There’s something inherently futile about creating “best of” albums, which feels more futile the longer a band has been together. How do you accurately capture a band’s evolution, what makes them special?
Maybe you don’t overthink it and just look at a set list.
That’s kind of what Useless ID did. The Israeli punks have been together since 1994, releasing eight full-lengths and a slew of EPs, singles, and compilations. That’s a staggering number of songs to pare down into some kind of “definitive” portrait of the band.
“It was hard for us to narrow it down, since we think there are a few more songs that could’ve been on the ‘best of,’” says songwriter, bassist, and vocalist Yotam Ben-Horin. “But we thought, ‘What if we released an album of the songs we play live and in the order we do them? How would that go?”
It would go like Most Useless Songs (Fat Wreck Chords, May 7). Ben-Horin describes the collection as “songs that work best live, songs that have stood the test of time, songs that carry an interesting story, and songs that have been regulars in our sets throughout the years.” (First track and fan favorite “State of Fear” usually closes sets, not begins them, but you get the point.)
Most Useless Songs reaches as far back as the 1999 Fat Wreck Chords compilation Short Music For Short People (“Too Bad You Don’t Get It”), but otherwise draws from the band’s 2000s output, such as No Vacation from the World (2003), Redemption (2005), The Lost Broken Bones (2008), Symptoms (2012), and State is Burning (2016). The liner notes feature commentary about all 16 tracks from Useless ID, which also includes guitarist Ishay Berger, guitarist Guy Carmel, and drummer Corey Ben Yehuda.
“I think this compilation shows our growth throughout the years,” Ben-Horin says. “We never stuck to one sound in punk rock, and I think that's what defines our band as well. We can do a simple pop-punk song like ‘Night Shift’ and still be able to play something like ‘Isolate Me,’ and it won't be weird because it's the same band with the same sound.”
That sound continues to evolve, as shown on two new tracks exclusive to Most Useless Songs: the soaring, hopeful “Same Old Revolution” and “Into the Exquisite,” a blistering track that’s classic Useless ID.
“When we recorded the new songs for the ‘best of,’ we were reminded how much fun we have making music together,” Ben-Horin says.
That means more new material in the near future, but in the meantime, Most Useless Songs captures the evolution of, and what’s so special about, Useless ID.