Random Acts of Listening: The Lotus Eaters, “Sara”

In celebration of the new look for Eat Sleep Drink Music – otherwise known as ESDMusic, of course – let’s roll out a new column, shall we? As you can see, it’s called “Random Acts of Listening,” and the idea is to hit “shuffle” on one’s iPod, listen to the first song that turns up, and write about it. The resulting piece might be personal, critical, or just straight up informational, but the ultimate goal is that it prove interesting, and I’d like to think that anyone who writes for the site can manage to pull off such a task.

First up: “Sara,” by The Lotus Eaters, from their 2001 album, silentspace.

The Lotus Eaters are one of those bands that, were I not such an avowed Anglophile, I’d never even have heard of them. They never managed a single US chart hit during their original period of existence – the band was formed in 1982, and by 1985, frontman Peter Coyle was working on new projects – but they made enough of an impression in the UK for their 1983 single, “First Picture of You,” to turn up on Go Wild in the Country, the second volume of a great compilation series called A Kick Up the Eighties, which is where I first discovered them.

The disc’s liner notes refer to the track as “one of summer 1983’s most radio-intensive hits,” describing it as “a lot more popular than its chart position would indicate,” but, hey, it made it to #15, which really isn’t too shabby at all. The band had three other singles creep into the UK Top 100 – “You Don’t Need Someone New” (#53), “Set Me Apart” (#88), and “Out on Your Own” (#87) – before the band called it a day, but based on the comments on Coyle’s website, it sounds like they picked the right time to wrap things up.

“The whole period was very pressurised and focused on selling records,” Coyle writes in his bio. “There was the smell of short-term panic and desperation. At the end of The Lotus Eaters, the pressure had taken its toll. The very thing I worked hard to avoid had happened. The idea of building something up to just fall down felt like such a waste. I was very demoralised and down. I was totally devastated and in no state for anything.”

(Not to in any way diminish Coyle’s post-Lotus-Eaters state, but one should keep in mind that the All Music Guide says of the band’s debut album, No Sense of Sin, that “Morrissey may have won the mope rock mantle in the ’80s, but if the Lotus Eaters had become as successful as the Smiths, Coyle would’ve robbed him of the Sad Sack crown.”)

Coyle allowed no moss to grow under his feet, releasing a solo EP entitled Selfish, then following it up with a pair of full-length albums. If the title of the first (A Slap in the Face to Public Taste) didn’t cue folks in that Coyle wasn’t overly concerned with repeating the commercial success of “First Picture of You,” then the title of the follow-up (I’d Sacrifice Eight Orgasms With Shirley MacClaine Just To Be There) certainly did, but it isn’t as though he didn’t know how to compose a good pop song. After all, he did co-write “All I Want” and “Control the Flame” with Ian Broudie for the Lightning Seeds’ Cloudcuckooland album. He also had a hand in a nightclub called G-Love (no relation to the Special Sauce gang), a place where, as Coyle put it, “we all lived and breathed the new wave of dance dreams.” Almost makes you wish it was still open, doesn’t it?

Though he has continued to release solo albums, Coyle re-teamed with his former collaborator, guitarist Jeremy Kelly, in 1997 and revived the Lotus Eaters, which resulted in a new studio album: the aforementioned silentspace. From what I can tell, it didn’t actually manage to see release until 2001, and even then it only came out in Japan, but it’s available for a pittance (in this case, “pittance” = “$7.99”) as a download on Amazon, and it’s a fantastic blend of pop, folk, and dance, with synths and dance beats working in conjunction with more traditional instrumentation to form a fantastic musical blend with an atmosphere that’s variously retro and cutting edge. Although the whole album is on my iPod, it’s a nice happy coincidence that “Sara” is the track that popped up, since it’s arguably the most straightforward pop track of the bunch, coming across like a blend between Rob Dickinson and The La’s…and if you’ve listened to the sample of the track, then you know I’m not kidding about that comparison.

Unfortunately, if you like that album, you’ll be hard pressed to afford any other studio recordings by the band, since the pricetag for No Sense of Sin – which is not available for download at present – is currently hovering well over $200, as it’s out of print on CD. You might find it easier to check out First Picture of You, a collection of BBC Radio recordings that will at least provide you with some material by the band that you’ve never heard before. Also, Coyle’s more recent solo material can be found in the shop over at RememberTheEighties.com, and what I’ve heard of it has been just as enjoyable as his work with the Lotus Eaters.

So there you go: the first installment of “Random Acts of Listening.” What did you think?


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