More loveliness from the vaults of 4AD, and the label have pulled out all the stops on this one. A five-disc Lush retrospective housed in a glossy hardback book, surely destined to become an instant collector’s item.Not only are the historical releases Gala, Spooky, Split and Lovelife captured, there’s tons of session tracks, demos and previously unreleased miscellany appended to each disc too – in all a gigantic 105 tracks with the visual history from each release beautifully documented as only 4AD can. It looks as amazing as it still sounds!
Sweet harmonics peering through a hazy jangle of guitars, scoured chords – Lush lived up to their moniker from the start, peppering the late Eighties and early Nineties with a succession of sonic vignettes that shimmer-shaked a certain dreaminess. Gala is an effortless joyride, as if spun from the glitter-filled air of a new year’s celebration. It’s gushing and utterly gorgeous with plenty of edge to keep things going too Enya.The helter-skelter of “Baby Talk”, the spiky effervescence of “Bitterness’; “Second Sights”‘ gothic hue jutting into a pogo eaten up in guitar accelerations contrasting nicely with the more melodic intimacies of “Scarlet”‘s pitch-perfect chorusing, “Etherial”‘s duelling harmonics and the whispering sweet nothings of “Thoughtforms” that seem like postcards of fluttering heartbeats.
Gala‘s a flawless compilation that gathers the early intrigue up, a trinity of early releases adding alternate versions of their two best tracks, even including an Abba cover (“Hey Hey Helen”) that sounds like they actually penned the original.
Now Spooky smoothed off some earlier rough edges and glinted with a highly polished finish. Cocteau Twin‘s Robin Guthrie was onboard for this one to smother the details in a thick syrup of post-production, adding a characteristic glisten that milked those angelic harmonies of Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi for all their worth. I have the limited double 10-inch of this, and always thought the silvery sheen of the packaging matched its aural architecture.The opulent way it cascades, jet-streams the ears with peekaboo moments of musicality that hook over, pearl a continuous conversation of love, desire and the irksome betweens. All sequined up like a Christmas party dress, its jangling infinites copper-plated in sawing highlights offsetting those silky vocals brilliantly, sousonging a little agitation here and there – songs like “Superblast!” riding a My Bloody Valentine surf, splashing flange-curved couriers coaxed into sunbursts of guitar colour, curving away from the saccharine; the two to three minute perfections ending on the melancholic beauty of “Monochrome” (one of my favourite Lush songs).
A few years later an absolute pearl of an album followed, a lean beast smarting some powerful songwriting on the subject of soured relationships, etc; the bitter lemons of the artwork maybe hinting at this. There’s plenty of poptastic pleasures to get hooked up by and some generous splashes of gnarly insistence too; the pokey “Hypocrite” in particular with its sod-you stance and the distorto-fuelled “Invisible Man” that showed a hitherto undiscovered abandon for the band.This was all balanced by some breezy jangling numbers like “Lit Up”, whisked in spangled circulars and chord overspill. There’s warm slices of introspection tucked in there too, centrepieces like “Desire Lines” and “Never Never” some of Lush’s finest moments, full of resigned rainy Saturday atmospheres that lilt the great inextricable, with the guitar meld of the latter almost hypnotic. A real variety of sensations that have stood the test of time.
This was Lush in the spotlight – a commercial breakthrough with a hitherto untapped London twang to it. A great record with two very singable singles that got ridiculous amounts of airplay at the time. I think they appeared on Breakfast TV of all places (or was that something I dreamt?). This was (and still is) an album packed full of up-tempo plenitudes like the head-bobbing “500”, balanced neatly by the tugging heartbreaks of “Papasan” and “Tralala”.The noir cityscape of “Last Night”, the glittery neon-smeared sultriness of it all — the way that watery cello washes bygone harmonies overtaken with glistening guitars. I just love that track. There’s never a dull moment: “Runaways”, the sugar daddy anthem “Childcatcher”, the mellow gold of “Olympia”. “Ciao” with its surprise duet with Jarvis Cocker that should have been their next single, a Kirsty MacColl and Pogues-like shindig with both ends of the relationship slagging each other off. It’s a beauty that captured the zeitgeist of the time and was a welcome break from all that other Britpop laddy yawn between Blur and Oasis — which was all rather funny as this album was essentially rubbishing the male of the species.
It a bit of a shame that Topolino ends the experience on a weaker note (for me at least). Originally a collection of b-sides and compilation tracks for the Japanese market from around the Lovelife period, it’s far too poppy for my liking, but definitely shows a certain mastery of genre. What is rather refreshing, though, is the way the bonus material has been scattered around. Apart from the sticking of next album demos on the end of the previous disc — which you would expect — it’s the way they mostly flip all over the place here (going against the usual chronological approach), cutting out that repeating track dilemma anthologies can sometime suffer from.The random sprinkling of Lush’s stylistic hues from previous albums onto later discs, the demos from Spooky and Split in particular tucked on the end of the Lovelife CD, all give you the irresistible urge to backtrack and replay them. The session tracks that span their entire discography placed at the end of first disc that get you skipping forward then back, as you enjoy joining your own dots rather than following a historical roadmap — and to think, with the recent reunion and new material promised for 2016, the journey isn’t over yet.