I had to go through a labyrinth of amazing old school Geocities websites to find a decent photo of Lush. The mid-’90s was such a golden age for web design, ya’ll. Why don’t designers use wicked animated GIFs anymore? Man… fuckin’ Geocities… oooh weee. I had a Geocities website and it ruled so hard.
Anyway, conventional shoegazing history operates, for all intents and purposes, as follows. When the “Scene That Celebrated Itself” collapsed on itself around the same time as grunge (roughly Q3 of 1994) your band did two things: either dismantled or went a very different direction. Lush chose the latter, and released some kinda shitty music toward the end of their career. However, Lush’s Gala compilation, which comprised of the group’s first three EPs collected on one priced-to-own record long before the Beta Band thought of doing it, is not just some of the best dream pop ever recorded – it’s just some of the best rock and roll recorded. Lush, along with Cocteau Twins, established what the 4AD sound was all about.
Few artists truly balanced noise and gentleness, grandeur and intimacy better than Lush did between 1989 and 1992. 1990’s Gala was the introduction of Lush to the world, and 1992’s Spooky, their frist proper album of original material, was just as good. After Spooky, Lush moved toward the more minimal and bubblegum end of the spectrum, riding the wave of the Britpop craze. Lovelife, their final album due to drummer Chris Acland’s tragic suicide, was their best selling, but also furthest removed from anything remotely shoegazing in sound. As such, Lush is often best remembered for “Ladykillers” and stuff like that instead of what the majority of their output sounded like.
No bueno, homes. “Second Sight” is what Lush is about: jangly guitars, sonic cathedral vocals, tinges of psychedelia and punk, and the usual shoegazing flourishes. “Scarlet” rips so hard that it hurts. It reminds me of how much indie rock sucks this day and age, and how much I bum on my parents for having me in 1984 instead of a decade earlier so I could’ve been around to experience the excellent jams and slackerdom zeitgeist. “Hey Hey Helen” features absolutely gorgeous vocal harmonies on top of a bed of fuzzbox destruction and chorus-heavy examinations underneath the song. It’s an ABBA cover by the way. I don’t want to hear it, I love ABBA. They own. Don’t give a fuck.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and perhaps that’s true. But you sure as hell can identify a shoegazing album by its cover. Is it all luqidy and colorful like Gala? It’s probably shoegaze.
Gala still destroys, and holds up well in not sounding terribly dated as so many early ’90s bands tend to do. All of the following tracks are found on Gala and originally found on their 1989 EP Scar. Owning a physical copy of either will cost you a pretty penny (the former goes for roughly $70 on eBay), but you can buy a download of the entire compilation courtesy of 4AD here for the right price.