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Lush are a now sadly defunct 90's band from the "Shoegazer" genre who had a couple of minor hits (Single Girl was probably the biggest a& best known of those) but they never really followed up on them with any further major sucess.
Oddly enough the band had a great & unique sound as well as members to appeal to both genders with the lovely Miki Berenyi with sexy red hair & amazing legs who as well as singing & playing guitar also wrote words & music so she was pretty AND talented, a rather awesome package in just 1 person.
If you didn't like redheads there was Emma Anderson - she of the dark haired persuasion, also singing & playing guitar and owning a pair of legs that go right up to her neck as well writing some of the songs into the bargain. And if you don't like girls there was always the rather gothic Phil King on bass or the sadly now deceased Chris Acland providing rather awesome drums that melded together the very different sound palette that was Lush.
So the band had something for everyone, be you boy, girl or small fluffy creature from Alpha Centuri (I think Miki had them covered). Split was their 2nd album release arriving in June of 1994, all songs were either written by Miki or Emma apart from Starlust which was a joint effort.
So whats on Split then?
01 - Light From A Dead Star.
Not your typical start to a Lush track with all those strings and the crystal clear vocal which is soon almost crushed with the typically jangly guitars you've come to expect from the band. The song reminds me of a few tracks by All About Eve (I think it's the guitar line that does it) but I struggled to remember exactly what it reminded me of.
02 - Kiss Chase.
Now this is more like it, straight into the jangly gothic sounding guitars with the girls vocal track right in the middle of the mixing desk. Again this reminds me of All About Eve with elements of The Mission. Was Phil King showing his influences here perhaps? Mind you that guitar in the middle 8 positively oozes Madchester influences too, circa Stone Roses "Waterfall".
03 - Blackout.
A very unusual "faded up" play-in, this is one their "Riot Grrl" tracks, more about dischord than their usual layered vocal style. It's very Punk in its its influences (think The Rezillos or X-Ray Spex), the influences of Polly Styrene are absolutely oozing out of every pore of this track.
04 - Hypocrite.
Another Punky style intro that becomes more poppy once the lyrics kick in, judging from them Miki wasn't happy with whoever this track is about. It's one of those anti-love songs, Miki wanted to make sure whoever had annoyed her certainly knew about it.
05 - Lovelife.
A very indie sounding intro with Lush's typical layered vocals and jangly guitars, nice harmonised guitar lines and great chord changes which are really complimentary to the vocal track. The guitar lines and great drums really gel well together and it'd be a good track as an instrumental too I'd wager. That's if you could actually bring yourself to commit the heinous sin of removing those sirenlike vocals from it.
06 - Desire Lines.
It starts with clocks ticking? Odd that but its always nice to get something different from the band, the guitars are lovely and clear in that opening.
Vocals are just about audible as per usual but the track itself is very mellow and quite slow. The lyrics themselves are rather surreal, doing things in your sleep. Was Emma Anderson suffering from insomnia when she wrote this then? Mind you that long guitar line is very Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd, its almost like "Breath" but with the lyrical madness of Syd Barrett inspiring Emma.
07 - The Invisible Man.
I love the weird dischordy counterpoint of this, its all over the shop as far as chord changes go. The vocal is quite bizarre in its delivery, almost as though they weren't sure about actually singing at all. It's almost a susurration (collection of whispers & murmers).
08 - Undertow.
Timpani and very wah wah'ed bass opens this one up, its a very thick sound which almost tricked me into thinking I was going to be listening to an instrumental until the singing finally started. The vocals are delivered in a rather unusual way on this one too, singing anti-harmonies across the track finding minors to majors and vice versa. You get the feeling Miki was missing someone special and really wanted to be with them when she wrote the words to this.
09 - Never-Never.
It's what I call an "Ohhh-ahhhhh" intro, this track is pretty much Emma's take on feeling different or left out or isolated. No doubt the lyrics of this were speaking to teens all over the country when the album was released, heck they were certainly jogging some rather painful teenaged angst ridden memories for myself too.
It's practically an anthem for the Emo with Emma creating a dark place for everyone to brood in, mind you that understated guitar line is sheer brilliance. Its very Pink Floyd indeed, circa "Welcome To The Machine" or "Wish You Were Here". If there were any complaints about it, its a tad too long, it's practically a prog rock piece by its length.
