The Boo Radleys

From Academic Kids

The Boo Radleys were a British guitar band of the 1990s who made experimental indie music, and were briefly associated with the Britpop movement. The band split in 1999, and fans believe that the group remains one of the most underrated bands of the past 15 years.

The Boo Radleys were formed in Liverpool, England in 1988. Singer/guitarist Sice, guitarist/songwriter Martin Carr, and bassist Timothy Brown originally enjoyed the company of drummer Steve Hewitt, but he was replaced by Rob Cieka after the release of the band's first record.

In 1990, the Boos (as they are fondly known to fans) released Ichabod and I on a small British indie label. Although essentially a shoegazing record, influenced by My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr, the album was an underground hit. It scraped the bottom of the UK charts, and the Boo Radleys were signed to Rough Trade Records.

Almost immediately after the release of the Every Heaven EP in 1991, Rough Trade collapsed and the Boo Radleys had to move to Creation Records for the release of Everything's Alright Forever in 1992. The record was immediately praised by critics and fans alike as a development and refinement of the group's sound.

But no-one was prepared for the Boo's 1993 disc, Giant Steps. According to fans: the record is infectiously catchy and melodic; kaleidescopic in texture; eclectic –– the second track on the record launches straight into a convincing dub pastiche; and at over an hour in length, one of the most ambitious indie records ever made. The album was received rapturously by critics: picking Giant Steps as their Album of the Year, Select magazine described it as 'an intentional masterpiece'. The album takes its title from the John Coltrane opus, of which Carr is a big fan.

Despite massive critical acclaim and a cult fanbase, the Boo Radleys were still largely unknown to the general public by the time that Britpop broke through in 1995. This changed when the band made an exciting bid for mainstream success with the euphoric "Wake Up Boo!" This perfect pop song scored a Top 10 position in the UK charts, and the Boos were big. But the press agreed that the band had not sold out, but simply evolved a pop sensibility which had always been present in their music. Their fourth album, Wake Up (1995), was catchy, but still featured imaginative arrangements, sophisticated songwriting, and esoteric songs like "Martin, Doom! It's Seven O' Clock".

The Boos were quickly tagged a Britpop band, and they responded in 1996 with C'mon Kids, featuring what some believe to be some of the most challenging and innovative music, indie or otherwise, of the 1990s. (According to indie lore, Radiohead listened to C'mon Kids while recording OK Computer, and were inspired to make their classic more experimental.) Although the singles charted, the band were soon a cult favourite once again.

The Boo Radleys' final LP was 1998's Kingsize. The record demonstrated the group's less visceral, more elegant side, and was praised as a fine addition to their canon. Kingsize also featured some electronic beats, anticipating the direction that Martin Carr would take his solo project Bravecaptain.

Origin of name

The band's name comes from the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, in which Boo Radley is the name of a character who is feared by the neighbourhood children as some kind of freak, but ultimately turns out to be misunderstood.


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