The Pipettes The PipettesEarth Vs. The Pipettes
We remember the three gals who fronted the album “We Are The Pipettes” (2006) with a sense of affection, appreciation, and childlike fun. The memory of those three young women dressed in self-designed polka dot dresses, who acted like knowing schoolgirls and did high-school choreographies in their live shows has undergone a mutation worse than all of the X-Men put together. If we look at the cover of the new album, with the absurdly delinquent title, “Earth Vs. The Pipettes”, we don’t see three hot chicks any more - in their place are two lassies who are a bit more pound shop, in absurd poses and out-of-fashion brilliantine in their hair. Something has happened (obviously) since the farewells of Rose Elinor, Rebecca and Julia ( The Indelicates), all three to their own very interesting, recommendable projects. After the stampede (Beth Mburu-Bowie and Anna McDonald also fled, but if we have to explain the group’s endless changes, we’ll need to draw a diagram), it turns out that Gwenno (a TV presenter!) and her sister Ani came in.
Let’s go back to the cover. In front of a space scene, an alien invasion under a sky of laser beams lighting up the duo in corsets and brilliantine, a group of man-lovers dressed in white and lying as if they were dead in the clouds. If that isn’t totally crazy, the music will supply the finishing touches. The thing is that The Pipettes, who use the name of the original group without qualms, have evolved from 60’s music like The Ronettes, The Dixie Cups and The Chiffons into what you hear over the loudspeakers at an enormous New Year’s Eve party held in a sports centre filled to the brim with kegs of beer. And the truth is that you don’t know how to react the first time that you listen to it. It’s true that “Call Me” isn’t a version of Spagna (if you have the stomach for it, watch the version of the same song by Spanish “American Idol” participant Soraya), but anyone can see that the production is cheap imitation. This is repeated during the rest of the songs, but especially in “I Need a Little Time” (an electronic attempt that turns into the Franz Ferdinand “Tonight” sound, but with much worse production), the unbearable “History”, which will give you a headache, and “Our Love Was Saved By Spacemen”, which is cheap, noisy electronic music (deep down, similar to the 90s game “Wacky Wheels”). This conceptual change is almost fully achieved in the title song, “Stop the Music”, where a snap of the fingers that is more artificial than a loop gives way to funk and a melody that continue to be at least a B-side of a good group, weighed down by a pitiful beat box. And perhaps this is the key: while other soul artists or 60s-style girl groups have opted to keep doing the same thing, or simply to retire, these leftovers that are the new The Pipettes have taken the route of danceable funk with retro touches and tacky synthesisers. They probably don’t make it because it’s their first try. We’ll see with the following album (if the same girls continue).
For those nostalgic for the first album, you can still catch glimmers of the high-school cheerleading squad style in the songs “Ain’t No Talkin’” (the most similar to something like The Shirelles), “Thank You” and its catchy chorus, and “Captain Rhythm” , and Martha & The Vandellas in disco form. But don’t fool yourselves: things like “I Always Planned to Stay” (the inevitable sweet song where it seems like The Corrs are singing), as well as attempts to keep up-to-date in terms of danceable music, will never work with strident, far-out sounds (a simple memory of Lady Gaga is enough to sink Gwenno and Ani into the record graveyard and the deep pits of sales). It’s true, we have “I Vibe U” as an excellent beach tune, and “Finding My Way” (a title that should be understood as a double entendre with these two ladies) joins that interesting musical evolution that they could have explored more: life after 50s and 60s music, where you can wear the retro-soul type dress and still have a band with an up-to-date sound. But for now, it isn’t enough. Just like it’s not enough to call yourselves “The Pipettes.”