A Fabulous Follow-Up
'Couples' marks an eagerly awaited return to the scene from The Long Blondes, British connoisseurs of fashion, fun and indie frolics. From the outset the band are aiming their sights high; 'Century' is heading for epic status with its angelic falsetto vocals and looming organs blending into expansive sheer sighing synths and crisp percussive beats. It sounds much sharper and icier than the indie pop of the 'Blondes first album, 'Someone To Drive You Home'; in fact it sees the foursome almost resembling Goldfrapp's cool precision before another twist mixes in jerky post punk synth structures. It's impressive as an opener, but not the kind of number that you get stuck in your head, and therefore perhaps an odd choice in that the first track on an album is usually regarded the most accessible.
'Guilt' is a more standard pop tune but with added guitar hooks and far more reliance on pouty melodies and zooming synths than we've seen from the bands in the past. It's an infectious tale of resisting temptation, never has the morally correct road been so sexy. The syncopated flavouring makes Kate Jackson's vocals sound even more Debbie Harry than ever before. 'I Liked The Boys' is equally full of the jabbing hooks that groups like We Are Scientists use to pull in their devotees, but will a fine splash of Jackson's sultry regret, "When I was young I liked the boys". 'Here Comes The Serious Bit' is one of the less exciting chapters of The Long Blondes quirky dating manual; it’s a brief flutter of 60's sugar and kooky synth patterns.
'Round The Hairpin' adds some sassy tension with a minimalist rhythm and soft, anxious spoken word vocals keeping the listener on edge. Sadly its 5 minute duration is equally likely to turn the less discerning listener looking for an indie party fix off, but maybe this is the price The Blondes must pay for injecting some more creativity into proceedings. The icey synth sparkles of, 'Erin O'Connor' up the pace to a more accessible shimmering pop tune. There are moments that are all froth and little substance, 'Here Comes The Serious Bit' thrives on handclaps but feels a little to frivolous to really charm.
The coy subject material and cool, detached synths strongly recall Pulp in full splendour with frisky Blondie beats breaking through for frisson of shimmying disco fun. The Long Blondes have always been good fun and remain so with plenty of different vibes combining to create a varied album. After the response that 'Someone To Drive You Home' received, there will always be criticisms of a follow-up, with 'Couples' it's that there are certain places where the mind wander because the melody is too stripped down or the tune too deconstructed for an indie album, however creativity is always to be welcomed.