Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Lush, My 100th Post...and an Apology.

Sometimes time can show you just how wrong you can be and hold you up as a solid gold liar. No matter how sure of yourself you were once upon a time you can virtually guarantee that the passage of time will come and bite you where it most hurts, in the ego! I am and always will be, a huge fan of so-called shoegazers, Lush, a band who operated between 1989 and 1996. As this is my 100th post, I felt they ought to feature. Their first recorded effort was a 6 track EP named ‘Scar’ and it just blew me away with its jagged rhythms, soaring harmonies and endlessly modulating melodies. After a few stunning singles and what seemed an eternity their first proper album finally arrived in 1992 – ‘Spooky’ and I was straining at the leash to hear it.

And that’s where the trouble started. The difficulty with ‘Spooky’ stemmed from the fact that it had been produced by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie and he had given it an effects-drenched maelstrom sound close to that of his own albums. There immediately followed a wave of fierce criticism from critics and fans alike directed at Guthrie’s dense, impenetrable production on what should have been, after all, Lush’s first triumphant foray into the world of albums and when I first bought it back in ‘92, I was one of the most vociferous. How dare he mess about with one of my most favourite bands? Why were the vocals drowned in the mix? Where were the dynamics of the band? I was so disappointed that the potential of Lush had been utterly ruined that I pontificated about how crap Guthrie was as a producer and how I’d never look at a Cocteau Twins album again. So there!

However, it pains me to admit that from a perspective of over fifteen years now, my view has mellowed somewhat and on continued listenings, I find that actually, this is a very fine album indeed.

Its dizzying dream pop, so characteristic of the prevailing shoegazing genre of that time now sounds nostalgic and exhilarating. Whilst many reviewers bemoan the fact that Lush’s contrived atmospherics were inferior to the efforts of others such as the aforementioned Cocteau Twins and the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Ride, I think they are missing the point. Lush were primarily a band that created great pop songs and then submerged them in swathes of effects, rather than following their peers and developing aural landscapes for their own sake.

‘For Love’, ‘Covert’, ‘Untogether’, ‘Fantasy’ – pop songs all. Add to the basic premise of a good song their effortlessly intricate vocal harmonies and their lightness of touch despite the layers of guitar noise and you have a concoction that sounds a bit like The Beach Boys meets The Cure at a Trance workshop. Or, in other words, music that satisfies both the head and the heart.

In retrospect, it’s stunning stuff from one of the most underrated bands in the history of underrated bands. Sorry Robin.

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