Sprung from the same neo-psychedelic scene as their most obvious influence, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Mighty Lemon Drops traded in the same moody jangle-pop, but emphasizing hooks more and more as the Bunnymen sank further and further into Ian McCulloch’s Jim Morrison fetish. The Drops’ debut, Happy Head, is the band at their Bunny-est, as the single, “My Biggest Thrill” (download), sounds like a Heaven Up Here outtake. Interestingly, it was enough to get the band signed to Sire Records in the States, the same label as — you guessed it — Echo and the etcetera etceteras.
The Lemon Drops expanded further into their own distinct little corner of psychedelia with a stopgap EP named for their next college rock hit, “Out Of Hand” (download). While the alternating chiming and fuzzed out guitars still had the stink of Bunnymen axeman Will Sergeant all over them, the beats and slightly more bubblegum melodies started to form a unique Lemon Drops sound. Having a terrifically trippy video helmed by Derek Jarman didn’t hurt, either:
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As the Bunnymen imploded in 1987, the Drops must have smelled blood, because their 1989 album, Laughter, is a big stab for more accessible alternative rock success, which must have pleased Sire, since I remember a ton of promotion for this album. The guitars were bigger, the production was shinier and “Into the Heart of Love” (download) was ready-made for Modern Rock chart topping, which it nearly achieved.
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The rest of Laughter wasn’t half bad either, as the band finally was able to forge a distinctive sound that didn’t immediately recall you-know-who. Unfortunately, Laughter didn’t do much outside of college and alternative rock radio. The band carried on for two more decidedly limp albums before calling it a day in 1992. Check out their catalog, though, surprisingly mostly still in print. There are some real jangly gems in there, including “Inside Out” (another big alternative hit), “Where Do We Go From Heaven” and “Crystal Clear.”
“Into the Heart of Love” peaked at #5 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart in 1985.
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