Sunday, January 07, 2007

LONG BLONDES : “SOMEONE TO DRIVE YOU HOME” CD

I’m always on the lookout for that one golden pop act that’s going to blow my deep-underground leanings away and bring me into the sugar-filled promised land of massive hooks, deep grooves and candied adrenaline overload. The ones I seem to go for almost always have with female singers. I honestly don’t know why, but I suspect it has something to do with the chauvinistic notion that a “softer” form of music (that being pop music) sounds better when it's paired with a "softer" voice. In past years I’ve flirted with ELASTICA (an album with maybe 3 great songs and tons of filler); the SAHARA HOTNIGHTS (two great songs and lots of pablum); JOHNNY BOY (one masterpiece of a song - "You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes..." - and electro garbage after that); THE PIPETTES (great debut single; awful teenypop dreck immediately followed) LOVE IS ALL (still kinda like them; check out "Make Out Fall Out Break Up" and "Motorboat"!); and the LONG BLONDES.

Now the Long Blondes were always one good album away from superstardom in my eyes, and who knows, some folks may feel this is it. I was just hoping for something moderately decent. I've followed their 45s pretty closely the past couple years - I think there were six in all, with half being fantastic uptempo wavoid girl pop & the other half being total schlock. The two singles that stood out the most for me were "Lust In The Movies" (an even better version of the 45 kicks off this CD) and "Seperated By Motorways" (totally inferior and meaningless version here). But the full-length record confirms that they're only rarely inspired enough to write the big, monstrous pop bombs I've been pining for - too often they're grinding the gears between sappy lite MOR-ish new wave and going-through-the-motions femme vamping ("Weekend Without Makeup"; "Once and Never Again"). And how many times in one album do we need to be reminded that the twentysomething singer - who I will say is quite a smoker if you know what I mean - used to be 19?. The title track is pretty good, and I have no doubt that John Peel himself would have probably fallen for it were he still with it. The band can indeed move to the more interesting half of the musical spectrum when they choose to, but I suspect a push for the "big break" on this record and it totally plays that way to my ears. I guess I'll just keep looking for the one true pop band of the 21st century.

5 comments:

tim ellison said...

I don't see how "Love a Boy in Uniform" by the Pipettes (I believe that's from that first single you are praising here) is any more raw or energetic (and certainly not more well written) than their big song from last year, "Pull Shapes." I see a song like "Pull Shapes" as a great realization of a pop music element that was endemic to post-punk, as in a song like "Almshouse" by Twelve Cubic Feet. Are there genre connotations that make "Pull Shapes" "teenypop dreck" that are not present in "Almshouse" (or any number of other pop-oriented post-punk songs)?

I've noticed the assertion often being made - indeed in your writing, I think, Jay - that the best songs by particular post-punk groups are what I perceive as being their greatest pop songs. So I think the divide between New Pop-oriented post-punk and non-New Pop-oriented post-punk can be very gray. I don't know if that is at the heart of your post here and your perspective in general (and I'm not saying the new Long Blondes singles are the best things ever - though I think "Weekend Without Makeup" has a great chorus) - but as far as the difference between "sappy lite MOR-ish new wave" and great "wavoid" post-punk goes, I've gotta say tht I believe that a song like "Telecommunication" by a group considered to be as great an affrontery as A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS could have EASILY been considered a post-punk classic had it been written and recorded primitively in a squat by, say, the Tronics.

Jay said...

Tim, the line is indeed very gray. I liked that first Pipettes 45 because it was total girl-group candy floss, & very uptempo and energetic to boot. The later stuff has a moderne, synth-ish sheen to it that’s just boring to me, and kicks it over to the other side of the divide. I often enjoy stuff that’s got a 60s-ish feel to it (Johnny Boy, for instance) but there’s no hard and fast rule. You just know quality when you see it, right?

tim ellison said...

You're not going to like Sophie Ellis-Bextor, are you? : D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHiqig3wNsU

PB said...

Jay, I think you're being just a bit unfair in reviewig the LB's debut. If you're looking for the the great pop band of the 21st century, of course you're going to be dissapointed. I too was a bit let down my the album initially mainly because a) their mostly excellent singles which preceded this album raised my hopes and b) many of the songs from said singles were repeated in here in what I considered to be inferior versions. But after a few spins I found myself throughly digging it. Maybe my tolerance for slickness is higher than yours (I never thought I'd say that to anyone) but I really like the Long Blondes mix of the sleek and the abrasive. "Someone to Drive You Home" may not be a total classic but it's a promising debut at the very least. Hell, it's better than Delta 5's full-length.

Simon said...

The Pipettes defy analysis. There are a good number of songs on that LP ("It hurts to see you dance so well", "Why did you stay?", "ABC", Pull shapes", Judy") that I find absolutely irresistible. I'm not looking for any great white pop hope or anything, but just take 'em as great, energetic, infectious blasts of pop with a nice little hint of cynicism to coat the sweetest pill, and I can hapily just let the songs play over and over for an alarmingly long time. My favourite LP of 2006.