Wednesday, April 9, 2008

No Longer Hitting Giddy Stratospheres: The Long Blondes' "Couples"

Sheffield's The Long Blondes have just released their sophomore album, "Couples," this week in the UK (North America sees a May 6 release), and after my first listen, I wasn't particularly impressed. I reckon I was anticipating an album full of the brilliance of Giddy Stratospheres, but as much as I want there to be some of that sparkling genius on this album, it doesn't exist. I tried listening to the album again (I often need a few listens before I can make any grand declarations about a record), and it still disappoints me. For the most part, The Long Blondes have gone electro-disco, which for a band like them, just doesn't make sense. The wonky, unexpected charm of songs like Giddy Stratospheres and Once and Never Again are lost in favour of confused meandering into several different corners of the '80's with no success in any of them. While many of the songs on Someone to Drive You Home had a sardonic wit reminsicent of one of Sheffield's greatest bands, Pulp, the songs on "Couples" generally fall flat lyrically. And sadly, there are no appearances of vocals from Dorian Cox this time round (You Could Have Both is one of my favourite songs off their debut album because of his Jarvis Cocker-like vocals, namechecking Scott Walker).

Lead-off track Century, which the band also made available for a free download, begins with a sound akin to an old computer monitor turning on, and then Kate Jackson's vocals kick in, sounding like Debbie Harry. The track moves on in a predictable fashion like a sub-par Blondie track. The following song Guilt has a shuffling guitar part reminiscent of a bad soundtrack to a tropical holiday - Club Tropicana anyone? Then comes Here Comes the Serious Bit, a rather shouty, dance-punk track, which somehow also conjures up visions of 80's girl groups without making me feel nostalgic for any of it. Round the Hairpin is a droning affair with nearly monotonous vocals from Jackson in which I prefer listening to the instrumental interlude over her actually singing on it - without her voice, I can pretend it's a post-punk track. Erin O'Connor is a bland electro-disco track that somehow manages to be completely unmemorable. Erin O'Connor is followed by Nostalgia, a plodder that starts out sounding like a slowed down version of Tainted Love, but then drags along to a repetitive piano line. My favourite track is the last one on the album: I'm Going to Hell. I think it's my favourite because it is most in line both musically and lyrically with the style of Someone to Drive You Home. It's a bit sad when you would rather have a band stay where they are and refrain from experimentation than grow and change.

At the end of the track I Liked the Boys, a newscaster voice comes on and states "not the most original sentiment I ever heard, so what's new?" Sadly, nothing worth mentioning from The Long Blondes.

Century - The Long Blondes

Round the Hairpin - The Long Blondes

I'm Going to Hell - The Long Blondes

No comments: