LUSH – ” The Albums “

Posted: December 8, 2022 in MUSIC

Lush were an English rock band formed in London in 1987. Initially named the Baby Machines (after a line in the Siouxsie and the Banshees song “Arabian Knights”) The original line-up consisted of Miki Berenyi (vocals, guitar), Emma Anderson (vocals, guitar), Steve Rippon (bass guitar) and Chris Acland (drums). Phil King replaced Rippon in 1991.

The British band Lush were part of the so-called “shoegaze” roster of early ’90s bands, along with other outfits such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Chapterhouse. As with many genre offshoots, the groups involved perhaps shared an attitude rather than an overarching sonic philosophy, but nonetheless the scene birthed several classic albums, including Lush’s own 1992 shimmery dream pop classic LP, “Spooky”

They were one of the first bands to have been described with the “shoegazing” label. Their influences were diverse; they were inspired by the garage rock scene of the Nuggets album series, Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Beach Boys and the Byrds. Anderson said of the band’s beginnings, “We were kind of punk rock in one way. We did think, ‘Well, if they can do it, why the fuck can’t we?’ Basically, our idea was to have extremely loud guitars with much weaker vocals. And, really, the vocals were weaker due to nervousness – we’d always be going ‘Turn them down! Turn them down!'” Berenyi said, “We started by writing crappy riot grrl anthems.. Following the death of Acland, the group disbanded in 1996.

“The Cocteau Twins’ influence on Lush is obvious,” says Lush co-leader Miki Berenyi. Robin Guthrie produced “Spooky”, and the “Mad Love” and “Black Spring” EPs, so our sound was moulded by the experience. But I find it tricky to list artists they’ve directly influenced because – to me their genius lies in their unique combination of musicality, experimentation with guitars and studio effects, and Liz’s incomparable voice.

There are bands that glide toward one or another aspect. Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays used to get endless comparisons with Liz at the time but it’s obvious to everyone now that she has her own beautiful voice and style. Plenty of bands (including Lush) have ramped up the chorus and delay on guitars, but you need to see Robin at work in a studio to discover his tireless experimentation with guitars, pedals and other technological effects to recognise that it’s a lot more complex than that. And I’ve heard plenty of tracks that mimic the Cocteaus’ sound and vocal style, but fail to include their beautifully constructed chord progressions, key changes and melodic hooks. Back in the day, Simon would sometimes get referred to as ‘just the bass player,’ an insult that ignores his vast reservoirs of musical knowledge, which he effortlessly incorporates into his music.

“So I guess my point is that the voice, the guitars, the songs — they aren’t just simple blocks you can co-opt or fit together to recreate the whole. Each element is huge and deep and unique in and of itself. Many of us try and borrow a hint of one or two facets, but we’re really only scratching at the surface.”

Garnering instant critical praise and a buzz with their first EP, Lush eventually released three full-length albums and won over fans with their engaging live shows, which included a stint on the second Lollapalooza tour. On record, Bereyni and Anderson’s breathy and plain-spoken vocals alternately wove together and bounced off one another, while the guitars chimed, jangled and droned. In her new autobiography, Fingers Crossed: How Music Saved Me From Success, covers her somewhat tumultuous upbringing, as well as her time in Lush, and is essential reading for anyone wanting a first-hand account of the British music scene just before Oasis battled Blur for the Britpop crown.

Scar

In 1989, the band signed to 4AD Records and released their first recording “Scar”, a six-track mini-album. Critical praise for “Scar” and thier live show established Lush as one of the most written-about groups of the late 1980s/early 1990s UK indie scene. Anderson told Everett True in Melody Maker, “I remember when I couldn’t play, I wasn’t in a band, didn’t know anyone else who could play, and now we’ve got a record out on 4AD.

Not long after, the British music press tagged them with the “shoegazing” label. The following year, the EP “Mad Love” (produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins) and Sweetness and Light (produced by Tim Friese-Greene) were released. 

Mad Love EP

The follow the “Mad Love” EP in February 1990. “Mad Love” brought a large amount of attention to the band from both the alternative and mainstream British press, with vocalist-guitarist Miki Berenyi and guitarist Emma Anderson becoming the subject of several gossip columns in national weeklies. Lush also began performing to larger audiences, performing at the Glastonbury Festival and opening as support for the Cure at the Crystal Palace Bowl in London, in summer 1990.

