Hidden treats are always the best, which is why the B-sides or rarities album is such a killer pleasure. Oasis's The Masterplan, for example, is a worthy companion to 'Definitely Maybe' and 'Morning Glory', and arguably better than any of the band's other studio efforts. But what are the other finest B-sides and rarity albums?
Nirvana – 'Incesticide' (1992). Released one year after 'Nevermind' made them bona-fide mainstream rock-stars, 'Incesticide' is no mere cash-in: its combination of ace covers (particularly Devo's 'Turnaround') and the dirty, grungy din of the likes of 'Dive' and 'Been A Son' make it a must-have for any Nirvana die-hard.
Suede – 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' (1997). 'Suede', 'Dog Man Star' and 'Sci-Fi Lullabies': the holy trinity that no arse-slapping Suede fan can do without. Suede weren't just an excellent singles band; their B-Sides, from 'Killing Of A Flashboy' to 'My Dark Star' to 'Europe Is Our Playground', were as exciting as anything Britpop could muster.
Morrissey – 'Bona Drag' (1990). Morrissey carried on the knack for all-conquering non-album singles and B-Sides once he had left The Smiths. In particular, witness the strength of his B-Sides: for lesser mortals, songs like 'Hairdresser On Fire' and 'He Knows I'd Love To See Him' would surely have been released as singles in their own right.
Blur – 'The Special Collectors Edition' (1994). A treat for Japanese fans, Britpop heavyweights Blur released all of their B-sides in one fell swoop with 'The Special Collectors Edition'. There's some odd moments, too: opener 'Day Upon Day' is from an old recording at Bath's Moles Club, while closer 'Bank Holiday' is actually a group of fans singing the track Tokyo's Narita Airport.
The Smiths – 'Hatful Of Hollow' (1984). An album that's as mighty as any of The Smiths' studio efforts. Many fans, believing that the muddy production of their debut let the band down, prefer 'Hatful Of Hollow' and its alternative versions of 'Hand In Glove', 'Still Ill' and 'What Difference Does It Make?'.
The Clash – 'Black Market Clash' (1980). A visceral, thrilling insight into a band at the peak of their powers, 'Black Market Clash' takes Joe Strummer and co's rarities and turns them into a coherent whole due to the sheer quality of songs such as 'The Prisoner' and 'City Of The Dead'.
Radiohead - 'Com Lag' (2004)
'COM LAG (2plus2isfive)' was an EP released in Japan and Australia but 'EP' undersells its 10 tracks. Expect a sublime live version of 'I Will', a skittering 'Where Bluebirds Fly' and a FourTet remix of 'Skttrbrain'
Talk Talk - 'Asides Besides' (1998)
It can be a bummer being a Talk Talk fan, being that Mark Hollis has been a recluse for years. Thankfully, there is a collection of rare tracks, b-sides and demos you might not know about. And it's pure gold.
Kate Bush - 'This Woman's Work'
A handy purchase for any Kate Bush fan. In 1990, a boxset called 'This Womans' Work' including two discs of all her single B-sides from 1978 to 1990 was released. That'll soothe the disappointment over the fact you'll probably never see Kate Bush live again.
Mogwai - 'Government Commissions' (2005)
'Government Commissions: BBC Sessions 1996–2003' is a collection of sessions recorded between 1996 and 2003 for BBC Radio and mostly John Peel's show. Featuring different versions of particular tracks, it's a must for die-hard fans as well as Mogwai novices.
Manic Street Preachers - 'Lipstick Traces' (2003)
The B-side album from Wales' finest isn't without its flaws but the tracks on it could make up a classic album in its own right. Don't miss the live covers of Wham!'s 'Last Christmas' and Nirvana's 'Been A Son'.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – 'B-Sides & Rarities' (2005). A rather prosaic name, but there's nothing run-of-the-mill about Cave and co's collection here. And as fine as the B-Sides are, it's the rarities that sparkle: an acoustic version of 'Deana' is haunting-as-they-come, while covers of Leonard Cohen's 'I'm Your Man' and Roy Oribison's 'Running Scared' are brilliant and bizarre.
PJ Harvey – '4-Track Demos' (1993). A mixture of skeletal, scary demos of songs from 'Rid Of Me' and equally unsettling unreleased tracks, '4-Track Demos' is one of Harvey's most brilliant works: a snapshot of a fearless, righteous singer-songwriter unafraid to pick over her own scabs in order to expose fresh wounds. An uncomfortably vital listen.
The Smiths – 'Louder Than Bombs' (1987). The singles are typically excellent, of course, but the real selling point here is the B-sides: nearly all of The Smiths' secondary recordings are gathered here, including the magnificent 'Half A Person', 'Asleep' and 'Unloveable'.
