100 Greatest Albums of the 90’s: #21

The La’s – The La’s

Let me conjure up an image for you: You’re walking with a friend down a country lane and you both find an injured kitten.  He/she says: “Take this change, go to the phone box and call a vet. I’ll look after him.” However, during the previous conversation, he/she had said this: “The La’s? They’ve got like, one good song.” Before you ask, no I would not trust such a dangerous individual with an innocent kitten! These people shouldn’t be trusted with anything bigger than a paperclip. The La’s first and only album is a pop masterpiece of the first order. I might have said something along the lines of “best Britpop record” a few times, but if this is Britpop, it takes the cake. It also takes the plate, the balloons and the party poppers and nips off to the toilet to make out with the host’s attractive cousin. This is a great collection of songs, ditties and sea-shanties and sounds British without calling attention to its Britishness – a London bus doesn’t have to be wearing an “I HEART LONDON” shirt to be authentic. Instead it just naturally sounds like it was made by a load of young pop fanatics living in a rustic urban fishing port. In terms of themes, there’s the usual suspects: love, music, that strange “feelin'” that so many songs have failed to explain; even so, they all sound refreshing and timeless under The La’s spell. The music has a hint of 60’s guitar pop (‘I Can’t Sleep’ is like ‘I Can’t Explain’ for the Strongbow generation) but otherwise sounds totally untied to any time period. Every track is a total gem. You all know ‘There She Goes’ which sounds as joyous and innocent as a schoolboy’s first crush on a filmstar, even though the song is quite probably about heroin (“There she goes again / Pulsing through my vein”, hintedy hint hint). ‘Timeless Melody’ is a shimmering anthem on therapeutic songwriting; ‘Liberty Ship’ is a sea-sick sing-along with wet basses and dry guitars; ‘Way Out’ is a wistful, sea-sawing kiss-off to a friendly ex-lover while the epic 8-minute ‘Looking Glass’ (the longest track by a full five minutes) builds up slowly until it becomes a brief viz through the rest of the album in the last minute getting faster and faster before it collapses in a heap. Every track is completely wonderful, but weirdly enough it was totally reviled by the band after they made it. If you listen to the band’s preferred sessions by Mike Hedges on the deluxe edition of the album, you can sort of see why, since it’s more stripped back and it generally sounds like the band are having far more fun. Even so, any edition of ‘The La’s’ is a worthy addition to a record collection; twelve more great songs to learn and sing.
Listen to: Way Out

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