Forgotten Albums: The Darling Buds, Erotica

When I moved back to Kentucky in the fall of 1992, I had been a semi-obsessive CD collector for about three years, especially interested in scouring used and cut-out bins (the codependent friendship I’d formed with Greg during that time hadn’t helped, of course). So it’s no surprise that in the weeks following my return to the Lexington area I made a mission of locating as many independent music stores as I could. I can now think of three places I frequented often back then: two in strip malls on the outer beltway that runs around the south side of town and one–my favorite–adjacent to the University of Kentucky campus. That last one still exists, formerly known as Cut Corner Records, now CD Central (there could have been an ownership change along the way). I probably bought most new releases there, including the disk under discussion today.

The Welsh band Darling Buds has received notice in this space multiple times previously–in Modern Rock Tracks posts, in mixtape reviews, etc. Greg had put me onto their debut album Pop Said… not long after he and I met in early 1990; my ardor deepened when Crawdaddy came out later that year. That made third album Erotica a must-purchase when I saw it in the racks at Cut Corner thirty years ago this month. When I put the disk in my player back home, though, I wasn’t sure what to think initially.

The Buds started pretty much in the punk-pop vein (I see various reviews of Pop Said… point to Blondie as a likely influence) and incorporated various Madchester elements on Crawdaddy. Erotica carried over producer Stephen Street from that sophomore album, yet much changed: the pace is overall more languid, the songs longer. I’m not the scholar of early 90s British musical fashions and fads I might like to be, but there are certainly shoegaze stylings, specifically those of My Bloody Valentine, throughout.

I listened to Erotica a fair amount initially, though it never grabbed me the way their first two albums did. It’s been interesting to note in recent days that AllMusic lists it as its Pick for the Buds, and that Trouser Press also thinks it’s perhaps their best. I wouldn’t go that far (my vote is for Crawdaddy), but listening again now I at least see some merit to the argument. If this album is new to you, see what you think of these selections.

Things kick off with a tune that’s definitely not a Fixx cover:

“Please Yourself” is listed on Wikipedia as the third single (and maybe it was in the U.K.?), but my feeble mind is telling me it was the first promoted track on this side of the pond. I have a 4-track CD-single for it that also includes “Sure Thing,” another of Erotica‘s singles.

My favorite track is “Angels Fallen.” It’s song six on the CD, which means I’ve always thought of it as leading off side two…

I’m also a fan of “Long Day in the Universe,” which appeared on the soundtrack for So I Married an Axe Murderer. Sometime the following year I scored a 4-track promo-only CD-single at Cut Corner (those used bins did have gold in them from time to time…)

Two tracks I’d come to forget over the years stood out on re-listening this past week. One is “Isolation;” I can’t quite put my finger what song it’s reminding me of now (I’m picking up a mid-60s vibe), but I sure am regretting my earlier disregard for it. The other is the closing track, “If,” coming as close as any song on Erotica to their earlier sound (while still embracing the new). It will certainly be going into semi-steady rotation around here.

The band lost their contract/broke up/stopped recording after Erotica. It’d be twenty-five years before vocalist Andrea Lewis reconstituted a version of the band for an EP on Odd Box Records, a Welsh indie label that unfortunately has since gone under. They did get together (after a fashion) for an updated version of “Isolation” early on in the pandemic. I’d love for them to find another outlet for future recordings, and if I’m ever in the Cardiff area when they get together for a show, you can be sure I’ll be in attendance.

Modern Rock Tracks, 10/3/92

My first day on the job as an assistant prof of math was also the day that Hurricane Andrew strafed Homestead, FL. My office that year was three doors down from the one I’ve occupied since–one of my new colleagues was on leave, taking classes toward a doctorate at the University of Kentucky, so I temporarily took over his space. I had four different preparations, all new to me. I certainly came to understand a lot of undergraduate math much better in those years as I had to figure out how to explain stuff to other people.

