The La's - The La's - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The La's - The La's

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:1990-10-01
The La's - The La's
The La's - The La's

So much ink has been spilled on the making of this album and the mad, reclusive genius of Lee Mavers, there’s no point in going into all it again. But hopefully it can be mutually agreed that The La’s is one of the great albums of the 90’s. As unlikely as a follow up is at this juncture, I confess I don’t relish the prospect. Some things are just better left alone.

It wasn’t that the La’s re-invented the wheel. Far from it. They simply picked up right where the likes of the Small Faces, Kinks and Yardbirds began. Taking that classic sound and inhabiting it. Mavers knew that Rock & Roll isn’t about being original. It’s about making it your own. Which is precisely what the La’s do throughout this nostalgic masterpiece.

The acoustic guitar driven riff of ‘Son Of A Gun’ is none too far removed from the Kinks’, ‘All The Day And All Of The Night’. While Mavers’ vocals and playing might be informed by what came before, he puts his own unique stamp on it all. Taking that which is classic and making it refreshingly original.  

‘I Can’t Sleep’ has all the hooks and intensity one could ask for. The kind of thing you could stay up all night blasting. ‘Timeless Melody’ is just that. “Even the words they fail me,” Mavers sings. As funky as it is, ‘Liberty Ship’ is the album’s weakest moment for me. But the minute ‘There She Goes Again’ hits my ears, all that’s just petty grumbling. One listen and you can’t help but fall head over heels. There’s a reason why it was a hit. Perfection.

‘Doldrum’ is the kind of tune Eric Burdon and the Animals would have slain in their heyday. And while the doldrums may be a bummer, they’ve never sounded this good. Now, if you’re looking for ‘A Way Out’ then there’s this delirious, fittingly entitled number to provide an escape route. And if the La’s owe too much to the likes of the Yardbirds, ‘I.O.U.’ is the payback. As infectious as it gets. Elsewhere, ‘Freedom Song’ has the kind of sarcastic theatricality found in a Brecht & Weill’s Three Penny Opera. Hinting at a versatility that no doubt would have come to a fore had there been any subsequent releases. As for ‘Failure’, it’s the darkest cut on the album. A tough love rocker that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go.

Throughout, Mavers and the boys keep it short and sweet. By contrast, ‘Looking Glass’ is downright epic. Despite kicking off with a lone acoustic guitar, it builds and swells to become the album’s most soaring number. “Tell me where I’m going, tell me where I’m bound, tear the pages open, turn the world around.” What a way to close an album.

One can easily accuse the La’s of being revisionist but then, what were the Jam about? Rock & Roll is about carrying the torch. If the La’s were bringing it back to basics, there’s no crime in that. If there is, then lock up the Stones and Beatles. And as difficult and withdrawn as Mavers can be, he did, in fact, create a timeless classic here. The kind of record Oasis, Pulp, Blur, and the Libertines were all chasing after in their own way. Well, here’s that elusive butterfly. Sadly, they don’t last very long and after twenty-eight years of hibernation who can say if Mavers will ever emerge from his cocoon. With a feat like this under his wing, why bother?

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