Ah, The Velvet Underground. Arguably one of the greatest bands to ever walk the face of this (or any) planet, and certainly one of the most influential: if bands were babies, Lou Reed would have faced more paternity suits than any musician in history.
Peggy Sue have always been influenced by the Velvet Underground, and more contemporary acts like Blur and The Breeders. The London band, made up of Rosa Slade and Katy Young, are now four albums deep into their career, and this is their first full-length release since 2014’s Choir Of Echoes. They’re joined for this record by Ben Gregory on bass, drummer Dan Blacket, Younghusband‘s Euan Hinshelwood and returning producer Jimmy Robertson.
Peggy Sue open their new record, Vices, with some of that instantly recognisable VU-inspired narcotic chug, infused with the sense of sunny heartbreak that the Velvets conjured so well on tracks like Sweet Jane and There She Goes Again. The track, I Wanna Be Your Girl, is beautiful, and quaint, and sincere.
The guitars, from the start of the record to the finish, are exquisite. Each song has the perfect amount of echo, reverb, twang and hiss to convince you that lots of thought has gone into the project – despite how loose and carefree they’d have you believe the project was.
In Dreams has glistening, chiming guitars that lend a ghostly, ’50s-tinged nostalgia to what is, essentially, a song about jealousy. It could just as easily have soundtracked a heartbreaking scene from some forgotten drive-in movie as it could have played out in the background of some grotesque murder on Killing Eve. The title track follows, and those guitars are swapped out for leaden slacker riffs – think Pavement or a similarly tasteful stoner unit.
The squall of Motorcade splits the difference between Jesus & Mary Chain hiss and garage-rock choogle. In The Shallows is bleary-eyed dream pop, with guitars that evoke that early Broadcast sound. Across the rest of the album, each track is just as meticulously crafted, with the focus on mood and tone and atmosphere never failing to spark some moment of joy.
And yet, as is the case with most of the bands that draw on the same influences as Peggy Sue, the project feels largely anonymous. You could believably sell this album as a lost set of tracks from Veronica Falls, or an unreleased Dum Dum Girls record, or a collection of tracks drawn from the history of Slumberland Records, such is the overall sense of ‘been there, done that’. In the right London bar, on the right night, bands like this can change your life… but for everything else, there’s much more joy to be had in the originals.