Walking up the seaside
This is not a joyride
Tell me in the meantime
Lush was originally formed on Halloween, 1988, in London, England, just as the shoegazer movement was coming into being. The first of relatively few different lineups looked like this:
Before recording anything or getting any gigs under their belts, Meriel Barham left to form The Pale Saints with Chris Cooper, Graeme Naysmith, and Ian Masters, leaving Miki to take on full lead vocals duties. Meriel's departure helped the band solidify and before long they'd released their first EP, the bright yet menacing Scar, in October of 1989. Gigging followed and soon they were playing all over the UK, and due to the favour that shoegazing held with music critics at the time, they were all over music industry magazines like Melody Maker, NME, and others, as well. Like many of the shoegazer bands from this era, Lush issued an impressive catalogue of EP releases before actually releasing a full album. In this case, Lush took it a step further and combined three of their early EPs into their first album, entitled Gala, which was released in late 1990. It took their first three EPs, Scar, Mad Love, and Sweetness & Light, threw the tracklists into a blender, and came out as an album. Multiple versions of two seperate songs ("Thoughtforms" and "Scarlet") appear on Gala, adding to the air of "this is our first album made from EPs" that the band was exuding at the time.
Enter the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. He'd heard Gala and been mighty impressed, so he took it upon himself to become the band's producer, and given his clout in the British music scene, helped them land a record deal with 4AD, run by his good friend Ivo Watts-Russell. As Guthrie and the band finished up the recording of Spooky, bassist Steve Rippon left the band, reportedly because he couldn't endure Guthrie's ego any longer. He was replaced by one-time NME columnist/full-time bassist Philip King, then most recently of Biff Bang Pow. Spooky took nearly two years to record, in true Guthrie/Cocteau Twins fashion, though it turned out to be worth the wait. Upon its release in January 1992, Lush was one of the biggest draws in the UK. Spooky briefly held the top spot on the British Indie chart, as well as the non-indie British Top 10. Before long, Lush was making music videos and touring Europe and North America. Listening to the album, you can almost hear Robin Guthrie's eyes turning into £ symbols as he grins like a dog in the booth as the idyllic, layered songs made their way onto tape and eventually, onto the world. (The best example of Guthrie's influence during production is probably the song "Nothing Natural.")
Lush was eagerly added to the inaugural Lollapalooza roster in 1992 by its organizer, Perry Ferrell, the Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman, who personally requested Lush for his new tour program. Though they were given main stage status (can you imagine that? Lush, RHCP, Soundgarden, and Ice Cube sharing a stage? Must've been wild.), they received a rather tepid reception on that tour due to the huge popularity of grunge metal in the United States at the time -- Indeed, it isn't difficult to imagine an early 1990s-era American Joe Average metal fan jamming his hands into his pockets and yelling to his mates: "Who wants to stand around and listen to this swirly girly shit when The Screaming Trees are on the next stage over, dude?!" The other non-metal acts on that tour, like Siouxsie & The Banshees, received similar receptions, but got along on the tour mostly due to rabid Banshees fans turning up at many of the tour stops and drowning out the detractors during stage time.
Undaunted, Lush returned home to the UK and began working on material for their third album, which turned out to be the definitive Split, released in mid-1994. Split, as it has been described, is where Emma and Miki finally click and come into their own, emerging from rock band infancy to writing extremely complex and lyrically stimulating songs, some of which neared the 10-minute mark. Split was pure dreampop. It wasn't a complete departure from their previous albums, though the fact that the band had parted ways with Robin Guthrie allowed them a much greater degree of musical freedom and room to experiment. Mike Hedges, who had previously produced The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Everything But The Girl, to name a few, was brought in to produce, and he didn't stand in the band's way. His subtle production allowed for masterpieces like the eight-minute long opus "Never-never" to come into being. Guthrie had been producing the band with something of a heavy hand, and his absence is starkly noticeable here. Split is the most evenly produced of the four Lush albums.
Lush hit the road again in support of Split, touring North America with Slowdive and Ride during the spring and early summer of 1994. Between stops on the tour they recorded a video for Split's lead single, "Hypocrite," at a carnival up the road from one of the tour venues, in a few days.
After appearances at several of the annual music festivals across Europe, Lush again returned to the UK to begin working on their fourth album, Lovelife, which was produced by Pete Bartlett, the band's live sound engineer. The band spent the middle months of 1995 in the studio laying down the vocals, guitars, drums, and so forth. The shoegazer movement had died a violent death at the hands of the British music press, so Lovelife found Lush adapting their sound for a new era, and as a result, the album is more pop than anything else, particularly the singles. It was released right on the heels of the then-new Britpop genre, and the band's new sound did well based on that. Also notable about this album is a duet between Miki and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, entitled "Ciao!"
