Lush Biographies

Taken together, these profiles provide a good overview of the story of Lush, but keep in mind that each one has its own perspective, insights, biases, facts, etc. For someone new to Lush, I recommend reading them in order.
 

All Music Guide

Contemporary Musicians

everything2.com

4AD.com


 

This is the most widely circulated profile of Lush, and it provides a good, if brief, overview.

All Music Guide
Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Meshing dreamy, feedback-drenched guitars with airy, catchy melodies, Lush were one of the most prominent shoegazing bands of the early '90s. Led by guitarists Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, the British band earned a cult following within the British and American undergrounds with its first EPs, yet the group never quite attained the critical respect given to its peers My Bloody Valentine and Ride. Even so, Lush lasted longer than any other of their contemporaries (with the exception of the Boo Radleys), developing sharp pop skills as their career progressed. By the time of their final album, 1996's Lovelife, they had converted themselves into a power pop band with dream pop overtones, which resulted in the greatest chart success of their career. Their success was dealt a blow when drummer Chris Acland committed suicide in the fall of 1996, effectively bringing the band to an end.

Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, Chris Acland, Steve Rippon (bass), and Meriel Barham (guitar) formed Lush in 1988 in London, England. Prior to the group's formation, school friends Berenyi and Anderson had collaborated on a fanzine together, as well as played in a number of other bands individually. Anderson, who had been working as a DHSS clerical assistant, had played bass with the Rover Girls, while Berenyi had been a member of I-Goat, Fuhrer Five, and the Lillies. Berenyi's then-boyfriend, Acland had previous played with several other groups as well, including Panik, Infection, and A Touch of Hysteria. Barham left Lush soon after the band's formation to form the Pale Saints, and the remaining members began playing around London, quickly earning a number of fans, including Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. Guthrie helped the band secure a contract with 4AD Records, and they released their acclaimed debut EP, Scar, in 1989. Lush supported the EP with opening tours for Loop and the Darling Buds, and by 1990, they had graduated to headlining tours of their own.

Throughout 1990, the band's reputation in the British music press began to grow as they released the acclaimed EPs Mad Love and Sweetness and Light, played high-profile gigs like the Glastonbury Festival, and became favorites of the music weeklies' gossip columns. Gala, an album compiling their three EPs, became the band's first American release at the end of 1990. Lush spent most of 1991 recording their debut album, releasing the Black Spring EP in the spring. Rippon left the band during the sessions, and was replaced by Philip King, a former picture researcher for NME and a previous member of Felt, Servants, and Biff Bang Pow. Lush finally released their delayed debut album, Spooky, in the spring of 1992. While the album sold well, reaching the British Top Ten and topping the U.K. indie charts, it was criticized in the press for Guthrie's heavy-handed production. The band supported the album in America by appearing on the second Lollapalooza tour, but their dream pop wasn't well-received by an audience hungry for metal. Lush released their second album, Split, in the summer of 1994 to mixed reviews. Split was lost in the twin waves of Brit-pop and American post-grunge, even through the band's songwriting was more pop-oriented than ever.

After regrouping during 1995, Lush returned in early 1996 with Lovelife, an album that showcased a debt to the pop-single ideals of Brit-pop. The musical changeover paid off as "Single Girl" and "Ladykiller" became their two biggest hit singles, and the album became a British Top 20 hit; in America, it was their highest-charting album, even if it just scraped the charts at 189. Lush had completed their supporting tours and summer festival appearances when Chris Acland unexpectedly hanged himself in his parent's house on October 17, 1996. Devastated by his death, the remaining members of Lush went into a long period of mourning, eventually disbanding.

~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine



 

This is an excellent in-depth profile, however it was written in 1994 so it does not cover the last 2 years of Lush.

Contemporary Musicians
Volume 13
December 1994
by Sonya Shelton


Personal Information
Members include Christopher Acland (born September 7, 1966, in Lancaster, England), drums; Emma Anderson (born June 10, 1967, in London, England), guitar, backing vocals; Meriel Barham, vocals; Miki Berenyi (born March 18, 1967, in London, England; replaced Barham, 1988), vocals, guitar; Philip King (born April 28, 1960, in London, England; replaced Rippon, c. 1992), bass guitar; Steve Rippon, bass guitar.

