Saturday, May 24, 2008


"look at us, we used to rip off the fall. we rip off eno now, and sing like jerry hall." - the long blondes

maybe if i had noticed the changes on the long blondes's myspace page, "couples" would have been less of a surprise. the new sleek black background, the quote above, the "new wave / idol / pop" description - i should have expected a different kind of band from the one that wrote my superfave someone to drive you home. but, really, i don't check myspace pages often enough to take notes on their aesthetic evolutions (except for team robespierre's, because a) they don't have a real website and b) i'm on it and vain). so i had nothing but awesome expectations for "couples", expectations that were dashed about fifteen seconds into "century." to top it all off, i've now come to the realization that "century" is probably the best song on "couples". the blondes were in town this weekend for two shows, and it was no accident that i didn't go to either - everything about "couples", from its irritating post-ironic ironic quotation marks (so irritating!) to its rather awful songs (yes, in that order) has spoiled the long blondes for me. i am pretty bummed, y'all. i used to really like them.

the worst thing about "couples" music-wise is, well... everything? why would a perfectly fucking rocking arty band go and ruin themselves with all this plastic disco crap? seriously, i wish i fucking knew. "couples" reneges on every single thing i liked about the long blondes, kate jackson's insecure femme fatale, dorian cox's jangly riffs, the aura of urgency that permeated. in their places are endlessly circular lyrics, garden variety licks, and an overwhelming sense that they rushed into this, their second album. "century," the album's leadoff track, has every glaring indication of being destined for single-dom, washy synths and faux dance bass abounding, an unswerving neo-wave homage to the capitulation of "heart of glass." and, like i said, it's probably the best song on "couples"! the biggest difference i can spot between someone to drive you home and this pile of garbage is the producer - instead of pulp's steve mackey, who undoubtedly had some hand in shaping the long blondes's sound, the group chose dj erol alkan, a fixture in the london dance scene, who undoubtedly guided the long blondes towards making this pile of crap. "century" reflects alkan's dance/electronica background the greatest, but "couples", being a terrible terrible record, is rich with accidents, mistakes, and absolutely wrong decisions. the worst (after those fucking quotation marks), in the sense of making the least amount of sense and the most amount of irritation possible, is the album's inexplicable punctuation by dour british voiceovers. despite those pitfalls (and more), there's little sense in blaming alkan for "couples"'s greatest fault, which is simply that the songs really aren't very good at all.

my favorite part of someone to drive you home was kate jackson's fierce delivery and dorian cox's nuanced, gender-crossing lyrics, so it's natural that i find "couples" lacking most greviously in this department. jackson's voice is in as fine form as ever, but her character, once a brazen post-feminist with an eye on style and men, is flat and utterly dull. and it's not just jackson's persona that has taken a hit; cox, the primary lyricist again, has scripted song after song of trite, unengaging material. "here comes the serious bit," my absolutely least favorite song on "couples", seems to only have five words in it: "here," "comes," "the," "serious," and "bit." even cleverer songs like "erin o'connor" (key lyric: "i'll pretend i really cum") suffer from "couples"'s endemic lack of depth.

"couples" can't quite stand on its own feet musically either. even discounting the vast gaping holes of "nostalgia" and "too clever by half," the album has a slapdash feel to it, like an essay written at 3 am and due at 8. "i'm going to hell" has the same five or six chords played over again, and "the couples" feels just as vapid. there's no meat to these songs, nothing that reveals itself only after four or five attentive listens. for the most part, it's just depressingly mediocre, which smarts all the more for someone to drive you home's excellence. true, there are some decent songs besides "century;" "erin o'connor" and "guilt" find the long blondes staying mostly true to their punker selves, and are mostly redeemable. in other words, they're decent enough to be someone to drive you home outtakes.

more than anything else, "couples" makes me sad.

"century" & "here comes the serious bit"
(both files are 320 kbps, so they're rather large.)

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