The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes
Maybe it's because I know so many girls who dress in polka dots and go to nights like How Does It Feel? to dance the night away to indie pop and Sixties soul, but this all just seems so startlingly obvious that you have to wonder why it hasn't been done before. Get three cute girls with nice voices, give 'em polka dot dresses and choreographed dance moves, back them up with a group of pretty boys called the Cassettes, and get them doing classically-danceable, soulful pop songs with a lyrical edge drawn from girl-punk, in the vein of Phil Spector colliding head on with Shampoo and Helen Love. How can it fail?
The Pipettes are very much a love 'em or hate 'em kind of venture, though - and which side you fall on will depend on just how snobby you are about the concept of "pop". We can all agree that the charts are, 99% of the time, filled with unmitigated shite, but the casual dismissal of anything that dares to label itself "pop" is a classic case of tarring the form with the same brush as its worst exponents. Yet at its heart, the simple and classic three-minute pop song is one of music's finest forms - and one of the hardest to truly get right. Those who write off pop as meaningless music for the masses are blindly ignoring a legacy that takes in "You Spin Me Right Round", through to "Back For Good", right up to "Toxic". And would you dare tell Brian Wilson that "Good Vibrations", as classic a pure pop song as it gets, is a pile of crap? Didn't think so.
Anyway. The Pipettes, despite their hipster dress sense (which, in its retroness, is really only culled from all those Sixties girl groups anyway) and guitar-led backing, are unashamedly pop. And, damn, they're good at it. Given the ages of the girls themselves, and the boys behind them (actually, in fact, the songwriting and musical force behind it all), this is a remarkably assured debut - and one that shows a studied awareness and deft employment of the traditions in which they're following. Title track "We Are The Pipettes" sets the stall out, serving as an introduction to their self-aware sense of kitsch - a theme song? For a band? In this day and age? Brilliant! "If you haven't noticed yet", they sing, "we're the prettiest girls you've ever met," and while you may not necessarily agree, you wouldn't find yourself arguing with them, such is the self-assured conviction of the slightly spacey, fifties sci-fi, B52s-style vibe (and it may just be me, but when anyone sounds like the B52s, it forces me to sit up and pay attention to what they're saying).
It's with the next track and recent standout single "Pull Shapes", though, that the Pipettes mark themselves out as a force to be reckoned with. A song about nothing more than dancing ("I don't care what the song's about"), it's practically a "Baby I Love You" for the new millennium, with slick wall-of-sound-esque production and an utterly swoonsome singalong nature. It's quite possibly the most gorgeously summery slice of girl-sung pop I've heard since Lauren Laverne graced Mint Royale's "Don't Falter" with her presence, and if it doesn't have you tapping your feet with a huge cheesy grin on your face, then you have a heart made of cold, cold black stone.
Other highlights include "Judy", which sounds like the Shangri-Las might have done if they'd had Brighton accents and sang lines like "She'd kick my arse all over the place", and is - if such a thing were possible - pleasantly bitchy. "ABC", meanwhile, sadly isn't a cover of the Jackson Five song (something which, one suspects, they might do perfectly - although we all know what happened last time a girl band tried to do that), but is still a top tune in its own right, easily among the catchiest that the album has to offer. "Why Did You Stay?" is one of the best tracks lyrically, a self-confessional of the sort you only tend to find on Hefner albums, bringing in a Pulp Fiction-esque surf vibe, to boot.
It's clear that this is the type of thing that can get a little sickly if you have too much of it in one go ("I've had just about enough of sweet", as they sing), but on the whole, We Are The Pipettes isn't an album that outstays its welcome. Most of the songs are courteous enough to only clock in at a couple of minutes long, so that if they start to grate a bit - and the "Hey Mickey"-ish "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" certainly does that, while "It Hurts To See You Dance So Well" is just a little uncomfortably Spice Girls-ish - they're over and done with almost too quickly to notice. There are a couple of slightly more balladic tracks, too, and they're a mixed bag - "Tell Me What You Want" is lovely, almost as much so as "Pull Shapes", but "A Winter's Sky" skirts dangerously close to dreariness and is instantly skippable, while "Sex" falls somewhere inbetween the two.
On the whole, though, the good certainly outweighs the filler, planting We Are The Pipettes very firmly as the summer album of the year. You can't imagine it going down as an all-time classic, especially given its quite samey nature, but damned if it isn't a hell of a lot of fun as a slice of pure, unabashed, unashamed pop fun, and quite frankly it feels like just the kind of injection of energy that music needs at the moment. If you want to get snooty about this sort of thing, then fine - the rest of us'll just be off having a dance, thanks.