Since first appearing with her band Talulah Gosh in 1986 and getting swept along in the hubbub created by the C86 album, Amelia Fletcher has been a bone fide legend as far as Twee Pop is concerned. Every band she’s been involved in since (Heavenly, Marine Research) has possessed a keen ear for melody and retained a sound that can be directly linked back to that period.
Her current band Tender Trap is no exception, and this album continues to showcase Fletcher as an artist with a clear musical vision and pop music coursing through her veins. As cutesy as much of Ten Songs About Girls is, there’s more going on here than simply being a bit twee and oh-so-indie. The addition of Emily Bennett from Betty And The Werewolves has added a further dimension to Tender Trap’s overall sound and there’s also an urgency and excitement to a number of these songs that elevate them beyond being pretty and delicate pop nuggets. Pop nuggets they are, but lurking in the lyrics and a number of the guitar lines is a bite that is unexpected from a band with such a lineage.
Broken Doll is a perfect example: it fizzes with an amped up rock and roll vibe, and positively drips with a glorious sunny tone. That it’s written about the death of a pop star is surprising given the cheery nature of the music and perfectly judged backing vocals. It could easily pass for one of Shonen Knife‘s more upbeat tunes. Could It Be The Last Time pulls a similar trick in offsetting melancholia by dealing with the possibility of an imminent break-up and marrying it to some ridiculously infectious backing vocals. Recent single Step One is an angular call and response rock tune that lays out just how to make it as an all-girl band in the music industry. In the verses it’s basic and punchy and when the chorus hits it is monumentally catchy. It’s rough enough around the edges not to be regarded as a lightweight throw away pop tune (not that there’s anything wrong with such things) and with its slightly cynical edge recalls Le Tigre or Kenickie‘s finer moments.
Opening track King’s Cross Station possesses a wonderfully full and chaotic guitar thrum and driving bass that make for a forceful opening. However it is the backing vocals that really elevates the song (and indeed most of the songs on the album) and makes it something truly special. Fletcher is frequently cited as being a feminist icon and with this particular album she’s gone back and looked at the dynamics of all girl groups like The Shangri Las as inspiration. MBV is like an über-indie take on Leader Of The Pack with its The finely executed backing vocals and references to My Bloody Valentine (interestingly it’s MBV producer Brian O’Shaughnessy at the helm on this album) and Edwyn Collins‘ fringe.
Elsewhere there’s the delicate grief of Memorabilia which doesn’t hide behind pop nous and allows the hurt to bubble to the surface before heading off into rockier territory. Ode meanwhile is a turbocharged acoustic strum which hints at Half Man Half Biscuit and Kenickie once again. Over the course of ten songs, Tender Trap never outstay their welcome and prove themselves as a fine guitar pop band once again. Strip away the baggage of the C86 associations, and Fletcher’s status as a feminist icon and you’re left with a band that write finely crafted and beautifully sung pop songs, which is all you can possibly ask for.