Minneapolis’ Words on Music record label has a penchant for locating obscure and criminally overlooked CD’s from past eras in music history and re-releasing them to a new generation of music fans. Strong retrospective releases from For Against and Should have established Words on Music as a label with a great ear for lost talent. Well, the label has dipped again into the annals of independent music history to re-release yet another gem from the past. This time, it’s a beautifully remastered version of The Lucy Show’s 1986 full-length, Mania. Chock full of the kind of special features one has grown to expect from a re-release (in this case, seven additional tracks, a nice write up about the band in the liner notes, and a video, to boot), Mania captures a passionate band playing a timeless brand of pop rock that oozes with emotion while not forsaking melody and musicality.
Mania opens with the almost frantic “Land and the Life”, a 2 and a half minute romp through a catchy song with reverbed guitars and layered background vocal harmonies. The song’s melody is entirely distinct, while the band’s playing gives the song a sense of urgency that gives its depth. The Lucy Show was a band that could write solid pop hooks, and play them with an almost post-punk energy, slightly reminiscent of a more rocking New Order, or a less morose Joy Division. “View From The Outside” combines the energy of the band with another hook-laden song, featuring a tolling bell that leads into the gentler and more acoustic rock of “Sojourn’s End”. Featuring a forlorn harmonica and the soaring vocals of Mark Bandola, the song inevitably cranks up the intensity as the song builds, leading to a frantic and emotional end that ultimately fades away to the tolling bell. The lush and radio friendly, “Sad September” follows. With its gentle instrumentation and delicate lyrics, not to mention its strong melody (a hallmark of the songs on Mania), it’s safe to say that in a perfect world, this song should have thrust the band into an international spotlight. Mania abounds with noteworthy moments, from the intricate guitar work on the passionate “Sun and Moon”, to the moping melodies of the REMesque “Shame”, to the charming synth-pop of “New Message”. But, perhaps the real treat of this CD for fans who were already familiar with The Lucy Show (besides the exquisite and painstaking remastering job on the tracks that makes each song sparkle) are the extra tracks added to the original release. “Jam In E” combines the oddness of The B52’s with a spacey treatment that gives the song an otherworldly feel. “Invitation” is an exquisite post-punk jam that sees keyboard accents shimmering along with rock and roll instrumentation. “Civil Servant” has the band playing a fun jam, while the two live tracks, “Sun and Moon” and “View From The Outside” captures the band’s energy and tightness in a live setting. Finally, the band explores a heavily synth-laden ethos on “New Message”, and the release offers the original mix of “A Million Things”, giving fans another opportunity to absorb this exceptional pop song while hearing how the remastering process has augmented the track.
Words on Music has yet another winner in this great re-release. Mania is surely a release that deserves to be listened to with fresh ears. And, with the bonus tracks and excellent remastering job, Words on Music gives longtime fans and new listeners to The Lucy Show yet another chance to be captivated by this charming and very strong release. Highly recommended for fans of post-punk in general (bands like New Order, Jesus and Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen) or for fans wanting an authentic and fresh take on music from the 1980’s.