The liner notes to The Soda Machine state that "If you like this record it is probably because you were there when nobody else was." It just so happens that this release combines two things that are usually relegated as "for the fans" material: the band DVD and the odds ‚??n ends collection. So I figure that while usually being an avid fan of a band makes unbiased reviewing harder, I think in cases like this it is rather essential because the material found within is intentionally for the already converted.
The CD portion of the collection contains a whopping 25 songs spanning the band's entire career from their early demos to outtakes from their most recent Fat Wreck release, Dancing for Decadence. "Still Not Getting Any‚?¶Credibility" starts things off proving once again that these guys enjoy taking jabs at Montreal pop-rockers Simple Plan. The song is decent but doesn't really stand out too much, so it was understandable that it was cut, but the next number "Theme Song for Another Brown Tuesday" is the real head-scratcher. It is a really catchy and melodic number compared to the rest of Dancing for Decadence and would have added some welcomed variety. Hugo mentions it reminding him of Lifetime in the liner notes and I wouldn't say that influence is far off. One of the more interesting songs on the collection comes in the form of "The Unforgiven 3 (Best Song Ever)." It is an acoustic song recorded for a comp that never came out and you'd think it might sound like a Yesterday's Ring tune, but not at all. Hugo says how they wanted to do a big ballad like Skid Row or M√∂tley Cr√ľe for fun and they sort of pull it off (they even have a big electric solo in the middle of the song).
If you already own all the band's vinyl, this may seem kind of redundant because the 7" splits with Whiskey Sunday and Fifth Hour Hero are represented as well as the 12" EP, The Machine Gets Under Way. Either way it is nice to have digital copies of those songs and the band has included some unreleased songs from those sessions, so if you haven't heard those albums the unreleased songs are given a better context.
One downside to the collection is that the final two songs included are from the band's first album, Those Stars Are for You. Not that they are bad songs, far from it, the problem is that the whole album is long OOP and not easy to track down and it would have made more sense to include the whole thing instead of some of the vinyl and comp tracks that are still in print.
The DVD splits live footage from the band's 500th celebration show in their hometown of Montreal in between interviews with current and former members of the band, road footage of the band, other band personalities such as Brendan and Neil of the Lawrence Arms, Fat Mike, Malcolm Bauld, Chicken of Dead to Me / Western Addiction, Against Me! and Fifth Hour Hero. The DVD really gets into the personality of the band and you can see the sense of humour behind their often ridiculous song titles in the joking sexual exploits of their underage former drummer and a particular funny story where Against Me! gets into a fight with members of a club in Guelph, Ontario when the DJ calls the hip-hop duo Outkast fags upon a song request and Tom "The Table" Gable proceeds to attempt to beat the ignorance out of said DJ. But it isn't all humour, as you get to see the progression of the band in a personal way when the band explains that when they started out, vocalist Hugo was hated by the crowd and wasn't friendly at all, but now when you go to their shows you'll find him to be one of the friendliest band folk around. The exiting of a former guitarist is explained because he wanted his guitar sound to be played cleanly and you can see when he leaves the band how their sound shifts from a Midwest emo-meets-hardcore sound (i.e. Split Lip / Chamberlain) to the somewhat HWMish post-hardcore found on their latest full-length. The movie portion is also playable in French Canadian for all you Francophones and there is a music video portion of the DVD containing all the band's music videos.
Whether you call it pop, soda or soda pop, the Sainte Catherines have provided a band DVD that is wonderfully filmed and is both insightful and entertaining (WARNING: there is some full frontal nudity, so it could also be arousing depending on your predilections toward penis -- French Canadian penis!). To top it all off it is beautifully packaged with in-depth liner notes. The music portion is expansive and almost always a decent listen at the very least that should hold fans over ‚??til the next record, which might be a ways off with a new Yesterday's Ring album in the works and according to Hugo only about one new Sainte Catherines song written.