The Long Blondes, 1990s
Bill Cummings 22/10/2006
Passing over the tired retro 1970s rock of the 1990s who were tonight's inexplicable support, and straight onto the main attraction. We've followed the progress The Long Blondes for the last two years here at GIITTV, from our first chance meeting with their excellent post punk track on the Angular Records compilation ("Autonomy Boy"), to their initial singles with the likes of Filthy Little Angels. The Sheffield girl/boy five piece are the latest in the lineage of fine Sheffield acts, and we ain't talking the Arctic Monkeys ladies and gentlemen, we're talking the disco pop of ABC, the urban electro of Human League, and the clever, northern kitsch of Pulp. The Long Blondes are now part of this history, they present a cool 1950s aesthetic full of film stars, literate references and illusions to their own lives, they create an insistent sussed new wave pop rhythm that nestles somewhere between early Blondie, early Roxys, The Ronnettes, and tops it all off with insanely tuneful tales of heartbreak, suburban glamour, and kitchen sink drama from knowing front-lady Kate. I'd waited over two years to see them live, and catching them in such a cramped venue CF10 (the smallest of Cardiff University's three venues) on the eve of their new single release ("Once and Never Again"), my mouth was wet with anticipation. Could their live show match their recorded output? The answer is yes. And no.
Yes; there are some great things about the Long Blondes live, Dorian's serrated, weaving tremolo guitar playing, Screech's pounding high-in-the-mix drumming and the biting harmonic female backing. The way they set up was unique too: vocalist Kate and lead guitarist Dorian are flanked at the front by female guitarist and bassist, Kate is every inch the "star", her slicing melodic vocals bring to mind the likes of Sioux Sou, Debbie Harry and even Patti Smith; each one is delivered with an attitude: a wit, a knowing individual life of its own. The material is initially excellent too: the superbly tuneful "leave that girl alone" drama of a song like "Giddy Stratospheres" that builds and builds, upon waves of of vibrating, chopping disco guitars, and harmonic backing is a pleasure. While the naval gazing of "Weekend Without Make-up" is so insanely catchy (that I find myself singing along to every line) that it should probably be re-released as a single. Later on the wonky Hitchcockian drama that is "Appropriation" is brilliant: its corstic wrist slapping vocal segue, complimented by Kate's hand gestures: "technically! this is! appropriation by any other name/you can't have me and make me act the same/the way you treat me is inappropriate but you don't stop to think about that!
But the Long Blondes' strength live: their rhythm, also turns out to be ironically their Achilles heal, after half an hour their set is crying out for a change of pace, a different tack, a different style, OK! OK! we've heard it already! It all starts to become a bit repetitive. Only the album track "You Could Have Both", with its Blondie-ish vocal and guitar sparring that bleeds into moody Pulp-ish spoken word monologues featuring Dorian in the final section, this all too briefly offers the change in pace that this gig so craves.
That's not to say that this gig limps to a close, indeed poptastic new single "Once and Never Again" inspires the crowd into fits of clapping and dancing, Kate's pouting, hair flicking style, and new wave vocals adding dashes of colour to this saucy tale, with its winking hints at lesbian loving: "I know how it feels to be your age...How I'd like to feel a girl your age." They finish off in style with the driving rhythm, Elastica-esque shouts and strident screeching guitars of "Separated by Motorways."
The Long Blondes won't reinvent the musical wheel, they are a band that plays irresistibly sassy, tightly honed indie pop, indebted to groups of the past, but if their album can overcome the live creases, and offer more varitaions in sound: they might just be a band to fall in love with in 2006.