The story of The La’s is a compelling one. The Liverpool band which formed in 1983 had all the potential to become a great band and have a very successful career, but they ended up only recording one studio album in 1990 titled “The La’s”. Since then apart from sporadic reunions and occasional live appearances, the band has pretty much ceased to exist, for reasons only singer-songwriter Lee Mavers would know? It just so happens that their one and only release is a classic album that influenced an entire generation of British musicians, and arguably helped change the course of British music away from 1980s synth pop towards what became known as Britpop in the 1990s, not to mention the indie wave that came after that and continues to this day. The bands style as showcased on the album is largely influenced by skiffle, 1960s mersybeat, and 1950s rock and roll, and is based around a jangle pop sound of chiming guitars and infectious melodies. Lee Mavers in an interview described the band’s sound as “rootsy” and “raw and organic”. Mavers unique singing style also brought a Liverpudlian element to their sound, with his Scouse growl ensuring the band sounded more Liverpool-like than the cities most famous group. The album contains a mixture of all out beat songs such as “I Can’t Sleep” and “Failure”, melodic pop pieces such as their most famous song “There She Goes”, and acoustic folk numbers such as “Liberty Ship” that harks back to the days of skiffle.
The story of the albums making is an interesting story, and pretty much some ups why the band has since failed to capitalise on their great debut. The band spent three years in the studio recording and re-recording this album, using several producers in the process as well as a constantly changing line up, as they strived to get the authentic sound desired by Mavers. Mavers was a perfectionist after a 1960s sound, and obsessed over the making of this record to the point that in one instance it was reported that he rejected a vintage mixing desk claiming that it did not have the right sound because it didn’t have “original sixties dust”, fair enough I guess? Several versions of the album were recorded, with the officially released version being disowned by Mavers who said it was a version he did not want made public. Why he believed this I don’t know as the album sounds pretty good to me, and its influence on British music over the last twenty odd years is plain to see. It might even be that the authentic rootsy sound desired by Mavers might not have had the same impact as the clean melodic sound that you hear on the record, who knows. In the end Mavers obsession in perfecting this record probably ended up prevented him from capitalising on its influence and moving the band’s career forward. It is also surly one of the reasons why the band has been missing in action all these years, even though apparently they still exist in the form of Mavers appearing with a constant rotation of other musicians when they do play. Despite this, “The La’s” is an album I recommend to anyone who’s into 1960s British pop, indie, or people who just love a good melody. This might possibly end up being the only studio release from this group, but even twenty-three years on its influence is plain to see, and it’s sound still relevant.