Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Levitation
Coppelia EP


Released 1991 on Ultimate
Reviewed by Moon Cat, 26/06/2001ce


In 1988/89 the UK music press were jostling with each other to find the next best British Guitar band following the dissoultion of the Smiths. While the Wedding Present catered for the bedsit failed romantic, with the added bonus of being from the north, what they didn't have was a bonafide indie geetar hero to step into the massive suede loafers of Mr. Johnny Marr. And while Morrissey was a Wilde one, David Gedge was far more chip-wrapper in the gutter after being dumped. They were, perhaps too indie in everything to bear the Smiths mantle convincingly.
Then a nascent Creation records, back in the day when Alan McGee was capable of seeing something special rather than indulging himself, brought the world The House Of Love. Ahaa...went the NME et al...but of course.
In Guy Chadwick you had the heartbroken often spiteful spirit of alienation and disconnection...kinda proto Thom Yorke...and in Terry Bickers you had a genuine indie rock guitar hero in the making.
The House of Love enjoyed an early spotlight and made some fantastic singles and albums. However, the maverick and mercurial Bickers, whose fluid and spacey alternations of noise and gentility took Guy Chawicks indie rock to borderline Spacemen 3 territory (within the confines of an indie pop song that is!) was a loose cannon from day one.
A fractious relationship between Bickers and Chadwick resulted in fights in tour vans and general on the road bad feeling. Chadwick was at heart a singer songwriter, his forte, doleful lament rock. Bickers was a space cadet, a reputedly dedicated trip monger, who felt sonically confined by The House of Love's ways of doing things.
House of Love mk. I couldnt, and didnt last. So Bickers bailed out before the 2nd album proper and formed a group to pursue his own vision....Levitation
Bickers, now on vocals as well as lead guitar, had assembled a group of full on psych noise maestros to take Levitation off the ground.
The first, and given Bickers' by this time guitar guru and weirdzo status, much awaited release by Levitation was in 1991: The Coppelia EP. Four songs, and people wanted to know: what was Bickers gonna do?

The songs on the ep are in order Nadine, Smile, Paid in Kind and Rosemary Jones. All the songs on the EP are pretty cool...Nadines main shock being how short it is considering a lot of people were expecting Topographic Oceans. The other surprise is that Bicker's voice is a pleasing croon, not totally unlike Mr. Cope in his more Scott moments. Nadine is a spacious burst of intent...all spirals and condensed sound jostling for space as the 2 min trip cascades to a sudden death stop. Levitation were gonna be interesting.
Paid in Full is for want of a better phrase, a highly melodic, jaunty, slightly confined prog rocker; a lush tune but I would have liked to see it go on and out more. The fantastic flail of the far out Dave Francolini is a joy to hear offering ratatat counterpoint the the chimes and swirls of the guitars. Rosemary Jones is a gentler (at first) percussive piece that offers Bickers soft croon hovering hesitantly over the e-bows and percussive mix, a pleasingly psychelic trip out. House of Love it aint.

I've left Smile til last cos its my fave Levitation track and for my money, the best example of what they were capable of. Smile is in all senses of the word, an epic. A plaintive vocal over a gently strummed guitar heralds a beautiful, mid paced, proggy riff that is itself shadowed by crystalline chimes of guitar. The sound builds with vocal and guitar harmonies and gorgeous themes and reprises of the main melodies. Then moments of quiet interspersed with gentle guitar echoes until the flailatron drums bring the whole thing to a lush, pompous and grandiose climax....then again, drifting back to quiet...peace, childlike keys and Levitation have left your head. Love it still!

Levitation went on to make more EPS and eventually released and album Need For Not that contains a fair amount of gems. However it also bears a re-recorded, slightly faster version of Smile which, as far as I'm concerned, just ain't got IT like the original.

Terry Bickers, being something of a man of whims, soon left his own band (!) and wandered off, never quite achieving the profile his talents deserved. I gather he formed a band called the Cradle, but I'm not too sure.
Levitation, in an act of defiance or desparation not sure which, soldiered on and I believe made another album, which to this day I have never heard.
However three of the band, Christian Hayes, Laurence O'Keefe and the great Dave Francolini eventually formed the more compact and concise Dark Star, whose 2020 sound album is pretty cool...bit Levitation meets MBV in a pop car crash.
As for the Jason Pierce that could have/should have been Terry Bickers...I hope he's happy doing whatever he's doing.
Levitation's 1st EP is a tantalising taster of where his vision can take him. And I think Smile is a classic of its kind. Going.....up?


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