Thursday, 16 April 2015

Le Lu\Lus - Operating on Specific Cues \ Early Works 1982-86 (2014)

I'm fairly certain I recall Le Lu\Lus as having been the three-piece Lulu Boys who seemed to turn up in Sounds music paper all the time, and usually with the suggestion of some managerial type doing his or her absolute best to shove them in the general direction of pop stardom. This impression was later supported when they showed up in a photo-story in the children's comic Oink! The band had been offered as first prize in some competition or other, the prize specifically being a pop concert by this bunch whom kiddo had probably never heard of right there in his or her own front room, and of course the winner also got to appear in the photo-story documenting the happening.

Still, it worked for Lou Reed...

The idea was funny, although I have to admit, it struck me as kind of desperate, and I've a feeling Le Lu\Lus - as they were by that point - also turned up on Tomorrow's World or some similar show demonstrating a new species of synthesizer or something. The sad thing was that whilst this lent Le Lu\Lus a certain desperation, or so it seemed from where I was stood, the fact was that they were actually pretty fucking great at one time, and definitely deserving of a wider audience.

I base this on Operating on Specific Cues which was released as  a C50 on the vaguely upmarket Unlikely Records tape label. Le Lu\Lus were sort of like how Severed Heads would have sounded if they'd tried to turn themselves into Bananarama, providing you factor the bored woman singing along to the radio in a launderette in Neasden out of the equation, that being what Banananaramamama always sounded like to me. Le Lu\Lus appeared to make use of sampling before anyone cheaper than Michael Jackson could afford to indulge, which I'm fairly sure must have been a whole load of boffinesque manipulation of taped sounds - screams, calls of the jungle and so on - to which I presume the title was a reference. Combining this with some impressive studio jiggery pokery, they spent about six months of 1985 sounding roughly fifteen years in advance of their time. Of course, they could have pulled on combat boots and pretended to be futuristic robots like every other fucker who ever bought a Front 242 record, but Operating on Specific Cues never wanted to be anything but the world's most fantastic pop album - sort of like the Archies of 2099. The songs are touching, funny, and silly without so much as a raised brow in sight, invoking The Jetsons, a sort of Edgar Rice Burroughs version of animal passion, and all that other stuff that was far too uncool for the likes of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. With song titles like Chocolate Banana, Spaceman Bassman, and Asteroid Chicane, it may seem difficult to believe Le Lu\Lus weren't some sort of precursor to whichever demons were responsible for Barbie Girl, but they really weren't. In part this was thanks to Denny Gibson having such a great and quite distinctive voice, and in part to the strength of the songs shining through despite being dressed as extras from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

It is of course wonderful that Vinyl-on-Demand should have seen fit to reissue the humble ferric oxide as big beautiful slabs of plastic, although to briefly complain that my free Rolls Royce is not quite the colour I would have liked, I sort of wish they had just done a straight reissue with the same tracks, possibly as a single album. This collection, wonderful as it is, shuffles the contents of the tape in with other marginally later material, at least some of which sounds like the band had got hold of a proper sampler, which unfortunately seems to have meant they suddenly sounded like everyone else.

Still, it's nice to see this stuff at last granted some sort of recognition.

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