The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes
Chet Ripley 17/07/2006
This summer polka-dots are visible at every turn and you would imagine that The Pipettes pack enough self-belief to lay claim to this as a phenomena of their own making. The last two years has seen them build an enviable live reputation with songs that demand both shuffle and shimmy from all within earshot. For those of you who are not yet aware The Pipettes are a grand concept: they're lineage is Spector, Meek, Motown, and Stax. They are doo-wop, hand jive, and haughty fifties sexuality. They have their very own svengali in the shape of Brighton's bed-hopping electro-nymph Monster Bobby, a manifesto (egad!), and a clearly defined visual and aural aesthetic. They are then a marketing fetishist's ultimate fantasy and Memphis Industries must be keeping their fingers crossed, clear as it is, that this project has the potential to be The Go-Go-Go Team.
The trio of vocals bounce up and down over the album's title-track like a classic James Jameson bassline (which begs the question: what is the bass doing?), sounding so sweet that a line like "Make us a deal and we'll land it and brand it" almost entirely passes you by. Here we are in a post-No Logo world where the kids have grown up, read it, turned their noses up and embraced branding for themselves and for everything that it can do for them. Sir Alan can talk up The Apprentice all he likes, but the reality is that Murdoch's MySpace has been the catalyst for the new wave of techno-savvy entrepreneurs. It's all about product, marketing and networking. Thus, you could reasonably expect Pipettes pop-socks, Alice-bands, lunchboxes, and flasks before year-end. There will also be a graphic novel. Dick 'N' Dom may be well advised to watch their backs. For the moment though The Pipettes are a pop group and have produced a debut album that packs fourteen pop nuggets
into thirty-three minutes.
"We Are The Pipettes" will play over the movie's opening credits while the girls navigate London's public transport network to arrive fashionably late somewhere unfeasibly hip. "Pull Shapes" extols the virtues of dancing, to a backing that is all sweeping strings and massing hand claps. The rot sets in with "Why Did You Stay", the spoken-word motifs sounding tired and trite before they've even had a chance to introduce themselves. "Dirty Mind" sounds as if the backing has been recorded at a pace too fast for the girls to sing comfortably but is saved by cracking horns and a distinctly Dexy's style construction. "Judy" recalls Belle & Sebastian and sparkles with a wit that is sadly not as well executed anywhere else on the album. Elsewhere, "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" takes a football terrace approach to the pop anthem but sags when the stomping chorus-line makes way for a saccharine non-verse, "Tell Me What You Want" reaches dizzying heights with smart breaks and changes of pace, and "Sex" is sly and sassy but is let down by some uninspired backing on the otherwise faultless chorus.
As a whole it falls somewhat short of that which it aspires to. It's less Brill building and more SAW. There are undoubtedly some great pop songs here but, where the writing and the package respects the aesthetic entirely, the production unfortunately does not. With a project so enthral to its heritage you would expect the album to be drenched in the sounds of Lee Hazelwood's grain silo or have the easy charm of The Marvelettes. It doesn't and the sound of the record has all the hallmarks of label mates The Go! Team (perhaps unsurprising given the involvement here of Gaz Parton as one half of the production duo), and is left wanting a smidge more personality. If it is that The Pipettes wish to be serious competition for Girls Aloud then they have some way to go. Perhaps there is just not enough mileage in the concept. A similar reduction of girl-group history is currently gracing our television screens in an ad-campaign for female-specific car insurance, but the team behind that had the good sense to make an ad and not an album. I bet they're great fun live, though.