The La's: The La's (1990)

As I delved into various UK-based bands in the late 80s and early 90s, from the Stone Roses and the Charlatans to Lush and Ride, the La's seemed to be among the most promising and exciting.  While most of these bands seemed inspired by the psychedelic sounds of the late 60s, the La's sound traced back further, to the early British Invasion hits with their Anglicized take on American R&B, bands like the Kinks and the Who and the early Beatles.  They also had a knack for pithy, catchy pop tunes rather than more atmospheric grooves.

Alas, they turned out to be one of the great one-hit wonders, with one solid album and one timeless single before promptly disappearing again.  Even that album almost never happened, the band kicking around for half a decade trying to record different versions of it with multiple producers before it saw the light of day.  In the years since, singer/guitarist Lee Mavers has periodically reappeared with new iterations of the band before disappearing once again, while the record companies endlessly recycle the band's lone album in various packages, to the point where you can now hear multiple recordings of the same album and various radio sessions, though all of these packages still boil down to the same dozen or so tracks.

But what a great dozen or so tracks, right?  At this point everyone knows the big hit, "There She Goes," a brilliant, jangly pop track that is the sort of thing that, upon first listen, you immediately decide you will include on every mix tape and playlist you ever make, and expect to find it on the soundtrack of every single romantic comedy ever filmed, and that would be just fine.

But plenty of other songs, while never approaching the pure pop heights of the single, are perfectly compelling, a little more Paul Weller-esque bluesy croon than power pop -- the catchy riff-rock of "I Can't Sleep," the old-school skiffle of "Doledrum," the ragged R&B of "Failure."  While I do find it doesn't quite live up to the posthumous hype, its rough-edged bluesy backbone sets it apart from most of what was happening at the time. (As for which of the myriad versions is best, you can make your own call based on the deluxe version below; I think the final version they ultimately released is the most powerful and punchy, but there is much to be said for the more laid back, janglier iterations they held back.

Here's the video for "There She Goes":
Here's a live "Doledrum":