booswakeup

Undersung Britpop Heroes: no. 1: The Boo Radleys

In the late 80’s-early 90’s, my music tastes were changing fast, and I was on a car journey with a friend when one day he put on an album that had just come out called ‘Giant Steps’ by a band called the Boo Radleys…and I held my ear close to the speakers as the strange beguiling intro to the first track ‘I Hang Suspended’ bled into existence, slowly giving way to backwards voices, some kind of broadcast about ‘700htz’ and then , finally, a whipcrack drumbeat, a gorgeous guitar curlicue, feedback and then the song proper… A kaleidoscopic wash of ideas, melody and noise, it utterly enraptured me and every chorus came at me like a giddy rush of bliss, then the second track, ‘Upon 9th and Fairchild’…Hang about, whats this? Dub music? Almost Augustus Pabloesque in its execution and totally different to what went before, by the time i got to ‘Lazarus’ i was totally obsessed and blown away by this incredible melding of such diverse styles and influences, noisy, chaotic at times, but always gorgeously memorable….

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Then a few years later, a song called Wake Up Boo! was picked up by Chris Evans and played incessantly on the radio… it was not necessarily the Boo Radleys at their best, but was a lovely earworm of a tune with gorgeous harmonies (another Boo Radleys hallmark) that brightened the airwaves whenever it was played, which was often, and anyone who gorges on sweets will eventually get sick…

And so it was with the Boo’s, Wake Up Boo! was their only hit people remember (their albatross?) The album that accompanied the hit was simply entitled Wake Up! and was full of brilliant tunes again, a little more tidy and bright sounding, and not as sonically adventurous as Giant Steps, but just as involving and stuffed with more great songcraft, eclecticism and ideas than most bands managed in their entire careers! And it got to #1 on the UK Album Charts!

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However, they didn’t cope with success all that well, and for their next move, chief songwriter Martin Carr & the band veered away from their new success and took an obtuse left turn with the next album, ‘C’ Mon Kids!’ Featuring more feedback and distortion, more adventurous time signatures and multi-part song cycles, and despite itself, still being melodic as hell, and touched by the painstaking hand of genius making it their third classic album on the trot….

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Still, the critics hailed it as commercial suicide which sadly, came to pass, the singles struggled to enter the top 20 and the album limped in at 20…. the bubble had burst but did the critics burst it or was it simply the band?

A few years later, their final album came out, the half baked and curiously unfinished sounding ‘Kingsize’

It contained a few flashes of their previous brilliance but sounded like the Boo’s endless well of ideas was finally starting to run dry, it flopped dismally, as did the the lead-off single, ‘Free Huey’ (a #56 hit, Pop Pickers!) which sounded like EMF go PWEI and lacked the head-spinning brilliance of previous singles…

They split with a whimper a month or so later, a sad end to a great band who are well worth reappraisal and deluxe reissue treatment, Martin Carr continues to make music, all of it good, but none of it fit to touch the hem of the Boo’s three album run of greatness. I await a possible reunion with no little sense of excitement at the possiblities, if only they made one last album now it would show everyone what an amazing band they were, and not just the dudes responsible for that ‘‘Wake up , its a beautiful morning’ tune that everyone knows…

 

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.