An exhibition focusing on The La’s opens at The Florrie this week. I heard about it and smiled. Then I was sent a preview of it and did something else: I listened. Properly… for the first time in a while. By Alan O’Hare.
I saw a picture today, oh boy. Lee Mavers, lead La and top blue, was sneering down the lens from behind an acoustic guitar and a microphone and everything else flashed before my eyes like a fever dream.
Buddy Holly. Eddie Cochran. The Beatles. The lost souls of Albert Dock. An eighties wind blowing sixties dust up Hardman Street to where once stood The Picket. The rattle of a Takamine and a cheap snare drum, both held down by duct tape and a boss bass line. Those harmonies… and those songs.
A lot of shite is talked about The La’s and the legend of Mavers. Hey, we’ve all done it (reread the previous paragraph). But, when it all comes down, all that remains standing tall and true are the tunes. And, my God, what fucking tunes they are. Is that one and only debut album perfect? Is it shite… but it stands alone in a field of one. Nothing sounds like that record. Nothing. I don’t care how many bootlegs you own, how many alternative mixes you’ve come across or how many radio sessions you’ve got on tape, ‘The La’s’ is a unique shot of wonder.
Hundreds of bands, from around here and elsewhere, have tried to emulate its rattle ‘n’ roll, but none have come close. From the inner-city blues holler of ‘Son Of A Gun’ through to the Liverpool psych of ‘Looking Glass’, Mavers’ flawed masterpiece is as odd and beautiful as they come… and it is odd, you know. Familiarity breeds contentment, but ‘The La’s’ should never be taken for granted.
‘Timeless Melody’, ‘I Can’t Sleep’ and ‘Doledrum’ remain impossibly exciting shooting stars of startling originality – and then there’s the singles. Where do you start with ‘There She Goes’? I’ll tell you where: go and listen to it again. Properly, I mean… find it, put away your prejudice and press play. Wondrous, isn’t it? Forget all the bollocks that has become pre-conceived wisdom about Oasis and The Beatles… that is as close as anyone’s ever come to toppling The Fabs’. Sparkling riff, intro chorus and other-worldly harmony singing all present and correct. ‘Way Out’, too, is a magical swirling ship that has waltzed its way into wherever a singer/songwriter is sat with their soul in their hands, while ‘Feelin” fizzes with the fire of a first shot across the bow.
John Power’s pipes remain vastly underrated on the record as well. Ever present throughout, his backing vocals and harmonies are peerless as he dives in and out of Mavers’ pearls with the musical instinct and intellect of a veteran. He was in his early twenties and so was Mavers. Imagine that. Thinking about it, therein probably reveals the truth of The La’s stand-alone album: it was made by a group of people who could only do it the once.
Ain’t that a shame.
The La’s 1987 Exhibition
September 15th – October 7th 2017
The Florrie, Mill Street, Liverpool
Pic, ‘The La’s, Limelight Club, 14th November 1987’, by Jake Summerton