Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes

Grade: A-
I'm currently in lower east-side Manhattan on tour, so I apologize for the late-ish update, but it's a goodie.

Doo-Wop isn't a hard thing to do, but it is hard to do well. Balancing simple novelty and actual creativity and innovation is where the difficulty lies. We are fortunate enough to have the God Damn Doo Wop Band here in Minneapolis, but what about England? This is a question I often ask myself: what about England?

The Pipettes are great. They walk the line of cheesy and revivalist with well-constructed songs that, although they may not be the deepest songs ever written, they are amongst the most fun. Instantly contagious, the Pipettes have stumbled upon a rather impressive formula.

Each song on We Are The Pipettes has the spirit of doo-wop inherently there, but also possesses elements of Abba oddly enough - I will admit that "Fernando" completely owns, so I'm down. I really hated most disco and I agree with, well, everybody that mirrored balls, roller skates, and unbuttoned lapels hailed the end of rock music, but somehow the Pipettes have been able to hold my attention without sparking my anti-disco sentiments. Yet.

Part of this is because they write damn catchy songs. "Pull Shapes" is an instant classic that hosts flowing orchestral strings behind the three girls just completely belting it. The drummer pays homage to the stylings of the time, but isn't dedicated to that single feel - often including phatter beats and a bit more creativity to make things a bit more interesting. The song is full of hot breakdowns of "Clap yours hands if you want some more," with white-washings crowds cheering and echoing in the background.

The production is also rather clever. It's clear that the equipment used was as vintage as their sound. Everything is wet with reverb and has a hint of delay to create that older-reel-to-reel feel. The drums are harshly compressed which gives the recording a smashing room feel which creates a consistent and discernable spatial image of the room. The vocals are generally filtered with a dash of delay, but are placed artfully within the mix.

Chaulk full of three-part harmonies and back-and-forth vocal lines, the girls play off of each other as if they've been friends for years, which makes them that much more authentic.

The only weak points are "It Hurts Me So To See You Dance So Well" and "A Winter's Sky" which aren't all that bad really, they just lack in energy which makes the middle of the record drag a bit. However, the pace picks back up with "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me," which will be the hit, hands down - you just watch.

The beginning of "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" is a chant of the name-sake line repeatedly over a "Micky"-like (or "Holla Back Girl") drum part that makes the song irresistible. The verses are simple doo-wop, off-beat shimmys that conjure images of the doing "the Swim" and, yes, even Winny Cooper from the Wonder Years. However, the chorus is easily the highlight, moving into an expansive - and quite beautiful - part with gentle "ooos" holding up a high, siren-like melody that glides effortlessly over a hall of reverb-soaked instrumentation.

"Tell Me What You Want" is a standard Abba-esque slow-disco burner that is smooth and sexy and very cool. Epic and over-the-top yes, but is still a great song and may even be the sleeper hit of the record.

My favorite track, however, is "ABC," which is a little love song about falling for a nerd, so of course it peeked my interest. The chorus says it all: "He cares about ABC, 123, XYZ, but he don't know about XTC." With lines about how he doesn't care about how she looks, but is always deep in a book, the song is guaranteed to make the hearts of most adolescent boys skip a beat.

A fact which may reveal the true intentions of the band: to simply make everyone fall in love with the three beautiful girls fronting the band. It isn't that hard, trust me.

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