Friday, December 15, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 17

Note to the design team: next time, find an image of Rose that actually looks like her

A band that seemingly nobody 'quite likes' or 'is a bit disappointed by', it's either adoration or hatred to an oddly virulent extent, of course the Pipettes are a surface timeslip of the classic girl group era so many have mined, but to us they also seem redolent of those two years at the start of the 80s before the New Romantic takeover when all sorts of concepts and ideas were allowed to flourish as saleable pop acts, when on the face of it disposable pop was married to the attitudes of the previous years' musical seachanges. For all their Spectorish trappings and demands that stretch no further than invitations to dance there's something admirably DIY at their core. Were this just a post-modern Brill Building/Shadow Morton homage it'd be passing interest only, but luckily it's one made by people aware that stuff's happened since then. They could only have come from Brighton, a musical hub that thrives on the secretly ironic.

There's an appeal at the heart of We Are The Pipettes that marks it out as an album that lasts beyond the initial saccharine hit. It's knowing but not overwhelmingly so, never hangs around longer than it has to and never forgoes its sense of humour, redolent in labelling themselves "the prettiest girls you've ever met" on the Telstar-quoting title and opening track of a near-eponymous album or One Night Stand's inverted commas brazenness. Beyond artifice there's also a promising subtlety here - Judy's soul-tinged swing accompanying cautionary moral confusion, A Winter's Sky's string-laden swoon masking the missed opportunity and unresolved story, or the way I Love You manages in a smidgen over ninety seconds to incorporate the rush of the harmonies, the deceptively simple straight-up chorus and verses which not only neatly counteract expectations but every line of which are eminently quotable. It's simple pop craftmanship that imagines classicist girl pop retooled by Saint Etienne, and that they accompany this with gubbins about femme fatale-ism and the anti-Beatles manifesto is just so much pop territory marking flotsam. What this is is rerouting the sparkly stuff away from 19 Management sheen and returning it to lapsed indie kids with masterplans. Impure pop, if you will.

WATCH ON: An odd Casiofied version of Judy from a European radio station; Rose draws James May on an Etch-A-Sketch
NOT WANTING TO BLOW OUR OWN TRUMPET, BUT...: Gwenno tells us about reshaping pop and plenty besides
READ ON: Subculture got all three to talk about conceptuality, snobbishness and who's going to leave first


Rothko said...

7 writers and the album is still average

Simon said...

Perhaps, but Sugababes' Round Round is credited to twelve people and there's not fourteen tracks on that. (Well, plainly there isn't as it was a single, but you get the gist)

Ben said...

"that they accompany this with gubbins about femme fatale-ism and the anti-Beatles manifesto is just so much pop territory marking flotsam" - yes, I agree. That's what puts me off them a bit - they can't quite seem to enjoy being a pop band and feel the need to flash their credentials / pop culture knowledge.

Simon said...

I'd agree to an extent - if you ever hear them asked about their influences more often than not whoever answers will go "Phil Spector...Joe Meek...Stock Aitken & Waterman..." as if they've got a gun to their head. I'd guess it's because of the two people who wrote their manifesto one doesn't give interviews and the other's not in the band any more, and the three of them are being left to justify a party line someone else came up with as a way of marking their derivative nature out from everyone else's derivative nature, although by all accounts they're big, eclectic music fans in any case. (I know the Long Blondes had a similar guitar boy-shunning, pop-lionising manifesto when they started, just one that was more straightforward and less tied to a particular attitude.) The best songs on the album are those which sound like they weren't initially conceived to fit the style.

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