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Album #138: The Boo Radleys – Ichibod and I

  • Released: 1990
  • Origin: Wallasey, England
  • Label: Action
  • Best Track: Kaleidoscope

Amazingly, I’ve done 137 albums without coming across anything from Liverpool, let alone my native borough of the Wirral. It’s about time that changed and I’ve been meaning to explore the Boo Radleys’ back catalogue for some time anyway.

To most, the Boo Radleys are thought of as a bit of a one-hit wonder, with their 1995 top ten smash ‘Wake Up Boo!’ still a staple of morning FM radio. What not so many are aware of is that before that, they were part of the emerging shoegazing scene, peddling a very different sound to the one displayed on that breakthrough single.

The band’s early stuff is so far removed from the typical sound of this region. The same year as their debut Ichibod and I was released, on the other side of the Mersey, The La’s were enjoying mainstream success with their self-titled album. That’s a much more typically Scouse record, marrying Beatles/Merseybeat vocal harmonies with jangle-pop, sea shanty-esque songs and just a smidgen of psychedelia. It was a sound continued in the ’90s by Shack and later The Coral.

Ichibod and I might as well have come from not only the opposite side of the Mersey, but the opposite side of the Atlantic. I definitely hear a Dinosaur Jr. influence on tracks like ‘Sweet Salad Birth’ and ‘Walking 5th Carnival’, with their reverberating guitars punctuated by the odd squawking solo.

Penultimate track ‘Kaleidoscope’ is a banger, and a track I was familiar with since it features on a Beechwood Indie Top 20 compilation I own. The melody is not unlike that of a pop-punk band, but the magic is in the melting and, well, kaleidoscopic wash of guitars.

I gather this album got pretty lukewarm reviews at the time, possibly because the scene it came from wasn’t popular with critics. Seen as cliquey and insular, shoegazing (at least in London) was at the forefront of what Melody Maker called ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself’ in 1990. Today, the Boos debut stands as a significant, if not exactly standout, part of a genre that now commands a lot more respect.

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