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Boo Radleys
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  • Giant Steps,
  • Wake Up,
  • C'mon Kids,
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  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Boo Radleys

    Giant Steps( 1993, UK pos 17 ) more best albums...
    I Hang Suspended / Upon 9th And Fairchild / Wish I Was Skinny / Leaves And Sand / Butterfly McQueen / Rodney King / Thinking Of Ways / Barney... and Me / Spun Around / If You Want It, Take It / Best Lose The Fear / Take The Time Around / Lazarus / One Is For / Run My Way Runaway / I've Lost The Reason / The White Noise Revisited

    A little early 90s music history lesson first of all, to place this release into context. The Boo Radleys formed in Liverpool, circa 1989/1990. Shoegazing, a musical form full of guitar effects pedals and heavy on creating a swirl of guitar noise over often indistinct, meaningless vocals - was all the rage. So, The Boo's were kind of associated with that scene. They had the sound, the vocals, the lot. Come 1993, a band called Suede were being praised as the 90s answer to The Smiths by the UK music press of the day. The guitarist in that group, a Mr Bernard Butler, drew upon the past but had a style and guitar sound all of his own. Bands such as Blur started copying this sound, such was the hype and apparent importance of the group Suede. Into all of this, following a mini-album, a few EPs, a fairly unremarkable debut proper - The Boo Radleys released a single called 'Lazarus', followed by an album titled 'Giant Steps'. It was an appropriate title, in every way imaginable. I bought this album the same day I bought my first ever Beach Boys album, by the way. 'Pet Sounds'? For a good few months, I preferred 'Giant Steps' to 'Pet Sounds'. Regular readers of this site may grasp the significance of me stating such a thing, but it was true. What's so remarkable about this album? Well, firstly, The Boo Radleys combined Shoegazing idioms with a love of Sixties pop, the kind practised by The Beatles and The Beach Boys. They added to their existing sound Cello, Trumpet, clarinet, flugel horn - the works. The song arrangements switched from fairly simplistic pop songs encased within walls of shoegazing guitars to ambitious arrangements and rich production. They added a dub influence - this latter influence added to an already impressive range of influences was the key ingredient in the creation of the groups finest moment.

    Many many people, listening to John Peel on radio one and hearing 'Lazarus' for the very first time, will tell you, they were completely blown away. I know I was. I wasn't expecting a damn thing from The Boo Radleys. They weren't as good as the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride or even Slowdive. That was the thought at the time. But then, 'Lazarus'? The song fades in, dub lines and keyboard lines. The song stays quiet, an introduction you know/hope will lead into something at some point. When that point arrives, and the bass guitar changes to announce it, well. It's quite an effect. The guitars combine with brass instruments, loud white noise but expertly controlled. The vocals come in, so beautiful, so very damn gorgeous that they immediately bring a tear to the eye. Sice, the vocalist, suddenly came of age. "Ba, ba, ba" backing vocals add to the whole thing, the quieter verses reverting to the more than impressive wall of noise that is the wordless chorus or hook of the song. A song lasting for four and a half minutes, the brass instruments and psychedlic feel of the song reminding of 'Sgt Pepper' era Beatles, the ambition of the song reminding of the ambition and vision of a Brian Wilson. The sound of the song, fully upto date, surpremely masterful and impressive. Well yeah, I told you the song made quite an impression upon me at the time, and it retains its punch and impact to this very day. It still sounds utterly impressive, genius, ahead of its time.

    You know, the rest of the album aint half bad either? The opening 'I Hang Suspended' has another extended introduction before the song proper arrives. The song proper has a Bernard Butler guitar sound in his Suede prime and such a catchy hook amid the guitars, such good vocals, that it really is life-affirming. Following a fairly experimental groove and dub based track, third song 'Wish I Was Skinny' sounds so fantastically poppy and summery, that any peak era Beach Boys album would have been more than proud to add this song to its track-listing. The guitars are delicious, utterly delicious, so are the vocals - no other word will do. Speaking of The Beach Boys, the likes of 'Leaves And Sand', but especially 'Thinking Of Ways', show that Martin Carr ( Boo's guitarist and writer ) had certainly been listening to, at the very least, 'Pet Sounds'. If not the rest of The Beach Boys catalogue and 'Forever Changes' by Love as well, for good measure. Yet, this is no mere homage alone, these songs also sound 90s, the guitar sound and production sees to that. Actually, the vocal harmonies in 'Thinking Of Ways' saw me proclaim The Boo Radleys my 90s version of The Beach Boys. I had no 90s Beatles, yet Teenage Fanclub, another excellent band, were my 90s Byrds. So, there you go!

