Forgotten Albums: Lush, Lovelife

In the spring of 1996, I was teaching four different courses: college algebra, calculus for business, calculus 1, and differential equations. To be honest I can’t think of any particularly memorable moments in the classroom that semester. Looking over the rosters, I notice that my future colleague in physics (then the son of a current colleague) was a student in DE, a young woman who in four years would become the aunt of one of my son’s better friends growing up was taking business calculus, and there was the oddity of having three students in calculus 1 (out of about twenty-five) whose last name started with Z.

(Why I know this today: I’ve spent some good part of the last couple of weeks going through stacks upon stacks of paper in my office, performing an approximately once-every-decade serious culling. A couple of days ago I came across class lists and printouts of grades assigned from my first decade on the job, the vast majority of which is now about to head to the shredder.)

I was wrapping up my fourth year at Georgetown, so the students who’d started there when I had were about to graduate. My application for tenure and promotion would be submitted after three more semesters, so much of the case I’d be presenting was already in the books. While my inability to recall high points from those early months of 1996 may not speak well of making the most of all of my pre-tenure years, I will point out that in this instance I had at least somewhat of an excuse: I was dealing with wedding plans.

Martha and I knew fairly early in our courtship that marriage was quite possibly in the cards. We’d begun dating in February of 1995, and by Christmas we were actively discussing a summer 1996 wedding. January was a scramble: making our intentions known to parents and searching for an engagement ring, which I presented to her one day shy of the anniversary of our first date. We already had a target wedding day in mind, and so next came securing the church, a venue for the reception, formal wear, attendants, a baker, a photographer, and so on, and so on. It was quite fortunate that, with only five months’ lead time, we got it all to come together on the date we wanted. While I was reasonably involved, credit where it’s due: Martha, with her excellent organizing and planning skills, took the lead on the substantial majority of everything.

It’s a good thing, too, as about a month after the school year ended, six weeks before the wedding, I came down with chicken pox. I’d managed to avoid them while growing up, but apparently I couldn’t hide forever. I’m virtually certain I picked them up from a preschooler at church. Fortunately, my case turned out to be rather mild—I think things were pretty close back to normal after about ten days. (In an odd coincidence, my sister also got chicken pox within a week or so of when I did, from her two-year old who was in day care. Her case wound up being considerably more severe than mine.) I was ready and able to help with any last details, some of which was making plans with out-of-town friends for the days leading up to the wedding.

One of the newer CDs in my collection that spring—perhaps I listened to it during my convalescence—was Lovelife, the third full-length release from Lush. I’d been a fan of theirs since early 1992, when they were part of the British shoegaze scene. Lovelife, as well as their 1994 album, Split, marked a departure from their earlier sound, definitely more conventional pop/rock. (Lush has a song called “Lovelife,” but it’s not this album’s title track–it actually appears on Split.) Co-leaders Miki Berenyi (guitars/vocals) and Emma Anderson (guitars/ethereal harmonies) divided songwriting duties evenly among Lovelife’s twelve tunes. While I don’t like every song on the album, it’s a very solid collection overall. Let’s take a listen to half of it.

Lead track “Ladykillers” was the second of three singles released in the UK and got plenty of alternative play here in the states in the late spring. It bears more than a passing resemblance to “Hypocrite” from Split, but it’s still a great, muscular tune.

Reading up on Lovelife, I’m seeing the term ‘Britpop’ applied to its sound. Maybe so, but one element that’s always struck me is what I consider a 60s vibe on many of its songs, particularly the inclusion of horns, strings, and flute. “I’ve Been Here Before” is the first of three tracks here that to my ears hearken somewhat to thirty years earlier.

“Single Girl” was the first single released; all three made it to either #21 or #22 on the British charts. Seems appropriate for a wedding-themed vid to show up here, no?

Jarvis Cocker of Pulp was recruited to sing along with Berenyi on “Ciao!” This track, in which the two parties battle over who’s better off now that their relationship is over, also served as the title of Lush’s 2001 compilation release.

Generally speaking, Berenyi wrote the rockers, Anderson the prettier tunes. “Runaway,” one of my two or three faves on the album, is in the former camp.

Lush came to an abrupt end later in 1996, when drummer Chris Aclund committed suicide in October, just 30 years old. I’m sorry for the pain he couldn’t bear, and selfishly sorry for the music this wonderful band didn’t get to make as a result. “Olympia,” Lovelife‘s closer and another gorgeous piece, ends with the unfortunately appropriate “And now, time to switch off.” (As a YouTube commenter notes: ‘last line, last song, last album.’)

I couldn’t know then what lay ahead for Lush; I was simply spending my final weeks as a single guy enjoying their new album.

More music from 1996 on Tuesday.

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