A bittersweet collection that’s stood the test of time.
Mike Diver 2009
Although they produced three of the Britpop era’s best-loved singles – Ladykillers, the sublime 500 (you know the one: “shake baby, shake”) and Single Girl, all of which feature here – Lush’s first two albums were firmly entrenched in shoegaze territories, more Slowdive than Sleeper.
1996’s Lovelife, their third album, marked a shift in sound, from shimmering introspection to confidently upbeat indie and sparkling, hook-laden pop. But while the melodies became catchier the four-piece didn’t compromise their integrity, and this album represents no cynical pursuit of the pounds and pence that stacked up around Britpop’s finest acts (and, depressingly, many of its less-than-brilliant ones). Compared to albums of the time from the likes of Cast, Menswear and Shed Seven, all of which have dated terribly, Lovelife stands up well to contemporary scrutiny. It exudes a quality that, while not timeless, will remain obvious for some years yet.
There are several signs of its year of origin evident throughout its 12 tracks – scene idol Jarvis Cocker descends from his lofty perch above the wannabe pack to duet with singer Miki Berenyi on Ciao! (also the title of 2001’s greatest hits set) – but notable diversions from the Britpop path can cause a lump to swell in the throat. Papasan is a stripped-bare affair, the interwoven voices of Berenyi and Emma Anderson truly raising the hairs, and Tralala is the atmospheric opposite of its onomatopoeically jolly title, a downbeat delight.
Of course, Ladykillers and 500 are the hits, and evoke memories of teenage days where all possibilities seemed achievable, where one’s future wasn’t written by forefathers or schooling limitations. But nostalgia only elevates Lovelife so far – it’s the accomplished songwriting on show that ensures it should be as celebrated today as it was back when. It’s a true tragedy that the band’s upward trajectory was so dramatically halted in October 1996, when drummer Chris Acland committed suicide. Despite trying to soldier on, the band officially split in 1998.
An album tinged with a sense of sadness that didn’t appear quite so significant at the time of its original release, Lovelife is a bittersweet collection of songs crafted so well in the first place that they’ve effectively withstood the ravages of time. And those singles, with their sing-or-shout-along choruses, rightfully remain indie-club classics to this day.