Career
Band formed in London, England, 1988; signed with 4AD Records in the U.K., 1989; released two EPs before licensing for U.S. distribution with Reprise Records, 1990; released debut LP, Gala, 1990; embarked on U.S. tour, 1991; performed on Lollapalooza tour, 1992.

Addresses
Record company--4AD, 8533 Melrose Ave., Suite B, Los Angeles, CA 90069; Reprise Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

History
Lush presents a vision that is sometimes pure stratospheric waltzing, sometimes ethereal thrash-core, and sometimes (as on the band's version of Abba's 'Hey Hey Helen') just plain absurd," remarked David Quantick in Spin. Ethereal, moody, and spooky are certainly often-used terms in describing the British group, but vocalist/guitarist Miki Berenyi insisted in Spin, "There is rocking out." Enigmatic in interviews, Lush bandmembers usually let the songs speak for themselves and do not mind that they don't get the club play that fellow Brit dance bands command, instead asserting that they just want respect for what Quantick called their "tiny-pearl-dropped-into-the-milky-ocean-of-serenity vibe."

At the age of 14, Berenyi met future bandmate Emma Anderson at Queen's College in England. They found they had a common bond: their parents had bounced them both from school to school depending on family finances at the time. Two years later, the two teenagers wrote and produced a fanzine called Alphabet Soup, which only lasted for five issues. In 1988 Berenyi studied English literature at London's Polytechnic University, where she met drummer Christopher Acland, bassist Steve Rippon, and singer Meriel Barham. Along with Anderson, they decided to form their own band. Anderson's friend Kevin Pickering told her he thought Lush would be a perfect name for a band. Anderson agreed, suggested the name to the band, and they started writing and rehearsing. After that conversation, Anderson never saw Pickering again.

On March 6, 1988, Lush played their very first performance at Camden Falcon in London. Not long after the band's first show, the U.K. press started to take notice with favorable reviews. But Barham decided he didn't want to stay with the band and later went on to join Lush's 4AD labelmates, the Pale Saints. The remaining members of Lush placed ads in local papers looking for Barham's replacement, but they couldn't find the singer they wanted. Berenyi took over the vocals, and the band continued to perform in clubs around London.

In January of 1989 Chris Roberts in Melody Maker wrote a rave review of Lush, describing them as "a delta," "irresistible" and "monstrously wonderful." Once the magazine hit the street, Lush received nonstop phone calls from record companies interested in the band. By the summer, 4AD Records had sent them into the studio with producer John Fryer to record a three-song demo called Etheriel. Those three songs became the first side of Lush's debut mini-album, titled Scar, which they released that fall.

When Chris Roberts interviewed Lush for Melody Maker following his original review, he wrote his impression of the band off the stage: "Lush apologize a lot, whine a lot, fall silent a lot and say, 'I dunno' a lot." The members of the band apologized for any flaws they saw in themselves as a brand-new, still-growing band before any music critic could knock them. But the reviews remained favorable. Lush became their own worst critics. Though their success came relatively quickly, they strived to adapt while continuing to improve their songs and their performances. "I remember when I couldn't play, I wasn't in a band, didn't know anyone else who could play, and now we've got a record out on 4AD. I sometimes find it impossible to come to terms with what's happening," Anderson told Everett True in Melody Maker.

On February 26, 1990, Lush released their next EP, Mad Love, and its first single, "Sweetness and Light." Produced by Cocteau Twins' guitarist Robin Guthrie, Mad Love provided another step in their musical growth and got the attention of Warner/Reprise Records, who licensed the band's releases in the United States. Lush didn't set out on a certain plan in their career from this point; they put aside ambition and decided to take things one step at a time.

Anderson and Berenyi continued to write all Lush's material from a "female" rather than "feminist" point of view, and they immediately became the focal point of the band. Annie Liebowitz, the world-famous photographer, saw their picture in a magazine and wanted to set them up as models for the "look of the '90s" in advertising campaigns for companies like the Gap. But the band continued to put all their energy into their music. In December of 1990 4AD/Reprise compiled and released Lush's two preceding EPs as Gala, their first release in the United States. The group named the album after Salvador Dali's wife.

