Recently, my brother sent me a link to an article and interview with two members of the 90s shoegaze band called Lush. It’s not the most interesting article, but I was reminded that Lush was my favorite band from that period. I had not listened to them in quite a while, and I could not believe I had put them on the back burner. When I was a teenager, their music hit me like an emotional ton of bricks! It blew my mind! I was so extreme. Listening to their music, at least everything they made before 1995, was a transient experience for me. I didn’t know anything could be so beautiful, catchy, lonely, charming, textured, and other worldly.
Lush made music from roughly 1989 – 1996. As I learned a few years after I discovered them, they were part of a genre called “shoegaze” or “shoegazing.” This included other band, I would also later discover, like Ride, Chapterhouse, Pale Saints, Slowdive, and My Bloody Valentine. The idea was to get a couple guitars (or more), a drum kit, a bass, and light indistinguishable vocals, put heavy effects on the guitars so that they sound as “lush” or, as others have pointed out, swirly as possible, sometimes using dance rhythms or almost minimalist, repetitive rhythms, and airy vocals mixed low so that they do not stand out in front of the rest of the music. It gives the music an ethereal/other worldly sound. It’s rock music, but it’s carefully crafted to be sonically pleasing and distinct. Many have imitated this sound since the golden age of shoegaze in the early 90s.
Several friends of mine have told me the shoegaze sound gives them the feeling of autumn. I personally often associate it with early summer. Either way, it points to the beauty of the natural world. It enhances our experience of wonder and beauty.
To me, listening to Lush again, they stand out from all the rest of the shoegaze bands in that they wrote pop songs. Under the extreme guitar effects and muted vocals, there was some really good pop songwriting. They wrote great melodies and hooks. They had good bass lines and harmonies, interesting chords and melodies, and carefully crafted song structure. When you get to the bones of their music, it’s still good pop. It makes since that they actually scored some radio hits back in those days. All the shoegaze bands I mentioned are very good, (and I suggest checking them out if you get a chance), but for me Lush still breaks my heart a little with the incredible beauty of their music and songs. I am filed with delight.
I would say I am especially sad that Emma, who seems to have had a natural knack for writing great songs, does not still write songs. The world is greatly enriched with each new good song that is created. It is like a new little world is added to the whole bigger world. I know her craft and unique style has enriched my life. No one else writes exactly like she does. I wish the music industry could still support such talent.
Emma proved that she did not just shine via the vehicle of Lush when she was also part of a songwriting team in a band called Sing-Sing. Their first of two albums released in the 00s, The Joy of Sing-Sing, is a perfect package of lovely pop tunes. My favorites on the record, Far Away From Love, Panda Eyes, and You Don’t Know, written by Emma, are as good as most any pop songs I have heard. With “joy” I “sing” them over and over in my head.
I feel a sadness that all this time has already gone by. It has come and gone so fast. I cannot believe it’s been at least 20 years since I first heard Lush, and fell in love with their music. In many ways I was a different person back in those days, but I have discovered that I still love their music. They don’t knock me over into transcendental ecstasy like they used to, but they are still lovely songs. And now, I feel a bit of beautiful sadness as their songs remind me of the longing in my heart; that familiar longing to be in timeless beauty to which their music only alludes. Yet it also reminds me of a time of life that is, for better and worse, gone forever.
And a song by Sing-Sing. Thanks for the great tunes Emma!