Lush: Track by Track
Shoegaze bands are reforming left, right and fuzzy, reverb-soaked centre.
It’s becoming increasingly hard to skirt around the fact the every year we’re faced with a seemingly unstoppable avalanche of headlines about pedal-worshipping 90s philosophy students getting the ol’ band back together. It’s also becoming increasingly hard to care. But we should care, because basically all these bands are trying to do is claim a bit of credit for the sound they created. It’s a sound that’s been endlessly mimicked – often carelessly – by record-collecting millennial philosophy students putting a new band together. It’s a sound that’s variously called dream pop, shoegaze and noise pop, and i’s a sound that bands like Lush and their contemporaries Slowdive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine pioneered.
Influenced by – and briefly coexisting with – the jangly, cloud-watching pop of Stone Roses and Cocteau Twins, many of the bands enjoyed peripheral mainstream success and have since gone on to influence a generation of bands to create bulky, dense, washed-out indie pop fed through sequential circuits of modulators and all manner of strange, often Japanese, effects pedals. By the end of the 90s, shoegaze was mostly a dim and distant memory pushed behind the cheeky Britpop charm of Blur and the loutish Beatles impersonations of the Gallagher brothers.
Shoegaze lay forgotten for nearly a decade and Lush remained one of the most forgotten bands of the genre outright. It’d be easy to pass them off as just another 90s band out to make a quick buck. But Lush worked hard, they’ve had to overcome tragedy in the untimely death of their drummer and they’ve faced harsh criticism for some brilliant work. I also reckon they deserve a buck or two for all the imitators riding their bandwagon into the pages of magazines like ours. Getting there has hardly been quick either. Remember, Lush were a trendy indie band when you were still exclusively dining on blended vegetables and gargling along to the Brum theme tune.
Comprised of dual guitarists Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, bassist Phil King, and drummer Chris Acland, the band released three albums throughout their short career. Spooky was a full on barrage. Subtly rousing melodies floated beneath the careful chaos of guitars droning through ecstatic feedback. Their second full-length Split saw the four-piece veer towards cleaner, moodier sounds while their final album Lovelife was a divisive stab at Britpop that was as easy to sneer at as it was to adore. So just in case you were wondering why you should care about another shoegaze band getting back together, I’ve put together this handy list of Lush’s best songs so you can find out where all your favourite bands stole all their best ideas from.
Sweetness and Light from Gala1990 (Reprise Records)
Before Lush released their debut full length they released Gala in the US and Japan. It was a compilation of their singles and EPs. Sweetness and Light is, at least in some ways, the most quintessential shoegaze song Lush wrote before their poppier intentions started to shine through.
Baby Talk from Scar / Gala1990 (Reprise Records)
Baby Talk also appeared on Gala but it originally appeared on the band’s 1989 mini-album Scar. Oddly it’s reminiscent of the shoutier, angrier indie sound they would later showcase on Lovelife.
For Love from Spooky1991 (4AD)
On their debut album Spooky Lush recruited Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie for production duties. His influence is obvious in frontwoman Miki Berenyi’s effected vocals and guitarist Emma Anderson’s dreamy melodies on For Love. It’s upfront, upbeat and as the first single from the album it’s probably one of the best introductions to the sound that Lush would seem most at home in.
Second single Nothing Natural is also great but leans very heavily on Guthrie’s production. The result is a song that sounds too much like the Cocteau Twins and not enough like Lush.
Desire Lines from Split1994 (4AD)
Lush’s 1994 album Split was a slower, moodier album, stripped back, and intensely reflective. The four-piece took flack for what critics thought of as a gloomy, sparse album. It’s meditative and not as obviously accessible as its predecessor but it’s definitely worth a listen. Desire Lines is an intense reflection on feeling uncomfortable and trapped. Gloomy, sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Ladykillers from Lovelife1996 (4AD)
Lush’s Ladykillers is a would-be anthem that takes on creepy male pseudo feminists. For a lot of people it was the nail in the coffin for Lush but it was the first song I heard by the band and at that point it was literally the most exciting song I’d ever heard.
It’s still up there.