Touted for a long time as the other great band to come out of Sheffield in the last few years, it was easy to forget that The Long Blondes actually made records. They appeared in style magazines, they won awards as the best unsigned band in Britain and The Guardian even named lead singer Kate Jackson as a style icon. Yet ask the average person to name a song by them, and they’d probably struggle.
A deal with Rough Trade has changed all that though, and one of the longest gestating albums of recent years has eventually been released. Those people expecting Arctic Monkeys part 2 will be sorely disappointed, but they’re certainly a band rooted in Sheffield’s seedy glamour – you can trace a lineage from Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, and most explicitly, Pulp here and it’s a sound that’s brought deliciously up to date by The Long Blondes.
Opening track Lust In The Movies perfectly sums up what they’re all about – opening with a thrilling blast of feedback before galloping head first into a giddily addictive melody which has the chorus of “Edie Sedgwick, Anna Karenina, Arlene Dahl”. It could be ridiculously pretentious in anybody else’s hands but it works perfectly here.
With hardly a second to draw breath, they then drop effortlessly into one of the singles of the year, Once And Never Again. As Dorian Cox settles into a ‘none more Johnny Marr‘ guitar style, Jackson belts out “Nineteen, you’re only nineteen for God’s sake, you don’t need a boyfriend”. It appears to be about a well meaning older woman offering an abused girl some companionship but by the time the pay off line of “oh how I’d love to feel a girl your age”, you’re more of the opinion that it’s about a predatory lesbian. Whatever the subject matter, it’s a brilliant song.
What sets the Long Blondes apart from their contemporaries is their lyrics. Penned mainly by Cox, they’re clever, literate and articulate. Swallow Tattoo has the irresistible opening line of “Give me a good film noir and a bottle of gin, I’ll be happy just to stay inside” before featuring Jackson purring “you fill me with inertia, I still want to jump your bones”. You Could Have Both meanwhile, features a quite thrilling spoken word section (the album’s most obvious nod to Jarvis and company) which references “C C Baxter in Wilder’s Apartment” and the perils of listening to “Saint Scott Walker on headphones on the bus”.
They even manage to reference their own songs, as in the case of Heaven Help The New Girl, which slips in the line “Just go, because you’ll be never 19 again, and I thought I told you before, you don’t need a boyfriend” thus referring back to Once And Never Again quite masterfully.
The lyrics keep things interesting but in most cases they’re married to some of the catchiest tunes you’ll hear this year. We’ve already mentioned Once And Never Again, but there’s also the disco shimmer of Giddy Stratospheres, the sad ballad of Heaven Help The New Girl and best of all, the raucous singalong of Separated By Motorways, one of the few pop songs that’ll have a crowd of people singing “A14 and A1, so long!”. The latter also includes the line “I’m alone with a pint of bitter in my hand, for a girl this is not an acceptable plan” which raises it a whole new level of genius.
It also helps a great deal as well that in Kate Jackson, the Blondes have a bona fide superstar in waiting. Following in the line of strong female vocalists such as Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde and Polly Harvey, the fact that her and the rest of the band seem to effortlessly ooze glamour and charisma means that she’s going to be one of the big names of 2007.
Even though things do tail off a bit towards the end (A Knife For The Girls is a fine song but makes for a bit of a flat closer), that doesn’t stop Someone To Drive You Home being an excellent debut album, full of brash confidence and seductive charm. If you’ve heard the name and wondered what all the fuss is about, now’s your chance to find out. Believe the hype.