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Blasting Off by Red Lorry Yellow Lorry (1991)

In the late 80s and early 90s there was no shortage of great music coming out of Great Britain. One of the more overlooked British bands of the era was Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. The band recorded five albums between 1985 and 1991 and went through several personnel changes during that time, with songwriter/singer/guitarist Chris Reed being the common denominator among all the band's incarnations. Their sound is usually characterized as post-punk or even goth rock, although the goth influence is less apparent in their later work.

Blasting Off was Red Lorry Yellow Lorry's last studio effort, and true to the band's name -- "lorry" is Brit-speak for truck -- it delivers the goods like an 18-wheeler crashing through your living room. After many years of experimentation in the musical laboratory, it seems they finally concocted the perfect formula for British alternative rock. Every song on Blasting Off has a driving 4/4 beat and layers of hypnotic guitars, with unpretentious, deadpan vocals reminiscent of other British post-punk bands like Joy Division and Gang of Four.

The album starts off with the thunderous anthem "This is Energy," which had me dancing around in my headphones like a fool, and I'm glad there were no witnesses. This song perfectly sums up the feeling you have when you overcome your self-doubts and learn to believe in yourself: "Let me in on life's highway/take a ride to the sky/this is me/looking 'round with my eyes wide open/this is me/this is energy."

Elsewhere on the album, the lyrics turn decidedly gloomier. "It's on Fire" laments the confused state of the world: "It's on fire/a world gone mad, I just can't watch it go/and it fills my eyes/I can't see anything, there's so much smoke." Similarly, in "Don't think About It," the singer asks, "What does it take to set this whole world free?"

Reed seems most inspired on the topic of love gone wrong. One of my favorites here, "Train of Hope," celebrates the mixed blessing of the rebound: "On a train/on a train train train/on a train train train/I'll forget about you," he sneers as flaming shards of wah-wah guitar go whizzing by our heads.

After hearing "In My Mind," I felt compelled to put on my shoes, run out into rush hour traffic, and yell through a bullhorn, "Why are the Brits the only ones who get it?" RLYL have proved to me yet again that infectious hooks, solid rhythm, and engaging lyrics just come more naturally to our neighbors across the pond. Let's just go ahead and admit it: for the last half century the best pop music has come from the UK. And, as a listen to this album will confirm, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry was among the best of the UK bands.

It's somewhat of a mystery why they chose to name this album Blasting Off. Perhaps they thought the disc's striped-down rock sound would translate into commercial success in the States. Instead, the album turned out to be their last. It was promoted poorly, faced distribution problems, and by the time it was released in the US, the band had broken up for good. It's pretty mind boggling to think that music this great would never make it into the mainstream.

Reviewed by Aaron Shore 3/3/13

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