I’m in a quandary. Having criticised the recent albums by Hinds and Golden Teacher for a lack of ambition, here comes an LP that over reaches. I can’t quite make up my mind whether the admirable vaunting bravado pulls it through.
This is Luh’s debut record. LUH (which stands for Lost Under Heaven) is Ellery Roberts and Ebony Horn. For the past few years (unbeknownst to me) they’ve been releasing art, photography, manifestos and music from their Amsterdam base and finally there is some physical music.
This is seriously turned up to eleven sounding like 80s arena rock, big and booming. Roberts has a gruff voice that renders the lyrics almost indecipherable. Imagine Brian Johnson of AC/DC fronting stadium era Simple Minds. This is stuffed full of drama but it gets a little wearing. You may recognise Roberts from WU LYF. The band were on the brink of breaking through a few years ago. From Manchester, with pseudonyms and performing under a cloak of anonymity, they released their only album in 2011. It got rave reviews but they were a tough sell. Roberts has said that he didn’t break up the band to go solo but to break a “negative cycle”.
Luh are not an easier proposition. Horn’s voice provides a counterpoint to Roberts. They are in a relationship and the accompanying Rough Trade magazine illustrates just how intensely that they are in love with each other. “Future Blues” indeed provides a respite after the barrage of the first few songs.
From a recent NME interview, Roberts commented:
“When we first met, we were both quite out of love with our existence and our worlds we were in. A lot of our early relationship was rejecting and escaping what was going on. And the realisation being that you are part of it, you are complicit in it and, through your actions, you put out positivity.”
The band’s Facebook page helps set out their manifesto. In an era when few bands are politicised, their convictions are too be welcomed. In another recent feature to promote the band in America, they said that there agenda was:
“To sustain a self-sufficient culture and be able to reject the status quo, because we’ve got a more fulfilling thing going on away from it.”
The album itself is a physical smorgasbord. With a printed outer sleeve in PVC, containing art prints and black and white vinyl, it must have cost their label, Mute, a fortune to produce.
They have started playing live and judging by the clip below are as intense experience on live as they are on record. This is “Lament” which is the penultimate track on the album. It quotes the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”. Like I said, they aren’t the easiest of propositions.
However in the weeks since I got the album, I don’t find myself drawn back to it. They offer up the band Fugazi as a model. The purity of Ian MacKaye’s straight edge clearly appeals to them. Combining this with their “big music”, I can see as a intoxicating mix for those who are perhaps a little more youthful than me. I played a clip to my friend Mark who suggested that it was the kind of thing that he may have cared intensively about as a teenager but now sounds overwrought. I think he’s right.
The LP eases its way out, in relative terms, with the acoustic “The Great Longing”. As I say, I’ve played it through half a dozen times and can’t make up my mind. Maybe it is a slow burner and after the earlier 2016 Rough Trade Albums Of The Month, that would be no bad thing.
This sounds like an very good album for someone else, just not me.