By: Alex Borsody
I have recently been trying to nurture my hipster side and tap into the seemingly cooler music known as indie rock. The Long Blondes new album Couples (Rough Trade) might not fall neatly into this genre, but it appeals to the same blog reading, vinyl hoarding individuals. '60s psychedelic rock might seem like the epitome of British counterculture and rebellion, though the self-proclaimed arch nemesis of this movement, punk rock, might be equally revolutionary. The UK born Long Blondes, draw much of their influence from punk, and in cool, contrarian fashion, they reject their legendary DayGlo predecessors, stating in their bio that they started out "armed with a list of bands they chose not to emulate." Explaining their anti-influences they released a statement saying, "Our shared influences include The Mael Brothers, The Marx Brothers and The Bewlay Brothers. We do not listen to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors or Bob Dylan." When the Long Blondes first released their debut album in 2006, they seemed like just another of the many artsy, post punk acts the UK had been cranking out, though they managed to define themselves as unique through grassroots marketing and plenty of live shows
I was carrying my bass amp down the street once and a guy passing by praised me, "Wow, a musician. I'm proud of you. Remember Blondie?" To which I deadpanned, "I don't like Blondie." This seems a bit cold now, but it was just my natural response. Couples has The Long Blondes embracing the '70s pop punk sound, particularly on the first single, "Century." The comparison between Blondie and The Long Blondes has been made many times before, but this album seems to play directly to the references; as opposed to the previous album, which seemed to be more of a unique voice for the band with a slightly harder edge to it.
"Century" embodies this '70s sound as Depeche Mode style synthesizers create the in-fashion disco sound that is sure to please a host of art students, socialites and audiophiles alike. "Round the Hairpin" is an interesting track, where a simple yet unique bassline creates a hypnotic, futuristic, rhythm, resulting in a pleasantly ambient track. The drummer on this album stands out as the most technically proficient in the group, creatively mixing electronic and punk beats. Charismatic, female leads can often overshadow the rest of a band and this could be considered true in the case of The Long Blondes, but upon a closer listen to Couples the musicians are where most of the creativity in their sound comes from.
The band members were novices when they first got together, saying, "We each picked an instrument and learned to play it." This de-emphasis on technical skill and virtuosity seems to be popular, with skill or talent only occasionally translating to popularity or sales. The Long Blondes show how one can still make very clean, quality sounding songs through minimalist, simple interpretations of their craft. In the end though Couples comes out a winner and the band deserves all the positivity in the world. Recent news of their guitar player "falling ill" and "being taken to the emergency room in serious condition" has caused an outpouring of support from their fans. Little more information has been given out and the band had to cancel about half of its summer tour dates. In spite of this, The Long Blondes vow to press on.
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