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Friday, February 6, 2015

The Boo Radleys: Everything's Alright Forever


1) Spaniard; 2) Towards The Light; 3) Losing It; 4) Memory Babe; 5) Skyscraper; 6) I Feel Nothing; 7) Room At The Top; 8) Does This Hurt; 9) Sparrow; 10) Smile Fades Fast; 11) Firesky; 12) Song For The Morning To Sing; 13) Lazy Day; 14) Paradise.

If I understand my terminology correctly, The Boo Radleys' second album should not be properly categorized as «shoegaze», something that presupposes very static, droney, (preferably) hypnotic / trance-inducing music-making. The Boos are no enemies to the drone ideology, and Sice's lulling vocals may certainly be hypnotic, but in the end, Everything's Alright is primarily a pop record — noise-pop, psycho-pop, whatever, but the songs have verses, choruses, different melo­dies, even colorful guitar solos that rise above the din to provide some climactic heights, none of which really ties in with the «atmosphere-above-all-else» guideline of generic «shoegaze».

The problem is different: these verses and choruses are insufficiently engaging for me to state that the album survives on its melodic potential rather than its atmospherics. Either, at this point, Carr's songwriting was still in its infancy, or perhaps the atmospherics clashes with the melodies, but very few individual moments stand out — not a good sign for a pop album. Even when stuff is quite objectively different, like ʽSpaniardʼ, an acoustic ballad that eventually explodes with a merry Castilian brass section, it still feels merely like a slightly nuanced part of one big dreamy continuum. And this, in turn, brings back the «shoegazing» associations.

The band's experimentation in the area of «loud vs. quiet» is unsatisfactory: the marriage between abrasive feedback and acoustic jazz chords on ʽI Feel Nothingʼ is conducted very crudely — now we're playing these soft swingin' notes and now we go BOOM! and it's My Bloody Valentine all over the floor again; anyone could do that, really. ʽMemory Babeʼ, where the build-up from all-out acoustic to buzzy-electric and then to a huge psychedelic crescendo is handled more efficient­ly, is better, but still has nothing in particular to recommend it — no single special touch that would make us easily understand what it was, exactly, that the band was bringing to the table.

Nothing remains, eventually, but to lower our expectations and understand that The Boo Radleys simply wanted to generously contribute their own share to the world of noise-pop, without taking any particular care about putting a «special» stamp on that share. Once expectations are lowered to that level, songs like ʽFireskyʼ and ʽParadiseʼ will appeal to all those who yearn for another Loveless or at least an inferior copy, as long as it shares similar textures. Prospectively, too, with Sice's capacity for «angelic» singing, we could say that Everything's Alright (especially on such moody-mournful compositions as ʽSmile Fades Fastʼ) predicts Radiohead, at least in their early, pre-OK Computer stage.

Arguably the best, most evocative and memorable, track is ʽSong For The Morning To Singʼ, where they finally come up with a solid, no-nonsense, lyrical, old-school melody, George Har­rison-style, but produced through a lo-fi psychedelic filter. In addition to the blow-your-mind attitude, this one just seems to hold a big sackful of pure love, rendering both the singer and the lead guitar player more humane and vulnerable than everything else put together. But precisely because of this, the song, short and barely noticeable in its second-to-last position on the album, is an exception to the rule — it does point the way to the band's future progress, yet nobody could really tell this back in 1992. Ultimately, Everything's Alright Forever is just a diligent exercise in studying, copying, and honing production skills.

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