The La's (Go!Discs/London ’91) Rating: A-
This album is one of the forgotten gems of the early ‘90s. Simple, irresistibly catchy acoustic melodies are matched to chiming guitars and lead La Lee Mavers’ uniquely British vocal phrasings in creating timeless pop songs that harken back to the '60s Merseybeat sound. “Son Of A Gun” nicely starts things off with a sprightly acoustic melody before “I Can’t Sleep,” a great driving rocker that leads into the appropriately named “Timeless Melody.” Elsewhere, sing songy catchphrases such as “give it all you got now” (on “Way Out”) and easy going melodies (“I.O.U.”) are the norm for these basic but enjoyably effective songs. Of course, “There She Goes,” whose glorious guitar jangle and gorgeous falsetto vocal makes it one of the most perfectly realized pop songs of all-time, is the song that everybody remembers, and for good reason. Some of the other songs are only average (“Liberty Ship,” “Freedom Song,” “Failure”) or seem slightly unfinished (notice how abruptly “Son Of A Gun” ends, for instance), but the epic “Looking Glass” ends the album brilliantly and is one of my flat-out favorite songs of all time (as is “There She Goes”). Whereas the rest of the album is a textbook of concise pop songwriting (“Doledrum” and "Feelin'," for example), the band stretches out on this nearly 8-minute track, which starts as a sad, atmospheric ballad before eventually building up to an explosive finish on which drummer Neil Mavers’ performance is simply astonishing. Unfortunately, although critics loved the album and “There She Goes” was a minor U.K. hit (it was a bigger hit for Sixpence None The Richer years later, though I far prefer The La’s version), the band themselves were bitterly unhappy with the album’s results and the difficulties they had in making it (it was finally released without the band’s approval). In fact, never has a band been so disdainful of their own product (particularly perfectionist Mavers), which I find mystifying since it’s such an enjoyable and accomplished album. They would subsequently break up without ever releasing another album. Note: Bassist John Power resurfaced with Cast, who released several successful albums starting with All Change in 1995.