underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

tobi vail P.O. Box 2572 Olympia, WA 98507 USA

email mp3's, links, photos and flyers to:


Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Long Blondes-Couples LP

The Long Blondes-Couples (Rough Trade) this record is already old in blog years, but it came out this summer and I just picked it up last month, so it's new to me. The Long Blondes are of that 2003 school of groups that are technically genre-d "indie-dance" or "dance-punk" or maybe even "indie-pop", but that doesn't condemn them in my mind. Nor does their new romantic leanings (duran duran, spandau ballet, ultravox, etc)...although I universally hated that shit as an 80's teen...i guess i would call them post-romo, romo being a brief 90's revival movement of the club decadence/style if not sound of new romantics (see: orlando/plastic fantastic)...when I first heard Long Blondes way back in 2005 I kind of gagged at the name and cringed at the girls' voice...I didn't wanna like this 80's looking/sounding pop music...but for some reason I did end up liking it. I still am not sure why. I like to try and over-come my genre-prejudices and generational bias, so maybe I'm just trying to prove something to myself, like when I forced myself to reconsider Depeche Mode (in 2003) by ritualistically listening to their first album and asking young people who were into gay club music what was good about it. I never liked it, but at least I kind of understand where people are coming from now. The Long Blondes remind me of Bowie, Blondie and at times Roxy Music. Other echoes: Postcard Records--when Scottish post-punk went disco; when British post-punk got dancy; when the Human League was kind of good. So, it's kind of hard for me to admit I like this. Am I forcing myself to like it then, or am I just embarrassed that this JFA loving 80's underground purist actually likes this 'trendy dance music'? Bringing me to question, what does any of it mean? It gives me the same feeling that listening to the Go-Go's did as a pre-teen. I liked Bananarama, the Fun Boy Three, Altered Images, Dolly Mixture, Motorcycle Boy, the Jesus and Mary Chain and even the Smiths....so it's not like I was anti-pop music. I just hated the 80's dance club kids. We would endlessly harass them, "why are you paying $6 to dance to pre-recorded music when you can see three live bands made up of teenagers on tour for just $3 AROUND THE CORNER...not to mention al the rad local bands made up of kids just like you", etc. Of course we also hated their clothes and haircuts. Funnily enough, we were friends with some of these "duranimals" at school, we just didn't hang out with them downtown. So we recognized that new wavers were weirdos just like us punkers, but in order to "be cool" we had to denounce each other. In the early 90s I actively renounced this division as arbitrary and called for new wave/punk rock girl unity. However I still would get annoyed at the trendy aspect. So as the 90's went on, I hated Elastica and even Blur (at first) and certainly thought Garbage was terrible. But then I reconsidered it. I think meeting Huggy Bear and going to England made me unashamed of my pop leanings, though clearly I still have issues coming to grips with it. So this dichotomy is there when I listen to the Long Blondes. I think they are good, I like this record, but I fear it's trendy and doesn't mean anything. I'm pretty sure I'm right about the latter and not sure how well this music will hold up over time, but I'm enjoying it a lot right now. The best moments remind me of recent Glass Candy, Debbie Harry solo and the Au Pairs. For me it's all about the singer. I like her voice a lot now and imagine she's a cool new wave girl that I should have been friends with outside of school, but was "too cool" or maybe not cool enough...sometimes I don't wanna always be such a hater. I value the idea of popular music and dancing...I reject the shallowness and the emphasis on surfacey concerns and materialism...fashion vs. style...I don't believe that market commodification=populism, but I do think it's rad to have accessible music that unites people, and I know that can happen purely based on a catchy chorus of nonsense, see the Beatles Yellow Submarine. The Long Blondes are an underground pop group (for the most part), they aren't the Beatles, but liking them still brings up all these concerns for me, bringing me back to my question: does is really mean anything? Why does it exist? I still don't know, but today it sounds good to me. It's like, I know melon is good for you but I resist eating it. Why? Is it because it's too expensive and therefore decadent/ostentatious or is it because I'm secretly allergic and it actually makes me sick. I don't know, but sometimes I eat it anyway even though it turns my mouth numb. Is this music like a honeydew melon then? I could fully extend the metaphor, but I would insult your intelligence and test your patience. Suffice to say, even if it is nutritious it's not enough to keep you alive.


culturebollocks said...

goodness. thank you so much for an honest review that doesn't kowtow (...cowtow?) to prevalent hype either by absurdist 'second coming' praise or by excoriation... I saw the Long Blondes once shortly after moving to Britain, probably early 2004, at Purr promotions, before they had 'broken', and I just have a memory of hating it because it was thoroughly unmemorable rather than offensive or fantastic, other than for the rod-stewart-looking guy being prissy/snotty and drunk and spilling a pint on his amp and messing up the electrics. Then I passed the big stage they were on last year at Glasto when we played a very small tent, and it sounded insipid and inoffensive from the path around the stage area. I think I played some on line to see if I were missing something about them, other than they're pretty, after they got 'big', and I did hear a bit more of what could hook a person into an album. But I still haven't been interested enough to pursue it further.

So the long and short is that your review has helped me decide whether to pursue it further!

And it reminded me of teenagerness in the 80s, and exactly how cliqueish America is. I used to talk about this sort of thing from time to time over here, but you draw blank stares, and soon enough you forget about it (happily). Not that there's not social groups - just not so much the constant internal dialogue (probably commonest to middleclass educated white girls?) about how people are judging you and coolness.

There is a cool new zine here run by a 20-year-old girl called Drunken Werewolf. I have written for it from time to time and Tiff is a great young lady both as editor and reviewer. I'm going to tell her to mail her zine to you, too, if she hasn't already seen this.

Tobi Vail said...

this was in the NME today
long blondes broke up because one of their band members had a stroke, leaving him unable to play guitar. very sad.

culturebollocks said...

that's a damn shame - what a shitty thing to happen.