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This is why we can’t have nice things: The new lineup of The Pipettes.

June 23, 2010

[This article also appeared on my other blog, Love is the Slug]

Once upon a time there were three young women – Gwenno, RiotBecki and Rosay – who fronted a band know as  The Pipettes and they took the 60s girl group formula, put a modern spin on it – including some refreshing embracing of sexuality and sex positivity – and won my heart and ears with their debut album We Are The Pipettes. The disc was full of glittering pop gems like the brilliant “Pull Shapes” seen here as an equally brilliant music video based on a scene (and containing some actual footage) from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

And then there was “Judy”, a paean to a rebellious bad girl that The Pipettes equally idolize and worry about given her naughty ways and such. A sort of bubblegum pop take on Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl”, if you will.

Delightful, no? The Pipettes were a post-modern pop dream come true – owing as much to The Ronettes, The Supremes or The Shangri-Las as they did to their British foremothers, Bananarama what with their dramatic hand movements and winking, playful ways. And they were so joyful! It was refreshing to see this kind of shamelessly fun and frolicsome pop in a world full of overly serious Britneys, Christinas, Rihannas and Beyonces. I had the good fortune of seeing them live on two different occasions here in San Francisco and their shows were even more fun than their studio album and videos. They had fantastic voices live, cheeky dance moves and seemed to be having a blast and a half and their backing band killed it.

But then in the spring of 2008 it was announced that the group that had recorded the original album, made those fantastic videos and wore all those fantastic polka-dot outfits were breaking up, with Rosay and RiotBecki leaving the group to pursue other musical projects. And so, in turn, my heart was breaking. How could I be losing such a wondrous pop group after only one album? How would I possibly go on?! I had already had to go through Siobhan Fahey leaving Bananarama and now this? How many times could a trio of singing Englishwomen hurt me so?? Sure, there were attempts at adding new members. But we all remember how that went when the ‘Rams added poor Jacquie O’Sullivan and proceeded to shove her in the back of every single music video. And the lineups for the new version of The Pipettes never seemed to take hold long enough to record new music. So I officially let them become a now defunct band in my mind and enjoyed their sadly limited output with tears in my eyes.

And then, just today, I thought I’d happen by their official site and see if anything had ever come of their post-“Pull Shapes” existence. And it turns out, something had had. They have become a duo, with Gwenno and her sister Ani fronting the new incarnation of The Pipettes. And they have an EP out and a video for their single posted. Dare I listen? Would they carry on the torch of girl-group wonderfulness? Or would they decide to venture forth into some other genre and, in doing so, break my heart just a little bit more? Well, I’m sure you can guess if you’ve read the title of this post. Take a look and a listen.

Retro disco?! WHY JESUS, WHY?!?! From the magic of “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me” to something that sounds like it landed in their laps after Kylie (like you need a link), Annie and Girls Aloud all said “thanks but no thanks”?! This was an even worse idea than when Bananarama (now reduced to a duo) and their producers decided they should try to sound like ABBA. Tragicomic!!! But at least the Bananas had a good long run of pop sorcery before they descended into bleh-dom. The poor Pipettes barely had left their pop culture footprint before doom befell them. But I suppose that’s the way of our hyper-fast, internet-driven music world now. And at least I can cherish the good music they did make and the memories of their splendiferous live shows. But seriously, that video was just horrible. It was all over the place. And kind of hipstery. Ugh. Anyway, one last pallet-cleanser of a song before you go.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 9:36 am

    Great article! I agree. As much as it pains me when bands I like break up after one perfect album, sometimes, that’s just the way that Pop exists. It comes in little packages that you only get once, and I’ve learned to accept that. I wish the new line-up would have respected that and maybe, oh… I dunno, just came up with a new name and make a new project. It’s probably smart to do that in the age of internet music blogging and hype that moves so fast, people are sick of a band before they even put an LP out!

  2. June 23, 2010 10:01 am

    I’ve had my heart broken many times… but I agree that it’s so much worse than when it all falls apart Commitments-like just when success is reached. It’s entirely understandable that a band would keep their name recognition; occasionally it works for the best as with some major rock bands like Genesis and Yes (I still love the mercenary “grand reunion” wherein all the original members joined together with the band touring at the time as Yes). Sometimes it’s tragic, as when 10,000 Maniacs tried in vain to soldier on after Natalie Merchant’s departure. Still, I’m happy to come across such gems (I’d never heard of the Pipettes before) and accept them for what they are… a star that shines brightly and briefly, like a Blade Runner replicant.

  3. Emma B permalink
    June 23, 2010 10:44 am

    Are you a fan of The Indelicates? One of the two singers (Julia Clark-Lowes) was a founding Pipettes member.

  4. June 23, 2010 11:38 am

    The Pipettes tapped into something both sweet and sassy when they broke out a couple of years ago. What made them so incredible was they were such a counterpoint to all the overly slick stuff happening. They were totally fun, poppy and kind of provocative. Their naughty teen girl lyrics were a lot of fun. Besides, there weren’t enough songs about Matthew Modine. Hell, there still aren’t.

  5. badhedgehog permalink
    June 23, 2010 11:57 am

    The new song is just… limp. Sounds like a song that wouldn’t quite get chosen as the UK’s song in the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Did you know there are now NO original members left in the Sugababes?

  6. June 24, 2010 1:37 am

    @badhedgehog: I love that you know The Sugababes! It’s so weird when these pop groups are totally treated like a workplace. “Oh, remember back when Jane and John used to work here? Now it’s all us new folks!” But still, “Push the Button” and “Hole in the Head” are fantastic. And then there’s Girls Aloud…

  7. addipanandosi permalink
    June 24, 2010 8:11 pm

    This is so awful. Really really bad. There’s no joy or fun left. It’s so generic.

    Dead eyes singing “stop the music” – yes please!

  8. June 28, 2010 12:00 am

    Awesome piece. I look forward to more Chris O goodness on IFMiB, if you please.

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