Ban The Bland: The Brutal Beauty of Lush
There's a blissful balance to Lush, a two-man/two-woman quartet hailed by some critics as saviors of English guitar-based pop. As heard on Gala (a 4AD/Reprise LP that combines the band's Scar and Mad Love EPs, the latter produced by the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie), Lush's subtle, seductive sound weaves extremes of rawness and fragility into a sprawling musical mosaic, a paradoxical mixture of ethereally beautiful and brutally atonal guitar textures.
Singer/guitarists Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi, bassist Steve Rippon, and drummer Chris Acland have been performing together since 1988. The women knew almost nothing about electric guitars when the group came together at London's Polytechnic University. "We used to use more distortion when we first started," recalls Anderson, "mainly because we couldn't play a note--we'd hit the distortion pedal to cover our mistakes. The songwriting has progressed from the early days, when it was just a matter of stringing four chords together that sounded okay. Our growth on guitar came from our ideas of what we wanted to do with the songs."
Anderson handles most of the melody lines that comprise Lush's spacious sound, trading off of Berenyi's scattershot strums. Both players are self-taught, aside from a few acoustic lessons Emma had at 16. Anderson conjures soaring, swirling textures by running her '68 Fender Strat and '59 Jazzmaster through a Roland GP-16 multiprocessor and Marshall ICM 800 2x12 combo amps wired in stereo. Berenyi pumps her '67 Rickenbacker 12-string through a similar configuration.
Anderson and Berenyi look forward to taking their playing to higher plateaus, but any growth, they insist, will be specifically geared to avoid clichés. "We're not very technical people," explains Anderson. "I know I still have a lot to learn, and I'm still sort of teaching myself, but I'm quite happy with what I can do at the moment. I haven't got any great ambitions to be the next Jimi Hendrix or anything like that; I just try to be as inventive as possible. This band doesn't have any egos about our playing--we just do what we do and it all fits in quite nicely."
For the next album, Anderson anticipates more technical dabbling, possibly with MIDI gear: "We want to try out a lot more effects and experiment more in the studio. We're going to play with sequencers and drum machines and try to get a little more technically minded. We're definitely not into overproduction, but we want to make some interesting new sounds. We don't want to bland out."