Release Date: May 6, 2008
Record label: Rough Trade
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
The Long Blondes' second album, Couples, avoids the clichéd sophomore slump by taking some chances and leaving behind the joyous clatter and clutter of their debut for a more emotionally powerful, sonically adventurous approach. With producer Erol Alkan behind the boards, the group removes the punk from its post-punk sound and adds more post. That is, more icy detachment, more space and careful arrangement of instruments, and more of an eye to the disco-punk dancefloor.
When the Long Blondes burst onto the scene with their 2006 debut, the UK press was just as excited about pouting punk lead singer Kate Jackson’s charity-shop fashion sense as it was about her band’s fuzzed-up new-wave excursions. Two years on, the quintet may still be concerned with kitchen-sink lyricism and vintage fashion finds, but the only costume in question this time is sophomore album Couples’ messily assembled black-and-white collage cover that disguises a fuzz-free album of clean lines, smooth synths and polished edges. Since all of those charming glitches on their first album were dutifully removed by mixmaster Erol Alkan, Couples won’t have the same lip-stained fans pulling on their bri-nylon sweaters and pencil skirts and heading to the dance floor.
The Long Blondes sophomore album, Couples, is a disappointing follow-up to their sublime 2006 debut, Someone to Drive You Home, but not as disappointing as it initially appears. The first time I listened to it, I could barely make it through the first threw tracks. Here was a band who could have been this decade’s Elastica sounding like Madonna on a bad day.Yes, the album is more of a disco album than the subversive indie pop of the debut, nor does it succeed on that end.
It's not like there's a shortage of bitter personalities in the indie world, but the Long Blondes have developed into artists that are about as caustic as you can get while remaining committed to songcraft. What separates them from the usual pack of glum is a lack of pity, self-directed or otherwise. Couples is an album of narratives, all in first person, each one speaking out to a lover, without either side earning any sympathy.