Gala also included a version of the Abba song "Hey Hey Helen," which brought an onslaught of comparisons between Lush and the Swedish pop/disco group, which also consisted of two women and two men. Lush received positive initial response in the United States and moved a little further along the success continuum. However, Lush continued to apologize and downplayed their progress. "I don't think we're at all successful ... yet," Anderson told Ted Mico in Melody Maker. "Are Lush going to be around in five years? Personally, I don't think so."

Despite their pessimism, the members of Lush proceeded with their musical quest. In April of 1991 they returned to the United States for their second tour co-headlining with Ride. Then, at the end of the year, bassist Steve Rippon left the band to concentrate on writing novels full time. To replace him, Lush approached Philip King, a former New Musical Express journalist, who had played bass for many U.K. bands, including Felt, and Biff Bang Pow!

With their new lineup in place, Lush headed back into the studio and released their next EP, For Love, in January of 1992. Later in the year, Lush arrived in the record stores once again with their next album--also produced by Robin Guthrie--called Spooky. Although it debuted at Number Seven on the U.K. charts, it received a negative reaction from the press. Some critics berated the band for bad songwriting, and others accused Guthrie of subduing the band's talents.

But Lush ignored the press. They toured Great Britain, the United States, and Europe, then returned to the States to join the second annual Lollapalooza tour with Pearl Jam, Ministry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Ice Cube. At the end of the summer, the band took their tour to Japan and Australia.

Lush spent most of 1993 recording their next album at Rockfield Studios in Wales, but they did take a break to perform at some special events. Lush played in 4AD's "13 Year Itch" celebration at England's Institute of Contemporary Art and joined Rage Against the Machine for a special benefit concert for the Anti-Nazi League at the Brixton Academy.

On June 14, 1994, Lush released Split, produced by Mike Hedges. In Great Britain, 4AD simultaneously released two EPs along with the album--Hypocrite and Desire Lines. Berenyi wrote four of the album's songs, and Anderson wrote the other eight. Chris Gill in Guitar Player commented, "Split shares moments of hypnotic, resplendent pleasure-punk and hard, lardy angst-pop" and added that the album was "easily the British dream-pop band's most varied, cocksure, and commercial effort."

After six years, Lush elaborated more on the concepts behind their songwriting. "I think the theme on this album is about relationships gone wrong," Anderson said in the band's press biography. "In some way, it's about parental-childhood things that happened when you were small. Some of the things will be really obvious." Berenyi added, "We don't graphically describe everything. They are about specific events, some of them, but we just sort of poeticize them a bit. Thoughts and memories, you know."

Selected Discography
Scar, 4AD, 1989. Mad Love, 4AD, 1990. Gala, 4AD/Reprise, 1990. For Love, 4AD, 1992. Spooky, 4AD/Reprise, 1992. Split, 4AD/Reprise, 1994. Hypocrite, 4AD, 1994. Desire Lines, 4AD, 1994.

Sources
Books The Trouser Press Record Guide, edited by Ira A. Robbins, Collier Books, 1991. Periodicals Billboard, August 29, 1992; May 7, 1994. Entertainment Weekly, July 15, 1994. Guitar Player, February 1991; June 1991; September 1994. Melody Maker, January 28, 1989; March 18, 1989; March 25, 1989; October 14, 1989; October 21, 1989; February 17, 1990; March 3, 1990; March 24, 1990; November 3, 1990; December 1, 1990; December 15, 1990; April 20, 1991; October 5, 1991; October 12, 1991; December 21, 1991; January 11, 1992; January 25, 1992; February 15, 1992; May 23, 1992; February 13, 1993; July 24, 1993. Musician, June 1992. New Musical Express, June 4, 1994: June 11, 1994. Rolling Stone, April 16, 1992. Spin, April 1992.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from 4AD/Reprise press material, 1994.

