So, recently, at one time or another I was reading these three books. As I piled then up to be re-shelved they struck me as having some strange communion with one another. Each spare, simple and striking, sharing some essential tone that I adore — perfect pop design in three modes, fashionable, nerdy, and electric. Each in there own right a great read, too. Updike and Lichtenstein need no additional cheerleading, but let me make a impassioned plea for Valley of the Dolls. What a empurpled pleasure. Read it, luxuriate in its plush vulgarity, then treat yourself to the Wiki rabbit hole you get to go down matching each character and melodramatic scenario with the real people and incidents that inspired then. Then the movie. Then the Roger Ebert / Russ Meyer luridly psychedelic quasi sequel Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Then buy that film’s equally boss groovy soundtrack. You’re welcome.
I know…. it’s just so obvious. But yet, but yet… It seems every year there is one retro synth confection before which I stand helpless and silly-struck. Sally Shapiro last year or so, Neon Neon before that, Baxendale, etc, etc, now this. La Roux. Perfect. Three singles. Big in England. They all sound exactly the like the cover of “In for the Kill” looks. Enjoy.
In For the Kill:
Those allergic to fey, turn away, now. The girl group version of Belle & Sebastian is upon us and it’s the bee’s knees. Stuart Murdoch adopts a Phil Spector/Kim Fowley role here (without, of course, the oogy, mad, leering vibe that darkens their reputations.) The tunes are elaborate, orchestrated melodic scaffolds built on the basic Belle & Sebastian model. Over them he drapes vocals one by his three belles, steps in for duets on two track, and on one brings in Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy for a great campy cameo. The result is basically a survey of British girl group styles, from the Bacharachy swing of Sandi Shaw, to the alabaster soul of Dusty Springfield, to any number of long forgotten Decca girls like The Orchids, Louise Cordet or Susan Hampshire. It’s an incredibly rich listen – wide eyed and big hearted, swaggering and campy, and it sounds like a stack of singles and yet song by song, scene by scene, tells a story. Huzzah! Songs of the summer…
Here, for your pleasure, is a choice cut and two classic fab British girl group sides:
God Help The Girl:
Louise Cordet: Two Lovers
Susan Hampshire: When Love Is True
Odd that the best things in rock and roll all begin with P. The essential ingredients, and my entry in a wheezing graphic conceit. (Revised: Power pop to plain pop… more concise graphically and yet broad enough to now include the Archies’ Feelin’ So Good.)