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ISSUE 120 VOL 7 PUBLISHED 11/10/2006

The Pipettes bring back doo-wop

By Ian Anderson
Executive Editor

Friday, November 10, 2006

Doo-Wop isn't a hard thing to do, but it is hard to do well. Balancing simple novelty and actual creativity and innovation is where the difficulty lies. We are fortunate enough to have a slew of doo-wopish bands on the horizon here in the states, but what about England?

This is where The Pipettes come in. Simply put, they are great. They walk the line between cheesy and disco revivalist with well-constructed songs that – although not the deepest ever written – are amongst the most fun. Instantly contagious, the Pipettes have stumbled upon a rather impressive formula.

Each song on their album, "We Are The Pipettes," embodies the spirit of doo-wop, but they also possesses the epic elements of Abba, oddly enough. I really hated most disco and I agree with, well, everybody that mirrored balls, roller skates and unbuttoned lapels hailed the end of rock music, but somehow the Pipettes have been able to hold my attention without sparking my anti-disco sentiments. Yet.

Part of this is because they write catchy songs. "Pull Shapes" is an instant classic that has flowing orchestral strings behind the three girls belting out the hot rhymes. The drummer pays homage to the styles of the time, but isn't dedicated to that single feel – often including phatter beats and more creativity to make things a bit more interesting. The song is full of hot breakdowns that combine the lyrics "Clap your hands if you want some more" with white-washing crowds cheering and echoing in the background.

The production is also rather clever. It's clear that the equipment used was as vintage as their sound. Everything is wet with reverb and has a hint of delay to create that older reel-to-reel feel. The drums are harshly compressed and the vocals are generally filtered with a dash of delay, but are placed artfully within the mix.

Chock full of three-part harmonies and back-and-forth vocal lines, the girls play off of each other as if they've been friends for years, which makes them that much more authentic.

The only weak points are the songs "It Hurts Me So To See You Dance So Well" and "A Winter's Sky" and they aren't even all that bad, really, they just lack the same energy you see throughout the rest of the record. This makes the middle of the record drag a bit. Fortunately, the pace picks back up with "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me," which will be the hit of the album, hands down.

The beginning of "Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me" is a chant of the name-sake line repeatedly over a "Micky"-like (or "Holla Back Girl") drum part that makes the song irresistible. The verses are simple doo-wop off-beat shimmies that conjure images of the doing "the Swim" and, yes, even Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years. However, the chorus is easily the highlight, moving into an expansive – and quite beautiful – part with gentle "ooos" holding up a high, siren-like melody that glides effortlessly over a hall of reverb-soaked instrumentation.

"Tell Me What You Want" is a standard Abba-esque slow-disco burner that is smooth and sexy and very cool. It's epic and over the top, but it is still a great song and could even be the sleeper hit of the record.

My favorite track, however, is "ABC," which is a little love song about falling for a nerd, so of course it peeked my interest. The chorus says it all: "He cares about ABC, 123, XYZ, but he doesn't know about XTC." With lines about how he doesn't care about how she looks, but is always deep in a book, the song is guaranteed to make the hearts of most adolescent boys skip a beat.

Maybe this is the true intention of the band: to make everyone fall in love with the three beautiful girls fronting the band. It isn't that hard, trust me.

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