Split

Lush

4AD, 1994

http://www.lushofficial.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/21/2016

Vastly underrated at the time of its release, Split is the sort of album that earns acclaim long after its time – and deserves every bit of it.

Lush may not have fit the major British trends of the era – Madchester and Britpop – instead described with the then-pejorative term "shoegaze." Now, of course, such a term is revered as a legitimate strain of rock, which means that if there was any justice Lush would be thought of as progenitors of the style, though it only hints at one facet of their sound. Others describe them as "dream pop," but that's not really accurate either.

The truth is that Split should be heard, experienced, and not simply described with confining terms. There are moments of dour gray, moments of hypnotic melancholy, moments of alt-punk, with a sweeping, affecting grandeur that encompasses the entire project. You can hear Pink Floyd in the confident, molasses-paced drone of "Desire Lines" as much as you can hear My Bloody Valentine and Bjork in the louder passages and an alternative/punk spirit throughout. It feels like Lush has something great but isn’t fully sure what to do with it; notes from the recording sessions hint at the tension of those sessions.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Of course, tension can make for great music. “Light From A Dead Star” is a wonder, a breathtaking, elegant bid for grandeur at only three minutes – and it’s the leadoff track, to boot. The next three – “Kiss Chase,” “Blackout,” and “Hypocrite” – all back off to a more standard ‘90s alt-rock approach, though Miki Brenyi’s very high, keening vocals soar over every song, ably backed up by Emma Anderson. It isn’t until “Desire Lines” that the ambition of “Star” returns, moving through its Floydian rhythms and downbeat, near-apocalyptic feel with confidence.

“Invisible Man” is interesting, packing a spooky sense of icy dread into two post-punk minutes, while “Undertow” befits its name with a roiling undercurrent, steadied only by Chris Acland’s urgent drums and the buzzsaw guitars. “Never-Never” is the other twin tower here, the cold eight-minute counterpart to “Desire Lines,” all lovely minor chords and Anderson’s lyrics about loneliness and relationship ruin (“I am sunken in biology / I cannot control that part of me / I don't want to hurt you but I know I will do”). It’s easy to feel hopeless as the song marches toward the void, but the veiled beauty that drags you there is so damn alluring, it’s easier to give in.

“Lit Up” is likely where Lush earns the dream-pop label, sounding like a blend of the Cure, a Cult-like guitar figure in the chorus, and an approach recalling Juliana Hatfield, who was making similar music around this time, though with more garage attitude and less, well, lush soundscaping. “When I Die” ends the disc on a pensive note lyrically, if not musically; it recalls the Cranberries’ “Linger” with added strings more than offering something new, although it’s very well done all the same.

Split is not always an easy listen, but it’s one of those albums that has a magnetic pull every time you hear it.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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