Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'd Buy Anything By...Love and Rockets

I have a confession to make: I discovered Love and Rockets -- and by extension, Bauhaus -- because of "So Alive." I'm a late-comer keener who fell in love with their one big hit. Sue me!

It didn't take me long to explore backwards and enjoy all their previous albums...and to discover, like Concrete Blonde, that their hit single didn't sound like anything else they'd ever done. Love and Rockets were psychedelic, strange, and beautiful. Their vocal harmonies sounded natural in a way that most manufactured pop doesn't, and they wrote songs about unconventional subjects that appealed to THIS jaded teen.

Plus Daniel Ash was a brilliant guitarist and he looked good, though in retrospect...err, not so much.

The first song I REALLY fell in love with, though, was "No New Tale To Tell." Let alone being their best song ever (in my opinion) I also think it's a notable pop song -- so many explosive moments of solid melody -- and when people don't understand this I can only shake my head.

In case you're wondering about the blobby-headed creatures in the video, those are "The Bubblemen." You see, all three members of Love and Rockets were sort of oddball nerds that invented several mythologies that traveled through their albums, and those Bubblemen were a part of it...they even released an EP under the name (and it's not half bad either).

Eventually the band seemed to have thoroughly distanced itself from its Bauhaus roots, and the two songwriters -- David J. and Daniel Ash -- began moving in different directions. Their albums became increasingly fractured as a result, with J. and Ash's compositions standing in stark comparison with each other. That's not to say the later albums weren't GOOD, just that they were more like two EPs mashed together. At the same time their solo releases lacked lustre as well, though Ash was collaborating with beautiful genius Natacha Atlas (who he was married to at the time).

They also started experimenting more with trip hop and electronica, which tended to sound more "curious" than "good." I do like their later albums but they certainly aren't as good as the first wonderful bunch.

Initially I thought I didn't need to "talk up" the band because I assumed they were still well-known. Now, after hunting fruitlessly for current videos or quality live clips, I've begun to wonder whether Love and Rockets have fallen into total obscurity, wrongly labeled "one hit wonders" because they made an unlikely song that didn't even sound like them. That would be a bit sad.

Albums to buy: "Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven," their debut, probably has the most likeable and consistent sound, though their self-titled "Love and Rockets" album sounds better today than it ever did (and has been released with their long-unheard EP of "swing" numbers). Albums to avoid: "Lift," their last one, is mostly blah. For fans only: pick up "Sorted!", the DVD of their collected videos...all the band members had considerable graphic design skill and their videos were ALWAYS fun.


Kimber said...

Who stole Daniel Ash's upper lip?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Somebody stole his lip? Did he grow a terrible moustache?

Less Lee said...

God, I loved that Express album to pieces. I still think it's their best stuff, although Seventh Dream is really really amazing. Have you heard much Tones On Tail? I actually think that stuff has aged better than Love and Rockets.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I'll have to pull out my "Greatest Hits" Tones on Tail album again and have another listen! It's been a long time.

They wrote some really solid songs, those guys, but somewhere along the line it seems their inspiration crept away...

Mike K said...

Love and Rockets are awesome. The difference between them and most bands is that these guys actually had fun playing and making music together.

Favorite Albums in Order:

Earth Sun Moon
Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
Hot Trip to Heaven
Love And Rockets
Sweet FA

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Yes, they definitely seemed to be enjoying themselves!

I see you put "Lift" at the bottom as well. I have a feeling that people just didn't like that album much.

Anonymous said...

help! was the song so alive used in any movies? i swear i heard it in one but can't figure out what!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Apparently it was in "The Rules of Attraction," "The Quiet Family," and "Choyonghan Kajok."

This is according to the imdb and wikipedia, though I'm SURE it was in other movies.

Hopefully this helps!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. I could've sworn it was in Ghostbusters or Xanadu or something, but I guess not. I just watched both Ghostbusters back to back, and no song. Guess I'll just have to "force" myself to watch Xanadu again. :)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I have a lifelong love/hate relationship with Xanadu, and I assure you that "So Alive" isn't in there. Xanadu came out long before Love & Rockets formed, and the music is all composed by Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton-John.

So you don't have to watch it again. :)