Of all the recent talk of band reunions, one intrigued me more than the rest: Sunny Day Real Estate. A band that I’ll admit I was late to the party on, I didn't pick up Diary until 1999; however, I was quick to understand the praise the band had garnered throughout their (now that I’ve researched it a bit more) brief career. They're a band that continues to be a constant part of my rotation, but had never had the opportunity to witness live (beyond the CD of Live that I, on occasion, listen to while falling asleep or the VHS tape of Live that I dust off and play from time to time).
Interestingly enough, with the news of a reunion, the talk of reissues sprung forth. In this particular case, it was reissues of the iconic Diary and (in my opinion) its slightly underappreciated followup, LP2. These albums were remastered with unreleased tracks (the mixed bag bonus tracks addition). I admit that I am quick to pick up almost anything released by a band that I really like, especially when it comes to reissues and stuff that for the most part I already own (i.e. Screeching Weasel reissues [both vinyl and CD], Beatles reissues, Queers reissues, Riverdales reissues, etc.). So once I heard these two albums were being put back on the market in spiffy new packaging, I knew I would purchase said albums.
Since I will leave a review of the Diary remaster to a better writer (I will eventually delve into total sappy self-referencing stories with that one), I wanted to shed some light on LP2.
I’ve always been a fan of LP2. Even though I still hold Diary in a higher regard, LP2 always appealed to me, right from the first listen. I think the relative brevity of the album was always a big plus, even though Diary wasn't necessarily some lengthy journey; hell, just remove “Pheurton Skeurto” and “Grendel” from Diary and both albums are probably the same length. While I always enjoyed the scope of Diary, I felt LP2 was more of an intimate affair, an extension of the potential Diary brought to the masses.
Of all reissues I have purchased, I would have to say the LP2 remaster is up there with the biggest, noticeable improvements out there (Rufio’s Perhaps, I Suppose... reissue being in the same realm (though admittedly weird to be mentioning these two albums together). While this has always been a favorite album of mine, I thought the production left something to be desired. The remaster, however, has revealed all the greatness this album has to offer.
While the original release of LP2 sounded like it was recorded in a distant narrow hallway, the remaster has expanded everything, which makes it sound like it could fill any room. All the instruments now have a distinct separation, with the bass being the most apparent. Not that the bass was absent from the original mix -- on the remaster, there is easily more definition in all of bassist Nate Mendel’s work. Even guitarist Jeremy Enigk’s vocals have been cleaned up and pushed to the front, though it doesn’t make it easier to understand what he’s singing. I have always considered his vocals to be part of the instrumentation, and in songs like “Iscarabaid” the vocals still sit nicely within the rest of the music. “Friday,” “8” and “J’Nuh” are the tracks where the benefits of the remastering process are noticeably on display even to the most casual fan of LP2.
In regards to the bonus tracks, “Spade and Parade” sounds like it possibly started as an alternate take of “Iscarabaid” (at least to me), and therefore doesn't sit well on this disc. I understand the added tracks are not to be figured into the album experience, but since they do share space on the same piece of plastic, it disrupts the flow. Plus, the song features one of the longest breakdown intros I've heard in awhile. “Bucket of Chicken” is an awesome track that features a dirty distorted guitar tone that I was made an instant fan of. I like the direction the band was headed with this track; it sounds like a slight departure from the material that had been released up to that point.
The liner notes include a decent oral history of the making of the album, the mindset of the members of the band during that era and current times, etc. I always enjoy taking a peek into the inner workings of the bands I like, and the literature here does not disappoint.
Overall, I would rate this purchase well worth it. For all the LP2 fans that haven’t taken a listen to the album in a while, I encourage you all to pick this up and give it a spin. I can’t say that this remastering job raises this album past Diary or even matches it, but I think it finally gives the album the chance to shine in a light it was probably always meant to.