August 18, 2010

The Darling Buds Were Criminally Underrated

Out of the forerunner to Twee, known as c86, came a slew of bands that built the launching pad for the Britpop scene of the 90s. Among those earliest Britpop sounding groups were the Primitives, the Wonder Stuff, Soup Dragons and The Darling Buds. All had elements of new wave power pop backed by fuzzy guitars and the beginnings of the madchester psychadelic sound later perfected by Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and the ever mod friendly Charlatans.

Maybe it was just the era in which they came together, or maybe it was a combination of differing personal styles, but whatever it was The Darling Bud's managed to craft an eclectic blend of sounds that ultimately paid off in later groups like Elastica and Supergrass. The band could easily go from sounding like Fuzzbox, to dropping lyrical references to the Buzzcocks in the midst of a Damned like guitar riff, and then bounce on to a sort of soulful and haunting shoegaze psychadelia.

The Darling Buds earliest sound was pure janglepop that had a sort of Blondie meets the Ramones quality underlying it all.  There was a more overt poppiness than that might signal, the sort that softened their sound, partly in thanks to the very poppy yet stunningly suave vocals of the vampishly goregous Andrea Lewis (who at times seemed more Debbie Harry than Debbie Harry).

The Darling Buds highwater mark came with their debut album Pop Said which climbed into the top 30 of the UK charts, bolstered primarily by the video of the almost bubblegummish pop hit "Burst" which went into heavy rotation on MTV. Not to take anything away from "Burst" which was a fun bit of music, but the rest of the album was far superior in almost everyway. Sadly, tracks like "Spin" and "Shame On You" and the spiky "Mary's Got To Go" boasted catchy hooks that should have caught on but went largely unnoticed as the band released other weaker singles.

After Pop Said the band oddly released an album that compiled earlier songs -- including some from Pop Said -- before finally releasing all new material the very same year. That second record, Crawdaddy, had a more polished producution and produced one fine single, "Crystal Clear". By their third and final album, Erotica in 1992, the band's sound had matured into a rather cliche, bland, 90s alternative sound and lacked the sense of fun and joy that had punctuated their earlier work.

The mid-90s came and ushered in a slew of bands that picked up where Pop Said had left off and took us all on a nice Britpop ride, alas without The Darling Buds who broke up somewhere around 1993.

The Darling Buds -- Mary's Got To Go

The Darling Buds -- Valentine

The Darling Buds -- Burst