Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Today, I am super delighted to welcome the charming, witty and immensely talented Alex Clemence, front man with English dream-gaze band DayFlower, as guest reviewer on the blog.  Alex is reviewing, ‘Blind Spot‘, the first music release in 20 years by 90’s chart-toppers Lush, which they released via their own label, Edamame Records.

so without further ado … In his own words, ALEX!

“Alex is a human male from Norwich who moved to Leicester in 2003 with the sole aim of failing to complete a degree in Economics. He achieved this in some style by dropping out after his first year.

When he isn’t working on fusing the nursery rhymes in his head with his own average guitar playing, he enjoys scotch bonnet chilli peppers, Haribo, Seinfeld box sets, weapons grade Polish lager, Poptarts, hanging out with his 6 year old son, American 9 ball pool (he is above average at this), dreaming up sitcoms that never seem to happen and being in love.”

Lush – Blind Spot EP

Here we go again. Here they come. It’s been twenty long years but finally Lush has returned and it thrills me to say that it’s like they have never been away.  With Jim Abbiss and Daniel Hunt of Ladytron on production duties, the girls are back with the Blind Spot EP coming out on their own Edamame label, and I’ll start by saying that it’s a hugely welcome return. Lush, you’ve been missed!

The EP kicks off with lead track, the recently released ‘Out of Control’ and pulls off that magical stunt of melding the early Lush ‘shoegaze’ sound with the Britpop influences of their later years. Part lullaby and part sea shanty, I shouldn’t be surprised that with my eyes closed, this swirling beauty of a tune evokes images of the ocean.

Heavily reverberated guitars underpin the most hypnotic of rousing choruses, harmonies courtesty of a choir of angels. For sheer depth and atmosphere, this track brings the beauty of John and Michael Heads criminally underrated band Shack to mind, specifically Waterpistol era Shack.  (View the video here)

The following track ‘Lost Boy’ lends a more ominous feel to proceedings. Building beautifully from just vocals and guitar, a lonely voice cries out ‘Now I’ve lost you’, as the pain and suffering is obvious for all to hear. The song only seems to become more urgent with the addition of light percussion, synth and delicately interweaving guitar lines that together create a vast soundscape.  The whole affair sounds like a David Bowie themed party, backed by a 60’s beat combo taking place somewhere in space.  Thats a good thing by the way!
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On another day, the third track ‘Burnham Beeches‘ could have been the opening number.  Easily my favourite song on the EP, it reminds me of New Order at their most dynamic. ‘Beeches’ manages to bring together 80’s dance rhythms and half whispered / half gasped breathy vocals, with euphoric West Coast tinged backing vocals not unlike the kind that Belinda Butcher would bring to My Bloody Valentine. (See the video below)
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Speaking of which, there are strong similarities between this and ‘Off Your Face’ from MBV’s ‘Glider‘ 1990 EP.  Comprising lilting, dipping chord changes and swelling guitars, pure pop lies within this truly joyous throwback to the early 4AD years. I am going to strongly recommend that not only do you jam this track on repeat throughout your day, but that you also give some of your time to listening to this gem through a decent set of headphones.  There are just so many textures to behold that I’m finding something new with every listen. Gorgeous layers piled one upon the other in a way not too dissimilar to what Dave Fridmann has been doing with Mercury Rev over the last 25 years.

 

Lush Live London Hackney Oslo, Kevin Hewick
Lush Live London Hackney Oslo, Kevin Hewick
Closing track ‘Rosebud‘ seems to pick up from where ‘Lost Boy‘ left off. With an almost folky style strummed electric guitar and fractured percussion throughout, ambient guitar noise and strings make this the most atmospheric on the release.  Despite the dark lyrical content and minor chord melodies, this song seems to gather pace in such a way that it feels like it is ending on a positive note. Needless to say this is another track for those of you who like to pore over their music with the use of headphones. The crystal clear guitars accompanied by a playfully melodic bass line feels like it wouldn’t be out of place on one of my favourite ever albums, the lush dreamlike tour de force that is Air’s ‘Moon Safari’.
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All in all, the ‘Blind Spot‘ EP is an hugely welcome return to form and without encouraging an additional sabbatical, well worth the 20 year wait. On occasion reminiscent of Lush at their dreamiest, ‘Blind Spot’ attests to the fact that the girls most definitely have not lost their knack for a killer pop melody. My greedier self would love there to be an album of later 80s / early 90s pop in the spirit of ‘Burnham Beeches’, but I simply couldn’t bear to miss out on some of the more nuanced melodies and atmospherics that are on display here.
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I’m also thrilled to see, hear and write that Lush has retained that contemporary edge that reminds me of some of the better moments of Britpop; think classic Shack & New Order.  Furthermore, kudos to Jim Abbiss and Daniel Hunt who have done a spectacular job on production duties.  I must point out though that the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev fan in me would love to see Dave Fridmann get hold of 21st century Lush.
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I’ll finish by saying this .  Lush – I’ve been running this EP on repeat through my stereo for the past month now.  I hope you have an album planned, AND, that I will not have to wait 20 years for it.
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The ‘Blind Spot’ EP is available via the usual digital channels, plus the official Lush website, details here.

Lush are confirmed to play two shows at London’s prestigious Roundhouse venue on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th May 2016, if you’re lucky, there might just be some tickets left for the second date here (the 6th was a sell-out within hours)They will also play the Manchester Academy Friday 25th November 2016, tickets available here.
You can follow Lush on Facebook and Twitter.
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