You could be forgiven for getting a little bored with The Long Blondes after they toured their successful debut album Someone To Drive You Home to death. But if anything is going to get devoted fans and general indie music-aficionados alike reinvigorated about the Sheffield fivesome it is this stunning follow-up.
Couples kicks off with futuristic, electronic opener Century – a lyrical and musical departure for the band – as sultry, stripped down disco and falsetto vocals evoking Grace Jones, His ‘n’ Hers-era Pulp and Blondie plunder history and politics in a rather powerful take on the Cold War.
Subject matter for the rest of the work centres around relationships and infidelity including a plethora of cultural references to Kenny Everett, Terry Wogan, Erin O’Connor, Peter Sellers, Barry M and Clinique with both clever wordplay and voice samples, and when combined with Erol Alkan‘s inspired production work and the band’s skilful musicianship, The Long Blondes really excel.
Perhaps most strikingly this record sounds like a cohesive body of work rather than a collection of ten tracks thrown together so downloading bits and pieces here and there will get you nowhere. It also takes a few listens to take full effect, like all the best ones, and with each repeated play new parts of it spring to life depending on your mood.
The gritty guitars, wit and sassy stomp of Guilt, Here Comes The Serious Bit, I Liked The Boys, I’m Going To Hell and Erin O’Connor are perhaps most reminiscent of the band’s earlier work and will make for definite live highlights but it’s the darker atmospheric numbers such as Round The Hairpin, Too Clever By Half, The Couples and Nostalgia which add extra intriguing dimensions to their latest genre-bending sound, Kate Jackson’s vocals twisting and turning around some seriously brooding melodies.
The best musicians are able to defy expectations and forage new paths while retaining a strong sense of themselves, keeping people with them and not sending them scurrying into the arms of safer acts, and with Couples, The Long Blondes prove that they are one such outfit.
Eloquent, glamorous, spirited and now more sonically innovative than ever, the quintet have affirmed their place as one of Britain’s most exciting bands with this release. We could not have imagined they would achieve a record as accomplished as this just four years into their career, and it’s going to be very interesting watching them attempt to better it.