Sweetness and Light EP

The second extended play by the alternative rock band Lush. It was released in October 1990 on 4AD Records. Featuring a less abrasive sound than the band’s earlier releases, the title track was also released as Lush’s first single and included the B-side “Breeze”. Stylistically, “Sweetness and Light” is a dream pop song featuring elements of shoegazing music. Described as a “pure pop song”, it uses feedback and several effects units on Anderson and Berenyi’s guitar tracks. Both Berenyi’s lead vocal and Anderson’s backing vocal (which drew comparisons to Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine) are mixed low and obscured. According to NME writer Steve Lamacq, the vocals were “half-hidden” as they were symbolic of the band’s “withdrawn” approach towards pop music and their “reluctance to become a “blatant” part of the current ‘indie’ rush to the charts.

Tim Friese-Greene produced “Sweetness and Light” over a six-week period at the Greenhouse and Wessex Sound Studios in London. The recording sessions took considerably longer than Lush’s previous sessions with Robin Guthrie and John Fryer, but resulted in a more atmospheric dream pop sound.

“Sweetness and Light” received mixed reviews upon release, but led to Lush’s first major headlining national tour and placed in the national charts. The single was particularly successful in the United States, where it placed at No. 4 on the Billboard chart and received heavy rotation on radio.

All three extended releases were eventually combined into the “Gala” compilation album, which was produced mainly for the US markets.

The band’s profile was raised by extensive touring, including an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival in June 1990.

Spooky

Preceded by the Black Spring EP issued in October 1991, Lush’s first full-length album of completely new material, Spooky, was released in January 1992. Again produced by Guthrie, Spooky featured a sound very similar to Guthrie’s band Cocteau Twins, with a wall of sound and a great deal of guitar effects. Reviews were mixed and critics of the album held that Guthrie’s production brought the sound away from the band’s original creative vision.  The album was preceded by the band’s first UK top 40 single, “For Love”, which was partly re-recorded and remixed by Mark Freegard. He also produced the single’s B-sides: the original recording of “Starlust”, Wire cover “Outdoor Miner” and the only Lush track with lead vocals by Anderson, “Astronaut”.

‘For Love’ is taken from their 1992 album ‘Spooky’, produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins. ‘For Love’ was also Lush’s first Top 40 single. “A song like “For Love” was quite complicated. It’s got that bassline that’s quite hooky, but then to sort of build those chords around it a lot of that had to be tweaked and it had a lot of back-and-forth from the guitar to the bass, to the vocal, to the backing vocal. It took a lot of trial and error and a lot of building it up and changing it. 

Rippon left the band after recording the “For Love” EP to concentrate on writing, During the summer of 1992, Lush toured America as part of the second edition of the Lollapalooza festival. Lush was added to the bill by organiser Perry Farrell, the Jane’s Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman, who personally requested Lush.

Split 

Lush had approached Bob Mould to produce their second album. The band stated that Mould was too busy to produce them, but Mould said in a Spin article that he backed out because “I kept picking the wrong girl’s songs… I had to get out before I broke up the band!”

The band found completing “Split” frustrating. It was recorded by Mike Hedges at Rockfield Studios in Wales, neither the band nor Ivo Watts-Russell of their label 4AD were satisfied with the sound; eventually Alan Moulder was hired to remix it.

Unusually, the band released two EPs from the album (“Hypocrite” and “Desire Lines”) both on the same day (30 May 1994)..

“Hypocrite” was very much about my relationships and promiscuity and that kind of stuff. I mean, Emma wrote “When I Die” on the album, which was about her father dying, so there was quite a lot of inward soul-searching stuff [on Split]. 

“Unfortunately, the album got mostly slagged off in Britain, and it kind of bruised me to reveal all that stuff and just have it dismissed as meaningless nonsense. I think with Lovelife, we kind of pulled back and I just thought, ‘No, I’m not doing that again.’”

The band concentrated on the American market, on the advice of their management, but failed to make a breakthrough. A third EP from “Split”, planned for release in the autumn of 1994, was to have featured “Lovelife” as the lead track along with a version of “The Childcatcher” recorded during the “Split” sessions; but the release was shelved by management.

Lovelife

Lovelife“, the band’s fourth album, was released in March 1996. It was produced by Pete Bartlett, the band’s live engineer. “Lovelife” represented a change in production, with less reliance on heavy guitar effects. It became the biggest seller of their career, possibly as it was more in step with the contemporary Britpop style. 

