Peppy isn't exactly the right word for Couples, the sophomore release for Sheffield, England's, stylish five-piece, the Long Blondes. Campy doesn't fit just right either. Combine the two and that's the essence of this album's sound. In just under forty minutes, this mostly uptempo blend of new wave synths and poppy punk hooks--anchored by lead singer Kate Jackson's wide ranging mezzo that shifts between sultry breathiness and rounded urgency--provides a darkly playful summer soundtrack.
Opener "Couples" tilts campy with vampy synths that recall Siouxie and the Banshees. "Guilt" leans to peppy, with a catchy sing-a-long chorus accented by funk guitar and bass riffs accompanied by boppy club rhythms. Yet elements of pep linger in the former, just as camp punctuates the latter.
A film noir campiness shrouds "Round the Hairpin," with Jackson almost whispering "a few days abroad was all we could afford... round the hairpin we go speeding in a rented car, don't let me die." Guitars get all heavy pedaled and full of fuzzy reverb, a low sonorous blip undulates.
Jackson's vocals take center stage in "Too Clever By Half," a minimally instrumented song that starts out just drums and vocals. Clear and intimate, Jackson thoughtfully articulates each word and delivers each in a slow urgency.
Unabashedly catchy and unapologetically stylish, Couples is neither breakthrough nor throwback. Yet, what could've become a collection of a few single gems holds up as well-crafted album of peppy campy bliss.