“Ladykillers” was Lush‘s penultimate single and probably, for many, their most memorable with it’s pop-punk swagger and ear-wormy circular melody. The song was labelled as ‘feminist’ – and at the time of release during the Brit Pop heydays of 1996 where music fandom had arguably become less about creativity and artistry and more about which team you supported – ‘feminist’ was a word spat out like it was leaving a vile taste in your mouth.
Lad culture was celebrated through magazines like Loaded and FHM – so being ‘feminist’ translated – at best – as being ‘a bit of spoilsport’ to, more bluntly, ‘man-hater’.
As Miki would put it years later in her 2022 book Fingers Crossed: How Music Saved Me From Success – “The under-clad girls, the praising of machismo – it’s all meant to be fun”. In the same chapter she recounts how the editor of Loaded had offered Lush the chance to plug “Lovelife” in the mag “but only if Emma and I strip down to bikinis. It takes me a moment to realise he’s serious.”
But “Ladykillers” is not a man hating diatribe delivered with catchy hooks – rather it’s Miki’s exhausted / exasperated observations of how so many of the men she meets are just right twats.
The opening verse is a vignette of some unidentified twat who invites our protagonist over to meet his girlfriend in a vain attempt to strike up some jealousy between them – both women see right through his clumsy game-playing – “Girls, girls, please don’t fight” she recounts his mock-plea “(you get the picture)” Emma interjects backing up Miki in this recollection.
The second verse is almost certainly about Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers who Miki met on the Lollapalooza tour in ’92 (he’s even portrayed rather obviously in the accompanying music video). He smarms on about women being superior to men and how he, unlike other guys, totally understands this and he’s got a sensitive soul. “Christ this guy’s too much”.
Miki later described Kiedis as ‘manipulative’ and criticised his treatment of groupies on the tour and recalled a story where he had tried to get her to accompany him to s strip-club: “I remember Anthony Kiedis inviting me to come along with the band to ‘the ballet’. I didn’t realise he meant a strip club – I genuinely thought they were off to see Swan Lake! Thankfully, I was enlightened and I declined. ‘Why the hell would I want to go to a strip club?’ I thought.”
Obviously it was so they could witness, together, just how much more superior the female gender is even when naked and being objectified by blokes.
Miki has gone on record to say that the third verse is about Matt Sharp (Weezer bassist / founder of The Rentals). In the song she reflects that he “flirted like a maniac” and “He only had to have me ’cause I put up a fight”. They did have a brief relationship – but “When he’s nice to me he’s just nice to himself” and “I’m a five foot mirror for adoring himself” tells the truth that he only wanted to be with her because it would his ego.
Throughout the song Emma deadpans punctuation lines and nonchalant “ooh-la-la’s” – these tales come twenty-to-the-dozen. It’s a counterbalance to Miki’s exasperation at just how ridiculously lame these guys are; Emma’s empathetic but also has “heard it all before” and is perhaps just more resigned to accept that
boys twats will be boys twats.
On the flip side of the 7″ single Lush covered the Rubinoos 1979 song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” – retitled “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” for their authorised version. In 2007 Rubinoos frontman Tommy Dunbar and songwriter James Gangwer filed a lawsuit against Avril Lavigne, Dr Luke, RCA Records and Apple that Lavigne’s hit single “Girlfriend” bore striking similarities to their song, and especially the Lush cover version. Lavigne and Dr Luke contended that they had never even heard of the Rubinoos (it’s unclear if they had heard of Lush or not).
An out of court settlement was reached.