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Levellers: Greatest Hits

There was more to them than dogs on strings.

Even without the benefit of hindsight, sending a turd in the post to the NME was never going to endear the Levellers to the music press. But the faecal fracas that followed a bad review of their second album, 1991’s Levelling The Land, was typical of a proudly unfashionable band who thrived on opposition and obstinacy, and hang the consequences.

A punk band in revolutionary folk drag, the Brighton five-piece were the antithesis of the prevailing musical trends of the early 90s – an outsider status they revelled. Signature tune One Way (‘…Of Life’) was scorned for its simplistic message, but it showed they could knock out rabble-rousing anthems in their sleep.

That song features on this 35-track, two-disc set (albeit as an unnecessarily re-recorded version from 1998), but it’s the lesser-known tracks that show what a great band they are: the kitchen sink dramas of Fifteen Years and Julie (the latter updated with guest vocals from Frank Turner); This Garden’s wide-eyed psychedelia; the surprisingly riff-heavy Fantasy. Elsewhere, Billy Bragg adds extra emotional heft to a new version of Hope St, though Imelda May’s ersatz rockabilly stylings adds little of value to a retooled Beautiful Day.

Like their one-time bête noires the Manics, the Levellers occupy a unique place in British music: loved and hated in equal parts, even as they remain out of step with everything around them. All that, and not a turd in sight.

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.