The Boo Radleys – Giant Steps, Deluxe Edition
There are albums, there are great albums…
…and then there’s Giant Steps.
I can’t imagine there are too many people who rate the Boos as their absolute favourite band. To me they were an enigma. I wasn’t even sure there was a ‘Best of’ album but a little searching reveals that there are indeed two. Don’t bother with either. They cannot be remotely accurate. Giant Steps was and is the ‘best’ of The Boo Radleys , an incredible work of genius that requires much more than mere hindsight to fully appreciate.
No you had to be there, really there when Giant Steps landed or to be more accurate when promotional single, ‘Lazarus’ was unleashed. One minute they had been arsing around with FX pedals and the next they had somehow produced this kaleidoscopic, mind-expanding re-imagination of Sixties psychedelia. Of course, plenty of bands have gone back to The Beatles and Beach Boys for inspiration. There’s nothing new there. Yet the Boo Radleys went much further than merely re-treading the past. Giant Steps was no pastiche or homage. It was totally new. We might say it was their White Album , only splicing the psychedelia with Wilson-esque harmonies, dub reverb and even some Iberian brass. It was staggering, a monumental shift for a band that’d hitherto been seen clinging to the disappearing coattails of shoegazing.
The Boo Radleys had arrived late to the ‘gazing party but they foxed everyone by leaving early. They were little more than a footnote in every article of that era – “The Boo Radleys and Pale Saints” two bands seemingly joined at the hip. ‘Lazarus’ changed that, changed everything. It was the moment The Boos rose above Pale Saints or anyone else you care to mention and shone like a beacon. And they knew it. Must have known it. To name the record Giant Steps smacks of self-awareness, the name itself coming from Coltrane , a jazz great, but utilised here to signify the progress the band knew they were making. If Radiohead had gone straight from Pablo Honey to OK Computer it gives you some idea of the creative explosion. Some idea. I still say it doesn’t go far enough. Giant Steps is better than OK Computer and Lazarus urinates over Paranoid Android. (from a great height)
A critics album then? Well, yes and no. Certainly we could write a thesis on any number of tracks here. ‘Take The Time Around’, ‘Rodney King’, ‘Butterfly McQueen’ or the Lennon-dripped, ‘Thinking Of Ways’…the breadth and scope of the ideas on display were exhilarating. But Giant Steps was fun. It was also the moment Martin Carr emerged as a songwriter of superb skill. The jazzy segues; static-wrapped vocals and white noise on Giant Steps would always be infused by wonderful pop melodies. I’m not sure if the ‘Barney’ in question was Bernard Sumner but New Order would’ve killed for the sensational ‘Barney (…and me)’ while ‘Wish I was Skinny’ would have stood out in the era of C86, jangle- pop that preceded shoegazing.
And now we have Cherry Red to thank for this deluxe edition. The album comes, re-mastered in a neat, triple gatefold digipac, with new sleeve notes and two additional discs of associated b-sides and EP tracks. The extras offer something for everyone from the pastoral elegance of ‘Vegas’ to the sheer silliness of ‘Zoom’. ‘Lazy Day’ and ‘Feels Like Tomorrow’ were probably more indicative of the Boos earlier work while ‘Boo Forever’ also goes back to shoegaze, albeit beautifully. I expected to love the Lazarus mixes, and did, but the nicest surprise has to be the Saint Etienne remix of ‘Rodney King’. Utterly gorgeous, it serves as a timely reminder of how good the London act could be at the top of their game.
This edition allows you to experience for yourself the aforementioned progress in their creativity. Try listening to ‘Does This Hurt?’ (a great track, arguably their best pre-Giant Steps) and then ‘Lazarus’. Talk about a quantum leap! A loving re-issue then, befitting one of the genuine albums of the nineties.
The Boo Radleys would go on to have hits, disappoint, then get excellent again before quitting in the aftermath of their final (second best) album, Kingsize. To the casual observer they might have appeared as also-rans. But for one brief, brilliant moment, they were so far ahead of their contemporaries that they were coming around to lap them. Giant Steps remains an unimpeachable legacy, a genuine modern masterpiece in times when the word is overused and abused. For 64 minutes in 1993 The Boo Radleys revolutionised The Beatles and out Smiled The Beach Boys. For 64 minutes they were the greatest band on the planet.
~Also available: Wake Up! – Deluxe Edition.~