Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Boo Radleys roll back the years with ‘A Full Syringe and Memories of You.’

It has been a long time since The Boo Radleys released a single. So long, in fact, that younger music fans could be forgiven if their initial response to the band’s surprise release, A Full Syringe and Memories of You, was ‘who on earth are The Boo Radleys?’ 
Being arguably one of the most misunderstood bands of the 90s, The Boo Radleys’ reputation as purveyors of wildly inventive indie rock has been almost entirely overshadowed by the enduring popular appeal of their big hit, Wake Up Boo!. While budding Britpop fans all remember ‘Wake Up Boo’; only the fortunate few are familiar with the glories of The Boo Radleys’ back catalogue.  
As the Boo Radleys were known to be multifaceted, highly unpredictable, and prone to frequent wild mood swings within their songs, their reformation could be the most unpredictable thing they’ve ever done.  
Since breaking up in 1998, primary songwriter and lead guitarist Martin Carr has endured an accomplished but fraught solo career, while vocalist Simon ‘Sice’ Rowbottom has retrained as a psychologist, and bassist Tim Brown and drummer Rob Cieka have similarly turned their backs on the music scene. Not even the most ardent Boo Radleys fan (and they’re a rare breed these days) was expecting the band to get back together. 
So it is perhaps fitting that they should return with a majestic major key pop song that, in Sice’s words, “seeks to redress the distorted view that life is always worth living whatever the cost,” set to a lyric video that manages to retain a bright and summery feel despite largely being comprised of hospital ward footage. It’s a dead band resurrected with a song about wanting to die – exactly the sort of thing we should expect from a group so perennially confounding as The Boo Radleys.  
The first thing to note about ‘A Full Syringe and Memories of You’ is that Sice’s voice still soars. It’s hardly aged a day, and hearing him on such good form practically justifies the reformation on its own.  
Musically, there’s a brief, trumpet-laced nod to The Boo Radleys’ early work in the opening bar of the song, but without Carr the sound here is more akin to Sice’s short-lived and underappreciated 2007 project, Paperlung. It is neat and precise acoustic-guitar driven pop, with the occasional flourish of strings and distortion. 
Admittedly, the middle eight does take a bit of a twist, veering into muffled, effect-laden vocals as Sice sneers ‘Don’t talk to me’ while the music indulges in a major seventh melodrama. But it’s a twist straight out of the Britpop playbook, the whole section sounding reminiscent of the great lost Oasis single ‘Whatever’ 
The same can be said for the song as a whole. ‘A Full Syringe and Memories of You’ doesn’t sound dated, exactly; it sounds like it was composed in a different era – perhaps unsurprising, given that the last time the band played together Catalonia and M-People were still in the charts 
It’s almost impossible to judge what the wider world will make of The Boo Radleys’ return – after all, the wider world never really ‘got’ the band first time around. But for fans of The Boo Radleys, ‘A Full Syringe and Memories of You’ is a wholly unexpected and most welcome addition to their catalogue, one that begs the intriguing question of what comes next? Or to put it another way, what’s in the box? 

Tom Kirkham 
Image: A Full Syringe and Memories of You official single artwork

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