Monday, January 28, 2008

We Are The Pipettes

The day We Are The Pipettes was released in the US I made a trip to a record store to pick up a copy. I haven't done something like that in years. I had intended to write a track-by-track review, in fact I did just that. But then I read it, and saw that It Was Not Good. So this is more of an overview, hopefully better than my first go at it. But before we look at the contents, we need to look at the album.


I don't care for the cover. It features an image of the group towering Godzilla-style over the skyline of a city no doubt cringing in fear. The blue cover art on the UK release is much more appealing, just a basic group shot. The US cover art does play into the B-movie vibe of our first track though ...

And that first track is the aptly named "We Are The Pipettes". Every album should kick off with an anthemic statement of identity this good. The song has a strong sense of motion to it, something I really like. Lots of handclaps too, another good thing in my book, and a nice nod to the groups musical predecessors.


Reviewers trip over themselves in a bid to label the Pipettes as early 60s girl group for today. To an extent they are correct, although the 'standard' story of that genre is at best full of enough holes to make stuffing the group in to it a bit of a chore. At any rate, the Pipettes are pretty forward about who and what has influenced (or not influenced) them, from the Spectoresque opening drumbeats of "Sex" (borrowed from the Ronettes' "Be My Baby"), to a controversial non-Beatlecentric attitude towards pop. The group draws freely from the well of early 60s pop, but is not enirely bound to it.


Keeping with its early 60s pop heritage, most songs on this album are about either dancing or relationships. Or sometimes both ("It Hurts To See You Dance So Well"). "Judy" is the exception that proves the rule. The story-song has nice vocal work but is confusing. It is a story about the "good girl" who befriends a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Or growing older. Or family trouble. Something.


My favorite song on this release is "Because It's Not Love (But It's Still A Feeling)". A very danceable near-ballad. For second favorite I am torn between "One Night Stand" and "ABC". "ABC" is the oft-told tale of unreturned "geek love". In the movies it often takes the form of geeky guy falling for an unatainable girl. In "ABC" it is the girl pining for an oblivious guy who is more interested in science books than the ecstasy (or "XTC") of romance. "One Night Stand" is the song that actually made me in to a Pipettes fan. One part of it anyway. The transition between the first verse and chorus works almost like a motion picture crossfade. As the last line of the verse trails off ("warning ...") the sha-la-las kick in. It sounds absolutely gorgeous. Which is fortunate, because the second verse suffers from ...


Sometimes Pipettes lyrics sound clunky - to be charitable. Examples include "One Night Stand"'s "baby did it hurt when you fell from heaven" and "It Hurts To See You Dance So Well"'s "they know that I wanna kill them". Urrgh. Shoo-be-doop or something would be better sounding.


Overall a worthwhile listen. Lots of nice touches for enthusiasts of early 60s pop. Handclaps and harmony abound. A bit of attitude too - this ain't your daddy's girl group (but neither was your daddy's - but that's another topic for another time.)

I had to rewrite this mini-review numerous times (and am still not happy with it). I listen to portions of this album near-daily. Makes any kind of critical perspective difficult. Too busy humming along to be very objective.

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