The Boo Radleys

Learning to Walk

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Though it's just a collection of their first three EPs dating back to '90/'91 (plus two unreleased covers), Learning to Walk is actually the best LP released by this great Liverpool band, even better than Giant Steps. The four tracks off '90s Kaleidoscope are a good whiplash start, a sharp upgrade from their sloppy, raspy, first LP Ichabod and I, but this LP really gets going with the four cuts off '91's Every Heaven, an even bigger jump in quality. "The Finest Kiss" is the band's second best track of all time, mixing Sice's pristine pop vocal with a jumpy bassline and stabbing guitars. Likewise, "Tortoiseshell," "Bluebird," and especially the terse "Naomi" are almost as stunning, so overflowing with high-tension-wired guitar and more lovely vocal lines. The last EP, '91's Boo! Up, was their pinnacle: Some 50 playings of "Everybird" have not dulled its brilliant splendor, so hearing it in the midst of this collection is still welcome, and it's dazzling besides. Just the swooping, sloping guitar line that opens the sucker is promising enough, much less that dripping verse and tearfully gorgeous chorus, as fine as anything the Left Banke ever wrote. "You don't know how it feels to be lonely" is a cliché that, in the hands of these folks, can make you break out in hives of empathy and regret for your own past heartbreaks. Learning to Walk sounds like an LP, not a collection, and if we regard it as three sessions in one, it is the Boo Radleys' real second LP, and their masterpiece, even without the terrific 1991 Peel Session versions of Love's "Alone Again Or," and New Order's "True Faith" (retitled "Boo Faith," naturally) tacked on for extra value. With all three EPs out of print, Learning to Walk is even more valuable. Do not miss.

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