Lush Spooky

[Reprise; 1992]

Styles: shoegazer, power-pop
Others: Ride, Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver, The Clientele

Whoever coined the term "shoegaze" was a perceptive fellow. Whatever causes the phenomenon - be it instinct, self consciousness, reverence, fashion - audiences everywhere, in unison, lower their heads and coolly bob their necks to the sounds of the effect-drenched guitars and nearly-danceable rhythms that shoegaze music offers. The initial inception of shoegaze hit a high water mark around 1991 and has since enmeshed itself into folk and electronica.

Lush, like their English contemporaries Ride and My Bloody Valentine, had shown a proclivity toward shoegaze in the late 1980s with the recording of several promising singles and EPs. All seemed in place therefore for Lush’s full length debut, Spooky. In considering its assets, Spooky is a well-crafted record filled with wonderful vocal harmonies, haunting minor-key progressions, and apt musicianship on all fronts. Why then do you detect some restraint from this reviewer? Because it shouldn’t have been a shoegaze record.

Produced by Robin Guthrie, who represents one half of the Cocteau Twins’ chromosomes, Spooky is laden with vocal and guitar effects that sparkle and drive the way that shoegaze music should (and just like the Cocteau Twins did). The problem is that this comes at the expense of some terrific pop ideas. "Ocean" and "Fantasy” possess so much slow, revealing beauty that it’s a shame the chiming guitar and vocal
production dilutes them. While My Bloody Valentine were able to create such sonic intrigue with their effects and flaunt them for the following generation to use, Lush seem to use these same devices as a mask. A mask covering a universally beautiful face.

That Spooky is able to redeem itself from the overzealous production is a testament to the band, because there’s still plenty to celebrate. "Nothing Natural," the record’s lead single, is realized through a sonic combat between a bouncing bass line and ascending harmonies. "Superblast!" rocks like a space-age Bowie might have, had My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless been released in 1970 to aid him in his flight. A beautifully crafted tale of an unrealized romantic relationship ("Monochrome") ends the record in sweet fashion. Then there are also songs that are brilliant enough to gleam through all of the effects ("Tiny Smiles" and "For Love").

Prior to the band’s break-up in 1998, Lush released Split and Lovelife, two records that better illuminate Lush’s talents for song writing. With the benefit of history then, it’s vexing to ponder Spooky’s flaws. Did Lush resort to shoegaze out of instinct, self consciousness, reverence and fashion like their neck-bobbing fanbase? Or was it just a sign of the times? Whatever the case we can now be glad that after Spooky, Lush learned to quit aurally reaching and begin crafting.

1. Stray
2. Nothing Natural
3. Tiny Smiles
4. Covert
5. Ocean
6. For Love
7. Superblast!
8. Untogether
9. Fantasy
10. Take
11. Laura
12. Monochrome

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