The Libertines – 'Legs 11' (2000). Arguably The Libs' most-loved bootleg, this, and a cut above the rest of Pete Doherty's more rough-and-ready home recordings and demos. 'Hooray For The 21st Century' is Pete and Carl at their sharpest, while Doherty's 'Love On The Dole' is among the finest songs he ever wrote.
Siouxsie And The Banshees – 'Downside Up' (2004). Manna from heaven for all Siouxsie And The Banshees obsessives, 'Downside Up' is a four-CD box set of the band's B-sides and bonus material, including the spellbinding 'Tattoo' and 'Eve White/Eve Black'.
REM – 'Dead Letter Office' (1987). Peter Buck was reluctant to release 'Dead Letter Office', fearing that fans would think it a shameless cash-in. In truth, though, there's more than enough to keep anyone happy with this collection of unreleased recordings, particularly with the rich array of cover versions: Velvet Underground and Aerosmith both get an REM-makeover.
Thom Yorke - 'Spitting Feathers' (2006)
Like 'The Eraser'? You might have missed 'Spitting Feathers', an EP of songs, some of which were originally released with 'Harrowdown Hill' and 'Analyse', that quiver with Yorke's trademark insectival paranoia.
Pixies' - 'Complete B Sides' (2001)
From a blistering live version of 'Vamos' to one of the greatest Pixies songs ever written - 'Santo' - no true fan should be without this collection.
The Who – 'Odds & Sods' (1974). Bassist John Entwistle rustled this compilation together while his bandmates were off preparing to film 'Tommy'. "I tried to arrange it like a parallel sort of Who career - what singles we might have released and what album tracks we might have released," he said.
Bob Dylan – 'The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3' (1991). There was so much demand from Dylan fans for bootleg recordings of his unreleased cuts that his label, Columbia, decided to beat them at their own game by releasing this: a 58-song album consisting of session outtakes, demos and live recordings.
Sex Pistols – 'Spunk' (1977). For some, this is considered the Pistols' alternative debut album: a bootleg recording which, according to manager Malcolm McLaren, was better than 'Never Mind The Bollocks'.
The Cure – 'Join The Dots: B-Sides & Rarities' (2004). If nothing else, the track 'I'm Cold' is reason alone to invest in 'Join The Dots': it brings together Robert Smith with the First Lady Of Goth-Punk, Siouxsie Sioux. And elsewhere there's much other treasure to plunder, too, with a four-CD compilation of rare odds and sods, and a strange-but-true cover of 'Purple Haze'.
Joy Division – 'Still' (1981) There aren countless Joy Division compilations available – in particular, their full Peel Session album is worth anyone's time – but 'Still' reigns supreme: a mixture of brilliant unreleased tracks such as 'Walked In Line', non-album songs like 'Dead Souls' and a recording of their last ever gig, at Birmingham University.
The Fall – '458489 B-Sides' (1990). A mammoth collection of Mark E Smith and co's B-Sides between 1984 and 1989, there's gold to be found within these discs. Culled from one of their most prolific and high-quality periods, during which they were signed to Beggars Banquet, The Fall sound at their irascible best on 'No Bulbs' and 'Petty Thief Lout'.
David Bowie – 'Bowie At The Beeb' (2000). A collection of Bowie's finest visits to the BBC between 1968 and 1972, including stops at the John Peel show. It's thrilling to hear those aged, crackling recordings of some of his finest non-single tracks such as 'Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed' and 'God Knows I'm Good' rub shoulders with the likes of 'Kooks' and 'Moonage Daydream'.
Hole – 'My Body, The Hand Grenade' (1997). The rarest of the rare, here: an extremely hard-to-get collection of demos and B-sides from Hole, released by their label who were frustrated with the delay between 'Live Through This' and 'Celebrity Skin'. There are covers of Donovan, a take on 'He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)', and the abrasive likes of 'Dicknail' and 'Burn Black'.
The National - 'The Virginia EP' (2008)
The Virginia EP is a generous release of 12 tracks including rare demos and live tracks, for example, the band's version of Bruce Springsteen's 'Mansion Of The Hill' and 'Boxer' track 'Fake Empire'.
Elliott Smith – 'New Moon' (2007) It's cruel beyond words that Elliott Smith was taken from us too soon, but his legacy has lived on and shows no signs of dimming. In 2007, a 24-collection of unreleased songs from the singer-songwriter was released: a brilliant posthumous album of brittle, bare-bones tracks which show his rare gifts in all their glory.