CD Review: Gary Numan/Love & Rockets 5 Albums Box Sets
Beggars Archive is a re-issue label that specializes in maintaining the back catalog of Beggars Banquet, the now-defunct indie label who helped introduce the world to groundbreaking acts like Bauhaus, The Fall, and The Gun Club. However, as beloved and well-regarded as the Beggars backstock is, not much of it exactly flies off the shelves today. Let’s be honest, most people interested in Bauhaus just want to buy a greatest hits CD that has “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” on it, and lesser acts like Gene Loves Jezebel and Felsh For Lulu are probably on the verge of being lost to the sands of time forever, save for whatever tracks they had on 80s teen comedies.
As an effort to keep many of their lesser artists, and less popular albums by their established artists, in print, Beggars Archive have started packaging together budget-priced “5 Album” box sets that include, you guessed it, five CDs from a band’s back catalog. Five CDs that, the label suggested, would be out-of-print otherwise.
The first two artists to get the “5 Album” treatment from Beggars Archive are Love & Rockets and Gary Numan. And while both are collections of great albums that many people might not purchase otherwise (and that’s a shame) I’m having a hard time figuring out just who these box sets are for.
The Love & Rockets set includes the group’s first four albums for the label, as well as a bonus disc called Assorted!, which collects B-sides and live cuts from the band’s 80s output. It’s a nice package, but what’s the point? Newcomers to the group probably won’t want to shell out the bucks for a box set (even if it is under $40 at Amazon), and longtime fans of the band will resent having to re-buy their first four LPs (which are not remastered in anyway as far as I can tell) just for a bonus disc of rare material. Don’t get me wrong, all the albums are great: Love & Rockets remain a fantastic, underrated band whose diverse output is worth discovering, this just doesn’t feel like the best way of doing that.
The Gary Numan box set is even less essential. It includes just four albums; Living Ornaments ’81 (a 2CD set), Dance, I Assassin, and Warriors. A few of the albums have bonus tracks and remixes, but these are the same bonus tracks and remixes that have been on the CDs since they were re-issued over a decade ago. There’s literally nothing new here. No hard-to-find material, no additional B-sides, nothing. If you already own these albums, or own more than half and can buy the rest individually, then there’s no reason for you to buy this box set. It’s for new fans to Numan only, and let’s be honest, new fans to Numan probably shouldn’t start with anything that has Warriors.
Beggars Archive is pitching these sets as a last-ditch resort to keep these albums in print, but I don’t understand how that works. Maybe by packaging them together they’re keeping production costs down? That has to be the only reason. Because these sets certainly aren’t going to generate new sales, their mere existence is confusing to me. No one should buy the Numan box set, and fans of Love & Rockets will just be pissed off that the Assorted! disc is bundled with four albums they no doubt own. I hope Beggars figures out a way to either refine the content or reduce the price of future sets in the series.
Otherwise, I just don’t see the point.