10 - Lit Up.
Its a rather bossa-nova style intro to a track that again has very emo style lyrics (again from Emma, was she not happy whilst co-writing this album then?), the upbeat style and bright chords those lyrics are sung in certainly don't reflect what they are saying - more about isolation, indifference and uncertainty.
11 - Starlust.
Its the one joint effort between Miki & Emma on this album and its interesting to see how their 2 completely opposing styles of lyric & music writing come together to create a track that practically sounds like a reworked version of Single Girl if I am honest. Mind you that dischordant guitar section reminds me of "Turn It On Again" by Genesis, its rather brilliant. You could write an entire new song JUST around that chord structure, its THAT good.
12 - When I Die.
Its a really lovely clean musical intro, even the vocals are fairly clear. Its rather like a hymn to be honest (It got me thinking of "Feeling So Real" by Moby though), I do like the way the lyrical chords move about in a very complimentary way but it does have more Pink Floyd elements too (that lead guitar is very "Us & Them").
With 12 pretty darn good tracks Lush did a great job here covering their bases to appeal to their fans (especially those from Alpha Centuri) so if you don't own Split its well worth a cheeky punt as its bound to have a few tracks you will enjoy.
(this review also appears on dooyoo but has been slightly revised)
You can tell from my previous music reviews that I am a big champion of late 80s/early to mid 90s Indie. And continuing on this theme, here I look at one time Indie darlings Lush. I became familiar with Lush in my first year as a student, and managed to see them at my University. The Lower Refectory, Sheffield University Students Union if anyone really wants to know. It cost me a princely sum of £1.75 to see them strut their stuff. It cost a bit more for the black t-shirts with a huge "Lush" logo embossed on the back and swirly, brightly coloured patterns on the front, but it was worth it. A friend of mine was on the Entertainments committee, and I later found out that at that particular gig, they weren't very happy with the crowd as we "weren't very active". I bit of an unfair gripe I thought, as the place was packed and surely they were being paid, but anyway I remember that gig as being pretty cool.
I have ummed and ahhed regarding which of their albums I should review. It was a close run thing between Gala and Split. Gala was their debut, actually an amalgam of the Mad Love and Scar EPs. Split was their third album. I decided on Split; I think this is their most mature work, not as accessible as their fourth and final album, Lovelife, but poses far more interesting questions of the listener, and had a rather more polished sparkly dynamic than their earlier work. This would be the first port of call or any new listener would my arm be twisted for a recommendation, and this won the day; Split it is.
Lush were fronted by dyed-redhead Miki Berenyi. Miki was of mixed Japanese and Hungarian extraction and was famous for her mouth and attitude, although by today's standards she wasn't really anything controversial. For Indie boys of a certain age, dyed moptop readhead girls in DMs held a certain appeal, and I was no different. In hindsight, I guess it isn't a particularly original look, but hell, I was 18, what did I know. She was ding dong in my book and played a mean sparkly guitar.
Miki was joined on vocals and guitar by schoolfriend Emma Anderson, Chris Acland (drums) and Steve Rippon (bass). Rippon left the band to concentrate on writing and was replaced by Phil King. They were signed to 4AD records and had come to their attention despite shambolic early gigs. 4AD were famed for their dark, brooding, avant garde UK Indie roster, with bands such as Dead Can Dance and The Cocteau Twins (in fact Robin Guthrie from the Cocteaus produced the band on occasions), as well as American Indie legends The Pixies and Throwing Muses.
Lush were formed in 1988, and Split was released in 1994, and not as successful as the previous album Spooky, or their biggest seller, the follow up and final album Lovelife.
I spotted Miki at a Throwing Muses gig once in London and this is an indication of her label mate's influence. Their sound is also influenced by the wall of sound that is My Bloody Valentine, with their take on it being less harsh and jarring, and more warm and sparkly, their sound being somewhat more listenable to the untrained ear than say, My Bloody Valentine or Ride.
In 1996, Acland unexpectedly hung himself, allegedly due to depression, and after a long think and no further action, in 1998 Lush split. Berenyi was devastated at the suicide of her ex boyfriend Acland.
