Girls singing retro-tinged tunes with synchronised dance moves? A Machiavellian pop experiment inspired by KLF’s The Manual cooked up in a Brighton boozer by the mysterious Svengali Monster Bobby?
Well yes, but there’s been an evolution – a change in the genetics. The Pipettes are back, and now they’re a big shiny pop group. Or at least, that’s what they’d like you to believe.
In their first incarnation, donning polka dot dresses and referencing the girl groups of the late fifties in the heyday of skinny tie indie music, The Pipettes had remarkable success. A top ten album in Japan where the single ‘Pull Shapes’ was only kept off the number one spot by J-Lo, top ten radio positions all across Europe, two Top Forty hits in the UK and a Top Ten in the US billboard indies. They played on the main stages at Reading and Glastonbury, blazed a British trail across SXSW, conquered the world and sold a heap of records.
Having destroyed the male cock rock hegemony of the noughties and after Ronson, Winehouse, Duffy et al, the whole mini-movement that snowballed inexorably from that first polka-dot sleeved 7″, one might think the sensible thing for The Pipettes to have done, would be to simply sashay back in town with a sound as close as possible to the one we know them for and reclaim their rightful place at the head of the table. Not The Pipettes. They had promises to keep. A manifesto to follow. A five year plan.
Those promises were going to have to be kept with the loss of some personnel. Drummer Joe Lean left to find his Jing Jang Jong as Rose Elinor Dougall and RiotBecki left for solo careers away from what the band term “self-manufactured pop”. No bodies under the floorboards, no dramas, just the usual churn in pop bandsâ€¦ Rose, Joe and Becki had their own talents to explore whilst The Pipettes remain focused on exploring pop.
And besides, The Pipettes retain a great vocalist in Gwenno Saunders, the lead singer on The Pipettes biggest hit to date “Pull Shapes” and living proof that the Welsh, from Jones and Bassey onwards, have the best pipes. Gwenno’s sister Ani was recruited to reinforce that theory and Alex White (of The Electric Soft Parade and Brakes) completed the new line-up on drums.
The Martin Rushent-produced new single ‘Stop The Music’ is released on the Fortuna POP! label responsible for last year’s indie smash The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and includes a remix by Justus KÃ¶hncke of Kompakt. The track is a gleaming disco ballad inspired by the dance scenes in Spike Lee’s film ‘Summer Of Sam’. It continues the themes of their debut – speculating wildly on why boys remain a constant source of trouble – but projects these issues into a different place and time.
The girls who once doted on the harmonies of the Ronnettes now play out their relationships to the beat of the discotheque. Studio 54, Larry Levan and Philly soul influence the beat and strings, frustration and sadness make the melody, creating a slab of dramatic pop with a classic chorus hook that never ages. From Thelma Houston’s ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ to Robyn and Kleerup’s ‘With Every Heartbeat’, sadness and a fat beat always make for the best pop. Once again The Pipettes are ready to use the past to trail blaze into the future.