January 29, 2020 The Lightning Seeds – Cloudcuckooland Turns 30
Even before starting this proper band of his, Ian Broudie—the musical genius behind The Lightning Seeds—was already a luminary in the English Alternative music scene. Born on August 4, 1958, in Liverpool, England, Broudie was a member of the short-lived but influential groups Big in Japan (“Suicide a Go Go”) and Original Mirrors (“Dancing with the Rebels”) and the duo Care (“Flaming Sword”). Afterwards, he went on to produce records by bands that included Echo & the Bunnymen (Crocodiles), The Danse Society (Heaven Is Waiting), The Pale Fountains (…From Across the Kitchen Table), Wall of Voodoo (Seven Days in Sammystown), The Colourfield (The Colour Field), The Three o’Clock (Ever After), and The Icicle Works (If You Want to Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song).
Then in 1989, Broudie finally embarked on a musical project of his own, called The Lightning Seeds, which eventually became the permanent vehicle of his songwriting. He formed a proper band to represent The Lightning Seeds especially during live performances; but in the beginning, it was only him at the recording studio, with a few guest artists whom included Ian McNabb of The Icicle Works (“Up Here in the North of England”), Andy McCluskey of O.M.D. (“Enola Gay”), and Henry Priestman of Yachts (“Freedom [Is a Heady Wine]”), It’s Immaterial (“A Gigantic Raft [In the Philippines]”), and The Christians (“Forgotten Town”).
To date, The Lightning Seeds has six studio albums—from the 1990 debut record, Cloudcuckooland, to 2009’s swan opus, Four Winds. The music of The Lightning Seeds is best characterized by the songs’ ornate Synthpop/New Romantic styling and Broudie’s distinctive silky voice. And in commemoration of the first album’s 30th anniversary, here is a track-by-track reassessment of its delicate and pristine beauty.
Released on January 29, 1990, on Ghetto Records, Cloudcuckooland was an antidote to the brewing Alternative Rock / Grunge of the then new decade. It opened with the bubbly Pop of “All I Want,” which Broudie co-wrote with the similarly silky-voiced Peter Coyle – the vocalist of the classic English New Romantic band The Lotus Eaters (“The First Picture of You”). The bright mood immediately turned gloomy with the heartrending sentiments of the piano-led, jazzy Baroque/Synthpop ballad “Bound in a Nutshell,” which exuded echoes of China Crisis (“Black Man Ray”), Frazier Chorus (“Dream Kitchen”), and The Blue Nile (“Tinseltown in the Rain”). This was then followed by what has become The Lightning Seeds’ anthemic single—the candy-cane sweet and marshmallow soft “Pure,” which is a concoction of synthesized flutes, horns, and other orchestral instruments of wonder.
Broudie turned sunny and bright again with the upbeat Post-Punk New Wave drive of “Sweet Dreams,” which he wrote with Richard Jobson, the vocalist of The Armoury Show (“Castles in Spain”) and Skids (“Into the Valley”). Still in hypercharged mode, “The Nearly Man” was a more exotic affair, incorporating accordion melodies and undulating rhythm that proved infectious. “Joy” then swayed next with its saccharine sensibilities and percussive, lullaby-esque temperament.
Cloudcuckooland continued with “Love Explosion”—aptly titled, for it burst with subtle Shoegaze guitars, icy keyboard lines, and Doo-Wop-inspired vocal harmonies. Another melodrama played next in the form of “Don’t Let Go” near the end of this maiden adventure. Then, the ingenious tunesmith launched into the rising “Control the Flame” – another collaborative track written with Coyle. Finally, Broudie wrapped up his firstborn as The Lightning Seeds with the ornate, lushly orchestrated “The Price.”
The beauty of every record that he has produced indicates that Broudie has really mastered the art of crafting Pop gems. This is the reason Cloudcuckooland and everything that came after may be regarded as sonic diamonds and emeralds. So, as Cloudcuckooland celebrates its 30 years, simply lie smiling in the dark and shoot sparkling stars around everyone’s heart and feel pure and simple one more time.