SPLIT TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW
Light From A Dead Star - From the beginning you can hear a more assured and mature sound from the band's previous work. an utterly fabulous opening. Strings opening, a little chime here and there, and Miki's shrill lyric, then chiming guitars and tinny drumming, then more layers of guitar and Emma joining in on backing vocals,, building up to a crescendo, and suddenly the track ends with a gentle chime, back where we began. Great stuff. Not a note of feedback in site, which was a real departure.
Kiss Chase - Back to their previous trademark sound with this one; swirling, distorted feedback guitar, with a sweet, chiming reverberation and that sweet female vocal. It is worth noting this is in stark contrast to the random white noise of My Bloody Valentine. These were the only shoesgazers who made feedback sound beautiful in an in-tune manner. There is some great chiming, distorted riffing in here.
Blackout - A pacy track throbbing with urgency. Fast, buzzing guitar, the feedback being a bit more "conventional" in that is isn't sweetened to the hilt, it's more raw and sounds great with the twin harmonised female vocal and thumping drumming. Lots of "ahhhhh-ahhhhhh"ing and "oooo-oooo"ing as you'd expect. Fabulous. A great hybrid of the classic shoegazing feedback overload underpinned with an underlying pop sensibility. They'd never have pulled off this is previous efforts.
Hypocrite - this was actually an Indie "hit" (i.e. number 52 in the UK charts). Another thumping, buzzing track, the dual-female vocal sounding more angry this time as the girls splutter "you're a hypocrite, you give it out but you can't take it" in much the manner you'd expect from someone being given the runaround by bad boys and yet totally failing to comprehend why or being able to break the cycle. 13 years on I hope they're a bit more clued up.
Lovelife - obviously Miki & Emma have got over it as a catchy, shining, chiming guitar riff, and funky drumming they extols the virtues of some chap "you are the one one with the concrete arms I adore you". Fickle or what.
Desire Lines - along with Hypocrite, this was a single, released at exactly the same time. This is certainly the superior track anyway. I always imagine this track being played as you watch England cock up the early stages of some footy tournament (not that they can even reach one these days), as you watch the hopeless players trudge off in slow motion after yet another hapless, witless, clueless defeat. It certainly has that slow, mournful and ultimately cathartic quality to it (unlike the said defeat). Starting off with a ticking clock, then into a clear, riffing guitar then funereal drumming, then Miki cooes and cajoles the guitar, "I don't want to be here, in this room" she laments over much angst ridden "ahhh-ahh"ing. What makes this track so special is that suddenly from nowhere, when you think you've got the measure of the track, you get a big whack of feedback guitar riffing that doesn't so much fill the room with sound but makes it flex and expand outwards, so unexpected it is, and suddenly it's gone again and the girls are still "ahhh"ing.
The Invisible Man - this album definitely keeps you on your toes with it's movements as here is another driving track, kicking in with mucho sweet distortion and "ooo" ing. Much frantic acoustic strumming and tambourine later, and Miki is urging to "please let me start screaming" and then the "ooo"ing is overlaid by several feedback guitars competing; the nice feedback; the dirty feedback, it's all thrown in there in with the reverberating lyric.
Undertow - That dirty, raw feedback is back again, with some hollow, echoey drumming and the usual "ahhh"ing, harmonised twin female lyric. On this album they've learnt to mix their sound up a bit, and this is yet another example of their judicious use and variation of effects. As the girls coo "let me try to pull you free" at the track's climax, you have swirling, distorted guitar, drumming and thumping bass competing, as ultimately the vocal wins and ends the track on it's own.
Never-Never - a beautiful beginning of a gently chiming guitar, with a vaguely wailing one, and some "oooo-oooo"s are gradually thrown in to lead us into the lyric "only childen sometimes comprehend, loneliness can often be a friend" and that sets the tone for this dreamy lament of a track. "I am sunken in biology, I cannot control that part of me, I don't want to hurt you, but I think I'm going to" continues Miki, safe in the knowledge that some bloke who's been nice to her is going to inevitably face the bullet for some cad who's got her jumping through hoops. What a great track; when Miki Has finished we are led into something of a chiming guitar solo, overlaid with some gentle drumming and bass. This goes on for 3 or 4 minutes, which may sound somewhat indulgent but as violins lead the track out you're left feeing somewhat satisfied it has to be said.
