You’ve read about Boo Radley.
But have you read about The Boo Radleys?
You have no need to fear them, unless you don’t like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Clash. (And Suede, Dinosaur Jr., The Flaming Lips, Spiritualized and …)
The Boo Radleys were British. They were bold. They were beautiful. They were Beatlesque in all the right ways.
But, there is a good chance you’ve never heard of them (unless you own the “So I Married an Axe Murderer” soundtrack and heard their cover of “There She Goes”).
BECAUSE THEY ARE THE MOST OVERLOOKED BAND OF THE 1990s.
Yeah, I put that in caps just so you know that’s an official title for The Boo Radleys bestowed by the arbiter of such matters. (Um, that’s me.)
It’s a fact that has been getting me down for many years, but the feeling resurfaced in the last week as I’ve immersed myself in the Boo Radleys’ catalog.
It’s so rich and warm. The band members are like good friends I’ve never met.
That’s why I want you to meet them, too.
The Boo Radleys released several things in the early 90s, but they really exploded as a talent to be reckoned with on 1993’s “Giant Steps,” which several British music magazines placed among their top albums of the year.
I remember getting “Giant Steps” upon its release in the U.S. almost exactly 20 years ago. It’s clear from the opening track that The Boo Radleys are on to something:
“Giant Steps” goes from onslaughts of noise to pop gems like “Barney (and Me …):
One of my favorite tracks is “The White Noise Revisited” (which name drops The Beatles):
In 1995, with Britpop in full swing, The Boo Radleys did their own version of pop. “Wake Up, Boo” with its horns and exuberance was a clarion call to raise any heart out of the doldrums.
But it wasn’t all wake up calls. It also had the heartfelt and consoling words of “Joel.”
“Wake Up, Boo!” was the band’s most commercially successful album, but they didn’t continue in the poppy vein that won them chart positions. Instead, they came out with “C’mon Kids” in 1996 (1997 in the U.S.), which was a return to the experimentalism of “Giant Steps.” It won critical praise but confused many of the fans converted by the more accessible sounds of “Wake Up, Boo!”
“New Brighton Promenade” is one of many highlights:
And if you need an epic, you better “Ride the Tiger.” (By the way, he is saying, “All that I want is to find some peace AT LAST.” I thought he was saying something else for many, many years.)
The straw that broke Boo’s back was “Kingsize,” another album that I loved immensely. The band wasn’t feeling the magic any more by 1999 and broke up after making the album in 1998.
The title track was due to have been released as a second single, but the band decided to split up. Sice later told Time Out magazine: “It was such a relief when Martin phoned me and said he didn’t want to make any more records. We’d been wanting it to stop for quite a long time, but I couldn’t do it – I didn’t want to leave. I wanted the band to end and only Martin could have done that. There was always the fear if I left, that they would just get another singer in and I didn’t want that. Never mind not having the heart to tour – I barely had the heart to go down to the studio while we were making Kingsize.”
I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to the title track of the album so much that I’ve sang it in my sleep. “Loneliness makes a man possessed …”
And then you have “Monuments to a Dead Century”:
The band members went on to other projects, and The Boo Radleys have not reunited like some of their peers — Suede and Blur, for example. We can only imagine what they would have gone on to achieve together.
If you’ve listened to the above tracks, you’ve gathered that The Boo Radleys had a very melodic side that they liked to pair with dissonance, dub and whatever else they could conjure up in the studio. I’m hard pressed to think of any other band who did what they did so consistently and successfully and yet was hardly recognized for it. As much as I love a band like Olivia Tremor Control, they did not achieve the heights of musical genius as often as The Boo Radleys (and I do really love Olivia Tremor Control, OTC fans!).
I hope you’ll join me in chanting, “Boo forever!”
The Boo Radleys were the most overlooked and under appreciated band of the 1990s. They deserve better. It starts here.
On that note, I’ll leave you with what may be my favorite Boo Radleys track. For me, it captures feelings of excitement, contentment and joy. The song is “Almost Nearly There.”