Album Reviews

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry: Albums And Singles 1982-1989 (Cherry Red)

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry
Albums And Singles 1982-1989
Cherry Red

It’s a truism that every musical genre is composed of levels of different bands of varying quality and originality. The thrones of the greats are cemented on the backs and shoulders of bands thriving off of the genre’s leaders. The deeper you delve into the genre, quality and originality is inversely proportional to the number of bands you find. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every artist or band that might be second-tier is inferior; often, many an excellent record is based upon interpreting the more popular sound or style.

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, formed in 1981, fall into the second tier of bands operating of the post-punk/Goth scene–though they never really were a Goth band–remaining a cult favorite while never quite being considered a definitive band of the era. When one considers Red Lorry Yellow Lorry: Albums and Singles 1982-1989, a new box set that compiles almost all of the recordings by the Lorries, it’s easy to understand why; Chris Reed is a deep-throated vocalist who recalls Peter Murphy and Ian Curtis fronting a band that definitely borrows from The Cure/Joy Division/Bauhaus melody book. Interestingly enough, what sets them apart from those bands is their lack of fashion-mindedness. They aren’t gimmicky in appearance, focusing instead on the music–a smart aesthetic choice that may have undermined them.

Yet it’s a bit unfair to dismiss Red Lorry Yellow Lorry based upon those groups. This box set’s strength is to highlight a quietly obvious fact: the Lorries were never much of an album band. Unlike many of their peers (with the exception being The Cure), Red Lorry Yellow Lorry were very much a singles band, a format they took to quite quickly, as they released six singles before releasing an album. Debut single “Beating My Head,” released in 1982, is a pounding, powerful introduction to the world, with lead singer Chris Reed’s deep, haunting voice fitting nicely with the drum-heavy melody. Each succeeding single, “Take It All,” “He’s Read,” “Monkey Eyes,”— all of them are succinct blasts of post-punk chill, in and out in a hurry, leaving the listener wanting to get up and reset the arm at the beginning of the single.
Perhaps, then, it’s understandable why Talk About The Weather—good as is, mind you—feels a bit heavy. 1986’s Paint Your Wagon is a bit better; there’s not as much of a sonic similarity between the tracks, and songs like “Last Train” and “Save My Soul” hold their own. But, again, the singles are ace, most notably 1985’s “Chance,” a fast paced rocker with a powerful industrial beat, is one of the band’s best songs, as is “Hold You Down,” wherein a darker blues element starts to come into play, and one can’t help but think of Nick Cave on numbers “Hang Man” and “Running Fever.”

For their next album, 1987’s Nothing Wrong, the band signed on to Situation Two, which benefitted the group as it had worldwide distribution, and the album itself was released on an American major label, RCA. Though the step up might not have helped the band in the long run, it did help signal that the band was ready for a wider audience, and with the worldwide mainstream success of the bands they were so often compared to, it didn’t seem unrealistic to expect the same with Nothing Wrong. It’s a great album, a bit more polished here and there, with songs like “World Around.” “Only Dreaming,” and the title track sounding not unlike future classic Lorries hits. Even though the album wasn’t an international success, it did, however, garner excellent sales and reviews in their homeland.

Nothing Wrong’s success pushed the group to put polish to theirs sound on Blow, their fourth album, which appeared in 1989. Unfortunately, while the band’s sound is enhanced and cleaner than their previous records, something was lost. Lead single “Temptation” was a fine song, with the band’s trademark darkness and Chris Reed’s potent singing providing a nice combination. “In A World” and “Too Many Colors” are poppy and upbeat, while “Heaven” is a ballad that’s buried under some clunky production, but one that turns into something quite beautiful in the acoustic b-side version. It was a valiant attempt, but the hard work and extra expense didn’t help the record; it performed poorly, and the frustrations of not breaking through soon led to Beggars dropping the band, and the group soon split. Reed would quickly reform the band, releasing a fifth album with a completely new lineup, self-releasing the band’s swan-song, 1991’s dreadful Blasting Off. After its release, Reed retired the moniker; in recent years, various live reunions and a handful of new songs have appeared, but no all-out reunion has yet to take place.

But that’s okay, really; Red Lorry Yellow Lorry is a band that perhaps doesn’t need to reunite. Listening to the music in this comprehensive box set, nostalgia is served; their music was fantastic, and perhaps there’s nothing left that the band need to say—the records speak for themselves.

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