Celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this week is Lemon Jelly‘s groundbreaking debut Lost Horizons. Following a number of early singles and the exemplary 2000 compilation Lemonjelly.ky, the first full album finally appeared in 2002, heralded by the brilliant single Space Walk.
As with the first album, the theme here is very much one of long, spacious, laid back music – there are just eight tracks in total, and two of them clock in at around nine minutes. One of those is the lovely Elements, a long and gentle piece built around a somewhat liberal list of elements. Eventually, it mixes into the glorious child-like chimes of Space Walk, which scraped into the lower reaches of the UK top 40 just before the album appeared. It’s not a likely hit, but it is a wonderful track.
I’ve commented before on the exquisite nature of Lemon Jelly‘s packaging – and it doesn’t just apply to the albums, as I can’t think of anyone else offhand who has packaged a single in denim. Lost Horizons is no exception – the cartoon landscape unfolds beautifully over the three-face gatefold sleeve.
There’s really nothing to fault on this album, but my favourite track is probably Ramblin’ Man, perhaps just because it resonates with my travels over the last few years. It arrives with the loud sound of a passing car, and continues in wonderful style, as actor John Standing (who also turned up as the voice of Elements) lists the places he has travelled in his lifetime. In a rather brilliant Easter Egg, one section halfway through the lyrics spells out “Bagpuss sees all things” if you take the first letter of each place name. Yes, really.
This mixes into the rhythmic Return to Patagonia, a nod to Homage to Patagonia, from the previous album. It’s still pretty relaxed, but a lot more manic than anything we have heard so far on this album, and the slightly menacing Soviet-style men’s choir that appears towards the end is a brilliant touch.
Nice Weather for Ducks was, of course, Lemon Jelly‘s big hit single, peaking at number 16 in February 2003. On the album, it appears as an extended version, and has a distinctly odd feel – you can immediately see why it was a hit, but at the same time it’s tempting to wonder why on earth what’s essentially a children’s song got quite so much radio airplay.
After a nice bit of noise from a vinyl repeating groove, we get the distinctly creepy Experiment Number 6, a slightly jazzy and very experimental piece which mixes into the drifting Closer. It’s hard to escape the feeling that on any other album these might be standout tracks, but the level of quality is so high here, that they seem to fade into the background slightly.
Finally, we reach the longest track on the album, The Curse of Ka’Zar. This is one of the more rhythmic pieces on here, but doesn’t rattle along at anywhere near the pace of some of the others. It’s a great, laid back closing track to a fantastic album.
After Lost Horizons, Lemon Jelly reappeared a couple of years later with one last album, ’64-’95, before disappearing, seemingly for good. With the benefit of age, there’s a part of me that wishes that they don’t try to mount a comeback at some point in the future, as they really were so good while they were around, but then they also deserve to be much better known than they are. Maybe one day we’ll hear from them again.
You can still find Lost Horizons at all major retailers – try to find the gatefold version if you have the choice.