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 before releasing this year’s hugely disappointing follow up, 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 it first appeared and is as joyous a slice of pop as you’re likely to hear any time soon.
Come their second outing, it was a relief to notice that the Sixties stomp is still there but, even more excitingly, the songs themselves are much stronger, resulting in a consistently delightful listen. First single ‘White Russian Doll’ was 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 the four blokes who stand behind her 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. In addition to the spangle, 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. ‘Some say I’m schizophrenic, but I walk in single file’ remains my lyric of the year. Straddling, as they do, the worlds of indie and vintage pop, it’s no surprise that this didn’t come close to setting the charts alight, 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.