    More brilliant pop music arrives courtesy of 'Barney and Me', 'Take The Time Around' sounds the most like previous Boo Radleys, although, hugely more assured sounding. There are so many fine moments here, too many to describe. Some border on being filler, but the cumulative effect of these 17 songs creates a masterpiece, the weaker moments prepare you for the likes of 'Lazurus', etc. The closing 'The White Noise Revisited' has a great sing-a-long chorus and at one point contains the line "...and you listen to The Beatles, relax and close your eyes", which is kind of nice. The vocals swirl, gorgeously. Delicious. Yeah, that word again.

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    Readers Comments

    Martin Gray bustercolumbus@ukonline.co.uk
    An utterly stupendous, audacious record indeed! Although its predecessor "Everything's Alright Forever" was pretty fine too.... If this was the debut from the band the music press would be even more rabid in their hunt for superlatives! And to think Oasis spent five albums desperately trying to ape the Beatles when the Boo Radleys managed to pull it off (well, the diversity of "The Beatles" and "Abbey Road" combined) in one masterstroke of an album and never looked back. That's genius for you!!

    Simon
    One of my all-time favourite albums - lusciously produced and textured, huge Beatles-esque melodies and sing-a-long choruses. Pure genius from a sadly-overlooked band who unfortunatley will only be remembered for Wake up Boo! alone. The 12" version of Lazarus is immense.


    Wake Up 8 ( 1995, UK pos 1 )
    Wake Up Boo / Fairfax Scene / It's Lulu / Joel / Find The Answer Within / Reaching Out From Here / Martin, Doom! It's Seven O'Clock / Stuck On Amber / Charles Bukowski Is Dead / 4am Conversation / Twinside / Wilder

    Britpop was all the rage by now, so The Boo Radleys were expected to create their own chart topping hit songs, in addition to being brilliant, as if being brilliant alone wasn't enough. So, we have a compromise of sorts and an album that fails to live upto the expectation that surrounded it. True, we do have The Boo Radleys own 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' with the fantastic, if terribly overplayed, 'Wake Up Boo'. Yet, it really is so catchy that it really does hurt. And yeah, the harmonies are great. Cool to hear a 90s version of a Beach Boys type of thing, hurtling into the top ten of the UK singles charts! The best bit is certainly the "can't blame me for the death of summer' bit, which is followed by crunching guitar, prime vocal harmonies - then an extended, hand-clap assisted close to the song. Fine stuff! Actually, the first half of this album is great, no problems at all. The production is more commercial than 'Giant Steps' but the songs very nearly as good. 'Fairfax Scene' is a great atmosphere and feel, 'It's Lulu' a very catchy pop-song. 'Joel' is an ambitious song reaching six minutes in length. It hardly matches 'Lazurus', but it's still a mighty fine thing to have around. The first half of the record is concluded with a wonderful pop song, trumpet assisted, so ridiculously catchy - titled 'Find The Answer Within'. Also concluded with 'Reaching Out From Here', another slice of summer even though the lyric evokes autumn with mentions of a rainy day. Basically, it's just a fine slice of songwriting. That's it.

    So, what goes wrong with the second half of the album? Well, good melodies are thinner on the ground. Great songs are thinner on the ground. 'Martin Doom' is good though, very atmospheric and very nice. Another extended Boo's introduction, I like those things they do with those introductions. Gorgeous vocals and harmonies, and I like gorgeous vocals and harmonies, dammit! Sadly, much of the rest of side-b of 'Wake Up' sounds like a bunch of bloody b-sides! It's no good, I tell you. Nothing bad, mind you - just nothing as special as we all surely already knew The Boo Radleys were capable of. Nice moments in 'Twinside' - yet the song sounds a little planned, as if the magic had gone and somebody was just trying very hard to recapture it, rather than it being quite so natural. The closing, piano led 'Wilder' joins 'Martin Doom' in being one of the finest moments on the second half of the record. Actually, it's a highlight of the entire album - gorgeous, hymnal, pretty. Lovely vocals, utterly beautiful. If 'Wake Up' overall is merely excellent rather than genius, then that's something we just have to live with. Still, they were still going strong. They were selling a lot of records in their native UK and must have been a very happy bunch of fellows at the time. Things would change, unfortunately.

