By definition, a best of for a band like Lush is rather bizarre. It’s not that they haven’t been instrumental in creating some of the most ethereal wall-of-sound expressions in recent memory, but—a singles band? Hardly. Sure, the occasional cacophony somehow found enough structure to get medium rotation on Radio 1, but Lush were a band whose magic was best suited for chemical headphone sessions and kaleidoscopic back-dropped live gigs.
Formed in the latter part of the ‘80s, these British misfits found themselves coming of age in an era obsessed, and rightfully so, with bugged-eyed Madchester madness. Not so much a brother or sister of any of the baggy enthusiasts, Lush took on the role of favourite cousin. Their sound contained enough of the proper elements to be considered as semi-essential listening by almost all camps of indie cool. As an aside, this has always been the secret to Britain’s artistic superiority. Brits have always stretched their comfort zone to include all things worth their weight. It was, and still remains not uncommon for one to consume both dance and indie. Basement Jaxx and Starsailor. Anyhow, back to the program.
For those of you who did not go to bed promising God to never again nick another coin from your mum’s purse if he delivered front-woman Miki Berenyi to you in all her indie glory, an explanation of Lush’s appeal is around a decade late.
Imagine if you will a sonic collage of Enya, the Beach Boys and My Bloody Valentine. The result, a package of ear-bleeding feedback, minor-chord melancholy, haunting melodies washing effortlessly over layer after layer of processed guitar noise.
Over their short drama-filled career, Lush’s sound struggled to find its proper voice in a world consisting of others who simply seemed to do things better. Their ventures into pop territory (“Shake Baby Shake”) bordered on embarrassing, not so much due to the song’s weaknesses, but rather because that was not Lush’s strength. One listen to “Superblast” or “Sweetness and Light” will make it obvious that this is where Lush shone, where they should have remained. True, in this domain other heavy hitters, namely Ride, were the cream of the crop, but there were moments, sublime moments.
Sublime moments usually manifest themselves in some form of global fame and coinciding fortune, not so for this doomed outfit. Inner turmoil, touring exhaustion and the suicide of drummer Chris Acland were all nails in an unavoidable indie coffin.
Listening to Ciao! Best of Lush will leave its audience with a distorted image of one of the greatest could-have-beens. Including a plethora of second-rate pop attempts and only a pinch of credible artistry, as this compilation does, is not only misleading but also downright insulting to us indie geeks who are still clinging for dear life to our precious memories.
The best advice to give anyone interested in discovering the shoe-gazing epics of yesteryear is to buy any of Ride’s first three records, but c’mon, admit it, Spooky does come close.
// Notes from the Road
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