Experimental Pop Band, eh? Not sure where the accent’s supposed to be in EPB. So before proceeding with the inside track on their fifth album Tinsel Stars, maybe its worth unpacking that band name piece by piece and seeing where it leads us.
Comprised of four members, Experimental Pop Band are most definitely a band. They are also ‘pop’, but only in the loosest sense.
EPB are ‘pop’ in the sense that polite ’80s Indie bands were pop by filling up their songs with wordy, bumptious verses and aphorism-laden chorus’ grasping for profundity.
While this was happening, the rest of the world was buying Five Star and Wham! Records, and Indie bands whined in their hundreds to Melody Maker about how the world didn’t understand them and their ‘proper’ music.
And as for experimental…well frankly, my general science experience with copper sulphate and litmus paper came closer to unlocking quantum theory than Tinsel Stars.
While the record contains various baroque touches to tart-up the unmissable air of despondency, Tinsel Stars allows little to get in the way of Davey Woodward’s verbosity. And even when it does, I’m sure some of the cardboard mix encourages my CD player’s ‘stop’ button to give me goo-goo eyes.
Woodward himself used to hang in ’80s Bristolian-indie boys The Brilliant Corners who made their first record in 1984. Indeed, so dated does Tinsel Stars sound, that this could have actually have been their first album, rather than the somewhat prophetic Growing Up Absurd.
Woodward doesn’t help himself. Walk has the brass neck to rhyme ‘blue jeans’ with ‘not what it seems’. Make Me Happy blares that ‘the saints have turned their Walkman’s off’. After that revelation, I’m all prepared for an extended broadside against yuppies, fun-pubs and Stock, Aitken & Waterman.
There are a few sops to the 21st century in Woodward’s over-dominant lyrics. Made For Me claims that the “chattering classes won’t feel guilty”. Hello has the barefaced cheek to shoehorn the phrase “global village” into its armoury of verbiage, while Subtitled sneers about “subtitled sex for generation X”.
Needless to say, an overarching impression of being shoved off the invite list to some decent parties reigns throughout.
But even true masochistic miserablism is beyond them. Any song called Dislocation belongs on Joy Division‘s Closer, but this one turns out to be a wonky take on The Turtles‘ Happy Together instead.
Woodward’s voice has the strained northern glumness of the likes of The Doves and Elbow, but the band lack both of those outfits engineering suss and understanding of dynamics.
Woodward may claim to be ‘looking for some soul that’s out of stock’ (Hello), but he ain’t looking hard enough. The band state that northern soul and disco are prime influences, but you’d have more chance of finding either at the Last Night Of The Proms.
Tinsel Stars is a Hovis advert of modernity. It’s a record that wants to look individual by wearing black like all its mates, an album that desperately needs to discover Acid Trax, Andy Weatherall and MDMA.
The ’80s revival has long been in full swing, but anyone looking for buried treasure will find little here in the retrofit of Tinsel Stars.
Just like any other decade, the ’80s were many parts total rubbish. And kids, here’s the evidence. They shouldn’t make ‘em like this any more.