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The Long Blondes
Singles Isobel George , October 23rd, 2008 19:47

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The Long Blondes Singles

Oh, the horrible irony of that title now that we’ve learned that, so soon after their wonderfully experimental Couples, The Long Blondes are to split. Following guitarist Dorian Cox’s stroke earlier this year, they’ve decided that to try and continue with a stand-in during his extended convalescence “wouldn’t be the same”. That cruel circumstance has called their eventual dissolution seems especially unfair considering how well they weathered events that would have torn apart lesser bands, with not one but two couples in the band splitting up.

As such, Angular’s welcome reissue of their early singles, the first couple now like gold-plated hen’s teeth and listed by Record Collector as noteworthy collectables, is a welcome, tear-stained leaf through their baby photos.

A detailed listen serves of a reminder both of why they had critics dropping their knickers, and that hindsight is often rose-tinted. While the clattering surliness and sun-through-the-clouds chorus of second release ‘Giddy Stratospheres’ sounds exciting as all hell in its early, raw incarnation, conversely its B-side ‘Darts’ with its girlish yells of “Let’s play darts!” isn’t quite as hilarious as we’d remembered, and comes across amateurish in the bad rather than the good way. Ditto ‘Peterborough’ and its oh-so-quirky ode to the East Coast Mainline.

But if some of the juvenilia here is fuel to the fire of their idiot detractors, who parrotted "style over substance!" as if it wasn't possible, as a later song would put it, to have both, then there's plenty to refute as well. The chilly, haughty menace of 'New Idols' and 'Autonomy Boy', from their first release on Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation, prove why these proudly intellectual, proudly glamorous band were a dream come true for all the frustrated Manics, Kenickie and Auteurs fans feeling the need for something arch, glam and full of passion.

‘Appropriation By Any Other Name’, with its tale of a bereaved boyfriend’s morbid displacement fantasies is shambolically engaging and blackly funny, Kate Jackson’s thick, throaty waspish tones creating more drama than a symphony orchestra backing. On this third seven-inch, though, the real treasure is not the A-side, nor the rather (for them) run-of-the-mill ‘My Heart Is Out Of Bounds’ but the heart-thumping rush of ‘Lust In The Movies’ with it’s mad, jubilant shrieking chorus namechecking their perfect idols, the long blondes after who they named themselves (“Edie Sedgwick! Anna Karina! Arlene Dahl!”) in a tribute to the magnetic and destructive power of icons. ‘Separated By Motorways’, more typical of their later, more melodic shonky girl-pop genius, is, like the later ‘Once And Never Again’, that all too rare thing, an ode to female friendship, Kate muttering darkly “I heard from the boys you were down on your knees last night/They were worried you were looking a sight/Oh girl you’re too wonderful”.

It’s a fitting elegy then, and we can take some comfort in their promise that there will be farewell gigs as soon as Cox is able to play, and individual members will continue in music. They were too good for the likes of us, anyway.

Luke Turner
Oct 23, 2008 7:14pm

Great review there Isobel. In a right world the Long Blondes would have been top of the hit parade rather than that Kaiser Chiefs lot you so marvelously put the boot into on this very site a few weeks ago.

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Fred Zeppelin
Oct 24, 2008 9:16am

I never really got the Long Blondes. To these ears they sounded like Pulp but from the days when Pulp were crap. Without disrespecting Dorian Cox's condition, their demise couldn't come quick enough.

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Luke Turner
Oct 24, 2008 10:22am

Which were the days when Pulp were crap? If you mean before they were popular I'd have to disagree, back in the eighties Pulp were a lot weirder than the Long Blondes ever were. I've always found, as a fan of both bands, comparisons between the two someone strange. There's a kinship, perhaps, and they both come from Spoontown, but that's as far as the similarities go.

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Fred Zeppelin
Oct 24, 2008 11:11am

Yes, back in the 80s. As for the Long Blondes...I just found their music to be utterly lightweight and way too self-conscious to be completely convincing. A bit like overly-diluted orange squash. And sugar-free orange squash at that. I saw them live on a couple of occasions and found them to be devoid of passion or energy. And given that they hardly set the world alight - did sales of their last album even hit double figures? - I suspect I'm not the only one in thinking so.

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Ricky Banks
Oct 26, 2008 4:35pm

For me, The Long Blondes were always a singles band, and yet this collection is a bit...underwhelming. Shame really. Also, by the by, this review could have done with a bit more proofing.

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