Lush - Biography
By Marcus Kagler
Out of all the shoegazer bands of the early 90’s who were dealt a death blow by the rise of Britpop, Lush was the only band to successfully cross over. Lead by duel female vocalists Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson the London quartet achieved more mainstream success from their lone Britpop inspired album, Lovelife (1996-4AD) than the two gauzy shoegazer inspired albums previous ever did. Unfortunately success came too late for Lush. Internal strife combined with the abrupt suicide of drummer Chris Acland brought the band to screeching halt just as the mainstream came knocking on their door. A decade on Lush has become one of the most adored bands of the short lived shoegazer era even though the three remaining members have retired from music with no hope for a reunion in site.
Long before they even had a name the roots of Lush were planted by 14 year old school friends Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson. Self described alternative music fanatics the two friends started writing for various fanzines while still in secondary school before starting up their own bands with Berenyi taking up bass duties for The Bugs (amongst others) and Anderson contributing to The Rover Girls. It wasn’t long before the two coalesced to form Lush in 1988 with drummer Chris Acland, bassist Steve Rippon, and original singer Meriel Barham. When Barham left the group to join Pale Saints that same year, both Berenyi and Anderson took over vocal duties by default. After a few months performing in and around the London area Lush released the Scar EP (1989-4AD), which caught the attention of Cocteau Twins sonic mastermind Robin Guthrie. Lush’s raw driving punk aesthetic mixed with surreal guitar effects appealed to Guthrie’s sonic sensibilities and the producer/guitarist became the band’s in house producer for their next few releases. Over the course of the next year Lush released two more EP’s, Mad Love (1990-4AD) and Sweetness and Light (1990-4AD) and by 1991 all three ep’s were combined for Lush’s semi-official debut album, Gala (1991-4AD). Critical acclaim over their punk-meets-art rock sound earned the band a slot at the 1991 Glastonbury festival and Lush soon retreated back to the studio to record their “official” debut album. Spooky (1992-4AD) was greeted with mixed reviews largely due to Guthrie’s heavy handed production values, which made the album sound less like Lush and more like a Cocteau Twins knock off. Original bassist Rippon left the band shortly after and was replaced by Biff Bang Pow! bassist Philip King. Despite the fractured response to Spooky the band accepted an invitation to join that year’s Lollapalooza tour. Lush’s hypnotic shoegazer sound didn’t fit in well with the alt-metal festival making the tour less than pleasurable, mostly due to the fact that they were one of the only female fronted group’s on the bill.
Lush returned to England to regroup and refocus their sound into a different direction. By the dawn of 1993, the shoegazer scene had been largely snuffed out as the few remaining artists of the scene began reworking their sound to fit in with the more pop rock oriented fair of the times. Lush was also in this group and elected to drop Guthrie before sessions began with producer Mike Hedges. The band expanded their sonic pallet into the realms of epic psychedelic masterpieces (“Desire Lines”, “Never-Never”) and heart on sleeve power pop (“Hyopcrite”). Split (1994-4AD) was the most critically lauded album of Lush’s career but yielded few strong radio singles. In a musical landscape dominated by grunge the album was a commercial disappointment and quickly faded from view. Licking their wounds the band once again went back to the drawing board, this time discarding the shoegazer sound altogether. In a last ditch effort to salvage their career Berenyi and Anderson began writing saccharine pop songs packed with infectious melodies and an almost riot grrl lyrical approach. The resulting album, Lovelife (1996-4AD) was a huge commercial success in both North America and Europe with the pop rock anthems “Ladykillers” and “Single Girl” shooting up the charts on both sides of Atlantic.
Although back in public favor Lush was in serious jeopardy as tensions within the band were running higher than ever. Anderson had been disillusioned with the group ever since Split’s poor reception and after an exhaustive supporting tour for Lovelife she announced her departure from the group. Acland was so emotionally and physically drained from the constant touring he was ordered by his doctor to take a break. The remaining members of Lush unanimously decided to put the band on hiatus with Berenyi firmly believing their differences would blow over with some much needed time off. Two days later the band received word that Acland had hung himself at his parent’s home. Without even contemplating moving on with a different drummer Lush called it a day. Anderson formed the dream pop duo Sing-Sing with vocalist Wendy O’Neill but after two albums the group folded and Anderson retired from music. Berenyi, always the poster girl for Lush, was so devastated by the death of Acland she gave up music altogether.