Heavenly formed in 1989 from the ashes of legendary Oxford band Talulah Gosh, in which all four original members – Amelia Fletcher (vocals/guitar), Peter Momtchiloff (guitar), Rob Pursey (bass) and Mathew Fletcher (drums) – had played. Cathy Rogers joined later on keyboards/vocals. They released four studio albums, that are all being re-issued on vinyl by Skep Wax Records: in November 2022 Heavenly Vs. Satan was reissued and Le Jardin De Heavenly, originally released in 1992, is the second offering (and, to celebrate, the band are re-uniting to play two sold-out dates at Bush Hall in London in May: at the live shows, drums will be played by Ian Button. Mathew sadly took his own life in 1996). By the time their second album was ready, Heavenly were an established part of the Sarah Records stable in the UK and honorary members of the International Pop Underground in the USA, where Le Jardin De Heavenly was released by K Records.
The songs on the album are rich with pop melodies and complex harmonies but the band aren’t holding back – Mathew’s drumming is intense; Peter’s guitar flourishes are sharp-edged and loud. There are still elements of the gentler twee sound that had become the band’s hallmark (or curse): Different Day and So Little Deserve are winsome, delicate pop songs. But there are also swirls of early shoegaze – Starshy is a dreamy, atmospheric confection heavy with reverb and harmony.
There’s a defiant attitude in there too: I’m Not Scared Of You is the sound of a young woman refusing to be cowed by a male bully. It’s not hard to see how Heavenly ended up as part of the riot grrrl scene in the US (an encounter that would have a profound influence on the band’s later output). At the heart of the album, C Is The Heavenly Option feels like a perfect celebration of Heavenly’s transatlantic existence, and the marriage of two indie traditions: Amelia’s English pop voice duets with Calvin Johnson’s gravelly American baritone while the band alternate between cute melody and all-out thrash. It’s a joyous combination. (The song has since been covered by Los Campesinos).
The eight-track album was released by Sarah Records and by K Records. The Skep Wax re-issue of Le Jardin De Heavenly includes Heavenly’s third Sarah Records single (So Little Deserve/I’m Not Scared Of You) and a single released on K Records only (She Says/Escort Crash On Marston Street).
The vinyl re-issue of Heavenly’s third album ‘The Decline And Fall Of Heavenly’ will follow in Autumn 2023. The final album ‘Operation Heavenly’ will arrive in 2024. Each re-issue album includes relevant single releases, a 7” booklet with lyrics, and new sleeve notes by the members of the band. Altogether, the four albums will amount to a complete collection of the band’s recorded output.
Their mixtape: On the occasion of Le Jardin De Heavenly‘s reissue, we asked the members of the band what they were listening to in 1992, the year the album came out.
Shakespeare’s Sister – Stay
My first choice is Stay by Shakespeare’s Sister. I really remember watching the video for this and being terrified and thrilled at the sort of witchy love that I didn’t quite understand. It’s all very melodrama, very panto, very opera, but the song itself is rather lovely, bravely slow – and it’s from an album called Hormonally Yours, a title which only now do I fully appreciate.
PJ Harvey – Dry
My second is Dry by PJ Harvey. This isn’t the best song on that album and that album isn’t the best album (in fact it might well be my least favourite of all of her albums) but what I love is how she just entered the music world in that year – so intent, so serious, so all-woman, she felt completely unique. I think this record was the first clue as to what she could do and the subsequent 30 years haven’t disappointed.
Tiger Trap – Words and Smiles (live)
Tiger Trap were probably the band that I felt most kinship with musically. They were also great fun to watch and hang out with. In 1992, this song came out as a split 7” single with Bratmobile (who I also loved). There is no video for the single but this live performance from the following year is pretty darned good.
Beat Happening – Godsend (live)
Another live video, in the absence of an official one. Beat Happening were hugely important for Heavenly, not least because we ended up on Calvin Johnson’s K Records in the US. This song, sung by Heather, is just so great. On a personal note, we played this song at my brother’s funeral. It just seemed right.
Blur – Popscene
I have no interest in the BritPop wars, to which Heavenly was a conscientious objector. But the ecstatic rush of Blur’s Wire tribute rises above the 90s shabbiness. And they wore nice clothes.
Kris Kross – Jump
What did you do when you and your friend were twelve and thirteen? Possibly not adopt the perplexing aliases ‘Mac Daddy’ and ‘Daddy Mac’ and make a Number One record claiming that ‘inside out it’s wiggida wiggida wiggida wack’.
Lemonheads – It’s A Shame About Ray
I still play this song a lot. Partly because the kids like it too and will sing along in the car, partly because it expresses something melancholy and mysterious that I still can’t quite fathom out, and partly because it’s got my favourite backing vocal ever: the little ‘shame, shame’ right at the end.
Blueboy – Popkiss
Around 1992 we were mainly excited about the bands we were playing with in America for the first time – Bratmobile, The Magnetic Fields, Tiger Trap etc – but Amelia’s covered that with her choices, so I have gone for this: Blueboy were a new band on Sarah Records and in their own quiet way were the most radical. It took me a while to work out how good they were.
Le Jardin De Heavenly will be out on Skep Wax Records on May 12th. Look HERE for more information on Heavenly.