‘Tis the season for compilations, tra la la la la, tra la la la… yes indeed, Whitney, Blur, The Beatles and even those arch-feminist guitarists, Indigo Girls, are at it. Retrospective is an album which brings together many great moments from their years of non-hits, from the instantly memorable Closer To Fine to the Capercaillie-esque Ghost, with Michael Stipe even popping by to offer backing vocals on Kid Fears.
Go sounds like it is sung by Brian Molko, but, these aside, there are no surprises to be had on this album. Such is the nature of compilations. They were invented for people who didn’t want to buy every record but simply wanted to own the best moments. With Retrospective, Indigo Girls have managed to offer us most of them – and while die-hard fans of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers will claim that every song they ever wrote is worthy of inclusion on here, the compilers really have chosen wisely.
Being released in time for Christmas means that you can buy this album as a Christmas present – for the angst-ridden teenage daughter who has started wearing dungarees; for the student who wished he had the money to buy it himself; for a disgruntled music hack who has had to listen to too much dross and needs to hear proper music created from personal sentiment again before he goes grey. Hell, you may even buy it for yourself. That is, if you like acoustic guitar songs. Sixteen of them.
But Indigo Girls are of course about much more than simple acoustic melodies and sweet girly vocal harmonies; they are nothing short of arch-feminists, right up there with Germaine Greer and The Suffragettes in the Feminist History Almanac. They are delighted to bang on about lesbian and gay rights and take pride from so doing, both in their songs and outside of them. They managed themselves for their first seven years and, while signed to a division of one of The Big Five, they maintain an aura of self-defining independence. Retrospective is an totem pole for all these things – but is still a damned fine collection of music first and foremost.