Thursday, December 13, 2007
Reprise: The Pipettes' We Are The Pipettes
This review appears in this week's Wireless Bollinger.
For the uninitiated, The Pipettes might appear to be singing and dancing in the wrong decade – the group was even founded as an experiment by Robert Barry with the intention of reviving the 1960s girl group sound. Even the structure of The Pipettes defies contemporary standings, with three nicknamed girls – Rosay, Gwenno and RiotBecki – backed by an anonymous male band named the Cassette. Although this setup suggests insidious manufactured pop, many independent-minded publications have embraced, even championed, the group.
The key might just be those pop songs that make up their debut album, We Are The Pipettes. Although none of them run more than a few minutes, and most are about either “love or dancing,” as the group admitted themselves at a recent gig at New York’s Blender Theater, the execution is very appealing. Even without seeing the trio’s choreographed dance moves, there’s remarkable harmonizing throughout the album. Having three singers allows for both big, sweeping choruses and traded verses within a song, techniques the group use to great effect.
"We Are the Pipettes" serves as the group’s theme song, as the girls sing self-introductions. The line “We’re the prettiest girls you’ve ever met,” is subjective, but their confidence is backed by impressive vocals. Likewise “Pull Shapes” is a triumphant indicator for the rest of the album: “I just wanna move/I don’t care what this song’s about,” a fitting mantra when it’s unclear what the title means. These clearly self-deprecatory lyrics and the girl’s general bubblehead enthusiasm embellish the album’s bright, upbeat quality, courtesy of the Cassette’s lively drums and guitars – punctuated on this particular track by a violin.
Although the next track, "Why Did You Stay," doesn’t break the two minute mark, it slows things down, with Rosay taking over lead vocals. About halfway through, after the some back-and-forth lines, the other girls insist, “But he was so sweet.” The music disappears momentarily as Rosay replies, “Well, I’ll had just about enough of sweet.” It’s never established who “he” was, but again, the specifics are secondary to the dialogue, a back-and-forth style that works throughout the album. The latter characters, a schoolmate named "Judy" and a scholarly fellow who “knows all about the movement of the planets/But he don’t know how to move me” on "ABC" are rudimentary sketches. Combined with the brevity of the songs, it’s clear that the Pipettes won’t win people over with lyrics alone, but they don’t have to when they’re so relentlessly hooky.
Perhaps the most risqué of the tracks is the bluntly titled "Sex," but the girls make wonderfully tangential reference to the topic, quoting a guy that promises conversation but “Let’s stop with all the talking/Because there’s no need for any talking for what we’re about to do,” later making his case worse by saying, “Now please don’t take this the wrong way/But my ears are getting sore.” These conversational verses are complemented with the breathless chorus, “Just rest your pretty head,” and this two-pronged approach is hard to resist.
Overall, We Are The Pipettes will please those who appreciate female-fronted pop. Even those that aren’t enamored with the genre may find something to appreciate. The Pipettes aren’t in a band just because of their looks, and there’s real musical merit to their album, each girl demonstrating talent with their vocals. While it’s easy to dismiss something so apparently contrived, those that look beyond their prejudices will find something that’s quite authentic.
Some international versions of the album ship with these two bonus tracks, and the entire record sounds a bit different than the original UK version. It's definitely an incentive to give it another spin or hear it for the first time.
MP3: The Pipettes - Really That Bad
MP3: The Pipettes - Your Love For Me (Demo)
MySpace: The Pipettes
Official Site: The Pipettes