Sunday, September 23, 2012

Public Enemy "Most Of My Heroes Still Don't Appear On No Stamp" (Enemy Records): Tender Trap "Ten Songs About Girls" (Fortuna Pop!)
"So now who's still in the game, since back then ?" - PMD, "'87 to the Present"

This post is, unapologetically, a *celebration*.

It's twenty-five years ago that John Peel (g.r.h.s) helped introduce us to Talulah Gosh and Public Enemy, twenty-one since we were twin-tracking "Apocalypse '91... The Enemy Strikes Black" and "Heavenly vs. Satan", fourteen since "He Got Game" on twelve rubbed up against "Queen B" on seven, eight since "MKLVFKWR" lost out in the subtlety stakes to "¿Como Te Llamas?" and five since we thrilled to "How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul?" whilst anxiously wondering whether "6 Billion People" would prove Tender Trap's swansong. And now, there's a transatlantic new album face-off between these two titans of modern music.

Public Enemy are rightly back in the public consciousness at the moment, thanks to the adoption of "Harder Than You Think" (a highlight from "How You Sell Soul", originally released to no fanfare at all in 2007) for Channel 4's Paralympic coverage. Although it's their 17th UK hit, upon reaching a giddy no. 4 in the charts it's become their long-overdue first top ten single here. That aside, it seems that nobody under the age of 40 cares about PE any more, which is rather a shame given that "Most Of My Heroes..." might be their best album since "Apocalypse '91". Ah, "perhaps not hard", you say, but do persevere: from the "Fight The Power"-referencing title and from the very first beats, you can tell that the Enemy are seeking to revisit the golden days of the Bomb Squad's initial deployment: although interestingly, much of what's best here sounds closer to the Bomb Squad's work for Ice Cube on "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" (oh, and the opening track knowingly purloins the spoken-word sample that later kicked off Cube's "Really Doe") than their legendary underpinning of Public Enemy's own classic albums.

That first track, "Run 'Til Its Dark", is typical: Chuck D veritably steams in, laying into injustice in his trademark, trenchant way. He's flanked by a soundtrack of horn-flayed funk samples over which he juggles population statistics and a Family Fortunes "survey says" motif, although the song is a little derailed when a full minute is taken up by a bizarre and thoroughly unnecessary sequence of random guitar solos. Then comes "Get Up Stand Up": Chuck and Brother Ali deliver brilliant, angry verses bemoaning how hip-hop's optimism and storytelling has been usurped by blood diamonds, bad role models and avarice, while the music fair simmers with 60s/70s-tinged revolutionary fervour. The third tune, the hard-hitting and drop-filled single "I Shall Not Be Moved"

"another defiantly retro single, the samples still hard, regimented and funky as Chuck D excoriates everything that moves and that doesn't keep it real..."

is just as strong, boasting on LP an additional, half-minute bass solo (and why not ?) as well as an extended version of the song's "gagging on Gaga" play-out.

Our other picks from this set come from collaborations: PE tend to use guest rappers sparingly, but that does mean they make astute choices (as devotees of Cube and Kane's mic-blessing cameos on "Burn Hollywood Burn" will testify). On "Get It In", Chuck joins forces with Bumpy Knuckles aka Freddie Foxxx (not to be confused with Freddy Fox from "Peppa Pig"). Bumpy is in esteemed company these days, having recently teamed up with both Nas and DJ Premier, and his stanzas, including an admission that he always wanted to be an S1W, are gold dust. The track is only really dampened by Flavor Flav delivering its third verse (older readers may be reminded of the way so many NWA cuts featured an on-fire Cube and an in-flame Ren before Eazy-E then came in to mop up the remaining bars, and invariably kind of ruined things).

Then there's "Catch The Thrown", with Fat Professor and a real current favourite of ours, Cormega, dropping heat and science in equal doses alongside Chuck's usual imperious rhyming. 'Mega takes the time to deliver a pay-off line about the death of Trayvon Martin, too. And on "Rltk", based around a mid to late 80s-era Jam Master Jay-style beat, Chuck steps in to play the Reverend Run role as none other than DMC lays down some grandstanding Hollis holler.

It's sad, but instructive, that the overall sentiment of the album comes across as this: whereas Public Enemy, once in the vanguard of the rising and rebellious power that was hip-hop, railed against a white establishment, now they also feel the need to rail against a new black musical establishment which trivialises and vulgarises their concerns. "Most Of Our Heroes..." is a lament for how the revolution that gave birth to the golden era of rap was soon co-opted and repackaged as a mere commodity. Of course, there are other targets for their ire: you are left in no doubt that is no fan of the Tea Party. And there are a number of crystal clear anti-homophobia references (including Harvey Milk being listed as one of Chuck's should-be-on-a-stamp heroes) which, given some murkier aspects of PE's lyrical past, are particularly welcome. And as Chuck says (on more than one song!)

"At the age I'm at now, if I can't teach / I shouldn't even open my mouth to speak"

All in all, there's a neat symmetry to the current PE resurgence, a resurgence which this record underlines. Not only does its title hark back to Chuck's immortal lines from "Fight The Power", but Flav's contributions to "Harder Than You Think" - which hovers even now in the upper echelons of the UK hit parade - are deliberate callbacks to lines he first delivered back on their début single, "Public Enemy #1". Public Enemy still have plenty to teach all of us (not least the overlooked art of, um, making great art), and Chuck D remains the most passionate, positive teacher of all.

