The Long Blondes
Someone to Drive You Home
’m not a fan of "indie" music. So when, back in July 2003, I ended up in a Sheffield pub where The Long Blondes were about to play their third show I wasn’t expecting much. Actually, I was expecting anything: I’d never heard of them and didn’t much like how the five angular clothes-hangers admired each other in a corner of the room. I knew they were going to be just another set of goons hopping a short ride on the rickety New Rock Revolution bandwagon. Then they started playing.
They may have been out of tune—actually, they were probably unable to tune—but they were raw and alive, with a rudimentary disco rhythm section, cackhanded upside-down riffs, and a singer with a you’d-love-to-fuck-me…but-you-wouldn’t-dare-try sneer that squealed-out tales of urban alienation and sexual paranoia. They were three-fifths female and sounded it.
It’s now three years later. Not much has changed. The Long Blondes are still poseurs and still making guitar pop that sounds like it could come apart at any second. They also still stick out among the bands that are, at least in column inches generated, their contemporaries. Most of those groups seem to be living in The Libertines’ Albion, a lie-dream utopia where The Clash took power after a bloodless coup in 1977 and where women keep their mouths shut, roll the joints, and get fucked. Strummerville. You can find The Fratellis, The Automatic, and Kasabian hanging out there.
The Long Blondes have their own Albion: a just out-of-focus imaginary provincial life that’s defined by a longing for domestic bliss and a dull hatred for those that get in the way of it. The Long Blondes have nostalgie de la boue for the better bad times—tattoos of swallows rather than of the Tasmanian Devil in a Blades top. It doesn’t stop their songs from cutting like a knife, though.
Take “Giddy Stratospheres.” Over a woozy vibrato guitar, the Blondes tell us about knowing that the man you want has been emasculated—drinking wine and eating chocolate in front of the TV—by a dull partner. In “You Could Have Both” lovers attempt to reconcile their differences, but can’t even agree on pronunciation during the girl-group-via-Pulp spoken word section. Impressionable girls write forum postings about how the message of “Once and Never Again”—that teenage girls don’t need a boyfriend—is empowering without realizing the narrator is a perv interested in some Sapphic grooming.
The majority of these upbeat songs have howling vocals, scything guitar and, unusually for a current Brit group, a rhythm section that manages to be danceable without having to go out of its way to prove it—but it’s the slower tracks that end each side that turn the album into something cohesive. “Heaven Help the New Girl” is a seemingly wistful ballad with an ice-cold heart and a too-short disco section, while the closer “A Knife for the Girls” is the sound of pent-up bile turning to rage replete with Siouxsie tom rolls, scrawled-out-man-named-Marco guitar lines, and a keening wail heard all over Harehills. Someone to Drive You Home: it’s music about the unbearable times before and after the short moments that make life worthwhile.
Reviewed by: Patrick McNally
Reviewed on: 2006-11-15