review archive

The Frenchmen / Pipas / The Cut-Outs – Betsey Trotwood 21 July 2004

Cor! It’s like 1988 onwards never happened. We’re squished up against bowlcuts ‘n’ hairslides ‘n’ bobheads in the fearsomely sweaty Betsey basement as through the speakers The Weather Prophets follow The Soup Dragons follow The Motorcycle Boy and as always my heart skips to the first beat of ‘Get Out Of My Dream’ by The Clouds.

Fortuna Pop! have fixed it for us to shimmer like it’s 1987with three bands of sha la loveliness.
First up it’s The Cut-Outs; popkids bringing us old-school thrills aplenty in the form of no-bass shamble beat with scritchy scratchy guitars, tootling fake-fur clad keyboards and fab rat-a-tat drums. Think Beat Happening or The Pastels in the olden days before they got all sophisticated like and started writing film soundtracks.
Sha la loveliness
There are cracked boy vocals courtesy of Paul (Steven Drew lookie-likie el supremo) who is no longer rocking the startled rabbit look that has been a feature of past Cut-Outs gigs. He’s obviously recovered from the shock of seeing photos of himself in a former life on The Fat Tulips web site. There are swell girl vocals from Marisa (?), ‘60s picture perfect in flipped hair and neato red dress with matching hairband, earrings and tambourine (always accessorise, ladies). There is the excitement of a brand new beater being used by the kickin’ girl drummer (and some-time Actionette). Pop fun on a stifling summer night. This is the sort of music that’s meant to be heard echoing from a basement and out into the sunshine.
Mark & Lupe's world You have to love Pipas, Mark and Lupe are wrapped up in their own world of fragile beats and thoughtful tunes, strummed out against backing tracks that sound like a bedroom Saint Etienne. They play my fave ‘Bitter Club’, breezily wistful, a delicate slip-sliding cousin to Mint Royale’s ‘Don’t Falter’. Lupe swaps the keyboard she’s clutching to pluck at an acoustic guitar, adding to the gorgeous swathes of sound with sing yer heart out in the kitchen vocals. It’s sweet and mesmerising and for a while I forget I’m in a sweltering cellar under grimy London pavements and instead picture sunlight flickering through the trees on a hazy afternoon.
The Frenchmen play fast ‘n’ joyful hit-my-summer buzzsaw popsongs and would fit perfectly onto one of those old Subway Records compilations alongside Bubblegum Splash and The Groove Farm. Songs rattle by, tunes surfing atop the buzzfuzz noise and what in the old days we always referred to as (technical term this) bumbum dap drumming. There’s a whole heap of bababababababaa-ing not least on the groovy ‘Crimes of Fashion’. Songs are divided up into those sung in a flat boy voice (in a good way) and those with girl next door vocals.
There is much giggly jokery between songs, the drummer makes rubbish quips and their mate (dancing wildly and nearly having my eye out) gets up to sing ‘Frantic Romantic’ by The Scientists and sounds ace. It’s all belted out in a slowdom’s boredom pell-mell frenzy, no time to get tired of one chirpy tune ‘cos here comes another hot on its heels. Wheee!
I spy Amelia... Now, I find indie-minded Americans’ on-going worship of shoe-gazing (not to mention their taking it seriously as a genre title) a trifle bewildering. In the same way I’m quite bemused by the glut of U.S. bands that seem to be intent on replicating the stuff I used to tape off Janice Long in the late eighties (and let’s not forget those Scandinavians –jeez!). Apparently, The Frenchmen used to be a Talulah Gosh covers band? There’s certainly a fuzztastic version of ‘Steaming Train’ on their web site (true fakt: in days gone by Kitten has been known to dance all around the house with her chums in a conga-stylee shouting along to ‘Steaming Train’ - aah the things we do for pop). Listen to ‘Hey Amelia’ and its like the Gosh never went away. In fact, over in the corner, bouncing about, there is Amelia Fletcher. Like I said, it’s like 1988 onwards never happened. Hang on, I’m starting to feel dizzy…
[top of page]