Last Great Dreamers - 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven' (Ray Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Gaz E   
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 03:00

crashlanding300Rebranding, and reimagining, themselves after starting out as Silver Hearts in 1989, Last Great Dreamers strutted (in platform heels, wide collars a-flapping) straight into an early nineties grunge-soured pity party that had already turned away many unwanted would-be glam gatecrashers and pointed them in the direction of the job centre.

 

Unlike many of the more flamboyant bands of that era, however, Last Great Dreamers rode, like white swans, through those troubled times. In fact, it was after the suicide of the grunge godhead that the once-great Kerrang! magazine described the band, when reviewing 1994 debut album, 'Retrosexual', as "the new dandies of British rock."

 

The grunge thing, people forget, opened doors for alternative rock acts previously thought too eclectic for public consumption: such was the clamour at record labels for the next alt. rock superstars in the early '90s that many bands got lumped in with the dour-faced grunge bores and simply kept quiet until their advance cheques cleared and studio time was booked. Glorious bands like Redd Kross and Jellyfish might never have made it across the Atlantic if it wasn't for such dollar sign desire and, though their sound owed more to the magical stomping glam sounds of seventies Britain, Last Great Dreamers certainly benefitted from the thrift store sensibilities that came with these retro-fuelled bands.

 

Clad in tartan suits, bell bottoms and brown leather box jackets, Last Great Dreamers revelled in the twenty-year nostalgia cycle: the mid-nineties turned into the mid-seventies by way of vintage clothes, records and television show spin-off annuals and toys. One look at the 'Retrosexual' artwork and spin of the disc and I'm back in that great time of two decades ago...when we all looked back a further two decades and tried to recreate a time we remembered as kids, but then as young adults.

 

In 2014, though, after two decades have whizzed past like lightning bolts, Last Great Dreamers have returned and, while the thought of a '90s band regrouping is hardly surprising, it's how this cultured collective has suddenly reappeared that is most remarkable.

 

Twenty years after that debut album appeared, the second Last Great Dreamers long player, a "lost" album in every sense of the term, has been readied for release. Band mainmen Marc Valentine (vocals/guitar) and Slyder (guitar) have recruited former Silver Hearts bandmate Ginge to play drums in this rejuvenated LGD line-up, with Ian Scruffykid handling bass duties, and a comeback show in London will follow the album's release. It's the album, though, 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven', that is, above the timing or actuality of the band's return, revelatory.

 

Recorded between 1995 and 1997 (before the band split in the November of the latter year) there once appeared more chance of catching a glimpse of Bigfoot than actually hearing these long-lost eleven tracks. In fact, if there was shaky Patterson-Gimlin film footage of Slyder or Marc walking into the mountains with the original tapes under their arms nobody would have been surprised. Thankfully, for us clued-in music fans at least, the pair saw fit to finally release this treasure trove of previously unreleased material.

 

Recorded with then members Paul Harrison on bass and drummer Steve Grainger, 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven' impresses for many reasons. Firstly, it showcases how the band had grown over a relatively short space of time: the songs a step up in quality which, given how much I fell for 'Retrosexual', is high praise indeed. Then, and I'm sure this pleases the band members most, comes the new mastering job: the difference between albums most apparent on the single version of the debut album's 'Last Great Dreamer' which appears on this new release; if you expected this new album to be dated-sounding and full of sun-bleached songs then think again - this is as contemporary sounding as many of the new bands that we continually champion for their retro obsessions. Finally, and possibly the saddest aspect given how the band dissolved without deservedly breaking out big, is how some of the songs sound as if they would have slotted in nicely with the chart-busting Brit Pop bands who made their names twenty years ago. Last Great Dreamers, on this evidence, could easily have been rubbing shoulders in the Top Of The Pops green room with the likes of Supergrass.

 

Alas, that kind of success evaded them...but this is not a time for bittersweet reminiscing: no, 2014 is the time to marvel at how Last Great Dreamers, with an album just shy of being two decades old, have turned out one of the releases of the year.

 

'No. 1 Wonderboy' opens 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven', tumbling in with a drum sound (complete with cowbell) immediately better sounding than the debut album's. It's second song, and first single, 'Ashtray Eyes', that truly startles, though: if Prima Donna had written this then we'd all be lined up to milk the band members for their gift to the music world; as it is, it's simply fantastic to have a British band producing this kind of simplistic, pop-smeared glunk rock, irrespective of the story behind its release. That the song was originally written in the nineties does make it all the more special, it has to be said.

 

'Hello' is the song you're looking for, especially if you're looking for a hit of melancholy blessed with some gorgeous guitar breaks, while 'Sci-Fi Louise' is the Last Great Dreamers that we all remember personified: loose, sexy and funky. 'Lunacy Lady' sounds as much like Silver Hearts, verse-wise at least, as LGD ever did, and 'Gold Painted Butterfly' offers more of the subtler, seventies-tinged melodies that Valentine's voice seems made for.

 

It's the upbeat rockers on the record, though, that will have you, if you're anything like me, grinning like a loon and peeling out air guitar licks and air platform heel tottering. 'Mary Wants' and the title (and final) track fit this bill, the former housing an infectious hook over chugging rock 'n' roll guitar, the latter closing the album in some style, a mess of swaggering six-string work from Slyder and catchier-than-cooties melody.

 

Since its announcement, I've found the return of Last Great Dreamers strangely exciting. It's as if hindsight is now finally allowing us to prove that the nineties weren't as musically moronic as some would have us believe. Us cool kids always uncovered the best bands during even the bleakest periods, of course, but now we're granted access to one of the most well-hidden bodies of work from that time. The clothes and hairstyles might not have made it out of the archive this time around, but the songs have and for that we must be eternally grateful.

 

The release of 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven' represents one of the more breathtaking returns in some time and, irrespective of the hows, whys and whos, more than deserves its moment in the sun - hell, it's been in the shadows for way too long.

approved image lrg 2013

 

Essential.

 

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To pick up your copy of 'Crash Landing in Teenage Heaven' - CLICK HERE