings, at times, offer a slightly altered approach, which were interesting to hear. That said, I still prefer the emotive force of the Billy and Soar versions of the songs that appear here. As for the rest of the tracks, there were a couple of oddities to me. First, though Samiam is great, they have no business covering The Pixies or Iggy And The Stooges—these covers should have been destroyed like your old high school poems. Second, “She Found You,” a single from Freaking, didn’t make the cut in any form. Overall, this isn’t bad yet far from great. I can see it serving the purpose of giving an overview of Samiam’s early and mid period output to a new listener, but I think that it is better suited for those infatuated with the band. To those who would like to check out Samiam for the first time, I would say go with Billy and Soar (or track down New Red Years if you don’t want to take a two-album plunge).
–Vincent (No Idea, noidearecords.com)