The truth has always been that a little Red Lorry Yellow Lorry goes a long way. And this is a lot of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. Albums and Singles 1982-1989 from Cherry Red Records is yet another attempt to compile this seminal British band's material. That it succeeds so well is thanks to the British label's all-or-nothing approach this time out; as the set contains everything the band put out in those 7 years, nitpickers can't exactly complain about any omissions here.
The Leeds-based band were routinely pegged as goth rock and yet today you can hear echos of their sound in non-goth bands like Editors and Doves. Starting not so long after the demise of Joy Division, and around the time a band like Echo and the Bunnymen was hitting its peak, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry took elements of both those acts and added something more intense, a near-mechanical sense of rhythm, and a fairly dour world-view. That said, the material on these 4 studio albums does not necessarily (entirely) lend itself to the connotations of the goth label.
Debut album Talk About The Weather is a bit sludge-y when approached now. It's humorless and yet strangely hypnotic, tracks like "This Today" and "Hollow Eyes" sounding like attempts to replicate "One Hundred Years" by The Cure and "Isolation" by Joy Division, respectively. Far more successful are the early singles here tacked on to the end of Talk About The Weather. The excellent "He's Read" offers up a bit of Gang of Four-like commentary, while the seminal "Monkeys On Juice" still pummels with an admirable sense of force. Similarly, "Take It All" exhibits more of a sense of gleeful abandon than anything on the band's first album proper, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry working up an impressive swirl of guitar-noise here.
Paint Your Wagon is the one that, obviously, got a lot of people -- myself included -- into this band. The sound is a bit looser, tracks like "Walking On Your Hands" even bringing a sense of something fun to the mix. Of course, the two standouts here are the Siouxsie and the Banshees-like instrumental "Mescal Dance" and the pounding "Shout At The Sky", the band's signature tune if they ever had one. Padded with a generous selection of single tracks, this edition of Paint Your Wagon is, clearly, the definitive version of this fine album. Additionally, the addition of "Crawling Mantra" [billed to The Lorries in some quarters] and the spry "All The Same" make this CD the clear highlight of this Albums and Sngles 1982-1989 box set.
Third album Nothing Wrong saw Red Lorry Yellow Lorry attempt to, if not loosen up, at least thin out their sound. There are at least moments here that seem more spacious ("World Around") and others ("Only Dreaming") that are almost gentle. With the rise of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Loop in this era, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry were clearly not going to win the award for loudest British band so they refined their own sonic formula instead. There's a real sense on Nothing Wrong that The Lorries were perhaps attempting to soften the blows of their music, or at least wrap the hammer in a blanket first. The title cut is very nearly a dance number and a stab at "Time Is Tight" shows that The Lorries were trying in some admirable ways to broaden their sound on this record.
Universally derided upon its release, Blow holds up surprisingly well when listened to now. Maybe it's the effect of coming at the end of this nearly 4-hour box set but the end result here is a cleanly-produced updating of the usual Red Lorry Yellow Lorry sound. A number like "Gift That Shines" is a nice, sharp distillation of the earlier material in a more radio-friendly package, while "Happy To See Me" is a superb run at the sort of thing that JAMC were attempting in the same era on Automatic. If The Lorries here were still a bit dour, at least there were flashes of light in the galloping "Too Many Colours" and the love song "You Are Everything", a rare attempt at something gentle in the Lorries' back-catalog.
Albums And Singles 1982-1989 is probably all the Red Lorry Yellow Lorry you're going to need. Housed in a sturdy box in individual sleeves and paired up with an informative liner notes booklet, this set of albums is as complete a compilation of the peak years of this band as one is ever likely to encounter. The fine folks at Cherry Red are to be applauded for taking a completist approach when surveying the output of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and one cannot accuse them of leaving anything essential out of this box set. Albums And Singles 1982-1982 from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry is out on Friday from Cherry Red.
Follow Red Lorry Yellow Lorry via the band's website.
[Band Photo: Uncredited band photo from MTV.com]