If rock family trees were drawn up for Merseyside, The Wild Swans would be sure to figure prominently yet this fine band often fail to get the credit they deserve in analyses on Liverpool indie pop. This is largely because they didn't register as much as a top 75 hit during their stop-start career. Instead, history recalls 'The First Picture Of You', that glorious fragrant single by The Lotus Eaters. This was produced by ex-Wild Swans members Jeremy Kelly and Gerard Quinn. So because of this detour (and several others) there was a seven year gap between the first single and and the first album from their erstwhile group.
Released in 1988, 'Bringing Home The Ashes' became the belated debut album. At a time when many acts were fusing dance music with indie, it was a record out of time as jangly guitars and wistful synth lines ran alongside Paul Simpson's vocals, which could easly be mistaken for OMD's Andy McCluskey. Nevertheless, it's a record that should be appreciated now for lovers of Lotus Eaters' distinctive evocation of English innocence as well as fans of jangly, positive pop in general. Of particular note is the melodic centrepiece comprising 'Northern England', 'Whirlpool Heart' and the title track; all still sound triumphant today. B-sides 'Holy Holy' and 'The World Of Milk & Blood' also retain a sense of magic.
In an ironic twist, the follow-up record suffers by trying too hard to fit in with the times. By this time only Simpson remained from the original line-up but Merseyside heavyweights such as Ian McNabb and Ian Broudie were brought in as replacements. Sadly, 'Space Flower' jettisons the Swans' trademarks for vaguely danceable fey pop music and although it's interesting to see where The Lightning Seeds might have got their ideas from ('Tastes Like Tuesday' and 'Chocolate Bubblegum' are as sugary as their titles suggest), the songs are fairly insubstantial. Only the elegiac B-side 'Lantern Man' comes close to capturing former glories. Otherwise it's best to remember The Wild Swans for 'Bringing Home The Ashes' or for the excellent 'Incandescent' compilation.