May 15, 2017 The Lightning Seeds – Sense 25 Years Later
The Lightning Seeds was a late arrival in what developed as the genre New Wave. Their beginnings may be traced back to the early ’70s, with hallmark bands such as Sparks (“Fa La Fa Lee”), Roxy Music (“Virginia Plain”), Kraftwerk (“Airwaves”), and Split Enz (“Stranger than Fiction”); and which commercially peaked in the decade that followed thereafter with the rise of Duran Duran (“Girls on Film”), A Flock of Seagulls (“Telecommunication”), Simple Minds (“Life in a Day”), and Depeche Mode (“Just Can’t Get Enough”).
Despite that, because of its crystal-clear sonic aesthetics that is a mélange of Baroque Pop, New Romantic, Twee, and Synthpop, the English group immediately and permanently nestled itself in the heart of the beloved genre. After all, the parentage of The Lightning Seeds is royal. It was the ultimate brainchild of Singer/Songwriter/Producer Ian Broudie, whose lineage is deeply rooted in Liverpool’s Alternative music scene, having been a part of the legendary collective Big in Japan, which included also future luminaries Holly Johnson (eventually of Frankie Goes to Hollywood), Budgie (of Siouxsie & the Banshees), and David Balfe (The Teardrop Explodes). Two more of Broudie’s significant outfits originated in the early ’80s – Original Mirrors and Care, the latter being the collaborative duo that he formed with The Wild Swans’ Paul Simpson – until he finally settled with The Lightning Seeds as the vehicle of his musical compositions.
Broudie formed The Lightning Seeds in 1989 in Liverpool, England. Initially his solo effort, the moniker developed into a proper band in the mid-’90s. To date, The Lightning Seeds has six studio albums to its credit, from 1990’s Cloudcuckooland to 2009’s Four Winds, spawning a string of successful singles such as “Pure,” “All I Want,” “The Life of Riley,” “Marvellous,” “Sugar Coated Iceberg,” “Sweetest Soul Sensations,” “Don’t Walk On By,” and the massive “Three Lions” (originally released in 1996) which eventually became one of the most beloved official anthems of the English football team.
Broudie and his current fellow seeds -Martyn Campbell (bass, backing vocals), Riley Broudie (rhythm guitar), Abi Harding (saxophone, keyboards, backing vocals), and Jim Sharrock (drums) – are yet to unleash a new album. So, for the meantime, the moment is appropriate to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the band’s second album.
Released on April 6, 1992, Sense simply continued the New Wave and Pop sensibilities of Broudie which was instantly apparent in its predecessor, Cloudcuckooland. It opened with the funky and glittery Disco sense of the title track, which further placed the music of The Lightning Seeds in the same polished sonic field occupied by the likes of ABC (“The Look of Love”), In Parallel (“Reduced to Tears”), and Frazier Chorus (“Typical!”). This was followed by the cascading, shiny Pop of Broudie’s homage to his son, “The Life of Riley.” The flowing smoothness seeped into the ensuing “Blowing Bubbles” – certainly a Guitar Pop heaven, bubbling with reverberating effervescence of guitar strums and jangles. With “A Cool Place,” Broudie’s ’60s Doo-Wop influence shone through, whereas “Where Flowers Fade” had dashes of ’70s cinematic soundtrack music and piano-oriented freeform Jazz.
The mirror ball sparked once again, and this time even brighter, with the dance-floor favorite “A Small Slice of Heaven.” Then there was the orchestral Pop midtempo “Tingle Tangle,” which may be regarded as one of the album’s highlights, for it carved what became The Lightning Seeds’ trademark sound – Baroque Pop arrangement, Twee Pop vocal styling, and bittersweet lyrical themes. The following Psychedelic-tinged track, “Happy,” sounded like a remnant of Broudie’s contributions to The Wild Swans’ similarly ’60s Psychedelic Folk Rock–inspired Spaceflower. The second-to-the-last song, “Marooned” is another slice of jangly and shimmering Guitar Pop, with a twist of Tango and Salsa in a haze of synthesizer wash and a fanfare of horn melodies. Finally, Sense closes aptly with the slow tick-tock of the musicbox-sounding ballad “Thinking Up, Looking Down” – a perfect lullaby for sending Riley to dreamland. Now, the listener is ready to move on to where the streets have ringing names. After all, Riley is already an adult; in fact, himself a present member of The Lightning Seeds, now playing music beside his Pop.
Listening to Sense makes perfect sense while waiting for whatever Broudie and the rest of The Lightning Seeds are currently sowing. After all, nearly a decade has passed since the last oeuvre. The season should be ripe enough for a new one. May the four winds blow something jolly and marvelous sometime soon. Does it really make sense? Yes, of course, it makes perfect sense. Twenty-five years of Sense! Dig into that for the meantime.