Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The La’s, BBC In Session

What a strange and in many ways sad story.  The La’s appeared in their hometown of Liverpool in 1986 and just about everybody who heard them loved them.  They played a brand of post-punk jangle guitar pop that was carried by vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Lee Maver’s first-rate songs.  Hooks to die for, catchy choruses, The La'sirresistable melodies they were supposed to have the whole package.  Go! Discs, an independent label, signed them that year in what must have seemed a blessing of good fortune at the time.  Didn’t quite work out that way.  They got the band in the studio and discovered what band members had known from the git-go.  Mavers, for all his great talent, was an obsessive perfectionist and could be very hard to work with.  1987 came and went and the La’s debut album didn’t appear.  Same thing happened in 1988.  And again in 1989.  Mavers was obsessing over every little detail of the recording, everthing had to be perfect and it never was.  His mantra was “authentic”.  He would settle for nothing less than the “authentic” La’s sound.  While the struggle in the studio dragged on and on, band members came and left with consistent regularity.  It was a mess.  Finally in 1990 Go! Discs had had enough and they released the album, called “The La’s” over Maver’s objections.  Critics raved about it and listeners loved it.   Mavers hated it and told anyone who would listen that it was a collection of demos that the band disowned.  He threatened to sue, he threatened to release the entire album himself “authentically” recorded the way he wanted.  The band went on a tour to support the album but they didn’t want to do it and it showed.  The tour ended and they pretty much disappeared. 

Throughout all of the drama and changes in personnel they continued to knock out people who heard them play live.  Fans have always claimed that their live shows were much better and much more “authentic” than the material on the album.  Maybe it was, maybe they were parroting the party line.  Who knows? 

Now, well over a decade after the band faded away we have a chance to hear something of what the band may have sounded like in performance.  They played live on the BBC four times between February 1987 and July 1990 and BBC In Session presents the recordings of these sessions.  So, after all this time and all the ancient drama how do they sound in these possibly more “authentic” recordings?  In a word?  Terrific.  Everything they said was true – great songs, great hooks, catchy irresistable melodies, all of it.  Other than Mavers and bass player John Power the four sessions feature different drummers and different guittar players.  Some tunes are repeated on different sessions but they are played differently enough that each version is enjoyable and unique.  The engineers at the BBC have a lot of practice recording live music with the result that the recording quality is excellent.  Based on the evidence of these recordinigs The La’s were a great jangle pop group.  What a shame that they could never really get it together to be a professional band.

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03/23/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music

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