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I won't pretend to know a huge amount about the band, how they were founded or who they were comprised of. I do know what I like, and thats the sound of Lush. I am very much a latecomer to their sound having only really discovered them in the last 4 years but I do enjoy what they did whilst they were an active band.
Classed as shoegazers (as lots on 90's bands were infamous for not looking at their audiences whilst they sang preferring instead to look at the floor hence the term shoegazer) Lush were a female dominated band as the main thing you will pick out about them is the very strong layered female vocals of Emma Anderson & Miki Berenyi. Most of the time you won't know if one or both of them are singing, I always thought I had a decent ear for music and I can't tell 90% of the time that I am listening to one or both of them.
Not that its a problem as they sound great regardless of who is singing. Add to that some seriously jangly fedback guitars with understated drumming provided by Chris Acland as well as complimentary bass lines thanks to Phil King and you had the amazing sound that was Lush.
So lets talk about Spooky.
Spanning 12 tracks its was their 1st "official" album of all new music with previous albums being made up of stuff already previously released on EP's.
1 - Stray.
Lots of layered vocals from the girls, nicely counterpointed guitars with very sparse drumming until its actually required. My only complaint, its a bit short at just over 2 minutes long.
2 - Nothing Natural.
Great dischordant guitars here, the chords really shouldn't work against the vocals but they are made to work with a good deal of success. My only issues with this track, its a bit difficult to hear the lyrics due to the loud guitars, I know its a hallmark of Lush but always makes me feel whoever was on the mixing desk wasn't doing his job properly. Thats just me though I guess. In places (mostly the guitar riffs) this makes me think of "Can You Dig It" by The Mock Turtles.
3 - Tiny Smiles.
Nothing too over the top, vocals are pretty clear and guitars are dialed down a lot, its actually quite a relaxed and mellow track.
4 - Covert.
Bags of phase galore on the guitars here & the vocals match that phased effect singing across the chords rather than alongside or with them.
5 - Ocean.
The intro to this might fool you into thinking this will be a drum lead track but the vocals soon kick in and take over with guitars just behind them just subdued enough to bring clarity to the drum and vocal lines but the guitar lines are given plenty of space to fill the track in the middle eight & playout, the playout is quite an experience on headphones.
6 - For Love.
Another quite drawn back and subdued track. Lush seems to have 2 settings which I internally class as "ARGH!!!!!!" (their angry song setting) and "Ah, ah" (that'll be their mellow song setting) and there is pretty much bugger all in between but Lush never try and make any apologies for that. Not that you'd expect them to though.
7 - Superblast!
This was one of the single releases (according to Wikipedia it failed to chart), its a fast guitar and drum line - almost punk in its origins. Very Angelic Upstarts or Rezillos, if the breathy layered vocals weren't on it you could easily mistake the tune for something Punk from the late 70's as its very much from the "Oi" school of music. This is probably what Wikipedia mean when they talk about RiotGrrl music although its got a brilliant trippy play out that any self respecting prog rock band would have been proud to have written. I can't see why this failed to chart, perhaps it was a bit too full on for people in 1992 (although clearly not as Nevermind by Nirvana was a hit when this was released).
8 - Untogether.
My huge burning question here is was Miki Berenyi playing Auf Wiedersehen Monty (it's a classic 8 bit game from the Commodore 64 era with great music written by Rob Hubbard & Ben Daglish) when she "wrote" the tune for this because the intro and lead guitar line are blatantly nicked from the games intro tune. I sat there thinking "this sounds familiar" and was lucky enough to have the SID file to compare this to, they are almost identical in notes and structure so its possible Miki was a closet Hubbard fan like myself. I must say the tune really does translate well to the jangly guitar though!
9 - Fantasy.
I like the intro of this, its big but small at the same time. Yes, I know thats an oxymoron (check me using such a fancy word) but its true. Its a really broad sound but its also quite drawn in at the same time, no volume knobs cranked up to max as Lush seem to do a little too often. Vocals drift along complementing the guitar lines, very mellow.
10 - Take.
This could have been sold to the gothic market just on its guitar chords, I'm not sure they'd have gone for the vocal style but the guitar lines are very much reminiscent of bands like The Mission or The Jesus & Mary Chain (Phil Kings influences showing here perhaps?).
11 - Laura.
A nice bass lead intro that is then totally smothered by the uptempo guitars, vocals and drums. Its the usual line of dischordant vocals against guitars (clearly the term counterpoint means sod all to the members of Lush despite them demonstrating to the contrary on "Stray") with the volume tweaked slightly too high for anything to be very clear apart from the drums.
12 - Monochrome.
So we get to the final track and its my personal favourite on the album. Vocals are fairly clear so I can actually hear what they are singing (no need for the inlays here), the lyrics are quite thoughtful. I think of this as "not quite a love song", its certainly laid back enough to be one. The guitars and "ooooh-y" vocals are truly blissed out but the strong drums really do complement the rest of track well. I did wonder why this track wasn't released as a single as its miles more commercial than the 3 tracks that made it to single status, if I have any complaint about this track it'd be I'd like it to be longer.
Nothing Natural (which if I'm honest I quite like for its weirdness) and For Love were the 2 other tracks released as singles off this album. Nothing Natural got as far as #43 on the UK singles chart in March 1991 and also reached #22 on the US Modern Rock chart in 1992 whilst the For Love EP made #35 in the UK but went as far as #9 in America but I do wonder how far Monochrome would have gone if the band had chosen to release that instead.
The album still stands the test of time considering its now 17 years old, in my humble opinion it would appeal to the tastes of those who enjoy many genres. Goths and former indy kids can still appreciate it and if you enjoy good guitars or blissed female vocals then give it a go. You might find you like it just like I did.
(this review also appears on ciao)
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Nothing Natural
3 Tiny Smiles
6 For Love