- Sonya Shelton


Another excellent profile by someone who clearly appreciated Lush. It includes many fascinating details, however it is also a bit more subjective (opinionated?) and contains some factual errors, such as the reason Steve left the band.

 everything2.com
A collaborative Web-based community
by
avalyn

Walking up the seaside
This is not a joyride
Tell me in the meantime
"it's okay"

Lush was originally formed on Halloween, 1988, in London, England, just as the shoegazer music trend was coming into being. The first of relatively few different lineups looked like this:

Miki Berenyi, guitar and lead vocals
Emma Anderson, lead guitar and backing vocals
Meriel Barham, guitar and lead vocals
Steve Rippon, bass guitar
Chris Acland, drums

Before recording anything or getting any gigs under their belts, Meriel Barham left to form The Pale Saints with Chris Cooper, Graeme Naysmith, and Ian Masters, leaving Miki to take on full lead vocals duties. Meriel's departure helped the band solidify and before long they'd released their first EP, the bright yet menacing Scar, in October of 1989. Gigging followed and soon they were playing all over the UK, and due to the favour that shoegazing held with music critics at the time, they were all over music industry magazines like Melody Maker, NME, and others, as well. Like many of the shoegazer bands from this era, Lush issued an impressive catalogue of EP releases before actually releasing a full album. In this case, Lush took it a step further and combined three of their early EPs into their first album, entitled Gala, which was released in late 1990. It took their first three EPs, Scar, Mad Love, and Sweetness & Light, threw the tracklists into a blender, and came out as an album. Multiple versions of two separate songs ("Thoughtforms" and "Scarlet") appear on Gala, adding to the air of "this is our first album made from EPs" that the band was exuding at the time.

Enter the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie. He'd heard Gala and been mighty impressed, so he took it upon himself to become the band's producer, and given his clout in the British music scene, helped them land a record deal with 4AD, run by his good friend Ivo Watts-Russell. As Guthrie and the band finished up the recording of Spooky, bassist Steve Rippon left the band, reportedly because he couldn't endure Guthrie's ego any longer. He was replaced by one-time NME columnist/full-time bassist Philip King, then most recently of Biff Bang Pow. Spooky took nearly two years to record, in true Guthrie/Cocteau Twins fashion, though it turned out to be worth the wait. Upon its release in January 1992, Lush was one of the biggest draws in the UK. Spooky briefly held the top spot on the British Indie chart, as well as the non-indie British Top 10. Before long, Lush was making music videos and touring Europe and North America. Listening to the album, you can almost hear Robin Guthrie's eyes turning into symbols as he grins like a dog in the booth as the idyllic, layered songs made their way onto tape and eventually, onto the world. (The best example of Guthrie's influence during production is probably the song "Nothing Natural.")

Lush was eagerly added to the inaugural Lollapalooza roster in 1992 by its organizer, Perry Ferrell, the Jane's Addiction/Porno for Pyros frontman, who personally requested Lush for his new tour program. Though they were given main stage status (can you imagine that? Lush, RHCP, Soundgarden, and Ice Cube sharing a stage? Must've been wild.), they received a rather tepid reception on that tour due to the huge popularity of grunge metal in the United States at the time -- Indeed, it isn't difficult to imagine an early 1990s-era American Joe Average metal fan jamming his hands into his pockets and yelling to his mates: "Who wants to stand around and listen to this swirly girly shit when The Screaming Trees are on the next stage over, dude?!" The other non-metal acts on that tour, like Siouxsie & The Banshees, received similar receptions, but got along on the tour mostly due to rabid Banshees fans turning up at many of the tour stops and drowning out the detractors during stage time.

Undaunted, Lush returned home to the UK and began working on material for their third album, which turned out to be the definitive Split, released in mid-1994. Split, as it has been described, is where Emma and Miki finally click and come into their own, emerging from rock band infancy to writing extremely complex and lyrically stimulating songs, some of which neared the 10-minute mark. Split was pure dreampop. It wasn't a complete departure from their previous albums, though the fact that the band had parted ways with Robin Guthrie allowed them a much greater degree of musical freedom and room to experiment. Mike Hedges, who had previously produced The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Everything But The Girl, to name a few, was brought in to produce, and he didn't stand in the band's way. His subtle production allowed for masterpieces like the eight-minute long opus "Never-never" to come into being. Guthrie had been producing the band with something of a heavy hand, and his absence is starkly noticeable here. Split is the most evenly produced of the four Lush albums.

Lush hit the road again in support of Split, touring North America with Slowdive and Ride during the spring and early summer of 1994. Between stops on the tour they recorded a video for Split's lead single, "Hypocrite," at a carnival up the road from one of the tour venues, in a few days.

