PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Lucy Show: Mania

Maura McAndrew

Ever heard of 1980s band the Lucy Show? Me neither. Isn't that refreshing?"

The Lucy Show


Label: Words on Music
US Release Date: 2005-11-15
UK Release Date: 2005-11-14
Amazon affiliate

Let's face it, the '80s revival is very stale. I've heard so much new wave I never even want to listen to the Cure anymore, and that makes me sad. If everything new is retro anyway, then why shouldn't I just listen to the originals? Well, for all fans of the '80s sound in its purest form, you're in for a treat. Indie label Words on Music is releasing the Lucy Show's long out-of-print sophomore album, Mania. The London-based foursome (half Canadian, half English) enjoyed a brief and minor success on the British and American college radio charts before breaking up in 1989. Mania is instantly classic and ear-catching, managing to sound both familiar and new. And you've never even heard of it, have you?

In the Q magazine review of Mania, published in 1987, the writer makes a point of calling it "unashamedly '60s influenced." This is where a reissue really makes a difference: to me its sound epitomizes the '80s. My first thought was early R.E.M. (who the Lucy Show actually supported on their 1984 Reckoning tour -- how's that for heaven?), but as the minor keys and twangy harmonicas joined in, I thought: the Smiths. This is not to say that Mania is a re-tread; it's one thing to sound like your influences and another to sound like your contemporaries.

The album opens with a double-shot of reverb ecstasy with "Land and the Life" and "View from the Outside." The first time I played the latter my roommate wandered in raving, then saying, "Oh, I thought it was new," while at the same time I wracked my brain trying to place it (seriously, someone help me, where have I heard it?). "View from the Outside" is nearly ridiculous (read: good) in its anthemic status and straight-faced angst. It is '80s to the core to anyone too young to have really experienced them: this song must have something to do with Molly Ringwald, or Jake Ryan, or Hard Harry in Pump Up the Volume.

It's interesting to realize that for those of us whose minds have been pop-culture saturated since early childhood, an entire decade can have a sound. To me, the '70s sound like Carole King and Donna Summer; the 1990s like Nirvana and Puff Daddy. You want to hear two sides of the '80s? Play Simple Minds and the Lucy Show and there you have it. This album is great not only due to the moody sadness of songs like "Sad September" and "Part of Me Now", or the jolting bravado of the others, but because it is so pure. The Lucy Show is very different from the Cure, R.E.M., or even Jesus and Mary Chain, because they have not been dragged out of context. Their career consists entirely of two albums, released in 1985 and 1986, and not once since have they experienced new popularity due to movies, commercials, reunions, etc. They have, as of now, been locked into a time and place where they made sense. They have never been appreciated ironically or as "godfathers" of a certain genre, and that alone is a reason to hear them.

Do I wish the Lucy Show was still together now? Nah, not really. Mania is not overwhelmingly special, but it is a good album with no filler, no frills, and certainly (for most of us) no surplus of associations. To me albums are like groceries: freshness is key. Is it odd to find that in something 20 years old? The Lucy Show has validated the practice of reissuing records, because it holds true that something old is almost always better than something borrowed.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.