Back in 2002, I randomly purchased a little blue 7″ from Springman Records. “Mileage,” the title track, renewed what was, at the time, my waning interest in music. It’s mellow, ambling rhythm and layers of guitar built slowly, steadily and crazily into the frenzy of a tribal right of passage. I immediately ordered a second copy (you know, just in case), something I have never done with another record. The band that made that record was the Rum Diary and, over the ensuing half decade, I faithfully bought anything they released. However, it seemed that they never quite recaptured what they had with “Mileage”…until their final album, We’re Afraid of Heights Tonight.
In a sense, that’s what makes Retrospective so great. It mixes “Mileage” and “Back in the Hardcore Days” (off their finalé) with some of those other tracks. Oddly, when coupled together, the songs I thought to be lesser (only in comparison to their career bookends) turn out to be elevated here. While I had been looking for something else as striking as that first listen, I seem to have failed to recognize just how good the subsequent songs were. It also collects songs from several split EPs that might have been missed even by fans and there are a handful of unreleased tracks that had no business remaining unreleased. Sadly, none were the We’re Afraid of Heights Tonight vinyl-only tracks since they only pressed 100 copies.
All in all, this is both a great collection of songs and a remarkably cohesive album in its own right. Most importantly though, it gives everyone a shot at hearing one of the best bands they probably missed in the last decade.