The Mighty Lemon Drops - Inside Out 1985-1990 (Cherry Red Records)

The Mighty Lemon Drops – Inside Out 1985-1990 (Cherry Red Records)

During the period 1986-1989, Wolverhampton’s The Mighty Lemon Drops released three albums for Chrysalis Records, (via its ‘boutique indie’ label Blue Guitar, also home to premium 80s acts The Shop Assistants and Raymonde), and these are now collected, along with a plethora of 1985-1990 period bonus tracks into a handy 5CD set.

After being in a variety of local bands, (including Active Restraint, who actually numbered three of the four Lemon Drops in its line-up), the group came into being in 1985, shortly afterwards issuing an eight-track cassette at their gigs (included in full over on CD4), and releasing their debut single ‘Like An Angel’ via Dreamworld Records at the end of that year. The broodingly magnificent single would actually go on to take pride of place in the following year’s hallowed John Peel Festive Fifty.

The following year was a momentous one for the band; they were invited to provide a track for the legendary NME C86 compilation, signed major record deals in the UK and abroad, and released their debut album Happy Head, which was warmly received by critics and fans alike. At that time it was commonplace for bands to miss early singles and key tracks off their debut albums, but The Mighty Lemon Drops wisely avoided this trap and with Stephen Street (fresh from his work with The Smiths) on production duties, put out an absolute gem of a record, including fresh takes on ‘Like An Angel’ and its B-side ‘Something Happens’ along with re-recorded songs from their early cassette release. The album still stands up perfectly today and hasn’t aged a jot, beginning with incendiary second single ‘The Other Side Of You’, the jangle-pop gold of third single ‘My Biggest Thrill’ and a stronger version of that C86 track, the title track ‘Happy Head’. The band drew comparisons with The Velvet Underground (which the day’s music press tended to do with any band who picked up a guitar) and Echo and the Bunnymen, although in truth by 1986 that legendary group would have killed for a dozen songs of this quality. Elsewhere on the record, ‘Hypnotised’ showed a softer side to the band as did ‘On My Mind’ , a beautiful song tucked away in the middle of side two.

1987 brought a non-album single, ‘Out Of Hand’, which is arguably the band’s greatest moment, a swoonsome Rickenbacker-led piece of pop perfection (courtesy of guitarist David Newton), singer Paul Marsh’s vocals never better. It is included here as a bonus track to CD2, which houses the band’s 1988 album World Without End. Where Happy Head was packed with an adrenaline rush of what was effectively been twelve single-worthy songs, its follow up was more considered and introspective, but every bit as good. The band came out of their comfort zone on the heartbreaking ‘Closer To You’ and the delicate (though it also packed a punch) ‘No Bounds’ , while the album’s two singles, ‘Inside Out’ (which received a lot of daytime airplay on Radio 1) and ‘Fall Down (Like The Rain)’ were far more instant. The group were by now selling out good-sized venues at home and in the USA, where they were a big hit on college radio across the land. The excellent, more urgent single version of ‘Fall Down…’ is included as a bonus track.

The band’s final album release for Chrysalis, (the Blue Guitar imprint now gone), Laughter, came just 18 months or so later in the Autumn of 1989, and increased their sonic palette still further. Lead single ‘Into The Heart Of Love’ sounded like a Top 10 hit (but sadly wasn’t) and follow-up ‘Beautiful Shame’ was another great single, and ‘Where Do We Go From Heaven’ reached the US Modern Rock Tracks Top 10; in another world it would have been a huge hit in the UK. The record was probably the band’s most varied, including the stop-start charm of ‘At Midnight’, a live favourite, and other winners like ‘Written In Fiction’ and ‘One In A Million’.

Across the set, there are contemporaneous B-sides, demos and Radio 1 sessions. Key B-sides include ‘Uptight’, the brilliant ‘Wait and See’ (previously only available on the double 7” single of ‘My Biggest Thrill’) and ‘Shine’. There are covers (The Standells Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White’ and The Rolling Stones ‘Paint It Black’ are amongst the handful here) and the session tracks are mainly chosen not to clash with the band’s 2014 single CD compilation ‘Uptight: The Early Recordings 1985/1986’. There are rarities too – the track ‘World Without End’ not only didn’t make it onto the album of the same title but remains unreleased until now, and there are frantic takes on first album favourites ‘Take Me Up’ and ‘Pass You By’, and still so many more. The band only delved into the realm of the extended 12” version twice, with ‘Out Of Hand’ and ‘Inside Out’, both tastefully done and included on CD5.

It’s a lovingly curated box set with extensive sleeve notes by guitarist and song-writer David Newton, and very complete in that it includes every note that the band released officially in the period covered and a lot of extras that will be fascinating to fans of the group.

Inside Out… is a fitting (and overdue) retrospective of a much-loved band.

Inside Out 1985-1990 was released on 25th November 2022 via Cherry Red Records.

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