I just spent dispirited snippets of an hour at work refreshing a StubHub tab and struggling with how much I would pay to see the pair of bands who were my reason for being for the better part of the last two decades…and just got back together. They are, Lush and LCD Soundsystem.
Lush’s tranquil and melodic reverb helped define a type of pop music (shoegazer) they’ve struggled to disassociate themselves from since it was coined by a snarky Brit scribe who liked to piss off his contemporaries in the ‘90s—because the ‘90s were good for nothing if not pissing people off and starting a movement without trying. Lead singer/guitarist Miki Berenyi on the genre: The term was coined specifically to dismiss the bands as shit-boring to watch and imply that we couldn’t be bothered to lift our foppish fringes to make the effort to entertain an audience. It was very unfair and mostly untrue.
foppishfringes.com is available btw.
On the dance-yrself-clean end of the foppery spectrum is James Murphy-fronted LCD Soundsystem. The band that hired Chuck Klosterman to narrate a 90-minute infomercial about their Williamsburg-pleasing fake retirement party at MSG in 2011 is also back participating in Coachella: Revered headliner, non-hologram, main-stage category. Verbose mid-range metro summer bowl tour likely to follow.
Both bands kind of always pop up in what’s currently left of music writing as convenient reference points from the groundswell of today’s torturously abundant but similar-sounding acts in sentence fragments like: …blending a shoegazer/post-electronic aesthetic with ____.
Lush had this glorious ending. In a very romantic-from-afar way but grueling to the trio who remains today, they disbanded abruptly when the Berenyi’s boyfriend Chris Acland (also the drummer) hung himself just after turning 30. And that was it. Emma Anderson, the lead guitarist/ethereal back-up vocalist who resembles a naughty British nanny, writes and arranges most of the group’s songs. She went on to form other lesser projects while Berenyi and bassist Phil King took the route to vague anonymity pursuing careers in media.
There’s more of a story there, for sure. But those are the snippets I’ve pieced together through forgotten pages of NME and fan blogs; oh and this ridiculously complete oral history of the genre by Ian Gittins of Wondering Sound. Lush’s was a beautiful and clean break that tragedy enables. Like, and sorry for the trivial comparison, getting dumped by a long-distance lover before texting and social media ruined all great goodbyes.
To belabor the analogy, the best part, like every breakup—like every real break-up that is, not how break-ups are portrayed on whatever romantic dramedy you happen to be binging on this week—there was this sickening aftertaste to it all. So visceral that while it’s OK to say you’d never want to return, we are all consigned—whether it’s through song or a smell or a place revisited—to remember that pain, and revel in it (enjoy it!) from time to time. And then the memories, an old concert tee found or inserting a track on a work playlist. Just enough of an injection to feel the honey glow of the best days and the pin prick of the band’s demise, was enough.
That’s convenient and great, right? Just whisper a dismissive goodbye to it all in a way that doesn’t matter because you were never part of it. It’s not comparable to a prize fighter who retires in his prime, but more like just something being really good for a few years and then choosing to move on from it before people choose to move on from you. How fucking often does that happen? Murphy and LCD thought never and that’s why they staged a weekend of farewell concerts in Midtown which made grown man wearing animal costumes dramatically tear up. It was inorganic, yes—but the results were similar.
Until they all got back together.
Lush’s reunion announcement (Elastica drummer Justin Welch in Acland’s place) came in January, followed immediately by the struggle to keep myself from spotifying on repeat their sneakily named “Out of Control”—the band’s first single since (Sir) John Major was in office. One could not help admiring their ability to take what sounded like a sixth song on an EP from 1993 and brushing its teeth and slicking down its hair and transporting the rest of us back to the unironic showcasing of middle parts and Doc Martins.
LCD’s fictitious retirement has come to an irreducible end because its frontman isn’t scoring as many Noah Baumbach movies as he was promised. Ambiguities of future concerns seemed never to occur to Murphy’s fans (or foes—if there are any). His music was finite but timeless and so for most—and perhaps most importantly him—there is no comeback because he never went away, nor should he have.
The overarching problem is unless they die at an appropriate age that looks good on a record store poster, you can’t freeze musicians in time. They are humans. Iggy Pop excepted. Just like you definitely can’t pull an audience out of a freezer after a decade or two and expect the same facile and febrile people. I think we spend too much time in adult life creating the narrative of our place in the context of the bands of our formative years. Suspended in a sententious state of expecting to see who they were, ergo, enabling us to feel how we were. Simple math, right? Wanting this often results in getting really super drunk at a fairground grandstand and finding out everything is disappointing: Life, the price of beer, the product on stage, the line of cars on the trip home.
That’s why I shouldn’t go. Ultimately, the Lush and LCD audiences 1.0 now look like a bunch of nebbish dad-bod, flannel-clad, something silk screened on a t-shirt that used to bulge in different corners band of rogue tutors.
The reality is the guise—or maybe the practical applications of these bands—is now that much cooler. Both acts have aged to the top of the lineup card and, at least in Lush’s case, sold out related club shows faster than their surrogates or promoters could posture.
It’s to the point now, where if they are going to play again, I’d rather them play to fresh faces for as long as they can. That guest list doesn’t include clumsy me. Maybe I’ll catch up with them in five years when the analysis of their second act is coming to fruition. I don’t want them to have to look out on me any sooner. The festival kids will move on to something their parents won’t dig so much and that’s when I’ll step in, a reminder of the humiliations of the time of life we currently occupy, not the one we wish the other was still inhabiting.