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Album Review

The Long Blondes' second album, Couples, avoids the clichéd sophomore slump by taking some chances and leaving behind the joyous clatter and clutter of their debut for a more emotionally powerful, sonically adventurous approach. With producer Erol Alkan behind the boards, the group removes the punk from its post-punk sound and adds more post. That is, more icy detachment, more space and careful arrangement of instruments, and more of an eye to the disco-punk dancefloor. Where the songs on Someone to Drive You Home were almost giddily peppy and bursting with energy, the songs here feel like they were taken right from the studio, stored in a freezer for a month, and then mastered onto disc. (Think the Blondie of "X Offender" versus the Blondie of "Heart of Glass" for a quick and relevant comparison.) Even the songs like "Erin O'Connor" that start off with some fire and spunk end up being bathed in atmosphere before too long. While the decision is a risky one that might put off fans looking for Someone II or a song as addictive as "Once and Never Again," ultimately it is a wise move that shows a band intent on making interesting albums and not just rehashing the same territory. Not that the group has forsaken catchy tunes or made an unlistenable record. Not by a long shot. There are still plenty of strong melodies and catchy songs to hold on to, still songs you'd want to drop into a playlist — like the hopeful, un-nostalgic "Nostalgia" or "I'm Going to Hell," a stomping rocker that is most reminiscent of the songs on Someone. "Guilt" is likely the song that will stick, riding a funky backbeat and a hooky chorus deep into the memory banks. So, the sound of the album is arresting and the songs are good, but the true star of the album is vocalist Kate Jackson. She showed herself to be quite adept at delivering punky pop songs on Someone; on Couples she blooms into a quite impressive interpreter of lyrics. Perhaps her ability to inhabit different characters (like the desperate lover on the lam on the harrowing "Round the Hairpin" or the sad nightclub philosopher on "The Couples") comes from singing guitarist Dorian Cox's lyrics and not her own (she only wrote words for two of the ten tracks), or maybe she's destined to become an actress like her Charlie's Angels namesake. Either way, she makes each song come alive beautifully, and her alternately tough and tender (to the point of fragile beauty on the heartbreaking "Too Clever by Half") vocals help make the album an impressive triumph over the age-old dilemma of how to follow up a successful debut. It also strikes a blow for taking chances and not resting on your accomplishments, but most importantly, Couples is an exciting, challenging listen full of brains, daring, and plenty of icy heart.

Customer Reviews

A major disappointment - I STAND CORRECTED: THIS ALBUM IS EXCELLENT!

I initially gave the Long Blondes' sophomore effort, Couples, a less than glowing review. It was after two listens and after listening for two weeks, I can say that the band has issued one of the best albums of the year. I was completely wrong about the sluggish tempos. This is a great dance album and an exceptional rock album. The only thing I can say is that the excellence might not be as immediately apparent on the first few listens. But the melodies and grooves on songs like Guilt, Couples, Serious Bit are as good as anything on the Blondes' last effort. This is an ebullient, smart, fun record. Give it a chance; you won't be disappointed after all. Sorry for the wrong first impression. *Below is my original review, which I completely disavow. I have loved the Blondes since hearing their excellent demos online two years ago. But unfortunately, it's been a steady decline. Their first album Someone To Drive You Home was good and recommended, but it lacked the spark of their initial demos. (Case in point: the Picture of You bonus version here has been drained of all the soul and energy of the previous version.) As for Couples, the tempos are sluggish and the performances uninspired. I was very much looking forward to this album and I regret buying it. I already have tickets to see the band in concert in a few weeks. Maybe the tunes will grow on me, maybe they will be awesome in concert. If so, I'll update this review. But after two listens, I'm too bored to go for a third try anytime soon.

Love, Relationships, and Couples.

I love how the TLB's write (Mostly written by Dorian) songs about love and relationships. The main subject is basically what the title of the album is, Couples. Sure, it may not be like Someone to You Drive Home but this is not bad for a second album. If your not huge fan of this album then I suggest you download these songs: Century, Guilt,The Couples, Erin O' Conner, and I'm Going to Hell.

A Grower

It took a few spins but this album has grown on me greatly. It's nice that it's not a retred of their amazing debut but rather, something remarkably different. No one likes a stagnant band & TLBs have delivered an exciting if not immediate sophmore set of songs.

Biography

Formed: 2005 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Dorian Cox (guitar), Reenie Delaney (bass), Emma Chaplin (guitar/vocals), Kate Jackson (vocals), and Screech Louder (drums) comprise the glamorous new wave-tinged stylings of the Long Blondes. The Sheffield, England five-piece came together in 2005 and issued its debut, "Autonomy Boy"/"Long Blonde," a split 7" with the Boyfriends shortly thereafter. A handful of independent singles for Angular Records and Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation followed into 2006, as did the NME Philip Hall Radar...
Full Bio

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