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.

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