wears the trousers magazine


sounding off: april/may 2009 (III)

Part III – reviews of Holly Miranda, The Mummers, Noisettes and Plastiscines.

* * *

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Holly Miranda
Sleep On Fire EP •••
Self-released

As a solo artist and as part of the Jealous Girlfriends, Holly Miranda certainly knows her way around the interior of a recording studio – so it is with full intent that Sleep On Fire, her debut solo effort, oozes home-recorded charm: the click of the off switch at the end of opener ‘Joints’ has been left in, while the start of ‘Singular Acceptaince’ seems to be the sound of a drum machine alone in a room. Miranda mostly keeps her voice low, sounding a bit fearful to raise it too much lest she wake the neighbours, and succeeds in creating a tense and fragile atmosphere that might at any moment crumble in on itself.

Musically it mostly meanders, swells and retracts with strings plucked and bowed, but occasionally throws out moments of real interest. Unfortunately the tracks aren’t long enough for those moments to ever make anything of themselves. A case in point being ‘Treehouse’: with shuffling programmed beats, glitch noises and a heavy synth bassline, it sounds like it’s going to be the highlight of the EP. But at under two minutes it never reaches it potential, fading out like an iTunes sample. If the purpose of Sleep On Fire is solely to act as a teaser for what could come later – an amazing full-length that fulfils the promise of these six songs – then it is wildly successful. As a standalone document, however, it can be frustrating.

Daniel Clatworthy
UK release date: 18/05/09; www.myspace.com/hollymiranda


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The Mummers
Tale To Tell •••½
Universal

Planning to one day get back into music after her solo career faltered, Raissa Khan-Panni would write lyrics while waitressing in Brixton, . It wasn’t until stranger Mark Horwood sent her a track he had written around one of her vocals that The Mummers started to take shape. The resulting album is Tale To Tell, an album full of big, camp circus sounds. It kicks off with the carnival-esque statement of intent, ‘March Of The Dawn’, in which brass and drums parade along with lyrics about new days, new starts and getting up, brushing yourself down and carrying on. 

It’s no shock to hear that when Khan-Panni met Horwood, he had just spent a year in LA working on a film soundtrack. The music is highly visual: there are moments that sound like a silver screen romantic rendezvous, parts that are pure Disney, and a bit that sounds like an advert for chocolate. ‘Wake Me Up’ flutters in like doe-eyed woodland creatures frolicking in the morning sun, while ‘Wonderland’ conjures images of dancing ladies in full-skirted gowns. Against all this theatre, Khan-Panni’s voice doesn’t always manage to stand its ground, and after the initial novelty wears off the instantly familiar and nostalgic sounds can start to seem more like appropriations of musical clichés with no real artistic stamp. Nevertheless, Tale To Tell still manages to be a joyful journey. All that is uncertain is how far The Mummers can take their sound.

Daniel Clatworthy
UK release date: 13/04/09; www.myspace.com/themummers

FREE MP3: The Mummers, ‘Wonderland’


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Noisettes
Wild Young Hearts ••••
Mercury

Thanks to some savvy marketing and a less art-conscious, poppier direction, Wild Young Hearts has been propelled into the ears of a much wider audience than its predecessor, 2007’s What’s The Time Mr Wolf?. The Mazda-flogging ‘Don’t Upset The Rhythm’ is essentially an extended chorus, but a catchy one that you can lose yourself in; however, there’s a lot more to better it here. The chorus of future single ‘Never Forget You’ flirts with becoming Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Xanadu’ – which makes it amazing, frankly – while ‘So Complicated’ surely presents another instant hit, with added emotional tension. 

The band’s peppy, soulful funk provides a well-suited backing to frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa’s skilful and seductive vocals, the real focus of the album. Opener ‘Sometimes’ shines the spotlight on the voice and it rarely strays far. That said, the music doesn’t take too much of a back seat; there are some great unexpected twists in the playing – in the early disco-influenced ‘Saturday Night’, for example, and moments in which Dan Smith’s guitar takes its cues from heavy rock. A popularity push from 30 seconds of a song being played ad nauseam on TV can be as much a curse as it can be a blessing, but with Wild Young Hearts Noisettes have the album to back it up.

Daniel Clatworthy
UK release date: 20/04/09; www.myspace.com/noisettesuk

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Plastiscines
Barcelona EP •••
NYLON

Bobo Parisiennes Plastiscines return with a three-track EP named after the Catalonian capital, and Barcelona finds les bébés rockers in a feisty, no-nonsense mood. With its relentless, driving opening, the title track starts off recalling The White Stripes before giving way to a calculated pop chorus designed for the dancefloor. A version of Dee Dee Warwick’s much-covered 1963 R&B classic ‘You’re No Good’ starts with a breathy, heavily accented suggestive promise, but descends into standard covers band fare. Despite all the “aah aahs” and “hey hos”, this stumble into the pedestrian makes it a missed opportunity to do something unexpected.

Final track ‘I Could Rob You’ finds them on firmer footing, from the propulsive drum intro to their promise to wilfully break hearts just because they can, it neatly rounds off the EP in an unselfconsciously rocking way. What Plastiscines do isn’t really rocket science – it’s straightforward, Anglo-American influenced, classic rhythm and blues played by energetic young French women. It does the job, but it could have been so much better.

Martyn Clayton
UK release date: 21/04/09; www.myspace.com/plastiscine


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