I wrote this review about 10 years ago, roughly 7 years after I first fell in love with ‘Giant Steps’, the phenomenal sprawling epic from Liverpool’s the Boo Radleys. The album has just been reissued by Cherry Records so to celebrate here is the extended version of their most majestic moment ‘Lazarus’. Tears were made for this.
“For many the Boo Radleys will be remembered for their candy caked hit ‘Wake up Boo’. This song does not even come close to defining what an important band they were. Its success proved to be a double edged sword. Those looking for more of the same were disappointed, while those looking for something a bit more tangible would have been put off. Martin Carr, much admired drinker and now steering the Brave Captain ship was able to conjure melodies at will and provided the ammunition for Sice Rowbottom’s magnetic choirboy vocals.
Giant Steps released in 1993 represents the Boo’s at their imperious zenith and is undoubtedly one of the albums of the nineties. Such a strong statement can only be rationalised by listening to its mammoth scope and innovative directions. Ideas are packed like sardines into each if its 17 tracks. At times it shuttles about with abandon scaring small creatures that are within listening distance. Many find it unkempt but a small amount of patience reveals a luxurious wealth of winning ideas. No wonder it got the album of the year in some many of the indie mags back in 1993. No other album stood a chance. At first the eclectic wanderings are overbearing and indeed can be too much to take in. It is only after you’ve ingested the frenetics and absorbed its scattered approach that you realise what an album you have on your hands. The opener ‘I Hang Suspended’ was a minor hit but is likely to blow you away on a tide of rushing guitars and the sharp vocal performance. Lyrics ‘You Know The Facts, But You Haven’t Got A Clue’ would burn ears if thrown in the right direction.
‘Lazurus’ is nothing less than epic. Brass noises as sweet as cane and as intoxicating as Jack Daniel’s rise out from a dub intro to create a multi-coloured path to planet melody. Again Sice is a lone vocal amongst the cascading sound that builds around it. As the deluge of sound fills the room everything makes sense as those trumpets blaze a trail right through your heart. It is without doubt the Boo’s defining moment. Other pop gems such as ‘Wishin I Was Skinny’ and ‘Take The Time Around’ are strewn around ‘Giant Steps’ like toys in a nursery. When the occasion takes them, the Boo Radley’s search their very soul for extravagance. They pull it all off with aplomb and the grandiose approach on songs like ‘Butterfly McQueen’, while initially off-putting, makes total sense. As the ragged My Bloody Valentine glory of ‘Rodney King’ mops up the excess, it is left to the dulcet tones of Meriel Barham (of the heavenly Pale Saints) to restore the equilibrium. Elsewhere there are thoroughbred weirdo’s in the shape of ‘Run My Way Runway’ and ‘Upon 9th And Fairchild’ that may frighten the naive but delight the most mature listener.
There are touching moments aplenty. Sice voice sounds so brittle and touching on ‘Thinking Of Ways’ you’ll most likely hug the person beside you under it’s emotional presence. The trumpets and guitar shrieks stream in and out of consciousness but those divine vocal chords will submerse you in the music. ‘I’ve Lost The Reason’ produces an adrenaline soaked bass buzz on 2 occasions but in between the silence is only interrupted by a bright flickering vocal. ‘One Is For’ may be only 90 seconds long but being a puppy like standard it loops in a curious direction that will snag your heart forever. ‘Giant Steps’ was an experiment where everything that was attempted came up trumps. So when the noises from outer space hijack what would otherwise have been normality they merely round the song off. The straighter laced tunes like ‘Barney (…and me)’ cower for cover like butterfly’s amidst the frenzied soundscape around them.
At the end as the mayhem begins to die down and the dense experimental fog clears, up comes the sun in the shape of ‘The White Noise Revisited’. An obvious homage to the Beatles it contains a wafting ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ that will send tingles down your spine. It proves to be the only option available to close an album that drifts off in so many distinct patterns while still maintaining a remarkable cohesiveness. It’s like throwing 17 different coloured t-shirt’s into a wash set to a temperature of 100 degrees, making a wish for a miracle and finding them appear at the other end in your favourite colour white. Yeah, it shouldn’t have worked but it does. ‘Giant Steps’ is absolutely beyond reproach. I pray for the day, they get around to letting us in on any other half baked ideas the Boo’s never got around to releasing. Never has music that makes so much sense taken so long to make itself known. If you have the ‘Wake Up Boo’ single, listen to the b-sides and you can realise the enormity of Martin Carr and his bands talent. Boo Forever!” KD
The Boo Radleys – Lazarus