“I think we got quite a bit of grief musically for “Lovelife“, especially in America, because I think the shoegaze thing was much bigger. A lot of people thought we’d deliberately written a Britpop album. We ended up making that album with our soundman. You know, as much as I love working with producers, there was quite a lot of drama around Robin, and we knew Pete [Bartlett], our soundman, and he knew our sound, and it was all going to be simpler. 

“And I’m not going to lie, [Britpop] was obviously part of the zeitgeist at the time – people weren’t cloaking things in layers and shimmers and God knows what. It was quite liberating to be able to just try that. 

“I do still defend it. “Split” had “Hypocrite” on it and that is not a shoegaze-y song. I don’t see that massive leap from those songs to where the hits on “Lovelife” came from. I think people just thought oh, you’ve cynically sat down and gone, ‘Right. We’re going to ditch the shoegaze thing and we’re going to completely reinvent ourselves.’ I’m not sure most people do that. I think someone who writes songs for other people might do that. But with a band, it is quite organic.”

Lovelife included the hit singles “Single Girl”, “Ladykillers” and “500 (Shake Baby Shake)”, and also featured a guest appearance by Jarvis Cocker

“I had enough bloody trouble trying to explain “Ladykillers”. It’s meant to be a bit light hearted. I’m not trying to crucify these people. It always annoyed me when people were going, ‘Is that one about Anthony Kiedis?’ And I’d go, ‘All right, fine. It was inspired by that.’ But blokes who say to me, ‘Who’s that about? Which particular person?’ I think that kind of lets everyone else off the hook. It might have been inspired by a particular bloke, but there are an awful lot of blokes who behave like that.”

In September 1996, tragedy struck the band when drummer Acland died by hanging himself in his parents’ garden on 17th October. The band effectively went on an extended hiatus, officially announcing their break-up on 23 February 1998.

Ciao! Best of Lush 

4AD Records released a limited red vinyl double LP of their compilation “Ciao! Best of Lush” on 7th November 2015, followed by Chorus, a CD-only, 5-disc box set containing almost all of their released material along with a selection of rarities, radio sessions and demos. For Record Store Day 2016, 4AD released a limited edition 5-LP colour vinyl box set titled “Origami”, comprising Gala (clear vinyl), Spooky (silver vinyl), Split (red vinyl), “Lovelife” (pink vinyl) and the first vinyl release of the Canadian version of Topolino (yellow vinyl), with revised artwork by Chris Bigg. The UK/European version was packaged in a white cardboard “pizza box” emblazoned with three different Lush logos from 1990, 1994 and 1996.

Blind Spot EP

In April 2016. the band announced the release of the “Blind Spot” EP, the band’s first new material since 1996. It was produced by Jim Abbiss and Ladytron member Daniel Hunt.

The band received an incredible reception to the Blind Spot EP and the three beautiful career-spanning 4AD releases, sold out two Roundhouse shows, toured North America with great success and had a ball at our European festival appearances. It’s been wonderful to revisit our old music and to create new material. However, it is now time for us to return to our families and homes, and bring our time together as a band to a close. We offer heartfelt thanks to all our fans – this reunion would never have happened without your overwhelming support and dedication.

Piroshka

In September 2018, the formation of new band Piroshka was announced, a quartet including Berenyi, Welch, Conroy and former Moose member K.J. “Moose” McKillop. Their debut album, Brickbat, was released by Bella Union

From four individual parts, with distinct musical pasts but also overlapping histories, a new unified chapter begins with Piroshka and the quartet’s thrilling debut album “Brickbat”. The album is named after the word for a missile, which nails the record’s heavyweight lyrics if not the music’s gorgeous, bittersweet and euphoric pop. Think of “Brickbat” as a wolf in sheep’s clothing – which suits the name Piroshka, the Hungarian take on the wolf-terrorised fairytale hero Little Red Riding Hood – a subtle nod, too, to a certain red hairdo that stood out in the 1990s Brit-guitar-pop scene…. The four band members are former Lush vocalist / guitarist (and former redhead) Miki Berenyi, former Moose guitarist KJ “Moose” McKillop, Modern English bassist Mick Conroy and former Elastica drummer Justin Welch.

The connections between them are a veritably tangled family tree. Before they lived together and raised a family, Miki and Moose were notable figures on the so-called shoegaze scene, while Elastica were Britpop peers. After post-punk pioneers Modern English split for a second time, Mick became a latterday member of Moose, while Justin joined the reformed Lush in 2015. And when Lush required a bassist for what proved to be their final show (in Manchester) in November 2016, Mick stepped in.

