Prior to 2022, the last time there was a “proper” Lightning Seeds album, the world was a very different place.
Tony Blair was into his second year of the first term as Prime Minister, most of us probably hadn’t heard of Osama Bin Laden, Kevin Keegan had just taken over as England manager after Glenn Hoddle was shown the door after saying horrific things about disabled people and there were five channels on the telly unless you were rich enough to have Sky. Four in Cornwall, as we couldn’t get Channel 5.
As for the internet, you couldn’t use it for long in case it blocked the line when Nan rang.
The Ford Focus was the best-selling car in the UK, Laurent Aiello won the British Touring Car Championship in a Nissan Primera, Mika Hakkinen won his second Formula One world title after a tight battle with Eddie Irvine, and the best selling song was Baby One More Time by Britney Spears.
Not to forget that there was a total eclipse, not of the Bonnie Tyler variety, there was the notorious murder of Jill Dando, Manchester United weren’t the Premier League laughing stock and an up-and-coming politician became acting Prime Minister of Russia upon the resignation of Boris Yeltsin. His name was Vladimir Putin.
That year was 1999, the last year of the 20th century. That’s how long we had to wait for a new album by the Lightning Seeds.
Sure, the 2009 album Four Winds was labelled as Lightning Seeds, but that was at the insistence of the record label against the wishes of its creator, Ian Broudie, who regarded it as a solo album, like his terrific 2004 effort Tales Told.
So, what does a 23 year absence sound like?
Any fears that it might follow the age-old trope of old bands trying to relive old glories belies a lack of knowledge of Ian Broudie’s ability when it comes to crafting songs. It’s not a half-hearted glory trot but a collection of really good songs that while evoking the sound of Seeds’ past, offers something new.
It of course has Broudie’s signature sound, the wistful Beach Boys or Beatles-esque sound of the 1960s but sounds very contemporary. See You in the Stars is an album that combines the melancholy of his lyrics with the upbeat jollification of the Lightning Seeds in their pomp.
Perhaps poignantly in retrospect, the main single from the album, ‘Emily Smiles’ is the book-note to Broudie’s collaborations with the now-late Terry Hall, with whom several of the Lightning Seeds best tracks were written. I believe it could be one of the last songs Terry Hall was involved in before his death from cancer.
‘Sunshine’ evokes classic Seeds of old, and is a track that could have easily sat on their 1994 album Jollification. In “Green Eyes” you’ve got a song that bears obvious comparisons in sound with arguably their best known hit, ‘Pure’ but would sit just as well in the later songs of the band, especially Dizzy Heights from 1996.
Every track on the album is a sing-along in its own right, but don’t mistake it all for unbridled joy – for the final track, See You in the Stars, written about a close friend of Ian Broudie’s who died, booknotes the album with a sound of true beauty and heartbreak.
There’s much life left in version two of the Lightning Seeds, and this is an album that kickstarts it beautifully.