Piroshka were formed in 2018 by former Lush frontwoman Miki Berenyi, her partner K.J. ‘Moose’ McKillop, Justin Welsh from Elastica and Michael Conroy from Modern English and this is their second studio album after 2018’s Brickbat. Staunchly refuting the label of a ‘supergroup’ (Miki has even been seen to sport a ‘Not a F***ing Supergroup’ t-shirt), they similarly eschew falling into any one category of music related to their previous ventures. Love Drips and Gathers has a sound owing more to the shoegaze (or dream-pop, the boundaries are fittingly ethereal) origins of Lush than the garage rock leanings of its predecessor. I hesitate to say that some of the tracks sound like Lush, but Miki’s voice is so distinctive and so associated with that band that any shoegaze-esque composition with her multi-tracked vocals is always going to sound evocative of her former band.
This is by no means whatsoever a criticism! I adore Lush and all associated ventures and, unlike some ‘fans’ I never got my knickers in a knot when they strayed from the pure shoegaze faith… in fact, I really love what certain parties sneeringly and very incorrectly refer to as Lush’s ‘Britpop’ era. So, I was never going to be one of those people who whined that Piroshka didn’t sound like Miki’s other band and I was quite content with Brickbat’s harder sound. Having said that, I’m also quite happy for them to sound like Lush, because I really like Lush. There were moments when former-band-mate Emma Anderson’s ‘other’ group Sing-Sing sounded a bit like Lush and it made me smile, but they never had Miki’s voice, so it could never be as close to the warm feeling of nostalgia that Love Drips and Gathers achieves.
The album starts with Hastings 1973, a nostalgia-fuelled homage to childhood holidays at the English seaside; made unintentionally topical by the album being released in the UK in the middle of an unexpected heat wave (all heat waves are unexpected in this country) and the rise in popularity of holidays on home shores due to the dreaded C-word. It’s a sunny little number that starts with a haunting vocal refrain before picking up the beat and ending on an indulgently lengthy instrumental passage, of which there are several on this album. It’s followed by The Knife Thrower’s Daughter, a treatise on the English class system, which is similarly gentle musically and also has a leisurely fade-out. The conversational quality of the lyrics gives this song a very Lush quality, as this was a motif often employed by the band.
Scratching at the Lid is a change in pace, being an upbeat number more in keeping with some of the tracks on Brickbat. It’s not heavy though and still retains a dreamy quality throughout. The lyrics are treated with the sort of fuzzy effect used on Lush’s Piledriver (though nowhere near as heavy) which gives it a wonderfully lo-fi feeling and I also found something indefinably 80s about the percussion on this number, which was released ahead of the album. Back to the slow numbers again with Loveable, which pairs a hypnotic drum beat with dreamy vocals to fascinating effect, before V.O. picks up the pace once again. This is probably the most traditional pop song on the album, which is not a bad thing as it demonstrates even further the versatility of the band as they segue effortlessly between slow and fast numbers.
Starting with an almost Brian May-ish burst of wailing guitars from Moose, Wanderlust is another number with a steady pop beat demonstrating that Piroshka would be easily capable of conquering the singles market if such a thing still existed. This is followed by Echoloco, which adds (synthesised?) strings and glockenspiel into the mix, thickening out the sound of an ethereal ballad into something quietly epic. At the risk of harking back to Lush again, one of their strengths throughout their career was the inclusion of a wide palette of different instruments that expanded their sound and made their songs much more far-reaching; Piroshka uses the same style very effectively. The music press love to sing the praises of stripped-back bands who rarely use any sound beyond guitar, bass and drums; but that can get a little boring and limit the types of songs a band is capable of.
Familiar is probably the most ethereal song on the album, demonstrating that Miki’s ability to produce dreamy vocals has not diminished in the slightest since the 90s. It fades beautifully into the final track We Told You, which is a pounding instrumental in an experimental style reminiscent of The Flaming Lips. We Told You changes mode a couple of times and although listed as separate tracks, these two could almost be a sort of conscious medley (I was going to say a mini-concerto, but that just sounds so pretentious even I’m embarrassed by it) and it’s a great way to end the album, drifting off into a relaxing, dreamy climax. There really only were two ways to end this; with a big, ballsy rocker or drifting off into a dreamstate… and I think they picked the right one, as it’s in keeping with the shoegazing theme of the whole thing.
Love Drips and Gathers is a great album. If you’re a fan of Lush, you’ll love it; but I feel I’m doing it a disservice to keep mentioning Lush, because when all is said and done, this is Piroshka – a completely separate entity and if they have similarities, well that’s fine, but don’t be expecting it all the time because any new band wants to demonstrate what they can do. Chances are the next album will sound completely different again and that’s fine by me. Piroshka are far more than some kind of 90’s retro pub band and have a sound that is not only as modern as anything on the market today, but also light years ahead of the kind of cookie-cutter pop that the music industry seems intent of feeding our kids. I’d like to believe that not everyone buying Love Drips and Gathers is in their 50s… and y’know what? I can!
‘Piroshka – Love Drips and Gathers’ is available on CD, Vinyl and Download from Bella Union.