June 28, 2019

Trip Shakespeare - Lulu (1991)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop Rock
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© 1991 A&M Records
AllMusic Review by Gregory McIntosh
Trip Shakespeare unfortunately went unnoticed in their time and more unfortunately have remained in obscurity, but they were lucky enough to record in a time when major labels took greater chances with music and would more often indulge ambitious projects. Lulu is the group's defining set, a result of inspired and talented musicians with an expense account to afford their aspirations and enough sense to exploit it appropriately. Why then did this record go through the ringer almost completely unnoticed and why did the reviews the album received tend to be overly critical? Part of the answer has to do with the timing of its release. 1991 was the great embrasure of the grunge movement when Nirvana's Nevermind set the decade-long trend for the popular music charts. The release of a melodically complex and romantic pop masterpiece with lush vocals was entertained by neither the critics nor the masses, and no doubt A&M had lost much of the majesty they found in Trip Shakespeare when they were signed two years previous, which is a shame since Shakespeare's leader, Matt Wilson, was at the height of his poetic optimism and the melodic hooks he wrote with his brother Dan Wilson are complex, plentiful, and on par with the classics of pop music's innovation. John Munson's bass playing is superb throughout, most notably in "Today You Move," where his delicious and seductive work is given the spotlight of a tender solo complete with a second harmony bass track. Whether percussive, sweet, subtle, or upfront, Munson's interplay with drummer Elaine Harris is a potent example of a confident and capable rhythm section propelled by Harris' unique and bouncy drumming, the result of her abnormal technique of standing behind the drum kit and playing the bass drum with sticks instead of a foot pedal. She keeps rooted the endearing, snakey tendrils of music Matt and Dan Wilson generously dish out, but in fact, every player is an astute melodic force here and all have a keen sense of dynamic, giving this record, as absolutely full of ornamentation as it is, quite a bit of breathing space in the necessary parts. While the vocal prowess of the group had come across splendidly on Across the Universe, here the band is unreal. Obviously proud of their vocal abilities, the album opens with an a cappella introduction, all of 17 seconds in length, equal to anything the Beach Boys pulled off, if not more impressive on account of the passionate deliverance. It's a bold introduction; opening with the line "None of the regular rules were true," but Trip Shakespeare knew they had an amazing product and they were ready to show it to the world, and this is only the introduction -- the harmonies abound throughout the entire album with stunning proficiency. It is a rare instance in the music industry, major label or otherwise, to hear an album created by a group so obviously enchanted and inspired by each other, an album so loved and so toiled over that its contents continue to give indefinitely, an album so steeped in worshiping beauty that no amount of criticism -- positive or negative -- can mangle or tarnish its crystalline brilliance. A short while after Lulu came out, Trip Shakespeare were dropped by A&M and subsequently broke up, no doubt a declaration that they had done all they could to transcend the "regular rules."

tags: trip shakespeare, lulu, 1991, flac,

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