The Long Blondes "Someone to Drive You Home"
"Long Awaited" springs to mind.
The Long Blondes could, and in a considerably better world, would have released a debut album a year ago. It would have included most of the songs that eventually made their way onto 'Some to Drive You Home' and would most likely have been pretty great. In the event, the album now put before a (frankly) slavering press, vociferous devotes and as yet seemingly unconvinced wider public, is no disappointment.
For a band once resplendent in charismatic disarray, this is focussed and cohesive. They will probably still struggle to convince those who worship at the false grail of technical proficiency, which is in effect a moral victory. There are too many bands who know only of music, and not even really much about that. It's not so much that The Long Blondes are possessed of or by originality - they steal from everywhere, with deftness and glee. Films, books, other records even. While the "Nag, Nag, Nag" refrain of "Lust in The Movies" is, by their own admission, courtesy of Cabaret Voltaire, it has attracted less attention than the "Don't turn around / Just walk away" bridge in "Giddy Stratosphere" that arrives there via Aswad and Ace of Bass.
As has been practically mandatory in recent years for every band with at least one person playing guitar, the most readily apparent influence is that of post-punk, late 70s/early 80s. Blah. But The Long Blondes part company with the multitude by going beyond self-conscious attempts to replicate the rigour of bands who, a very long time ago, sought a way forward by Not Playing Rock and Roll. A strong streak of pop classicism is present throughout. They mix girl-group aesthetics with a rhythm section that may go on to equal Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads, and is already doing well to bring the comparison to mind.
The lyrics by guitarist Dorian Cox and icon-in-waiting Kate Jackson manage to cram a multitude of immaculate references (Billy Wilder and "Saint Scott Walker" in centrepiece "You Could Have Both" alone) into narrative scenarios fit to stand alongside The Smiths at their best. Try playing the single "Once and Never Again" next to "Handsome Devil" for proof that, although The Long Blondes aren't the first or only band to be this sly, thrilling and ambiguous, they are currently by far the truest heirs to whatever legitimate legacy may remain from that most over-imitated and over-heard of bands.
It's also worth noting that, between appearances in the NME and the nation's colour supplements, that Kate Jackson has become a startlingly adaptable vocalist. Most often favouring an approach somewhere between hand-on-hip and heart-on-sleeves, she shrieks her way through the re-recorded "Separate by Motorways" in an unrestrained fashion, undoubtedly befitting a song about escaping from Bury St Edmunds. All the more surprising given that on the preceding "Heaven Help the New Girl" (I presume this song will end side one and "Separated " start side two of the album's vinyl version which, who knows, I may buy), she is ultimately resigned and indignant in what's probably her best performance on the album. The song itself is uncharacteristically sparse and slow, and Jackson's delivery turns a lyric that could have been a self-justifying whinge into something brilliantly and affectingly wretched. I think it's my favourite track on the album, certainly the least expected.
"Expectation", that springs to mind too.
Not to give the impression that this is anything other than an auspicious debut by a great band, but at times this album doesn't make their future seem quite near enough. Back in the present, " Someone To Drive You Home" finally has the The Lond Blondes past at its best. Which is very, very good indeed.
By the ghost of Peter O'Neasden, currently haunting
the spacious corridors of The Paul Morley Centre For Health And Beauty.
Drive yourself to giddy stratospheres about this review on our message boards here
Read a contemporaneous interview with The Long Blondes here