Listen to this track by jangly Wolverhampton post-punk guitar pop representatives The Mighty Lemon Drops. It’s “Inside Out”, a bona fide alternative pop hit as taken from their 1988 album World Without End. The song scored placements on UK and North American charts, mostly championed on this side of the Atlantic by college radio.
The words “Bunnymen” and “Echo and the” were commonly used to describe this band in any given write up about them, now including this one. There are many sonic similarities to help justify their use, maybe. But that’s not the whole story with this band as you listen, particularly with this song which share some of the same musical ties to sixties influences as matched with post-punk ones melodically speaking. Yet they seem to escape the dourness (and Doors references) that I personally associate with Ian McCullouch and his lagomorphic fellows.
These guys made an impact outside of that comparison anyway. After forming in Wolverhampton in 1985, The Mighty Lemon Drops managed to make their mark early on with their inclusion on the C86 compilation, an important document of the era for indie-pop in Britain by the mid-eighties. They had another advantage that carried them past all that, of course; a way with an empathetic anthem.
Members of The Mighty Lemon Drops had grown up on seven inch singles from indie labels, along with the influences from Gang Of Four, The Mighty Wah!, and for their sixties-oriented side, The Pale Fountains. They cut an EP very quickly after getting in touch with Dan Treacy of the band The Television Personalities who owned his own label. From there, and side by side with songs by Primal Scream, The Soup Dragons, and The Wedding Present, the inclusion of their song “Happy Head” on the aforementioned C86 compilation led to a signing at Chrysalis in the UK, and Sire in The US.
Their trajectory from there is a pretty common story for an alternative guitar pop band of limited exposure and modest success. By the mid-eighties and into the latter half of the decade, being a jangly guitar band was a tough row to hoe in terms of million-selling appeal unless you were U2 or R.E.M. But by 1988 and the World Without End album, the band had gelled fully and had established their sound. Led by songwriters David Newton, also playing guitar, and Tony Linehan on bass, they had the songs. “Inside Out” is one of their best.
This tune is a classic break up song from the point of view of the dumpee standing on a train platform pondering his fate. For a song that’s so full of heartache and even a shot of some fairly dark recrimination (I guess it’s fair to say/I’m gonna make you pay), it’s also full of empathy. Many, if not all of us, have experienced the feeling of being out of control of our fate as a love affair collapses out from under us. And as for the lingering love one has for the one who dumped us, that’s a pretty relatable and viscerally potent theme that this song raises as well. “Inside Out” is something of an anthem to being dumped, and a reminder to everyone who has experienced it that as lonely a feeling as that is, one isn’t alone in feeling it. Most of us have been there.
What makes this song so impactful is that the music to go along with that potent and empathetic theme is so bright and cheery, full of sparkle and jangly effusion. The sound of the song itself seems to point to an underlying thematic layer about owning one’s feelings in the face of helplessness, and that no one can deny those feelings, even the person who’s left us behind. Along with how empathetic it is, “Inside Out” is pretty empowering, even if it deals in an area of life that drags down one’s spirit. The song becomes an outline for a specific brand of human misery, while also acknowledging the point that one’s honest feelings, whatever they are, are personally valuable and to be counted as one’s own even when one is abandoned by another. As an anthem for moody post-punk kids, this one’s hard to beat on that score.
The World Without End album scored a modest top forty placement in the UK and stood as their highest charting single. By 1992 and after three more albums, they’d all decided that the band had run its course. They didn’t splinter in acrimonious upheaval, but rather parted as friends. Their break up story ended pretty happily, without anyone standing in the pouring rain.
To learn more about the early days of the band and the burgeoning indie scene in Britain by the mid-eighties, have a read of this interview with David Newton of the Mighty Lemon Drops.