“The hidden gems which encapsulate the raw brilliance of one of British indie’s best loved cult heroes“.
The La’s are a band that lives within indie folklore. Having released their self-titled masterpiece a little over 30 years ago, the Liverpool group did not release another studio album in their career. The band’s two main members, Lee Mavers (namechecked as the only songwriter Noel Gallagher feared) and John Power (who went on to form Cast) were accompanied at various points by an almost comically long revolving roster of past members, such was the turbulent nature of their early career.
In truth, Mavers’ perfectionism nearly prevented the release of their debut record, but such was the quality of their singular offering, fans have continuously sought out bootlegs and live recordings from their untimely end in the early 90s, right up to the present day.
Whilst subsequent releases such as Lost La’s 1986-87 and 1984-86 Breakloose have mined alternate versions and live cuts to flesh out their mostly underground history, there are still a few tracks which have never been released.
Putting aside the frustration of not being able to add them to your Spotify playlist, many of these have become hidden gems which encapsulate the raw brilliance of one of British indie’s best loved cult heroes.
Chief amongst these is a tune called Fishing Net/Something I Said, which has amassed a little over 220,000 views across the two main versions on YouTube. Both are taken from an appearance at Trans Musicales Festival in Renne on the 6th of December, 1990, and are one of only two songs from the setlist which have never been featured on any official release.
Depending on the version, you may hear the band being introduced in French by a presenter, before jangling guitars begin in the background. Mavers’ unmistakable vocals invites the crowd to “put out your love, come fill your fishing net” in a quasi-spiritual sea-shanty which hurtles along for just under two and half minutes. The melody is simple and superb and could easily sit amongst classics like There She Goes and Timeless Melody, but the bass is the real star. Likely played by John Power, it drives the track forward with its energy and expressiveness.
“Down to the bay, on my lonely way/Put out your love and come fill your fishing net” Mavers continues until a wiry electric guitar line moves to the front to close out the track, which cuts off abruptly, to be met by cheers and screams from the audience.
Another example, Tears in the Rain managed to creep onto the Callin’ All demos compilation as a demo from a rehearsal, but it is wildly different to its YouTube namesake. The video, which has just over 80,000 views, is much slower in tempo and features an incredible melancholic vocal. Mavers calls out “It’s so hard to explain/Loss like tears in the rain” accompanied by a plodding acoustic guitar line, which sounds like it would be as at home on a blues record, as it would the soundtrack to a Western. It’s fascinating stuff.
Diving into the comments underneath it’s easy to see how loved and admired these songs are, with many wishing they had been recorded and others simply happy that they areavailable to listen to at all.
Tracks like these inevitably raise the question of what might have been possible, had the band managed to put all of their often brilliant afterthoughts on to another full album. But for many, their charm lies in the fact that much of their best work is still passed on by word of mouth, in bootlegs and scratchy demos which all feed into their mysterious legend.There’s something about the impermanent nature of these tracks which make them so special. They’re not constantly remastered or available in an eight-disc super-deluxe boxset, but for those who know where to find them, they remain a snapshot of a band preserved in their prime. Welcome to the club.
Words: Matthew Dougherty