Tender Trap’s third record, Dansette Dansette, is a timeless summer album, brimming with hummable pop melodies and lilting girl-group harmonies. Really, it’s the sort of album that calls up images of the days before television when kids still got together just to listen to records (and the little one-piece record player on the packshot certainly helps).
Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, who make up Tender Trap’s core, have played together in one form or another for over 20 years (in Tallulah Gosh, Heavenly, and Marine Research). All their experience comes out in these ten clearly developed – if not a bit recycled – pop gems. A cursory listen to the duo’s history reveals that they’re not exactly breaking new ground with Dansette Dansette. But their sound is so infectiously giddy – feeling like a beachside drive in a borrowed convertible – that forced progress would feel like a mis-step.
That’s not to say that Dansette Dansette is a rehashing of anything the duo has done before. Tender Trap’s sound is more dialled in, and considerably fuller this time round, thanks in part to a few key additions to the lineup. Elizabeth Darling of Allo Darlin’ (on keyboards and guitar) and Katrina Dixon (drums) both add that extra level of harmony to turn Tender Trap into the sixties girl-group they’ve always wanted to be.
Tender Trap is not just the second coming of The Ronettes or The Shangri-las either. The call-and-response vocals and syrupy three-part harmonies make up the forefront of the band’s sound, but the guitars are firmly rooted in ’80s and ’90s Brit-pop and shoegaze, and the generally lo-fi sound calls up comparison to modern twee colleagues like Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls.
It’s not fair to overanalyse an album like Dansette Dansette; it’s just more fun to put it on and find someone to dance with. The title track opens with jangling guitars and a swooning beat. Fletcher is instantly recognisable and singular in her whispered approach as she mentions Sandy Shaw and Leslie Gore alongside that timeless advice: “You can’t hurry love.”
Do You Want A Boyfriend is a riotous send-up of classic call-and-response verse form, with Fletcher acting as Sandy Olsson addressing a chorus of high-school gum-smackers about qualities of a potential boyfriend (not the least of which is that he must like The Jesus And Mary Chain). Tender Trap’s version of love is no mystery: “Does he have to please you? Psychologically. Does he have to tease you? Gynecologically.”
Girls With Guns picks up the pace considerably, channelling the ’80s rockabilly revival. It’s a song with teeth, sure, but they’re soft teeth, perhaps made of marshmallow. “You are going to be found out,” Fletcher sings, leading a gang of gun-toting girls. “And we are going to get your badass now.” Other standout tracks in this collection of gems include Danger Overboard (which pounds and pulses in half-time like The Shangri-las’ Leader Of The Pack), and the comparatively sombre closer, Capital L.
Dansette Dansette does not exist in a vacuum; if it did, it would be little more than the latest in a line of twee indie-pop albums. Instead, it calls on the listener’s experiences with all that is good about pop music – indeed it requires that the listener have a fondness for melody and an insatiable musical sweet-tooth.� As such, it’s a milkshake with two straws, a genuine delight.