Hootie & the Blowfish
never were cut out to be superstars. They were meant to be the best band at the local bar. They were ordinary guys, and they played ordinary music, the kind that could be heard in any college town on the East Coast or Midwest during the early '90s when the local bar wasn't having grunge night. It was the ordinariness of the music on their 1994 debut, Cracked Rear View
, that connected with millions of American listeners -- they sounded like everybody's favorite local band. Once they were superstars, their bubble burst fairly quickly as the 1996 follow-up sold considerably fewer than the debut, and by the end of the decade, they had settled into a reliable routine of turning out modest records and touring steadily, without many people outside of their core fans noticing. Their popularity might have declined, but as the 2004 Atlantic/Rhino compilation The Best of Hootie & the Blowfish (1993 Thru 2003)
illustrates, their music changed very little over the course of the decade, nor did the quality of their music decline. The band does what it does very well -- they write straight-ahead big, mid-tempo pop songs and ballads and deliver them without pretense. Perhaps their writing isn't as sharp or hooky as the Gin Blossoms
, who mined a similar territory, but there is a charm to their plain-spoken delivery, and it's best heard on this 17-track collection, which contains all the hits -- including such covers as 54-40
's "I Go Blind" and Led Zeppelin
's "Hey Hey What Can I Do" -- sequenced not chronologically, but as a set list, and it's more entertaining because of it. While the closing cover of "Goodbye Girl" -- the obligatory new track for a hits collection -- doesn't showcase the band at its best, the rest of the album does, and it's as good a Hootie & the Blowfish
compilation as could be.