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by Bernard Zuel - The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 August 1997
It's almost axiomatic to say that if The Sports had been English they would not only have been huge but would now be being name-dropped religiously by the Britpop and post-Britpop bands who take as much from 1979 as they do from 1966.
Boys (What Did The Detective Say) and Who Listens To The Radio are classic new wave moments: thinly produced, the guitars still with an echo of the more indulgent '70s supposedly overthrown by punk, prominent piano and backing vocals to clap to. But as Suspicious Minds, Perhaps and the rich Blue Hearts show, even in 1979/80 they were more than just a London copy (though they clearly were enjoying XTC when they recorded Suddenly), with enough West Coast-with-attitude to smooth some of the spikier bits.
If anything, it was their ability to bridge the Atlantic - and New York and LA for that matter - which saw them never making it big anywhere: it is always easier if the press and radio can slot you into one category or another.
But they left their mark. In songs such as Strangers On A Train and Stop The Baby Talking, they were laying down the template for Australian Crawl (James Reyne so clearly modelled himself on Stephen Cummings's vocal mannerisms it is eerie), but still found themselves taking a darker and more emotionally fulfilling route with the sadly underappreciated album Sondra.
Black Stockings For Chelsea (as with the much earlier Reckless) pointed the way for Cummings's later solo tales (and Australian Crawl's own Reckless it should be noted), while much of Sondra still bustled with brittle energy.
This double CD offers serious fan bonuses such as the patchy Sports Play Dylan (And Donovan) EP, early recordings, unreleased tracks and live tracks - for The Sports were very often fabulous live.
But it's in the collection of could-have-been/should-have-been hits from 1979-81 that this compilation provides its worth. Great pop songs played well - rare enough at any time, a treasure all the time.