After appearances at several of the annual music festivals across Europe, Lush again returned to the UK to begin working on their fourth album, Lovelife, which was produced by Pete Bartlett. The band spent the middle months of 1995 in the studio laying down the vocals, guitars, drums, and so forth. The shoegazer movement had died a violent death at the hands of the British music press, so Lovelife found Lush adapting their sound for a new era, and as a result, the album is more pop than anything else, particularly the singles. It was released right on the heels of the then-new Britpop genre, and the band's new sound did well based on that. Also notable about this album is a duet between Miki and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, entitled "Ciao!"

We're both sick
But still you hold my hand
We're together
But I understand...

As Lush was making preparations for another tour following the release of Lovelife in May 1996, everything came to an abrupt halt. The band's drummer, Chris Acland, who had once been Miki's boyfriend, hanged himself on October 17, 1996. Understandably, this had a huge impact on the band and they ceased all activity altogether. Bassist Philip King shortly thereafter moved on to play bass for a small variety of obscure bands, such as De Dannan and August, more or less becoming a session bassist. Emma Anderson formed Sing-Sing in late 1998 with Lisa O'Neill, formerly of Locust.

Miki, devestated by Chris' death, removed herself from public life and eventually went to work as an editorial assistant for the BBC. According to an unidentified friend of hers that's still in the music business, "she just wants to tend her garden, go to work, and move on with life." Though she did contribute her voice to various songs by The Replacements and Moose, following the end of Lush, we will probably never see the trademark fire-engine red hair wildly whipping around as she stomps around the stage in a sequined mini-dress while beating the hell out of her guitar and effects pedals, and belting out vocals.

You're going to die under the sun
And I'll be doomed to carry on
You have become like other men
But let me kiss you once again

You have the sun, I have the moon

Lush officially announced their breakup on February 23, 1998, nearly a year and a half after Chris' suicide.



 

This is the official Lush profile from the 4AD website (as of May 2010) and is also found in the liner notes of the best-of compilation (Ciao!). It is extremely well written and it goes into many details, but be aware that it was written for their record label so it has a very definite spin!

www.4AD.com
Dominic Wills

In a sense, the beginning of Lush was as inevitable as its ending was not. One of the Nineties' most unusual, fascinating and confounding independent bands, they sprang from a friendship formed, at 14, by Londoners Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. In their own words "music was it" - closer involvement was imperative. They ran a fanzine, attended a catholic variety of gigs nightly at the likes of Fulham Greyhound and Hammersmith Clarendon (all rough, all gone). It'd be ABC one day, then Xmal Deutschland, then Gang Of Four. And they were learning the ropes in other people's bands - Berenyi in The Bugs, Anderson in The Rover Girls - working to make "our band" a reality. Eventually, along with the absurdly good-humoured Lancastrian punk drummer Chris Acland, and bassist Steve Rippon, they went out on their own.

For music, the late Eighties were a vibrant and volatile time. There was acid house, US art-core, death metal, fledgling industrial and European sampledelia, a rising Madchester and the shimmering punk pop of The Primitives, plus the delicate oceanics of The Sundays. Having much in common with these last two and, attitude-wise, at least three of the others, Lush were quickly hot property. One review in Melody Maker brought 12 major labels to see them play at London's ULU. None called again, but 4AD's Ivo Watts-Russell was interested, soon putting the band in Blackwing Studios with John Fryer.

"We were kind of punk rock in one way", says Anderson. "We did think 'Well, if they can do it, why the fuck can't we?' Basically, our idea was to have extremely loud guitars with much weaker vocals. And, really the vocals were weaker due to nervousness - we'd always be going 'Turn them down! Turn them down!'."

"We weren't good enough musicians to just jam," continues Berenyi, "so the songs had to come first. We had to go for good melodies, so I guess we drew on any music we heard in our youth, anything from The Beatles to Carly Simon, any pop music. The great swathes of sound, the effects came after the song, and were probably born of our incompetence and lack of confidence. We just didn't think we were good enough to do anything more complicated."

