Twelve years, five albums, and numerous EPs and singles in, The Lovely Eggs remain one of Britain’s most underrated and misunderstood bands. Indeed- it’s unusual for a band to juxtapose a fairly cutesy image with rock songs that have real teeth, and recent releases, particularly Wildlife and This Is Our Nowhere have increasingly dispelled the idea that this band are in anyway novelty or twee. Still, the band seem to be associated with a whole host of fey, limp indie-pop outfits by virtue of their aesthetics.
This is Eggland, then, should in a right and just world, see the Lovely Eggs recognized as a genuinely exceptional cult band, as it is a record of exceptional songwriting and performance. What instantly sets the record apart from their back catalogue on initial listens is just how heavy it is; the whole record is anchored by David Blackwell’s powerful, propulsive drumming. Seemingly taking cues from the success of having Gruff Rhys produce their psych-pop micro-masterpiece ‘Allergies’, this time The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev’s Dave Fridmann is at the controls, flinging the Lovely Eggs into previously uncharted sonic territory.
If lead single ‘I Shouldn’t Have Said That’ felt like business as usual – albeit with it’s fangs out – opener ‘Hello I Am Your Sun’ takes the Eggs’ usual surreal, philosophical sense of humour and launches it into orbit, driven by Blackwell’s gorgeous Kosmiche-inflected drumming. Album highlight ‘Wiggy Giggy‘ leans on a vocal loop that wouldn’t sound out of place on a recent Flaming Lips record, but it also showcases The Lovely Eggs’ piece de resistance:
‘I know/It’s still safe to say/that I still live round here/No, I’m not ashamed to say that I still live round here.’
The band’s effortless ability to plainly communicate parochial, working-class anxieties is all over this record. The band’s well documented relationship with their native Lancaster is presented beautifully – the malaise of parochial Britain married with an ingrained defensiveness and desire to make things better. The songs were self-recorded at not-for-profit Lancaster Musicians’ Co-op before Fridmann splattered it with psychedelic colour, in keeping with the band’s ferociously DIY ethos. Holly Ross’ lyrics speak to this sensibility throughout the record. The band remain based in Lancaster, despite the town’s relative cultural isolation. It pays the band dividends in spades; their relationship with their hometown colours this song with the kind of unique and idiosyncratic perspective that has been conspicuously absent from a lot of guitar-based music for quite some time.
The ferocious ‘I’m With You’ is a song about being on the wrong side of the music industry and/or society, Holly’s ‘keeping her head down’ to get where she needs to be. If sometimes it feels as though the music is taking us to the moon, it’s clear that Holly’s concerns, hopes and fears are still emphatically on Terra Firma.
‘Repeat It’ is a gloriously energetic mantra taking cues from Guerilla-era Super Furries and is held together by a delicious, spidery guitar line. Thematically, it returns to one of the album’s biggest preoccupations- small town boredom.
Elsewhere- the album touches on another facet of Lancaster’s rich cultural history- witchcraft. Holly has said that Lancaster is ‘like the Twin Peaks of Great Britain’ and is famously the site of the hanging of the Pendle witches – one of the most famous witch trails in British history. ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘The Return of Witchcraft’ take pounding Sabbath-like riffs and juxtapose them with very peculiar, creepy imagery. It solidifies the Eggs as being the North West’s very best, if definitely only by default, occultist glam-rock band.
The cracking ‘Big Sea’ is perhaps an absolute highlight of the band’s canon; it’s gorgeously bittersweet, brimming with melody propped up by the burbling synths borrowed from The Sophtware Slump. It’s expansive and propulsive, unlike anything the band have every produced before. Holly’s glassy-eyed croon speaks of simple gestures of solidarity in response to the chaotic, unpredictable times in which we live. ‘Let Me Observe’ is another unexpectedly expansive number – a dreamy, shoegaze inspired song that feels like an outlier in the band’s catalogue but retains the character and sensibilities that sound unmistakably like The Lovely Eggs. The band leave us with the snotty, supercharged ‘Would You Fuck’- a short, snappy and slightly underwhelming end to an album that explores so much new territory for the band.
Regardless, on This Is Eggland, the band have done something remarkable in creating a record that is parochial and psychedelic in equal measure – something that is simultaneously addressing the issues of these trying times while allowing the listener to escape to The Lovely Eggs’ colourful, alien landscape. Like all the best music, it reminds us that we can be lying in the gutter while gazing at the stars.
This Is Eggland is released on 23rd February through Egg Records.