Lush - Split
Lush, in many ways, bucked that trend in shoegaze. Far from being inaccessible, Lush set out to be as accessible as possible, almost poppy in some ways. Their second album, Split, showcases this and is their strongest album. At the time, its name seemed to foretell the reaction to it - mixed. That is an understatement! In some sections it was panned, in others it was lauded. However, like their contemporaries (Both musically and chronologically, Adorable) Lush were unable to break out of the shoegaze tag and declined along with the contemporary appreciation of the genre.
A decade and a half later, this album deserves a serious reappraisal. It is themed around romance, the dark side of romance, although in places you wouldn't tell. Heavily reliant on the vocal talents of Miki Berenyi, the words and sentiments contained within Split are nothing new, but when played above the layers of distorted guitars, a new angle is found from which to survey the old ground of the well-worn theme.
The album starts on a dreamy note with "Light From a Dead Star," which begins with an orchestral drone morphing into jangly electric guitars as Miki Berenyi's soprano voice sets a dark tone:
"He lives his life in a world/Full of women and he takes/What he wants from their love/And he throws the rest away"
The track grows and then fades back into the orchestral melange from which it came.
The next few tracks have a more pop feel to them, with "Hypocrite" almost being something which the Go-Go's could have sung, were it not for the bitterness of the lyrics as the scorned woman turns on her ex:
"You hypocrite/Don't talk to me cause you're not fit to know me/So don't pretend you understand/Cause you could've never been my friend."
Yet, at times, this poppy feel doesn't fit with the album. A few tracks later, "Lit Up" comes along with more sugar, and this time feels out of place on the album.
A break of sorts comes with the vaguely Middle-eastern sound of "Desire Lines", the high point of the album. This is wrist-slashingly miserable at a time when Britpop was making headway in attempting to put the fun back into British independent music. The album ends with a melancholy feel to it as "When I Die" explores love's loss through bereavement. A pent-up anger pervades the song throughout, an anger born partly of frustration at not being able to express itself, but also partly at not being able to do anything to prevent its emergence. Powerful stuff indeed.
Split came too late to pull shoegaze out of the reputation into which it had dug itself. Like the aforementioned Adorable, Lush would have fared better had they emerged a decade later. As it is, they remain one of the overlooked outfits of the mid-nineties and Split is their opus magnus, forgotten and missed as British music marched forward to the strands of "Parklife" and "Wonderwall".
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