The Long Blondes


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.

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