Call it cash-in syndrome: No sooner has a musician gone platinum than old, unheralded recordings suddenly appear. Such is the case with No Doubt and Meredith Brooks, who return with new or not-so-new albums.
In 1995, No Doubt's future truly was in doubt: Their first album, 1992's No Doubt, was a flop, and their label, Interscope, had just rejected their latest batch of songs. The band ultimately released those recordings, The Beacon Street Collection, on their own indie label. Now that Gwen Stefani and the boys are stars, Beacon Street has been reissued by Interscope. (Sweet revenge, anyone?) For those who wonder why No Doubt were ever labeled ska, the album fills in the gaps. With its reggae frat-house grooves and perky horns, it's more focused than Tragic Kingdom, and the factors that would pay off for them Stefani's feisty Kewpie-doll wail, a knack for swaying ballads (''By the Way'') are in evidence. Although the songs are underwritten and overarranged, the band's spirit is willing; no wonder success was only one hook away.
Brooks' album is another kettle of dish entirely. Before she was a contrived Alanis Morissette wannabe, Brooks was, apparently, a contrived teen-idol wannabe. Recorded in 1984 and previously released only in Europe, See It Through My Eyes (ULG) is the spandex-clad skeleton in her closet. The songs are blatant rip-offs of '80s hits (''Jessica'' mimics ''Jessie's Girl''), with Brooks emoting in proper adolescent-in-heat style.
Understandably, Brooks never discusses these recordings: They're truly bad, with low-rent production and cheeseball-platter songs that don't even rise to the relative heights of Pat Benatar. (In an ironic coincidence, the set resembles the derivative synthpop Morissette made when she was a teen.) Yet, in its own way, Eyes is revealing: Brooks' desperation for stardom is so evident that it was only a matter of time before she made it. The music business it's a bitch. The Beacon Street Collection: B- See It Through My Eyes: D