They weren’t New Romantic, but they were certainly romantic. The Lotus Eaters were an integral part of Liverpool’s second wave of post-punk youth, arriving a few years after Echo & the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes unleashed a psychedelic revival in the Beatles’ hometown. Fresh-faced and fragile, the Lotus Eaters formed in 1982, essentially the duo of yearning, soaring vocalist Peter Coyle and guitarist Jeremy Kelly with three sidemen (bassist Michael Dempsey, keyboardist Gerard Quinn and drummer Steve Creese). The pair crafted what would become their debut single, “The First Picture of You,” in Kelly’s bedroom studio. A year later, the record hit the British charts. The group’s debut LP, No Sense of Sin, came out a year later. One of the most underrated albums of the ’80s, it is essentially the neo-acoustic blueprint employed by Travis, Keane and Badly Drawn Boy two decades later. On stunningly beautiful songs like “Love Still Flows,” “Two Virgins Tender” and “Out on Your Own,” Kelly’s cinematic riffs are caressed by Coyle’s haunting lullabies, weaving a hypnotic spell. “German Girl,” “Set Me Apart” and “You Fill Me With Need” showcase their versatility, shifting to more upbeat tempos but retaining the lush textures and introspective, melancholic emotions that make this a truly special record. The 1985 single “It Hurts” unveiled the band’s artistic evolution in Kelly’s agonized, gloomy guitars; the poetic sunshine of “The First Picture of You” is bruised and ripped, and Coyle wails plaintively about a failed relationship. It is a gritty, wounded performance.
First Picture of You collects the group’s appearances on John Peel’s BBC radio program. While not the perfect starting point for the curious, it is a dreamy and rewarding listen. Inspired by the band’s lasting popularity in the Philippines and Japan, Coyle and Kelly reunited in the late ’90s to record Silentspace. For the most part leaving the bittersweet jangle pop of No Sense of Sin behind, the Lotus Eaters experiment with electronic atmospherics and trip-hop on a dark, challenging album that’s as invigorating as it is unsettling.