Lit Up - a good title as it's very apt; light, choppy, sparkly guitars are complemented with Miki's cheery lyric "and youre; friend ... to point and to ....". A very breezy, upbeat track with lots of layers of sonic lustre.
Starlust - Wow! S much going on here; shimmering guitars jumping from the left to right stereo channel, interspersed with roughly buzzing feedback ones, leading to a clean sounding riff, then back to a chainsaw of one. All the time in the background is crisp rhythmic drumming and Miki's sweet lyric, with Emma joining her on occasions. Sheer brilliance.
When I Die - An interesting track with what sounds like a duelling of acoustic guitar and a twistingly distorted one, with Miki this time providing a breathy vocal (listen to her audibly inhaling between lines) for this lament of a lost one "when I die, I'll see you again", with violins swirling in and out. A quite beautiful and yet achingly sad ending to this great album.
TRACK LISTING / WRITER
1. "Light from a Dead Star" (Berenyi) - 3:15
2. "Kiss Chase" (Berenyi) - 3:17
3. "Blackout" (Anderson) - 3:06
4. "Hypocrite" (Berenyi) - 2:53
5. "Lovelife" (Anderson) - 3:56
6. "Desire Lines" (Anderson) - 7:37
7. "The Invisible Man" (Anderson) - 2:14
8. "Undertow" (Berenyi) - 4:57
9. "Never-Never" (Anderson) - 8:04
10. "Lit Up" (Anderson) - 4:00
11. "Starlust" (Anderson,Berenyi) - 3:22
12. "When I Die" (Anderson) - 4:17
As shoegazing fell out of fashion, so did Lush's obvious influence, although perhaps the recent raft of "nu-gaze" bands have some of their work on their mp3 players. They are probably best remembered for their later poppy, more accessable work, which was very much part of the up and coming at the time Britpop genre. Jarvis Cocker from Pulp guest appeared on the Lovelife track Ciao, which perhaps gives an indication their place in the grand scheme of things; a cult band who just missed out on making it big.
However, an odd Lush story is related to their authorised cover of The Rubinoos song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" (retitled "I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend), which appears on the US release B-sides compliation "Tupelino". This was cited in a lawsuit from The Rubinoos against Avril Lavigne, whose song "Girlfriend" allegedly sounds remarkably similar to Lush's cover version!
There are various rumours about what Miki Berenyi is doing these days The most notable ones are she is an editorial assistant for the BBC, or a landscape gardener. However, in a recent development, Miki has contributed some guest vocal on the new album from Seinking Ships:
After Lush, Emma Anderson formed Sing-Sing, who continue to record and perform.
Phil King freelances as a picture researcher form Uncut Magazine, and was for some time post-Lush was a member of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Lush were probably one of the more well known bands from the shoegazing genre, and the most notable female fronted one. Ironically, they managed to rid themselves of that label just before tragedy struck. People may well remember their catchy, poppy hit "Single Girl" but in my opinion there is much more to this band than this arguably throwaway single. There was a darker, deeper and more introspective side as befits any shoegazing band, which was I reckon far more interesting and rewarding. I can understand them wanting to seek wider recognition and go more commercial in their sound, but they lost something along the way. This album was certainly less well received that their previous ones, perhaps a result of the shoegazing genre having dispersed some time earlier, which is a shame as this isn't really the archetypal shoegazing sound; they had added so much more to it by this stage.
I would recommend this album to anyone seeking a female singer/songwriter that has more to them that the teenybop skater girl facsimiles, spice girl wannabees or even angst ridden intellectual twentysomethings. This should appeal to anyone who likes loud, swirly, jangly feedback ridden guitars, overlaid with a sugary sweet female vocal. Etherial dreampop, if you will. Bored of Avryl Lavigne or Katie Nash? I didn't like them anyway and one of them has already ripped them off. Listen to this I beseech you!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Light From A Dead Star
2 Kiss Chase
6 Desire Lines
7 Invisible Man
9 Never Never
10 Lit Up
12 When I Die