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    C'Mon Kids( 1996, UK pos 20 )
    C'Mon Kids / Meltin's Worm / Melodies For The Deaf / Get On The Bus / Everything Is Sorrow / Bullfrog Green / What's In The Box / Four Saints / New Brighton Promendade / Fortunate Sons / Shelter / Ride The Tiger / One Last Hurrah

    The two singles that previewed this album both made the top 30, but then, 'Wake Up Boo' had gone top ten. The boo's lost their commercial edge, even though, with these two songs, they tried to assimilate the influence of Oasis. The result is unfortunate. Stupendous music bringing shoegazing kicking and screaming into the mid-ninties. Martin Carr really out-does himself all through the title song, yet the vocals are desperate and harsh on the ears. A potentially great track is let down. The song needed a Liam Gallagher to rise and soar above the instrumentation. The instrumentation kicks anything Oasis ever did easily into touch, by the way - but these vocals? The screaming style just doesn't suit Sice. He made a solo album of quiet folky songs, so that reveals perhaps his natural style, but still. Ignoring these two slightly disappointing singles, the album elsewhere reveals itself to be a decent follow-up to not 'Wake Up', but rather 'Giant Steps'. The sound of the album returns to that kind of thing, dub, experiments - ambition. Acheivement, and let's list the acheivement. 'Melodies For The Deaf' rides upon a dub inspired bass line, it develops and progresses as it goes along, crunching guitar giving way to georgeous vocal harmony work. 'Get On The Bus' has guitar energy, a fast tempo, giving way to, yeah, you guessed it, gorgeous vocal harmony work! Still, this quieter, folky, utterly gorgeous harmony assisted end to the song really is special indeed. A similar gorgeous 'end' to a song arrives with 'Bullfrog Green', yet now we really ARE talking something! The vocal refrain and harmonies that end the song are so very good, it really is impressive and something to behold indeed. The song is quite jaunty before that arrives. It's a great track.

    Side two contains a couple of highlights, not just for this album, but for the groups entire career. 'New Brighton Promenade' is delicious, yeah. Wonderfully sweet vocals, a song with lyrics and harmonies and nifty louder guitar as well as Beatles pop influences. And, it combines all of these things, so very well. 'Ride The Tiger' was the third single to be released from the album, and barely scraped into the top 40. Yet, here was a true follow-up to 'Lazarus', a song so ambitious and remarkable it beggars belief. At one point, 'Ride The Tiger' goes into this wall of white noise, yet retains the melodic qualities that make The Boo's so special in the first place. The video was great, the song was/is great. Why wasn't this huge?? Well, it's very ambitious and not always easy to listen to, but stupendous to listen to loud, especially when the wall of guitars section is reached. Still, The Boo's were impressive and inventive again. The switch away from immediately commercial pop material into 'Giants Steps' type material, inevitably resulted in a loss in sales, but the critics were happy. I was happy, too.

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    Readers Comments

    Martin Gray bustercolumbus@ukonline.co.uk
    This album was unfairly maligned in my opinion, it's a great, orchestra-drenched swansong with some really moving tunes and other tracks that are the equal of their former glories. Agree that "Free Huey" spoils the continuity of the first half somewhat (it actually didn't even make the top 50 UK Singles charts!), but "Comb You Hair" is a great Spector-ish track that is all too easily overlooked..... I too was pretty sad that they split up a few months later.....but they remain one of our most inventive 90's bands nevertheless.....

    Eddie t edward@bpl.uk.com
    This and giant steps are my two favourite albums, both take it in turns at the top. This was very much the boo's trying to do something like bringing shoe gazing into the 90's. Shortly after this brit pop basically killed itself and this should've been the direction other bands followed (in some respects it was, thom yorke said c'mon kids was a big influence on OK Computer - praise indeed). I think the general public were two interesed in pop hits to comprehend this album. I feel it is total genius and still sounds so fresh and before it's time - even today. Four saints is my favourite. Again following the formula that had provided for them so well before with Lazarus but this time more experimental, more edgey, and what a tune. If I had to choose one song that defined the boo's, Four Saints would be it. But the whole album is a joy and i have to mention "melvin's worm" a horror story of a worm that lives in a small child before growing so large it kills him and then takes h! is place at school. It's also based on a real experience Martin Carr had (wich kinda makes it even scarier). If ever a song deserved a decent music video that was it. Love this album for even after 10 years, it is still the future for guitar music!

