Levitation’s time was brief, beautiful and ended in acrimony, with its front man announcing his departure live on stage.
Back in 1992 the band, formed by former House of Love man Terry Bickers just two years earlier, was seemingly destined for a long and fruitful career. Their blend of psychedelic rock, with a keen focus on melody, was beautifully presented on their debut release Need for Not.
But ,with its follow up album Meanwhile Gardens completed and their live following growing, Bickers announced he was leaving. What’s more he made the announcement on stage at Tufnell Park Dome in North London in May 1993 during one of the band’s gigs. A disillusionment with the music was a key factor at the time, although later depression was cited as a major reason.
The band carried on for a brief time, drafting in Steve Ludwin from Some Have Fins to replace Bickers. They also remixed Bickers out of Meanwhile Gardens, which only managed an Australian release. But without Bickers, who at the time was very well respected among alternative and indie music fans for his time in House of Love, their time was over.
Three of the remaining members, guitarist Christian Hayes, drummer David Francolini and bassist Laurence O’Keefe regrouped in 1996, minus keyboardist Robert White, as Dark Star. But that too was a short lived project.
All this time the original Meanwhile Gardens was still sitting on a shelf. An aborted attempt to release it in 2007 through their label Rough Trade came to nothing after it went bust and Beggars Banguet who snapped it up were not keen on revisiting the band’s place in 1990s UK music.
Now for the first time the album is to get its long awaited release in its original form.
So all these years on how does it sound? In short, bigger and bolder than their original but still with an edge. The guitars are a huge factor, dated in places with their chorus effect, but wonderfully laid out, especially on the album’s centrepiece epic Even When Your Eyes Are Open.
Gardens Overflowing is another of many highlights with the era’s wall of distortion, with melody weaving around it, in full flow. There are elements of other bands of the era, Ride and Swervedriver in particular as well as Julian Cope’s increasingly experimental solo work, but with much more of a psychedelic focus.
Evergreen perhaps hints of an emerging sound, something more like a shoe gaze Talk Talk, which could have been a successful direction, especially in America.
Listening to it now it seems odd that Bickers felt this was the work of a band that had lost its way. It seems very focused, with nods to their debut album and hints of the future. A perfect second album. But if depression was at play then it is perhaps understandable that Bickers couldn’t see the positives of the band at the time.
So who will be interested? For starters us lot who were big fans of Levitation in their brief heyday. But we think this should also appeal to a younger audience too, keen to earn hipster points for knowing about one of the 1990s alternative UK music scene’s lesser known, but arguably better acts.
by Joe Lepper
Meanwhile Gardens is released on October 23rd by Flashback Records.