Little Music: Singles 1997-2002
Track & Field
was going to form a band, and we were going to be called The Washing Up, in tribute to the fact that aside from on public transport, it’s the time and place when I listen to the most music. It’s the ideal venue, really. No-one will come near you lest they get asked to do the drying. Furthermore, they won’t be able to hear you sing over the sound of the taps. You can dance in your socks without fear of impaling yourself on a loose bottle of poor quality lager. The floor is all nice and smooth, so you can glide wonderfully. Because of the room afforded, you can swing and sway and flail to your heart’s content. I have an iPod in my mind, and Wigan Casino in my kitchen. It’s a delightful arrangement, really.
So naturally, you have to have something you can dance to. Today, I thought Dressy Bessy were going to do the trick. I had such wonderful memories of them from my first year at university when I chanced on their single “California”, a breezy, easy piece of summery tweepop that spent a good three months jostling with Elastica’s “Stutter” as my favourite song ever. I remember singing along to the chorus in my room in halls whilst eating cake, drinking orangeade and smiling like toothache was something that happened to other people.
If there’s one thing this album makes abundantly clear, it’s that those days are long gone. For placed in the context of the washing up, Dressy Bessy are terrible.
It even kicks off OK, “Live To Tell All” has shoop-shoop tambourines and a nice little organ sound running through it… you can dance to it and feel reasonably cheerful doing it. Then “Lipstick” starts, and you realise that you couldn’t hear the vocals on “Live To Tell All,” and that that was a good thing. Throughout the album the vocals mistake ‘soft’ for ‘flat,’ and everything else mistakes ‘easy-going’ for ‘dull’. I’ve probably misread something somewhere, but I thought this was meant to be fun. Why does it all sound so pained? When they sing “let’s go outside, we’ll build a snowman” they sound like irritated Religious Education teachers who can’t understand why their class aren’t grateful that they’re letting them watch Gandhi. The Aislers Set can get away with sounding a bit monotone because they have the tunes to hum to, the hooks to cling to, the beats to swing to, and the hearts to bleed to. Dressy Bessy have only goodwill, and as these tunes drag on there’s not much left.
I still cling on, though, hoping that “California” (track 14) will be as good as I remember it being, but it’s only track five and already I want to listen to something else. I sit still and hope, though the club-footedness of “Fuzzy” and “Ultra Vivid Color” test me. The drums trudge like Coldplay, the tambourines are limp and floppy, the whole thing just feels like The Kings Of Leon, or Jet, or whatever. I want to go to bed, I don’t care about music anymore, but it’s only track nine. I sense that perhaps I could actually dance to “Princess”, but I don’t want to anymore. I turn it off and sigh, remembering the first time I danced round the kitchen, The Boy With The Arab Strap fluttering through my earphones as I bopped like I presumed Belle & Sebastian did. That felt brilliant, the glorious realisation that pop music could actually include ugly, uncoordinated sods like myself. This record, on the other hand, is just confirmation that when people call me a limp-wristed twee-arsed indie loser, they don’t necessarily mean it as a compliment.