Sixties girl group pop is rightly revered by many music fans. It’s overtly saccharine, almost disarmingly chirpy and always sounds loud, no matter what volume you have it on at and yet it just makes you feel good. Just like proper pop music should. A few years ago, it looked like we were on the cusp of a whole glut of acts adopting this sound and it was genuinely rather exciting. But things seemed to fizzle out a little and of the two most promising groups, The Pipettes fizzled out and had almost as many line-up changes as the Sugababes, while Lucky Soul didn’t quite capture the public’s hearts in the way I had rather hoped they would. ‘One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer’, from their debut, ‘The Great Unwanted’, was a compilation perennial for me for some twelve months after if first appeared and is as joyous a slice of pop as you’re likely to hear any time soon. Come the start of April and their second album, ‘A Coming Of Age’, will be released and it’s a likely contender for the end of year lists. As a result of its release date getting pushed back a bit, I’ve been listening to this record since November and I happy to report that it is somehow both immediate and a grower.
That Sixties stomp is still there but the songs themselves are much stronger, resulting in a consistently delightful listen. Recent single ‘White Russian Doll’ a fair representation of the more upbeat numbers on ‘A Coming Of Age’, opener ‘Woah Billy!’ possibly just topping it for sheer exuberance. Singer Ali Howard has an absolutely adorable voice, knowing exactly when to go through the gears and when to rein herself in. It would be grossly unfair on those four blokes above with nice hair to say that it is Howard’s voice that makes this band truly exceptional – the music more than plays its part – but her pipes make her one of my very favourite contemporary singers and her performance on this record is, at times, breathtaking.
The pop influence shares the billing with some luscious, 70s singer-songwritery sounds like ‘Warm Water’ and the euphoric swing of ‘Southern Melancholy’. Add in the full blown country work out of ‘Love³’ and the sway-a-long splendour of ‘Upon Hilly Fields’ and you have a complex collection of emphatically ‘up’ classic pop.
Don’t think it’s only the music that makes this one to soundtrack the not especially sun kissed summer days. There are some disarmingly honest lyrics across the twelve tracks on ‘A Coming Of Age’, along with evidence of a bitingly sharp sense of humour. If ‘some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’ is bettered this year, I’ll be surprised. Straddling, as they do, the worlds of indie and vintage pop, it’s hard to imagine this album sitting comfortably on the supermarket shelves alongside the usual suspects but I can’t help thinking that if more people heard these wonderful songs, the success they deserve wouldn’t be all that far behind. As it is, I’ve no idea how the album will do, but I do know that I will cherish every last note on it and if it’s not in my Top 20 list at the end of the year, feel free to call me a slightly naughty name. I’ll deserve it.