Released October 1990
Striving for excellence, setting unattainable standards and being over-critical of ones own work has given us classic albums engraved in music history from detail-obsessed artists such as John Lennon, Michael Jackson or Kanye West. But Perfectionism is a double-edged sword; it can be as crippling as it can be prolific; just ask Lee Mavers, frontman of mythical Liverpudlian band The La’s.
After working with over six different producers including John Porter (The Smiths), John Leckie (The Stone Roses) and Mike Hedges (U2), Mavers was still unsatisfied with the tapes, claiming that none of them captured the band’s true sound. Rumour has it that Mavers refused to use a vintage mixing desk while recording their eponymous debut album, because it didn’t have “original Sixties dust on it”. Frustrated with the frontman’s fastidiousness, their record label released a version of the album in 1990, mixed by Steve Lillywhite (U2, The Killers) against the wishes of the band. Mavers’ perfectionism meant that the band’s debut album would be their only offering; with band members tired of playing the same set of songs for over five years, The La’s were no more by 1991.
Despite Mavers claiming he “hated” it, the album was welcomed with universal acclaim. It opens with ‘Son of a Gun’; an acoustic stomp laden with the frontman’s instantly recognisable Scouse snarl, with a twist of falsetto harmonies. It immediately gives us a taste of what is to follow; a band at ease fitting ludicrously catchy melodies over jangly guitars and a powerful rhythm section. ‘Timeless Melody’, “Feelin’’ and ‘I.O.U’ all have hooks and melodies that come back to haunt you hours after you have put the record away. ‘There She Goes’ is understandably their best-known song; used in countless films, TV-shows and adverts down the years, it is arguably one of the greatest songs produced by any band from Liverpool.
However, it is the album-closer, ‘Looking Glass’ that showcases The La’s at their finest. A slow-burning number that opens with Mavers’ melancholic vocals over a single acoustic guitar, it blossoms into magical finale of noise that brings this classic album to a fitting end.
It is hardly a stretch to suggest that Lee Mavers squandered his unquestionable talent. There have been several whispers of a second album down the years; maybe one day he’ll even release his own ‘perfect’ version of the band’s debut.