Every fall we get a two-day break in October; this year’s is tomorrow and Friday. It must have been around the same time thirty years ago, and I couldn’t resist the chance to head back to Illinois for the weekend. The main memory I have of the trip is watching one of the debates at Jay and Michelle’s house, perhaps the veep debate when Ross Perot’s running mate Vice Admiral James Stockdale famously uttered, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

When I wasn’t teaching or getting ready to do so, I was either playing Minesweeper on the new Windows 3.1 machine in my office or checking out music stores in Lexington, forever on the hunt for CDs. I count six acts below whose 1992 releases wound up in my collection.

28. Mary’s Danish, “Leave It Alone”
That breakthrough never happened for this L.A. outfit, and they split following the release of American Standard. They opened for the Darling Buds on tour that fall; Greg scored perhaps my most treasured rock-related artifact from Buds singer Andrea Lewis when he saw the two acts in concert that December.

25. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Breaking the Girl”
RHCP’s more sedate songs definitely hold more appeal for me. There’s a lot to recommend here–syncopated rhythm, cacophonous percussion solo, flute sounds from the mellotron…what more could one want?

23. Morrissey, “Glamorous Glue”
Moz has been a frequent presence on this chart throughout this series of posts, though I don’t make note of his contributions all that often. Today I’m enjoying the muscular guitar work on “Glamorous Glue,” so he gets mentioned this time (okay, “Tomorrow” is also on here at #15).

22. Utah Saints, “Something Good”
It’s been stunning and immensely satisfying to see “Running Up That Hill” click with the youngins this year. It’s not the first time since 1985, though, a cut from Hounds of Love has resurfaced: a British house duo that looked to the American West for their name sampled “Cloudbusting” (both vocals and video) to great effect only seven years after it first hit the scene.

21. Sinéad O’Connor, “Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home”
O’Connor’s next move after her breakthrough cover of Prince was to take on this Loretta Lynn classic. It’s a fascinating re-invention that was soon to be overshadowed by a public outcry: 10/3/92 was the day of the Saturday Night Live appearance during which O’Connor tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II.

19. Kitchens of Distinction, “Smiling”
Straightforward pop out of the UK. The Death of Cool wound up in my collection on a whim, and this track from it graced one of my 1994 mixtapes. I dig the band’s name.

13. Screaming Trees, “Nearly Lost You”
Trees singer Mark Lanegan passed away this past February at the age of 57. While “Nearly Lost You” is a fantastic track, I’ll always think fondly of Lanegan for contributing vocals to “Sneakers” on the Sandra Boynton children’s CD Dog Train (a favorite in our house fifteen or so years ago).

11. Too Much Joy, “Donna Everywhere”
Catchy tune and sophomoric lyrics, neither of which should surprise any fan of the band.

10. 10000 Maniacs, “These Are Days”
Our Time in Eden turned out to be the swan studio album for the Natalie Merchant-era of 10K Maniacs. It was quite the way to go out, as it’s their most fully realized work.

Thirty years on, “These Are Days” has become one of my songs-of-the-year for 2022; you can read why here.

8. Pearl Jam, “Jeremy”
Never was a particular fan of this one, but feels like I should mention its presence. It was inescapable on MTV for far too long.

6. Sugar, “Helpless”
A few weeks ago my Twitter feed made sure I knew that last month marked 30 years since Copper Blue‘s release. I’ve really soured on “A Good Idea” over the years, but “Helpless” is a delight.

4. R.E.M., “Drive”
Those opening weeks at my new job sure saw the release of a lot of great albums (see #10 above, #2 below, among others). Most of the time I think that Automatic for the People is the best of the bunch, even if this homage to “Rock On” didn’t jazz me initially.

3. INXS, “Not Enough Time”
I’m not sure why INXS’s star faded as quickly as it did after Kick. Here we are, just two albums out, and this is their final Top 40 hit. Darn fine song, too.

2. Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise”
Mitchell Froom took Peter Case, Los Lobos, and Vega all on wild-but-rewarding rides in the studio in 1992. 99.9°F was quite the departure from Suzy V’s earlier work, but I was on board from the start.

1. Peter Gabriel, “Digging in the Dirt”
Gabriel’s six-year break between So and Us coincided perfectly with my years away from Kentucky. The video for “Digging in the Dirt” feels somewhat like an attempt to recreate the magic of “Sledgehammer.” Even if Peter came up short on that front, this is a very nice song.