I find it amazing what the British music
press was able to get away with back in the days of Lush!
- it's official
The London Independent
Dec 29, 1995
by JANE CORNWELL
You would think that, if Lush were intent on
reinventing themselves, Miki Berenyi might have at least changed
hair colour. But it's the same flaming pink as it was when the
London-based indie foursome were gracing innumerable front covers
back in 1991, touted as much for their dreamy pop reveries as for a
gossip-friendly fondness for booze, drugs and falling over at mates'
Back then, Lush and other single-syllabic bands Curve, Ride and Blur
were part of what was dubbed "the scene that celebrates itself": a
bunch of neo-psychedelic shoegazers hanging out at each other's
shows, who were tipped for, but - with the exception of Albarn and
co - never achieved much chart success.
If the rise of grunge and its attendant values undermined the
commercial viability of ethereal vocals and jangly guitars, Lush
also found themselves vilified by the very critics who'd sung their
praises in the first place. Initially bewildered by the slating
received by the first LP, 1992's effects- laden Spooky, they've
pressed on, releasing the simpler, punchier - but nevertheless
generally overlooked - Split last year and concentrating on touring
the less fickle climes of America and Japan.
Now, with forthcoming "Single Girl" already getting airplay and an
album, Lovelife, to be released in March, it's a once-bitten,
twice-shy Lush who've decided just to see how it goes. But they're
adamant this latest effort is anything but a comeback attempt.
Purely because Lush, musically speaking, haven't been away.
Presently, the finishing touches to Lovelife are being applied at
Protocol Studios behind North London Poly - a particularly apt
location given the lager-and-ligging student aesthetic that has
allegedly informed the band since its formation at the Falcon in
Camden in 1988. Inside, bassist Phil King and drummer Chris Acland
(once voted "Most Eligible Bachelor" by Just Seventeen) are poring
over a mixing desk while guitarist/ vocalist Emma Anderson reclines,
belching, on a sofa with a copy of NME.
It's the half Hungarian, half Japanese Berenyi who makes her way
across a cigarette butt-strewn floor, smiling good-naturedly and
introducing her less animated colleagues - whose mistrust of the
press is palpable, though understandable.
Lyricists Berenyi and Anderson, both 28 and friends since childhood,
feel they were saddled with impossible expectations: "I used to read
bad reviews and get really hurt," says Anderson. "But now I don't
give a damn. To be honest, the press thing is less important than
the fact that people appreciate us and we've sold a few records."
Their alcohol-fuelled image, they admit, is partly based on truth.
But, says Berenyi: "People like their little myths, don't they?
Okay, we go out and get wrecked now and again but, God almighty,
I've seen people put it away."
Despite those who feel that Lush's love of all things hedonistic
meant they couldn't quite get it together on record (although two
years of post- Spooky touring polished any rough edges), perhaps it
was the rise of Britpop that saw the band elbowed aside in favour of
those - specifically Pulp and Blur - who once played as their
support acts. Surely they felt the draught as others rushed into the
space that had previously been theirs?
Although Anderson dismisses the question with an angry "not at all",
Berenyi - embarrassed by her colleague's defensiveness - offers: "We
fell between two posts. When we brought out Split it was right
before the Britpop thing had happened, so by then it was old news.
Had we released it later, we might've been included, although we
weren't fashionable. But I don't agree that it's a scene, really.
None of the bands feel comfortable with it anyway. It's the same
with the Camden thing."
"I hate Camden. It's dirty and full of tourists," says Anderson.
Perhaps it's the persistently buzzing doorbell which is adding to
her irritation ("Oh shut UP!" she cries, throwing her hands in the
air), but it's a prickliness that contrasts with the group's chiming
guitars and poignant lyrics.
"Don't want to be on my own again tonight" runs the refrain to the
Anderson- penned "Single Girl". And though Berenyi is open and eager
to please, her lyrics are tough at heart. "I don't need your
practised lies, your school of charm mentality," she sings on her
own "Ladykillers", a single ironically set for release on
Valentine's Day. This interplay of the heartfelt and the cocky is
typical of Lovelife, an album incorporating trumpets and flutes and
dispensing with the over-produced feel that has beset previous
efforts. Mixed by Lush's live sound technician ("So it's in your
face," says Berenyi) the result is a less artificial sound, one that
comes closest yet to capturing their on-stage vitality.
Interest will undoubtedly be fuelled by Jarvis Cocker's presence on
the track "Ciao!", Berenyi's caustic duet for ex-lovers. "We thought
of who I could sing it with and came up with all these ideas," she
says with a grin. "We know Jarvis but we still didn't think he'd do
it. Pulp are so big now, even though when we first knew them they
were supporting us. If our own stuff does well we might release it
as a single. But we certainly don't want to be seen as some nonce
little indie band no one's heard of, who just happened to make a
record with Jarvis Cocker."
Still, surely it wouldn't be bad for the profile. "Or a comeback,
eh?" snorts Anderson, derisively. "Look, if anyone claims Lush are
reinventing themselves. they simply haven't been paying attention."