Though Brickbat kicks off with a squeal of feedback, the album is far from a proper punk record, with as much sublime delicacy as physical force, with guitars to the fore but also electronic flourishes in all manner of spaces. Combined, they drive the nuggety melodic bombs long associated with Miki’s songwriting. Piroshka and “Brickbat” are a wonderful and, frankly, unexpected union of proven talent.

It’s quite a tricky band because one of the members got married and is living in America, so I don’t even know how this is going to work with the next album. And Justin [Welch] does a lot of touring with The Jesus and Mary Chain. Hopefully soon we’ll just be able to knuckle down and start writing.

“After Lush and before 2016 I didn’t do any music. I barely picked up a guitar. I did the odd vocal that someone would ask for. But Piroshka formed because Justin thought it was a shame to end Lush and not do something afterwards. That’s how that started. When Chris died it was like a grenade going off: I just had to run in the opposite direction and music didn’t have any appeal for me. 

Love Drips and Gathers

Piroshka’s stunning second album, “Love Drips And Gathers”. The album builds on the acclaim of the band’s 2018 debut LP “Brickbat” and the reputations of former members of Lush, Moose, Elastica and Modern English.

“If “Brickbat” was our Britpop album, then “Love Drips And Gathers” is shoegaze!” reckons vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi, formerly of Lush, a band that effortlessly bridged the two genres like no other. “It wasn’t intentional; we just wanted a different focus. I’ve always seen debut albums as capturing a band’s first moments, when you really have momentum, and then the second album is the chance for a more thoughtful approach.”

Bassist Mick Conroy (Modern English) agrees. “Brickbat was a classic first album; noisy and raucous. On “Love Drips And Gathers”, we’ve calmed down and explored sounds, and space.”

To recap; before Miki and KJ ‘Moose’ McKillop were a couple (and parents), they were pivotal figures on the London-centric 90s indie scene. Likewise, Elastica, whose drummer Justin Welch was part of Lush’s 2017 reunion, whilst Mick had played for both Moose and – on their last ever gig – Lush.

As Lush Mark II came to an end, Justin persuaded Miki (who’d abandoned music when Lush first split in 1997) to start another band, Piroshka, which in turn reignited Moose’s own long-dormant ambitions. Whilst Justin and Miki were the dominant influence on “Brickbat”, this time Moose and Mick were given greater control over the production, with invaluable assistance from Bella Union’s in-house engineer Iggy.

The way “Love Drips And Gathers” changes shape and dynamic is less a reprise of nineties Brit indie than a transformation into a more shivery, Euro-mantic version with glistening electronic filigrees. The opening ‘Hastings’ sets the tone. Luminous drops of guitar underpin Miki’s becalmed vocal before drums, bass and a Mellotron add pace while the decorative coda features their old pal Terry Edwards on flugelhorn.

Framed by Mellotron, cello and piano. ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ emphatically proves Piroshka can be restrained without losing any essence of drama: the calm before the euphoria pure-pop storm of ‘Scratching At The Lid’. The words ‘ethereal’ and ‘shimmering’ were surely invented for the likes of ‘Loveable’, but the uncanny DNA of ‘V.O.’ is less categorisable – a Bond theme in the making with electro-gliding beats, perhaps? ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Echoloco’ might be described as Francophile cousins of Lush before the haunting lullaby of ‘Familiar’ segues into the pulsing, rippling instrumental finale ‘We Told You’ – more eighties synth drama than nineties indie, with vocal samples played on what Moose calls, “the Miki-tron.”

“Love Drips And Gathers” – named after a line in a Dylan Thomas poem – was inspired by love, family, belonging, memory. Miki and Moose split the eight lyrics, with some poignant overlaps here too. Miki’s ‘Loveable’ looks to Moose; Moose’s ‘The Knife-Thrower’s Daughter’ looks to Miki, but also their daughter Stella and his sister Anna; an empathic, touching embrace of the women in his life.

Staying within the family, Moose eulogises his late mother (the idyllic childhood seaside trip of ‘Hastings 1973’) and father (the more conflicted ‘Scratching At The Lid’). On ‘V.O.’, Miki pays fond tribute to Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s legendary in-house art director who died suddenly in December 2019, and who had a particularly close relationship with Lush during their time on the label (like “Brickbat”, “Love Drips And Gathers’ beautiful and enigmatic artwork is by Vaughan’s former design partner Chris Bigg).

The band also recorded a live session for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show in 1990 and contributed a cover version of “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” to the anti-poll tax album Alvin Lives (In Leeds).

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