Boiled in Lead


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A fun, 70-minute collection of some of BiL's best moments over its career, Alloy works as both something for the hardcore Leadhead (as the band's fans are known) and the neophyte. The chronological ordering of the collection demonstrates how BiL became more involved and just plain great over time, as new members like Anders and Kessler joined to take the overall abilities of the band even higher. At least one track from each of the five previous albums or collections surfaces on Alloy, sometimes in an alternate mix or take, but plenty more rarities, live tracks, and other obscurities help show the group's full range. Early member Dauphin gets a vocal spotlight via a hitherto unreleased version of the folk standard "The Dreadnaught" -- she's in fine voice, though admittedly the arrangement by the band is more straightforward than might be expected. The shift from Menton's slightly cleaner lead vocals to Stemple's touch more emotive and rougher singing is nicely illustrated by a version of "All the Little Horses" recorded for Antler Dance but never released. Kessler's fiddle is quite fine as well, while his notoriously rude contribution to the BiL archives, the goofy heavy-metal pisstake "Fuck the Circus," appears here on CD for the first time. The various live and radio sessions really showcase the performing abilities of the group and then some, mostly focusing on the later Stemple/Kessler/Miller/Anders lineup. Two fine instrumentals from a 1994 radio visit, Miller's original "Drowning" and Kessler's arrangement of "Pontiaka," are alternately bewitchingly beautiful and kick-up-your-heels fun. BiL's hilarious, raucous cover of "Rasputin" surfaces as part of a 1997 live set in which the group's collaborations with writer Steven Brust are saluted with a wickedly great version of his drinking-gone-wrong song "Puking in the Heather." ~ Ned Raggett, Rovi