"It made us more open-minded when working with producers," she adds. "There wasn't this 'Well, we do it this way' attitude. We were willing to learn. And that's what happened when we did Scar. That was supposed to be demos because Ivo still wasn't sure about us. He was completely taken aback by what came out of that session."

"We started by writing crappy riot grrl anthems," says Berenyi, "which was probably charming in a juvenile way. But there was a very rapid shift from the minute we started to write for records. The music, the lyrics became much more thoughtful and expressive, more important, really. I remember that change beginning when Emma wrote Thoughtforms, it certainly made me think I needed to get my act together."

They all got their acts together quickly, so much so that Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, producer of Lush's Mad Love EP and their debut LP, Spooky, was in some quarters credited with transforming them, even with writing their material. "Ivo was against us working with Robin," says Anderson. "People said at the time, 'Don't you think that being produced by Robin that you're being swamped by the 4AD collective, that you're not Lush anymore?' But I never saw it like that. I knew Robin before I knew Ivo and I knew he liked what we did, and we all loved the Cocteaus anyway. And we had an enormous amount of freedom, and more loyalty and attention from the label than most other bands ever got."

"As for Robin writing the songs," says Berenyi, "they were already written, every part, every tambourine hit, everything was arranged. Then we went into the studio and experimented with different sounds. We did learn a lot from Robin, about sound, about how to sound bigger. Before him we had, like, two pedals. Then the next tour we had banks of equipment to reproduce that sound."

By the time Spooky was released in 1992, Rippon had amicably departed, to be replaced by Phil King (ex of altie legends Felt and Biff Bang Pow!). The LP went Top 10 in the UK and was an indie chart-topper. It sold upwards of 120,000 in the US too, in part due to one of the most glorious chapters in the Lush story: Lollapalooza II.

"We were bottom of a very heavy bill," explains Berenyi "and, though we knew Perry Farrell was a fan, we felt like we had nothing to lose - we were just grateful not to get bottled off. As a result we had zero attitude, simply tried to be pals with everyone. Bear in mind that this was only the second Lolla and cynicism and star pecking-order hadn't yet come into it. Everyone shared the same backstage area, nobody was treated like royalty. "I guess we 'bonded' mostly with The Mary Chain (fellow Britishers) and Ministry. There was a lot of stage invading and leakage from one band to another. On selected occasions, Lush had Soundgarden's drummer, Pearl Jam's guitarist (in a dress), Ministry's drummer (again in a dress) and a naked invasion by two Ministry roadies (BIG guys) and Mr Lifto from Jim Rose's performers. We in turn joined Soundgarden (Emma and Chris on drums during Cop Killer), Pearl Jam (me on guitar for Keep On Rockin' In The Free World - yes yes, I know...), The Mary Chain on backing vocals. Ice Cube was jumping around to Lord knows what. Probably the Chili Peppers too, but I'd be too drunk to remember. The other major event was my spectacular, tequila-fuelled stage dive off a 15-foot stage in Dallas to Ministry which ended up with a blood soaked dress and 14 stitches in my head. All in all, an absolutely grand time. I loved it."

Having proven beyond all argument their hellraising credentials, Lush repaired to Rockfield Studios in Wales with the renowned Mike Hedges. The recording of Split, their second LP proper (a collection of their early EPs, entitled Gala, had been released in the US only) was exceptionally testing. Expectations of an American breakthrough were high and the pressure was on. Beyond this, Berenyi and Anderson, writing separately as usual, were digging deep. A writing pattern seemed to be emerging. With the likes of "Hypocrite", Berenyi appeared to be more punky with a melodic pop edge, her lyrics like confrontational diary extracts, while Anderson was more impressionistic, brooding, even progressive, enjoying the sound of words as much as their meaning, as evinced by her "Desire Lines". It was not a theory that held up for long.

"Everything was great," says Anderson about the build-up and reaction to Split. "We got everything we wanted. Our own tour? We got it. Europe? We got it. America? Yes. In fact, everything was going well until Split, when the momentum dropped. We were immensely pleased with it, even though it had taken so much out of us. We thought it was the best work we'd done. So we were disappointed with the reaction - it sold half as much as Spooky. But, having got through that bad time, when the carpet really felt like it was being pulled out from under us, we really did get stronger. Strangely, it really boosted our confidence."

