1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Musicians refer to a “perfect sound.” It's amazing how many artists claim to achieve that perfect sound when they make a recording. The likelihood of all these artists accomplishing the exact sound that they go to bed dreaming about is extremely low. The moral: most musicians have actually come to appreciate the inevitable change of ideas that the recording process brings.
This leads us to people like The La’s vocalist and guitarist Lee Mavers. Mavers was an idealist to the point of obsession, and nearly to the point of madness. The band had existed for a while, but Mavers cycled through producers for more than four years, claiming that none could meet his expectations. The label, tired of the delay, assigned Steve Lillywhite to the task and told the band that his version would be released. As a result, the band disowned the record and Mavers, who referred to the mainstream release as “the worst, it’s a pile of shit,” became a recluse, never releasing another record and avoiding the media at all costs.
There is something to be admired in Mavers’ idealism, but there is even more to be annoyed with. It would be more understandable if a classical musician fretted because he could not get every one of his hundred musicians to play to his exact specifications. But the music of The La’s is not the stuff of masterful production.
The band sounds like a modern variant of a skiffle or Merseybeat , two genres of English rock n’ roll that were popular at the onset of rock’s popularity. Like the early days of The Beatles, Merseybeat was roughly recorded, because the technology for a cleaner version simply wasn’t available. The La’s mimic this approach, a return to roots that bands like Oasis would come to respect. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a retrospective approach, but at the same time, there is only so much “perfection” that this genre can take.
The tracks on the band’s only album are good for the most part. Nothing is as interesting as its premier single, “There She Goes,” but the other tracks are certainly good impressions of the genres they seek to emulate. The simple riffs are undeniably Merseybeat, and the homemade nature of its extracurricular percussion lends to the feeling of skiffle, a genre renowned for its homemade instruments. The only real stinker is the seven-minute "Lookin’ Glass,” which contrasts the normal, under-three minute songs.
“The La’s” isn’t perfect, but then again, nothing is. Sorry Lee.
INTERESTING FACT: Mavers was awfully inefficient in terms of the number of band members he went through to make one album. The final total: 24.