Sunday, 8 May 2016

987 LUSH, Spectres, London Camden The Roundhouse, Saturday 7th May 2016

“Lush are hot hot hot and they’re gonna be huge huge huge!” I wrote that back in the day (gig 160, March 1990!) when Lush’s crush collision between Cocteau-ish dreamscapes and wild off-kilter (Throwing) Muse-ic made them the brightest new star in the rock firmament. A band who, for me, never quite lived up to that initial heady rush of burgeoning promise, diverting from the superb, scathing “Scar” EP into wispier, more ethereal soundscapes (in the process being dubbed vanguard members of the “Shoegaze” movement), often at the expense of the tunes. A final album of irreverent “blazing pop tunes” (again, as I referred to them back in the day) saw them raise their profile in those Britpop mid-90’s, before the shocking suicide of drummer Chris Acland (a man whom I’d met at their earlier gigs, chatting about his beloved Spurs and finding him a level-headed, personable chap) brought the Lush story shuddering to a tragic and untimely close. Now (and perhaps spurred on – pardon the pun – by Ride’s similar successful return last year) another band scratching that reunion itch, it’ll be interesting to see which version of Lush will turn up tonight…
The initial Roundhouse reunion show sold out in double-quick time, but I sorted tix for the more favourable Saturday second night, heading off at 5 for a stuffy drive up to London on the hottest day of the year. A crap journey – hold-ups on the M4 due to an overturned car – saw me eventually hit the Roundhouse dead on 8, just as support Spectres were taking the stage. A harsh, visceral laze-rock sonic assault, this lot were obvious disciples of the likes of Mould, Mascis and even Killing Joke, in the art of guitar abuse for the purposes of making an unholy and cacophonous racket. Their 3rd number “Pushing On The Signs” was a hazy, druggy slow-burn wig-out in contrast to the faster-paced rest of the set, but the subsequent number was a careering dystopian hell-ride with an insistent repetitive hook (“I’ll never… forget it…”) and the best number in the set. The noise assault may be their primary focus, but scratch the surface and there’s melodic promise there. Their brutal final number featured tumbling drums and the vocalist/ guitarist using a bottle as a guitar pick!
Ran into gig buddy Andy Fenton and his mate Nigel Stone – they’d caught a train up earlier, hitting the World’s End pub early doors and were therefore suitably, erm, “well-refreshed”. Some lairy and entertaining rock chat (basically the boys persuading me to go to “Indietracks”!) passed the time quickly before the lights smashed to black and Lush took the smoke-swathed stage at 9.20. “Wow!” exclaimed Lush vocalist Miki Berenyi, “lovely to see everyone in such a good mood!” as the band eased into the chiming guitar opening of a lovely “De-Luxe”. This was followed by the pounding drums and shimmering guitar work of “Breeze”, the harmony evolving into a call-and-response vocal interplay, with guitarist Emma taking the harmony line. All going well at this point, with the ever-personable Miki in good fooling as well (admitting, “against my best intentions, I got absolutely hammered last night!” asking, “anyone here last night? [If so,] sorry about the same outfit,”, and remarking, “we’re hanging in Camden on a Saturday night – it’s like the last 20 years never happened! Actually, we’re so un-rock’n’roll right now – our guest list is full of school governors!”).
However, notwithstanding a resonant, echoey “Etherial”, embellished by Burundi-esque drumbeats, much of the set thereafter drifted by in a gossamer haze – a nice vibe, but insubstantial and short on tunes or even variation. Even the moody, off-kilter strumalong opening of oldie “Scarlet” was rendered very politely, far from the sinister, seething beast on record, and all too often it felt a bit “cruise and collect”. For me, it’s not enough to simply “be” back, you need to return whole-heartedly with intent to do full justice to your legacy, or even better, add a few extra chapters to it. It just felt this was happening less frequently tonight than I’d expected… or hoped.
“For Love”, dedicated to Chris (“remember [him] as the happy happy person he was”), showed signs of revival, although the well-intentioned newie “Out Of Control”, dedicated to victims of bullying, was pleasant but flimsy. Miki then announced, “have a little dance to this one,” to the flippant, Britpop-darling period “Ladykillers”, documenting a different type of Camden Saturday night, and giving the gig the shot in the arm I felt it needed. “Downer”, next up, was excellent – a lustrous, punkish careering thrash overlaid by gorgeous harmonies. Another lovely “Sweetness And Light” chimed out an overall uneven set, a couple of encores unnecessary bookends for me, but enabling Miki to gush thank you’s to all and sundry for this “celebration”.
Grabbed a set-list thanks to a friendly security bloke, then hung out (ultimately in vain) for my 2 drunken gig buddies before wearily crossing town, back to the car for midnight and home at a red-eyed 1.20. Reflecting on the performance, it was probably pretty much what I expected, with the (very) early material (particularly “Downer”, the highlight of the night) and later stuff (“Ladykillers”) shining albeit for different reasons, and the more textural shoegazey mid-period nice, but... It’s great that they’re back, don’t get me wrong, just don’t expect them to be hot hot hot and huge huge huge now...

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