Digitally remastered reissue of the brit-pop act's 1990 album. Includes five bonus tracks, 'All By Myself', 'Clean Prophet', 'Knock Me Down', 'Over' (Live in a stable in Liverpool) and 'I.O.U.'. 2001 release. Standard jewel case.
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from WINNETKA, IL
Reviewed on 1/28/2007...
"There She Goes" and other songs
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Where the heck is Lee?
benshlomo | Los Angeles, CA USA | 03/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Eccentricity in rock is nothing new. Ambivalence toward the rock audience is nothing new, either. I'm trying to think if there was anyone who combined those characteristics before Lee Mavers, the leader of the La's. Can't think of any, but certainly Mavers was both. Indeed, to this very day, he's evidently so eccentric in his ideas and so ambivalent about his audience that you wonder if he realizes he even has one.
Remember, this is the guy who rejected an entire mixing desk, a relic of the 1960s brought in at his own request, because it didn't have the authentic 1960s dust on it. He may have been joking, or throwing out a sarcastic comment because he wasn't happy with the work on his music, or he may have actually meant it, but whatever the explanation he certainly did not want this music issued in its current form and the La's have not issued any official releases since.
And that's crazy, because "The La's" is gorgeous. Everyone's heard "There She Goes Again", a classic of jangle-rock, but the album also contains a lot of acoustic folk-based material like "Liberty Ship", some hard stuff like "I Can't Sleep", a few slightly progressive tunes in odd meters like "Way Out". And then there's "Lookin' Glass", which is some kind of masterpiece of self-examination that veers from a single guitar to an orchestral suite to an electronic freakout over quotes from the other eleven cuts, all in less than eight minutes.
The sound is remarkably consistent, considering that Mavers had a habit of tossing band members aside every time he turned around. This may be down to Steve Lillywhite, credited as producer on this record, although he was the third or fourth one brought in and the one who finally took the initiative and released what Mavers thought was a bunch of demo tracks. Whoever is responsible, there's a muscular tunefulness to these numbers that renders them instantly identifiable even before Mavers opens his mouth. And once the vocals begin, with that soaring top end, growling midrange, and wonderful Liverpool accent, there's no question we're in La-land.
Which is not a very pleasant place to be, it seems. The lyrics on "The La's" are even less like poetry than most, designed primarily to rhyme and carry the rhythm rather than communicate much, but they're full of black clouds, hard labor, lamentation and things like that. I've never been one to look at a piece of creative work and look for clues to the person who made it, but sometimes the connection is obvious. This record begins with the line "If you want, I'll sell you a life story / 'Bout a man who's at loggerheads with his past all the time". Three guesses who the lyric is talking about. By the end of the record the singer can't even bear to look at himself in a mirror.
Is this what Lee Mavers' life is really like? Probably not, but one way or the other he was smart enough to provide himself with a sidekick. John Power is the only member of the La's who stuck it out from start to finish, and his bass lines give the music a good bit of its character. His bass adds weight to the more jangly parts, so that those songs don't simply go around in circles, and keeps the heavier material moving forward. What's more, Power provided most of the vocal backing for Mavers' growl, and although his voice is a high and airy instrument, it performs a function similar to what his bass does. Turns out he's a pretty good songwriter in his own right, too, forming a band called Cast when the La's ran into the ground. There's a theory that many great bands have writers who get inspiration from the character of someone else in the group - Brian Wilson writing about brother Dennis, or Pete Townshend writing about Keith Moon, for instance. If that's so, you have to wonder if the La's might have been better served if Lee Mavers had paid less attention to the dust on his mixing board and more attention to his bass player. The guy was even a better interview than his band leader.
Now, there's a nice irony for you. The La's produced a group of delicious hook-filled tunes populated with rather nasty and even frightened lyrics, written and sung by a man who obviously finds his own popularity entirely too much to handle, and there was another musician standing right next to him who could easily have taken over all the public necessities without breaking a sweat. Mavers couldn't even remain calm in his own work. Getting back to "There She Goes Again", for instance, other people in pop music have drawn a comparison between romance and addiction - "Love Is the Drug" by Roxy Music comes to mind - but few have come right out and said of a woman that she is literally "racing through my veins". And Mavers thought he could handle public life after coming up with a line like that?
None of this seems to have bothered the audience, which bought "The La's" in droves. No doubt they fell in love with the sound of the thing, which is indeed pretty addictive, and paid no attention to the tense lyrics about threats and pressure and the need for escape. No wonder the guy felt ambivalent about his listeners. Nevertheless, I hope he toughens up one day. We need some more La's music.
Benshlomo says, Cut your artists some slack."