Again we ourselves back in that record shoppers’ paradise, the Notting Hill Music & Video Exchange in 2003. As December darkens, days before I’m due to depart for America and will discover Dolly Mixture, I’m here flipping through the bins with The Libertines’ “Time For Heroes” blaring over the sound system. I’ve been hearing this song a lot lately, its resemblance to The Clash now having a firm hold on me, and it is today of all days that I’ll ask what it is, purchasing the cd at my next stop, the HMV on Oxford Street. I love this song and it will forever remind me of that magical first time living in London.
After inquiring about the tune from the chap behind the desk, I make my way towards the door but right before my hand reaches the handle it’s as if I’m being pulled back in. There’s something waiting for me, I just wasn’t to know it yet. I realize that I haven’t yet flipped through the Indie vinyl section located right near the entrance. That something isn’t the Living Death Vengeance Of Hell 12” that’s somehow mixed in there, with its undead soldier giants rising out of a black lake still burned in my memory today, as well as the fact that it contains such tracks as “Heavy Metal Hurricane” and “Riding A Virgin”. And it’s not the many 90’s shoegaze EPs that I already have anyway.
Then all of a sudden, there it is. The most striking album cover. Stark white with one female face in profile, one staring straight on, both in black ink. Between the two is a pair of crossed legs, one in a lime green stocking, one orange. And then the album title – Surprise! Surprise! It’s Girlfrendo. What a brilliant band-name! And two exclamation points in the title. This all just screamed POP! It was love at first sight. And I was pleased to find it sounds just like the cover suggests it will.
“First Kiss Feelings Vs. Everyday Sensations” has remained one of my favorite songs ever since I first heard it. Even reflected in its name is my long-held belief that there’s something about a great song that’s similar to the feeling you get when you first kiss someone you really fancy. The song is ecstatic, full of jubilant unable-to-be-contained shouts and infectious melody. A girl-boy dialogue full of the tension implied by the title.
If “First Kiss Feelings” is a perfect song, and it is, I’m not sure what to call ‘Delicatessen’, which goes even beyond this. Perhaps the most pure distillation of Pop that has ever graced the airwaves. That teenage exuberance, immediate attraction shooting wild sparks off into the air at every shimmy, a true fairytale in the supermarket. “Can I have some more of that Swedish cheese?” a boy asks, followed quickly by the double female shout of “He was hip and he weakened my knees” before a dazzling pre-chorus of “And in the corner of my eye, I saw him pick up apple pie” following those classic pop descending chords. It goes on and on, food by food, delectable delight by delectable delight, effervescent and euphoric. “Hey there supermarket superboy, please come and be my instant joy”. Those last two words being what Pop music is all about. And fun. Fun Fun Fun.
The 60s ‘baa’ & ‘oo’ filled “Cat Heaven” is as cute and cuddly as the most adorable of kittens. Purring and with a hint of deviance, this is Shimmering Pop like only the Swedes can do. More ‘baa’s and gorgeous vocal lines in “A Reason For Every Season”, the ascending melody within the opening guitar part has always expressed to me a rarely-glimpsed component of joy.
2004 and I can find out precious little about them, except the sad news that they don’t seem to be operating anymore (Josephine would go on to front Love Is All). But the world of Pop is nothing if not magical and a woman I had never met before with a cool Belle & Sebastian-referenced handle on Livejournal very kindly offers to burn me their second album as I can’t find it anywhere. She also sends along the Beikoku Ongaku #11 compilation with their “The Angry Song”, sounding like Bad Dream Fancy Dress fronting The Would-Be-Goods. Years later I’d drive down to NYC to catch a Pipas show at The Cake Shop. Hanging out with a group of people after the show, as introductions went round, “you sent me some Girlfrendo stuff a few years ago! Thank you so much!” Pop is indeed a magical world.
And some time after that, back in England, my friend John Jervis tells me he kicked off his WIAIWYA label with their very first 7”, Shout It Out Loud and Clear Girlfrendo Gives You That Fab Gear. Spunky lo-fi electronics and swirling primordial energy, all 5:46 of it is a statement of intent. The lively title track – “Fab Gear”, later known as ‘Easily Impressed’- ‘Girlfrendo Anthem’s fourteen-second band manifesto, and the freaking awesome and necessary lyrical reworking of ‘Who Put The Bomp’ that gives the credit to all the girls behind all those love songs that brought all those couples together.
HURRY – LISTEN – AUG STONE’S COUNTERFORCE PODCAST