Release Date: Sep 22, 2009
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
When Stephen McRobbie’s voice wafts in for the first time on the third track of the Pastels’ collaboration with Japan’s Tenniscoats, it feels like waterfall gently washing away the space between the band’s seminal 1997 masterstroke Illumination and today. The track, “Song for a Friend”, introduces the uninitiated to the gentle power of the Pastels – a touchstone for current C86-inspired bands like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Our last glimpse of The Pastels on record was 2002’s The Last Great Wilderness, a largely-instrumental soundtrack for the film of the same name.
Whatever Glasgwegian indie stalwarts the Pastels have been up to for the past decade - and that includes running a record label, and soundtrack work for film and theatre - they haven't been recording albums: this is the closest they've come to such a thing since 1997's Illuminations. Their inactivity doesn't seem to have troubled Tokyo's Tenniscoats, who started writing songs for this collaboration before they had even suggested it to their cohorts. The two bands inhabit such similar musical worlds - dreamy places where vocals are wispy, melodies gossamer and the word twee never far away - that their alliance makes sense.
Longevity is the Pastels' strong suit; productivity isn't-- they've existed more or less continuously since their 1982 debut single, but aside from a remix disc and a soundtrack, this is the first album that's escaped from them in 12 years. This isn't quite a full-on Pastels album, either: it's a collaboration with the Japanese duo Tenniscoats, who were the ones who had the idea for the collaboration. (The Pastels apparently have an album of their own in the works, too, although it's been coming along very slowly for a while.
During the 2000s, The Pastels cultured a lasting connection with the avant-garde pop community of Japan. Thus, the Scottish duo's long-gestating collaboration with the Tokyo pop duo, Tenniscoats is somewhat predictable. Saya and Ueno Takashi play their instruments like they're pattering rain on a grassy knoll or butterflies hovering above flowers. The quartet's brassy Jesus and Mary Chain cover ("About You") is soothing, too.