Sunday, April 22, 2012

DJ Shadow - "Preemptive Strike" (LP Review)

Today's review is about part vs. wholeDJ Shadow's 1998 compilation LP "Preemptive Strike" contains in its entirety the 1994 4-track single "What Does Your Soul Look Like", which I rated as 10/10.  So if "Preemptive Strike" contains all of that release, how could it possibly be less than 10/10?

The answer lies in the purpose of the compilation LP and whether or not it achieved its purpose.  In 1998, DJ Shadow was leaving Mo' Wax Records for MCA and wanted to re-release some of his earlier singles in a package that he could control (hence the name "Preemptive Strike").  Mo' Wax has a culture of releasing a lot of singles, EPs, and compilations with a limited number of pressings (often with high-quality packaging), so prior to his 1996 debut LP he had already released at least an LP's worth of material appearing in a variety of formats, most of which are long out of print. For Mo' Wax, the vinyl or CD and its packaging are an integral part of experiencing the music, and the exclusivity of limited releases reinforces this.

To assemble this LP, he chose:
  • The A and B sides of first full single, 1993's "In/flux" / "Hindsight"
  • All four tracks from 1995's "What Does You Soul Look Like"
  • Two of the four tracks from 1997's "High Noon" ("High Noon" and "Organ Donor (Extended Overhaul)"
  • Three short, disposable snippets of studio chatter named "Strike 1", "Strike 2", an "Strike 3"
The first problem is that 3 of these tracks, (parts 1 and 4 of "What Does Your Soul Look Like" and "Organ Donor") appeared, albeit in slightly different form, on "Endtroducing.....".  There is value in having these tracks appear in their original form, but this leads to the second problem: the many tracks that were left off this LP.  Shadow's discography is long and complicated, but even leaving off various remixes and production credits, few could deny that these songs should have been collected on this LP:
Sure, that would have required this to have been a double LP, but some versions of "Preemptive Strike" also included the "Camel Bobsled Race" megamix LP, which truth be told isn't very good.  "Preemptive Strike" is an easy way to get to some of the early material from Shadow, including the essential "What Does Your Soul Look Like", but his early catalog deserves a more careful (even if not complete) compilation LP.  Here's what mine would look like, roughly in order of release:
I'm not a big fan of "Organ Donor", so I left that off.  Some of the above tracks were collected on the bonus disc of the deluxe edition of "Entroducing.....", but his early catalog deserves better treatment than it has received.

Final Score: 9/10.  Because of what it misses.

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