"Untitled" by William Eggleston taken in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973
I'm not sure I'll ever understand the Boo Radleys. I missed shoegaze and early Brit-pop the first time around, so I knew next to nothing about the Boos until years later, when I started hearing that their third album Giant Steps was considered one of the best psych-rock albums of the '90s. Their albums are easy to find in the used CD shops in town (which is odd because they were never that big around here) - I gave them a chance. Starting with their later, poppier albums and working backward, I liked everything I heard, even though I have a hard time pinning down what exactly I find so appealing about them. I have finally gotten around to getting Everything's Alright Forever, their second album (the first, Ichabod & I was disowned by the band and is impossible to find). I think Everything's Alright Forever is the best shoegaze album they did and, even then, it's not even a perfect fit for that genre. It's hardly My Bloody Valentine or Ride, using a lot of acoustic guitar and traditional pop arrangements instead of layers of reverb and feedback. It's still a pretty noisy record at times, but several of the songs give strong indicators of the direction the band was headed.
The opening track of Everything's Alright Forever is "Spaniard", a song ostensibly about author Richard Brautigan and the Spaniards Inn in Hampstead. The song starts with the sound of children playing, and then Martin Carr plays a flamenco-ish guitar lead that disappears as vocalist Sice starts singing a nice falsetto melody. The song starts quiet and builds to a big crescendo of roaring guitars and an excellent trumpet solo. The song doesn't really scream "shoegaze", and it's easy to see how their interest in loud treated guitars and more baroque arrangements pushed them toward a more psych-rock sound on their next album.
Everything's Alright Forever feels like more slight and insubstantial than the later Boo Radleys records, with many of the songs just being not-fully-fleshed-out sketches, and the album sags noticeably in the middle (with the exception of the very good "Does This Hurt?") But it starts strong and ends strong, and it makes a good listen for someone like me who is just now getting into shoegaze records from the early '90s.
"Spaniard" by the Boo Radleys