As a member of Big in Japan and the Original Mirrors, guitarist Ian Broudie was a participant in the late-’70s Liverpool new wave scene that spawned Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. He found far greater success, however, as the city’s leading producer (of Echo, the Fall, Icicle Works and others), and became an architect for one wing of England’s modern pop hangover in the ’80s. But Broudie evidently still had it in his heart to be a musician, and the end of the ’80s found him launching the Lightning Seeds, essentially as a solo endeavor.
Looking the part of a bespectacled technerd on the Cloudcuckooland cover, Broudie admits minor contributions from such local pals as Ian McNabb (of Icicle Works), Henry Priestman (Yachts/Christians) and Andy McCluskey (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) but otherwise mixes his high-tech power pop and Pet Shop metaphors without outside assistance. With glorious choruses like the one on “Pure,” the album is eminently agreeable, but strictly the sum of its sources. Broudie rewrites both the Rolling Stones and Righteous Brothers on “All I Want,” croons an evanescent ’60s falsetto in “Sweet Dreams” and strings up a Troggsy folk-rock feel underpinned by modern dance beats for “Fools.” His lyrics are equally run-of-the- romantic-mill, but no less appealing for it. (The CD and cassette add “Frenzy.”)
Broudie made a studio partner of synth programmer Simon Rogers (an ’80s member of the Fall) and songwriter collaborators of Ian McNabb and Terry Hall (Specials/Fun Boy Three/Colourfield) on Sense. If Broudie used his vocal resemblance to Neil Tennant as an intriguing gimmick on the debut, he seems determined to transform Lightning Seeds into Pet Shop Little Brothers at a couple of points (most obviously “The Life of Riley” and “Blowing Bubbles”) on this disgruntled production extravaganza. As he shifts rhythms and arrangement styles across the spectrum of contemporary techno-pop, every filigreed touch seems borrowed from somebody, whether Elvis Costello and Julian Cope (“A Cool Place”), Nick Lowe and Spandau Ballet (“Sense”) or Stone Roses and the The (“Where Flowers Fade”). A strange achievement but not an unpleasant one.
While continuing with Rogers and Sense‘s other intimates, adding vocalists Alison Moyet and Marina Van Rooy to the team for one song each on Jollification, Broudie wrote and sings “Change,” its best number, all by his lonesome. Wisely taking pains to not simply ape others here, he uses fewer dance beats and comes up with better results. Still, Broudie needs the right sort of goal, like modernizing the Beatles in “Perfect” or upending Depeche Mode’s bleak electronic hustle in “Marvellous,” to engage his gears. If true originality continues to elude the Lightning Seeds, at least Broudie’s radar is scanning an ever-widening horizon for inspiration.
Pure Lightning Seeds is a British compilation of the first two albums.