The Brunettes: Structure and Cosmetics (Lil' Chief/Rhythmethod)

 |   |  1 min read

The Brunettes: Her Hairagami Set
The Brunettes: Structure and Cosmetics (Lil' Chief/Rhythmethod)

The quirky and sometimes playful pop of Auckland's Brunettes gets a real workout here: whether it be enjoying the left speaker/right speaker game on Stereo (Mono Mono); referencing Tommy James and the Shondells' 60s hit Crimson and Clover on their delicate Credit Card Mail Order; offering a title such as Obligatory Road Song; or simply bending melodies like origami paper in order to create their oddly shaped but quite perfect little pop masterpieces.

There is something disarmingly charming in a song which says "if you were an alien, I'd call you my Martian man" and, in being supported a lovely tune, it rises above the twee factor.

That said, there is also a slightly more introspective tone throughout this album -- perhaps as a result of being recorded in part in Portland, New York and Los Angeles, and that the protagonists (Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield) are no longer a couple?

As regards the latter, it certainly hasn't changed the fact they make helium-injected pop full of lyrical whimsy (the gorgeous Small Town Crew, If You Were Alien, the title track) and delicately realised on piano, glockenspiel, melodica, clarinet as well as guitars, synths and drums.

Bree and Mansfield have often played off each other in songs which are dialogues but here they do that with great confidence: that speaker play takes nerve and could have been a crashing embarrassment had it been overdone.

And on the more brooding Wall Poster Star they come off like a post-teenage Whose Afraid of Virgina Woolf? as played by a very polite Ken and Barbie.

It might be the smartest song they have written. Although that compliment could also go to the title track, a kind of Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazlewood shadowplay full of the menace of love fading behind the illusions of happiness.

Yes, mature and intelligent indeed. But that song is at the far end of an album which opens with the handclap pop-rock of Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth ("b-a-b-y, I love to call you baby"). This album is quite a journey but each port of call is a self-contained world in itself.

In Wall Poster Star they sing, "cute and contrived, sure. But don't think it untrue". You have to agree.

Utterly engaging pop, with many twists.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

David Byrne and Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Inertia)

David Byrne and Brian Eno: Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Inertia)

It has been almost 30 years since David Byrne and Brian Eno teamed up for the groundbreaking My Life in the Bush of Ghosts which brought sampling, found sounds, world music, trip-hop beats, studio... > Read more

Black Seeds: Dust and Dirt (Black Seeds)

Black Seeds: Dust and Dirt (Black Seeds)

Driving away from the recent Womad I said to my wife I hoped there might be a two year moratorium on reggae rhythms, it is just such an easy default position for so many bands and guaranteed to get... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK by BEN FOUNTAIN

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK by BEN FOUNTAIN

Any thinking American who read Generation Kill, Evan Wright's remarkable account of being an embedded journalist with an advance group of Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, would... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ABNER JAY: Play dem bones and skulls

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ABNER JAY: Play dem bones and skulls

There is an interesting photo of singer and one-man band Abner Jay in the late Seventies playing at what is described as a folk festival. As he pours his all into whatever song has captured him, by... > Read more