I was rooting around in my cd collection looking for a tune I couldn't find today and there tucked away in a quite corner was The Boo Radleys and Giant Steps. The Boo Radleys first appeared during the late 80s and were lumped in with the shoegazers; understandably given their My Bloody Valentine derived wall of sound. But by 1993 they had moved on from that and produced one of the best albums of the 90s in the shape of Giant Steps.
Cice and Martin Carr were best friends from school. Most people growing up had that one big friend; the partner in crime, the one you spent all your time with listening to records, watching films, playing computer games, hanging out on street corners. Mine was covered in some detail in an earlier post of mine. Giant Steps is the sound of those best friends let loose in the studio, taking all the things they listened to growing up and throwing them at the wall, seeing what stuck. It was ambitious, messy and brilliant.
A title lifted from a John Coltrane album; sounds from all over the musical spectrum: Beatles melodies, dub rhythms, massive molten guitar sounds, New Order bass lines, brass and woodwinds, strings. It's trippy and nostalgic, full of amazing soundscapes, wistful melodies, aggressive guitars. The shifts in styles aren't simply song to song, sometimes songs change style from verse to chorus, quiet acoustic reverie giving way to feedback; indie guitar pop suddenly turning into big Bitches Brew brass workouts. At one point a cello emerges from a wall of noise to play a reggae bassline. My favourite Wish I Was Skinny is a hymn to youthful insecurity, a New Order jangle that adds quiet Bacharach brass to the synth riffs.
It all sounded so familiar and yet so original all at once. And in the middle of 1993 it was fairly unique. Britpop was just around the corner and the Boos would gain some commercial success out of that. But at this point people were still knee deep in grunge for the most part. The only other bands working in a similar way at this point were Blur and Suede. But neither had yet shown quite the breadth of vision this album has. The Boos were never quite as inspired after this, which is a shame. But this album sounds like the result of a lifetime of music. Most bands only have one of these in them. Go out and find this one for yourself. It's well worth the time.
In the meantime however some tunes from Giant Steps:
Wish I Was Skinny
Barney (...And Me)
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