Despite its musical bravado and violent lyrical honesty - "We both seemed to move between massive self-hatred and violent accusation of other people," says Anderson - Split was seen as a disaster, and changed the band's approach.

"With me it was a case of once bitten," explains Berenyi. "I felt I'd written extremely personally on Split and had that dismissed incredibly glibly. I felt I had to back off because I couldn't really take that reaction, to my stuff or to Emma's. I mean, "When I Die" was all about her father dying, it was really poignant and that was ignored - not so much in Europe or the US, but certainly in the UK."

As is often the case, failure proved liberating. While the pressure came off, new enthusiasm was injected by the arrival of new manager Peter Felstead. The band threw themselves into recording what would be their final LP, Lovelife. Exploding the myth of their individual writing styles, the "brooding and progressive" Anderson wrote the shimmering pop hit "Single Girl", and "500" (about a little Fiat), while Berenyi maintained her confrontational rep with the bruising, brilliant "Ladykillers", then undermined it utterly with the mournful, pastoral "Papasan".

"I remember the first track I wrote for the LP was "Ladykillers"," says Berenyi "and it took me nearly three weeks to write it because I'd had such a bruising to my self-confidence as a songwriter with Split. I decided to fill the song full of every bloody corny gimmick I could think of - simpler harmonies, handclaps, sudden stops, etc, a kind of 'give 'em what they want' thing. Of course, my idea of commercialism is still a long, long way from other people's. "Ciao!" may be a lilting duet with Jarvis Cocker but it's still basically two people telling each other to fuck off."

The combination of this freedom with a growing experience and expertise obviously took Lush onto a new creative plane. So obviously, in fact, that the pressure was immediately back on to break America. Now the touring became back-breaking and repetitive. During yet another US tour - this time with the perhaps inappropriate Gin Blossoms and Goo Goo Dolls - even the fans began to ask why the band were playing so often. The frustration and bad feeling within the band grew inexorably. Acland, ordered to rest by his doctor, returned to his parents' home in the Lake District. Anderson, dissatisfied with her current position, called a meeting and announced her departure. "It was total overkill," says Anderson "I felt like a product being shoved down people's throats. It felt soulless."

"Everyone was sick of touring," says Berenyi "and Emma said she didn't want to go through anything like the Lovelife experience ever again. She thought we should continue without her ('Well, look at Suede') but I said no way. Things were left at that with no definite decision. Being the eternal optimist, I believe it was rocky but it would have continued, gone in a totally different direction. Then two days later we heard about Chris."

Up in the Lakes - horribly, terribly - Acland had hanged himself. "For me," says Berenyi "That was the end. There was no way on earth I could have gone on with Lush without him, because I always firmly believed that without his benign influence Emma and I would have torn each other apart years ago. Not to mention the obvious fact that he was one of my closest friends ever and there was very little else I wanted to do without him, for that matter. So I guess to Emma the end was aready in sight. For me personally, it was Chris's death, and Chris's death only that finished Lush. I enjoyed being in the band immensely, I'm glad I did it. But that really was a full stop, his personality was such a major part of the band."

It should have come as no surprise that Acland's death finished Lush. Privately and professionally, in their joyful celebrations and their painful (and far more frequent) self-examinations, they were in the business of living life, really living it. Such a tragedy, the loss of their life and soul, could only serve to drain the fun from their adventures. The fun, of course, is vital to the Lush story. It was a raison d'etre and, incredibly, held them back as the UK was gripped first by grunge melancholia and then by po-faced, swaggering Britpop.

Their talent and their exuberance though had already made a difference. Particularly in the States, where their music was deeply respected and their lyrics - often moving, rigorous and earthy appraisals of themselves and their relationships, their nature and nurturing - were a motivating force for female songwriters. As well as being accidental icons (the best kind), Lush also made exceptional music: classic pop, fiery punk, soaring ambient and a modern, lilting folk. It can be harrowing - fun or fraught, these are recognisably real life experiences. But it's all worthwhile, all of it. And few bands could truthfully say that.

- Dominic Wills


If you want even more in-depth info on Lush,
check out the cover story from the
May 1996 issue of Record Collector magazine

 

 

 This website is dedicated to the memory of Chris Acland

 

(c) 2013 LightFromADeadStar,org