    Eddie t edward@bpl.uk.com
    This is arguably the Boo's best album. It was a complete two fingers up to what was happening with pop music in the UK at that time ie formulaic commercial pop songs that were now copying instead of taking inspiration from the 60's. The intention of this album is perfectly reflected in the first track (c'mon kids) with the lyrics, "c'mon kids, don't do yourself down, throw out your arms for a new sound". Thom Yorke of Rdiohead said in an interview that this album was a major influence on the recording of OK Computer and persuaded him and the band to really push the boundaries. Unfortunately this album never got the respect or airplay that OK Computer did although they're quite similar in many ways; dark, experimental, long songs that are made up of many different parts (eg Paranoid android / four saints). It still sounds as fresh and original today as it did when it was first released. I hear new things on this every time I come back to it and I am still blown away by the shear ballsyness of what the boo's accomplished with this. Just imagine what would've followed if this album had caught the public imagination in the same way OK Computer did?

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    Kingsize 7 ( 1998 )
    Blue Room In Archway / The Old Newsstand At Hamilton Square / Free Huey / Monuments For A Dead Century / Heaven's At The Bottom Of This Glass / Kingsize / High As Monkeys / Eurostar / Adieu Clo Clo / Jimmy Webb Is God / She Is Everywhere / Comb Your Hair / Song From The Blueroom / The Future Is Now

    'The Future Is Now'? The end of The Boo Radleys was nigh, more like. The britpop back-lash had begun and The Boo's launched their new album with easily one of the worst songs they've ever been responsible for 'Free Huey'. They had a fan-base, so the song went to number twenty, although then vanished without trace. It was never played on the radio, because, quite frankly, it was crap. Nevermind though. Nevermind that it meant so many people held off on buying the album - until it was too late and the thing had vanished from the charts and the record stores, anyway. Smart move, guys. Oh, this is still The Boo Radleys and there are some nice things here, but the album as a whole just doesn't move them forwards, quite the reverse. They tread water, rely on tried and trusted techniques, although the orchestral introduction to 'Blue Room In Archway' is gorgeous. The entire song is pretty good, and raised my hopes for a strong album overall. But then, song three, 'Free Huey'? It's a three minute thrash with distorted, dumb guitar and poor vocals. Sice can't scream, he isn't a rock and roller. Another thing I notice about this album as a whole? Martin Carr, the groups creative lynchpin, had reached the point where he could sing, play guitar, play bass, even play drums - keyboards - you name it, better than anybody else in the group. Bascially, he had out-grown the group. The Boo Radleys suddenly had a formula. I was partly to blame, as many fans were, we expected a certain thing from them, unwilling to bend away from that. The record company wanted sales - and everything became confused in a post-oasis world.

    'Monuments For A Dead Century' is a nice Boo's moment though, nice singing, importantly. 'Heaven's At The Bottom Of This Glass' should have been a single, but wasn't. The title song is one of the very best here, back to Brian Wilson, gorgeous pop and vocals harmonies mode. Very fine indeed. 'Jimmy Webb Is God' is lovely, a wonderful thing - but the album doesn't contain enough wonderful things. 'Jimmy Webb Is God' contained the orchestration, a direction they should have pursued more forecefully rather than it just being a feature of a few songs. 'The Future Is Now' ends the whole she-bang, with a Seventies sounding keyboard sound. Whilst the previous three Boo Radleys albums had gone top twenty, with 'Wake Up' going top ten, this one struggled mightily indeed. The end was nigh. Still, a guy like Martin Carr just doesn't vanish, you know? He reinvented himself as Brave Captain, expect reviews of that elsewhere. <

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    Martin Gray bustercolumbus@ukonline.co.uk
    This album was unfairly maligned in my opinion, it's a great, orchestra-drenched swansong with some really moving tunes and other tracks that are the equal of their former glories. Agree that "Free Huey" spoils the continuity of the first half somewhat (it actually didn't even make the top 50 UK Singles charts!), but "Comb You Hair" is a great Spector-ish track that is all too easily overlooked..... I too was pretty sad that they split up a few months later.....but they remain one of our most inventive 90's bands nevertheless.....

    akashaman akashaman@sbcglobal.net
    think this LP is the perfect swan song & it deserves a 10. agree that free huey bites , but this doesnt negate the other tracks. this LP is beyond description , there is so much emotion here that one can tangibly feel it ! martin is a genius & this recording proves it : has oasis done anything this good on thier 6th release ? not even close : boo`s forever !

    Michael stefantadeusz@interia.pl
    It's uttery brilliant and inspiring. One of the most catchy choruses you can get on one cd. From tracks 2 to 9 it's an 9.5 out of 10 album for me. In my opinion it's 4th Boo's masterpiece. Surely one of the best,the most creative bands in the 90.

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    this page last updated 19/9/10



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