Perhaps unsurprisingly, when released in 1994, Lush’s album Split was not met with widespread acclaim. “With songs about death, infidelity, and neglect, Split was a dark, introspective album that jarred with the beginning of the Britpop party.” But despite its unceremonious beginnings, the album is considered by many to be thematic of the 90s unsteady gait and uneven footing in direct juxtaposition to 80s overt surefootedness. It was a time of mental upheaval and expansion of mind. It was also the birthplace of the delirious song Desire Lines, a gentle if affable masterpiece from beginning to end with lyrics appearing to be in reference to a lesbian relationship (pleasure crescendo included). With its swirly sounds awash in muscular rave-waving rifts that heatedly ebb and floe, one could be forgiven for burying their head within such sweet brilliance and drinking in its exquisite beauty.
“It’s raining in this room,
And it’s so hot outside this room,
I don’t know no one here,
I don’t want to be here,
In this room”
That stated, the album was definitely a breach birth being fraught with issues from the start. Per Wikipedia, “Lush chose to work with producer Mike Hedges because they ‘loved’ his work on Sulk by The Associates, A Kiss in the Dreamhouse by Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Seventeen Seconds by The Cure, according to lead singer and guitarist Miki Berenyi. They first recorded at Rockfield in Wales and then mixed at Hedges’s house in France, but as bassist Phil King remembered it, ‘it sounded as flat as a pancake, no dynamics at all’. so they finally decided to have the entire album remixed by Alan Moulder because he had already worked with My Bloody Valentine (Loveless) and Ride (Nowhere). Berenyi’s verdict was positive, ‘Alan was brilliant.'” Unsurprisingly, Moulder had produced and would go on to produce a prodigious number of equally amazing albums including Curve‘s Doppelgänger, The Smashing Pumpkins‘ Siamese Dream, Nine Inch Nails‘ The Downward Spiral, Interpol‘s Interpol, and U2‘s Pop.
“Officially, Lush broke up in February 1998, when they issued a statement as a courtesy to their fans. In reality, they were done the minute they heard that their drummer, Chris Acland, had killed himself on 17 October 1996. ‘I didn’t even want the publicity of splitting up,’ Berenyi says. ‘I thought: isn’t it fucking obvious? We knew it was over. Fuck the rest of the world. I just retreated completely.’ It was a shocking conclusion for an intensely likable band who always looked as if they were having fun even when they weren’t. Though they were bracketed with the shoegazing scene, they had their own distinct charisma. Neither experimental like Slowdive nor besotted with classic rock like Ride, they wrote fantastic pop songs. Their name suggested the luxuriant swirl of their records, while actually repurposing a disparaging term for a heavy drinker.“
“We hold parties in our sleep,
We fill ourselves up in our sleep,
And I’ll heal you when you’re ill,
Though it’s hard keeping still,
In our sleep“
“It’s dismaying to learn that Berenyi and Emma Anderson (vocals, guitar) fell out for several years after Acland’s death because much of Lush’s appeal stemmed from their tight, if sometimes tense, friendship and simpatico songwriting. They met at Queen’s College in Westminster when they were 14, both misfits in an environment of privilege. “I think we were both quite isolated in our homes,” Berenyi says. ‘It was like: “You’re weird, and I’m weird, too.” We could trust each other.’ The two girls wrote a fanzine specializing in gothic rock and rude jokes and played bass in other people’s bands. After leaving school and meeting drummer Acland at North London Polytechnic (Miki briefly dated him at the time), they decided to start their own group, originally called the Baby Machines after a line in the Siouxsie and the Banshees song ‘Arabian Knights’.” Original bassist Steve Rippon would be replaced by Phil King in 1991, later known for his extensive work with The Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sadly, though the band briefly reformed from 2015 to 2016, they again are no more, yet blessedly left behind a gorgeous catalog, a true legacy to 90s shoegaze that achingly deserves to be thoroughly and deeply explored and enjoyed.
“Pries the hair out of her mouth,
Whilst the circus is heading south,
While we search in the sand, don’t ask them to understand,
Why they cover up their hands,
And their mouths“
2 thoughts on “Lush ~ Desire Lines ”
I loved this band so much back then. I still play Gala and Spooky all the time. Lovelife has its own verve and some driving cuts, but Split definitely signaled a drift from their shoegazing roots. I appreciated their experimenting, but flat as a pancake? I get it. Split wasn’t my favorite Lush album, but it has some good stopovers here and there.
I still kick myself I was offered a free ticket to Lush one night, Jane’s Addiction the night after and I was too pussy to call out sick from work both offers. Doh!!!
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I feel you there. So many bands I wish I had been able to catch live in their heydays.
I believe parts of Gala (an amalgamation of all their early EPs combined for U.S. and Japanese market release) and all of Spooky were produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, hence the swirly-shoegazy predominance (I love those albums too). But, far be it for me to give you a history lesson, lol, you are a literal musical fount of knowledge and experience and undoubtedly know all this already.
Split was indeed quite different. Less shoegaze and more dark alternative pop. I blame my Dad for my early influence and subsequent heavy leaning toward the darker musical stylings. I was brought up on Pink Floyd and songs like Witchy Woman, Carrie, Long Cool Woman, Painted Ladies, etc. Lots of minor keys/chords painted my childhood, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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