The Long Blondes – Couples
The Long Blondes are one of my favourite bands of the past few years. Certainly one of the few bands I’ve gotten excited about in that way I used to back in my less decrepit days. Coming across like they were a conceived at an orgy attended by Blondie, Pulp, The Human League, The Buzzcocks and a student from the London College of Fashion circa 1981; The Long Blondes could sound contrived. But they don’t; there’s a sense that they mean it. Actually there’s a greater sense that they are actually time travellers. Like Alex arriving in 1981 in Ashes To Ashes sent The Long Blondes here to 2008.
Their first album was something of a familiar experience as most of the tracks had been available in demo form online for a while before it actually came out. It was produced by Steve Mackey, formerly of that most perfect of pop groups Pulp; and there was a definite connection between the two bands in terms of musical and lyrical style. There were also some amazing, literate pop tunes that sounded like a band that would have been perfect for me if I’d been fifteen.
Second albums are always tricky. Especially if the first was so good. You tend to forget that bands actually have all the time in the world to write a first album. Their whole lives sometimes. (How many great bands have disappointing second albums!) There’s still the sense on the first of that flush of excitement you get when you know you’re doing something good. Before somebody else tells you it’s good and offer you money. Second albums can sound a bit less enthused, a bit jaded. They can also sound a little more contrived, as bands start wondering who they are, and start experimenting. Which can lead to a band letting down initial fans by not crystallizing into the band they initially seemed.
So, now we have The Long Blondes second album Couples. Produced by Erol Alkan who has been working with the band for a little while now, mostly on b-sides. Essentially what he’s done is turn up the angular punky side of the band on one hand and turn up the electronics on the other. There’s less of the outright ‘pop’ about the album though, it’s a moodier beast than the first. Kate Jackson has changed somewhat too. The vocals on the first album were a post-punk Sheffield Debbie Harry. On this album there’s a different voice in use for some of it; a cool falsetto sounding for all the world like the missing link between early Kate Bush and Alison Goldfrapp.
It’s also more produced than the first. Sometimes the first sounded, although slick and shiny and bright, like a band just going into the studio and playing their live set. Some of the tracks on Couples sound like they were created in the studio, like ‘Nostalgia’ which can mean a different kind of energy; but there are still tracks like ‘Here Comes The Serious Bit’ for bouncing around in sweaty venues.