To fans and admirers of a cult band like Apples in Stereo, the arrival of a best-of set like #1 Hits Explosion (Yep Roc) is both superfluous and a reason to rejoice. It's the former because most fans'll already have this stuff from their original LP and EP releases, the latter because every new AiS release opens up the possibility that this great pop-rock band will finally break big in the public consciousness.
This sixteen track set also does us the favor of rescuing two cuts from the band's one dubious release, the Her Wallpaper Reverie EP: the Magical Mystery Touristy "Strawberry Fire" and straightly poppish "Ruby." These two tracks can arguably be held up as reflecting band meister Robert Schneider's prime sonic tactics: the slightly sideways psychedelic glance and the more straightforward Brian Wilson-esque pop thrust.
If #1 Hits none too surprisingly favors the latter in its selection, there are plenty of sweetly weird moments ("Fire," "Tidal Wave," former Apples drummer Hilarie Sidney's "Winter Must Be Cold") to satisfy most lovers of the fun trick noisemaker approach.
To someone who has played most of his AiS CDs to the point of obsessive compulsive familiarity, there's always something a little disorienting about collections like this. Listening to a cut like "Same Old Drag" (from New Magnetic Wonder), for instance, I can't help mentally starting up the short follow-up cut, "Joanie Don't U Worry," because that's the way it went on the original album.
It's one thing to have a Schneider track like "Sun Is Out" catch you off guard in a Dodge commercial ("Gee, I hope the guys're making good money off this," you think). It's something else when the cuts are removed from their original context and placed out of chronology. The latter prevents newcomers from getting a sense of the group's fifteen-year tone soul evolution — which is a historical shame.