We're both sick
But still you hold my hand
But I understand
As Lush was making preparations for another tour following the release of Lovelife in May 1996, everything came to an abrupt halt. The band's drummer, Chris Acland, who had once been Miki's boyfriend, hanged himself on October 17, 1996. Understandably, this had a huge impact on the band and they ceased all activity altogether. Bassist Philip King shortly thereafter moved on to play bass for a small variety of obscure bands, such as De Dannan and August, more or less becoming a session bassist for a while, until he joined the Jesus & Mary Chain in 1999. Emma Anderson formed Sing-Sing in late 1998 with Lisa O'Neill, formerly of Locust. Sing-Sing decided to part ways in early 2008.
Miki, devastated by Chris' death, removed herself from public life and eventually went to work as an editorial assistant for the BBC. According to an unidentified friend of hers that's still in the music business, "she just wants to tend her garden, go to work, and move on with life." Though she did contribute her voice to various songs by The Replacements and Moose, following the end of Lush, we will probably never see her vermilion hair wildly whipping around as she stomps around the stage in a sequined minidress while beating the hell out of her guitar and effects pedals, and belting out vocals. Particularly now that she's about 40 years old, married and the mother of multiple children. She has, however, been giving interviews and the like again (as of early 2008), after maintaining radio silence with the media and her fan base for several years. According to one interview in particular, she hasn't even touched any of her guitars in years, although she still has the trademark Gibson Firebird and Epiphone Riviera guitars featured in many photographs of her taken during the Lush years. She says that she's very flattered that anyone remembers her at all—DUH! She'll always have the love of her fans.
Miki and Emma opened up a bit about Chris' suicide and the end of the band in this article at Under The Radar. They say a reunion is possible but unlikely. But at least they're getting some press again.
You're going to die under the sun
And I'll be doomed to carry on
You have become like other men
But let me kiss you once again
You have the sun, I have the moon
Lush officially announced their breakup on February 23, 1998, nearly a year and a half after Chris' suicide.
UPDATE 2015: You'll never guess: Lush has reformed! Tour dates to come in 2016. Justin Welch from Elastica will be taking Chris Acland's spot on drums.
This comes on the heels of Slowdive and Ride reforming after nearly 20 years apart.
I can't wait to see them! Bucket list removal: I finally saw Lush live on September 19, 2016, near the end of their first tour of North America in 20 years. It was such a good show. Right up there with the Slowdive and Ride shows I attended in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Tamaryn was excellent, too. Beautiful newgaze. And Tamaryn herself reminded me very much of the late 1980s teeny bopper Tiffany. Same hair style, same airbrushed t-shirt and laundry day shorts. Here's "Cranekiss", the title track from this 2015 release. Yummy!
So, now that Lush has reformed, the lineup looks like this as of 2016 (only 2016 - see below after the band line-up):
- Miki Berenyi - vocals, guitar
- Emma Anderson - backing vocals, guitar
Phil King/Michael Conroy - bass guitar
- Justin Welch - drums
Phil King is still playing bass for The Jesus and Mary Chain, who (as of late 2015) are on tour playing their debut album, 1985's Psychocandy, in its entirety, but he'll be free to rejoin Lush once they begin touring in mid-2016. A new album is rumoured to be in the works as well and a new EP, as yet untitled, is slated for an early 2016 release!
Also, The Guardian just put up a really comprehensive piece on the band. You can read it here.
Toward the end of Lush's 2016 tour, Phil King left the band. This was apparently not acrimonious; rather, it simply conflicted with previously booked J&MC gigs that he couldn't miss. This lead to the cancellation of two festival appearances. By the time Emma and Miki had found a bassist, they had only two more shows planned. Michael Conroy of Modern English, a friend of Chris Acland's back in the day, filled in for Phil for those last two gigs, with the final show being at Manchester Academy. After that show, Lush announced their permanent disbandment. Here's their announcement. Again, they will be dearly missed, but they put their lives on hold for a year to reform Lush and tour, and, as the announcement states, they believe it's time to return to their homes, families and day jobs.
ALBUMS and COMPILATIONS
- 1990 Gala (singles compilation) -- 4AD/Reprise Records
- 1992 Spooky -- 4AD/Reprise Records
- 1994 Split -- 4AD/Reprise Records
- 1996 Lovelife -- 4AD/Reprise Records
- 1998 Topolino (B-sides compilation; the tracklists for the Canadian and Japanese releases differ slightly) -- 4AD
- 2001 Ciao! 1989-1996 ("Best of" compilation) -- 4AD
- 2015 Chorus (Lush's entire musical output from over the years collected in a boxed set) -- 4AD
SINGLES and EPs
The song "De-Luxe", from 1992's Spooky, was included in the video game Rock Band 2. Coincidentally, "De-Luxe" was the opening song played by Lush at shows on their 2016 North American tour.
I've seen this band perform live once.
Detroit, 2016 (with Tamaryn)