Do we accept our fate?
The revival of Lush back in 2015 Was a welcome breath of fresh air – and also a reminder that the 1990s had actually produced some amazing bands, rather than the worst excesses of Britpop (a movement which Lush were unfairly roped in with at some point).
In the tragic wake of drummer Chris Acland’s passing, the rest of Lush struggled to continue and the band shut up shop towards the end of the 1990s. Their brief reunion, with the addition of Justin Welch (Elastica) on drums, was well received, particularly on the back of the smooth ‘Out Of Control’ (from the 2016 Blind Spot EP – see Wavegirl’s review). However, this Lush revival wasn’t scheduled to be a lasting project and the band wrapped things up towards the end of 2016.
But although Lush has once again ceased to be, the band’s guitarist and vocalist Miki Berenyi has instead found a new musical home in the shape of 4-piece outfit Piroshka. It’s an interesting combo of talents, featuring Berenyi alongside former Moose guitarist KJ “Moose” McKillop, Modern English bassist Mick Conroy and Justin Welch again taking up drumming duties. The unusual name is apparently drawn from the Hungarian version of Little Red Riding Hood (also perhaps a deliberate nod to Berenyi’s distinctive red barnet from her Lush days).
Brickbat is Piroshka’s debut album, released on Bella Union (the record label coordinated by former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde). For those expecting this album to be in-step with Lush’s catalogue of work, then the answer is yes – with certain provisions. It’s a little tough for Berenyi’s distinctive vocals not to be associated with the band she cut her teeth with, but the addition of Moose on guitar and Conroy on bass swerves in a slightly different direction to the more shoegazey aspects of Lush.
There’s a much more raw approach here with more in-your-face guitars and a fair amount of feedback. Meanwhile, the lyrical themes offer a reflection on the difficult times we live in, with tracks such as ‘What’s Next’ and ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ inspired by the mess of Brexit. While ‘Hated By The Powers That Be’ was inspired by a badge that Moose found with the slogan “Hated By The Daily Mail”.
Opener ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ presents a frenetic blizzard of sound against which Berenyi’s vocals alternate between the matter-of-fact approach that she adopted for later Lush outings, alongside a counterpoint of more ethereal moments.
‘Village Of The Damned’ dives into a more polished sound with plenty of washes, Conroy’s strong bass fills and even some brass elements. This breezy outing actually masks some fairly brutal themes in the lyrics, penned by Moose. “It’s about school shootings” the guitarist commented on the song, “and our reaction to almost being unable to take our eyes off twenty-four-hour news and internet feeds. You’re depressed and appalled by what you see.”
‘Never Enough’ opens with some electronic elements before delving into a more chugging workout with Berenyi’s airy vocals delivering melodic stabs.
Brickbat also boasts some string arrangements here and there, such as on ‘Blameless’, which delivers a shimmering composition which mesmerises with its subtle charms.
‘What’s Next’ takes things back to basics with a strong percussive drive from Welch, with Berenyi again alternating between a stark vocal and more choral trills. Again, there’s perhaps a darker slant to the lyrics lurking at the heart of the song (“The long forgotten days when we were united are gone for good”).
One of the album’s finest moments comes care of ‘Hated by The Powers That Be’, which delivers spiky guitars underpinning a tight workout and some superbly pithy vocals via Berenyi, whose delivery of the chorus makes the hairs on your neck stick up. The dynamic aspects of the composition also bolster a discontent in the lyrics, but also poses a question for dark times: “Our days are numbered we’ve had our lot/Do we accept our fate or do we stop the rot.”
There’s a more sedate approach on the sublime ‘Heartbeats’, which suggests elements of Split-era Lush with its immersive depths. It’s a song whose lyrics tackle themes of parenthood and Berenyi’s thoughts on that bond between mother and child. “The idea of closeness with your baby” Berenyi muses “and then as they grow, you have to let them go off into the world.”
‘Everlastingly Yours’, which was issued as the album’s taster, appears to combine all the best elements of Piroshka. It’s a melodic adventure in sound with some sharper guitar elements, over which Berenyi’s ghostly vocals float (“Nobody here ever escapes with no blood on their hands”).
Finally, album closer ‘She’s Unreal’ opts for some harder percussive fills augmented by more gritty guitar work.
Brickbat, which apparently takes its name from a missile, arrives bang on target with a solid collection of bittersweet moments and engaging tunes.
Brickbat is out now on Bella Union.
Piroshka are performing live at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on 31st March, Olso Hackney 4th April, The Portland Arms and Cambridge 5th April.