Wednesday, December 5, 2007

one of the best british albums of last year that suffered a criminally delayed us release, so now it's one of the best albums of this year

normally, i trust and respect rough trade records quite a bit. in fact, i admire them so much that i made a deliberate detour to their london hq when last i was in town - the dollar is still too much of a whiny little bitch for me to shill out there for albums i can get here, but it was a really cool shop (also, had great street food while there). however, rough trade sometimes makes questionable decisions that are utterly befuddling, especially for their american fans. one of the most perplexing was the eight month delay between the british and north american release of someone to drive you home, debut album by sheffield's slickest glam punksters the long blondes.

it is clear from the outset that the long blondes know how to rock, lead guitarist dorian cox's melodies rough-hewn but pointed, ringing with a kind of 70s earnestness, completed by a constantly prominent bass that reminds you that it is okay to dance. early on in their career, the long blondes famously issued this statement: we do not listen to the beatles, the rolling stones, jimi hendrix, the doors or bob dylan, a bold claim that set them apart musically and intellectually. and, indeed, their sound, though it sounds like a straight throwback, is as unique as it is enjoyable. someone to drive you home was produced by steve mackey, ex-pulp bassist, after a string of singles earned the long blondes a great deal of acclaim, and was released in the uk on nov. 6, 2006. however, and here's where it gets sucky, north americans had to wait 8 fucking months for someone to drive you home to come out here! honestly, the damn album gets an 8.2 from pitchfork, blogs love it, and there were people who downloaded it and sincerely wanted to spend money on it and couldn't (read: mr. mammoth, y'all), yet it still took until july for us to get it! rough trade, what were you thinking?

jarring and jangly, someone to drive you home seduces you in seconds with its haughty melodies and clever lyrics, gripping in an instant and riveting for months. frontlady kate jackson sings one hell of a story, her character history developed and brought alive over someone's twelve songs, a character that combines the disdain and allure of femme fatale with the anxious desperation of a bridget jones. jackson nearly always sings in the first person , lending the songs an acute air of authenticity and drawing a striking portrait of modern femininity simultaneously. at once jealous, proud, assertive, caustic, passionate, aloof, and, most of all, sensitive, jackson's character engages as often as it repels, so we end up rooting for her whether she is trying to land a married man or bemoaning her unfulfilling home life. as honest as she sounds, it's really very striking that nearly all of the long blondes's lyrics are written by dorian cox - someone to drive you home only features two songs penned by jackson. yet, though cox displays unusual skill in cross-gender perspectives, jackson is necessary to bring this modern woman to life, imbuing her voice with smouldering desperation and captivating charm.

before the release of someone, the long blondes released a long string of singles, most of which appear on someone to drive you home, making it pop with catchy guitars and smart hooks. perhaps the band's most well-known song is "giddy stratospheres," which has been released four separate times. sharp guitars and saccharine synth drive this jealous anthem about a love rival, a groovy post-punk dance. "once and never again" is a bright song with lots of treble, and an admonishment from jackson that "you don't need a boyfriend," liberating nineteen year olds from the clutches of premature relationships. on a darker side of things, album closer "a knife for the girls" is a worrying rejection song with ominous drums and pointed distortion, yet is just as catchy as everything else on the album.

i think someone to drive you home is my most-listened to album of the year. it's angular and gloriously lo-fi sounding, rich and well-written, and never fails to cheer me up and make me dance, and, really, i don't think an album can do better than that. it's one of the most satisfying records of the year, and i am happy to go on record and say i love this album, and there aren't many that i would recommend as highly as this.

"giddy stratospheres" & "you could have both"
buy someone to drive you home from rough trade!

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