Like Public Enemy, Tender Trap stand for dignity, purity and hope (just check out the purple, white and green if you don't believe us), albeit that "Ten Songs About Girls" is more compact, less didactic, and - you will be unsurprised, perhaps relieved, to know - ploughs a different musical furrow. But it excites similar superlatives. In fact, it's even better than "Most Of My Heroes" and if Fortuna Pop!'s bank manager had allowed it, we've no doubt they'd have released every song here as a single, Wedding Present '92-style, for the confidence and depth on display is quite striking.

This record is the complete package: full of hooks, and notable for its gorgeous use of three-part harmonies and overlapping vocals, but unlike some of their contemporaries Tender Trap also know to keep the guitars roaring, rather than limply nu-folkish. "Ten Songs" displays some magpie tendencies, discreetly plundering influences and reference points from that last quarter-century and beyond, yet each song stands up as an *original*, instead of a knowing homage, a studio experiment or a "will this do ?" re-tread. Like all LPs that sound so organic, so natural, so effortless, one suspects that in reality a huge amount of thought has gone into arranging and *realising* the songs within.

"Train From Kings' Cross Station" makes for a tremendous opener, all wheels and dust (a bit like the Great Leap Forward's "Flying Scotsman") as Amelia travels north in a stellar if cheeky re-write of "Train From Kansas City". It starts with the sampled thunder of said train, quickly translated into muscly drum and bass and an opening half-minute of one-chord wonder that puts one a little in mind of Sportique's "Arthouse Cinemas", but from that springboard the song simply bounds skyward, thanks to the kind of spritely strumming and gorgeously intertwining vocals that postively *infest* this album. And the 33 minutes *fly* by in just that same spirit: so many moments on this record are pristine examples of what Amelia no doubt dreamed of, all those years ago, when Talulah Gosh announced their intent to fuse the spirit of punk rock with the cascading vocal joy of the Dixie Cups.

There's the piledriving single and tribute to the DIY ethic, "Step One", which we devoted a sentence or two to a short while back. There's the rampant "Broken Doll" (we thought that it was going to be about the much-missed Newcastle venue, but actually it's about the late Amy Winehouse), which jumps energetically from percussion and handclaps to frazzled indie-pop rattle, gathering frightening pace towards the end (not since the messy final sprint of "Testcard Girl" has Amelia featured on a song which such acceleration).

There's the prickling, affecting "Memorabilia": incredibly touching and almost audaciously pretty, but made perfect by the way that the instrumentation rears up, late on (like "Step One", there's a touch of post-punk at play, like Girls At Their Best gone feral) and shunts the song to a satisfyingly shouty conclusion as the lost opportunities of days past are set against a tremulous wall of guitar noise. Oh, and "MBV" is no slouch, cheekily updating a line from Orange Juice's "Consolation Prize" before the melodies and split harmonies rain down (the chorus dwells on a doomed relationship, but a shared love of My Bloody Valentine). Oh, and there's a lyrical nod to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, too.

What else ? There's "Leaving Christmas Day", which would no doubt have been the December release had Suge been able to get going with a monthly "Ten Songs" singles club and which contains, in its sublime "ba-ba-ba" segment two-thirds of the way through, maybe the *highest* high of the whole record: imagine the sugar rush of "My Boy Says", multiplied tenfold. There's "May Day", a slightly more raucous and truly fabulous song which - like "Atta Girl" - has that "Britpop, if it was good" feel: one can speculate that Lush, for example, would have run through walls to have written it when they went all poppy, circa "Lovelife". There's "Love Is Hard Enough", the anthem - remixed for the B-side of "Step One" - which surely would, if the world would only tilt back onto a just axis, be the album's smash hit: yet again, it contains a chorus which suddenly *leaps* from the speakers and smothers you with kisses, before it (and the album) wrap up via a children's singalong which might sound contrived on a lesser song, but which here (just like the "Hang the DJ" refrain of "Panic", or even the choir on "It's Cliched To Be Cynical at Christmas") fits like a *glove*.

"Ten Songs" satisfies on first listen, but it repays many more. For once those hooks lodge themselves in your head, this is a record that just keeps delivering. It soon reveals itself as Tender Trap on the best form of their career so far: as I, Ludicrous once sang (of the Fall), "for me, they just get better and better".

(A footnote, but an important one: we know as well as anyone that equating Tender Trap with Rob and Amelia's old bands, as we've done above, is at best a fairly lazy shorthand. The whole line-up on this record, also comprising Katrina Dixon, new signing Emily Bennett, veteran from the Marine Research days John "DJ Downfall" Stanley and the outgoing Elizabeth "Allo Darlin'" Morris, deserves full credit for it. But we hope you understand why, for us, the thrill of Tender Trap is synonymous with that of those former bands and line-ups too).

So hell yes, this post is a celebration. Dame Amelia, Sir Rob (via Five Year Plan, initially!) and MistaChuck have been there for us for the last 25 years. In our book that makes them living legends, for sure, but unlike many others (Lydon, Cube, and T to name but three) they are routinely producing new records which demand respect *on purely musical terms*. This is rare, but IMPORTANT. Most of our heroes, Tender Trap and Public Enemy amongst them, don't appear on any stamps. Until that's rectified, we'll continue to shout their praise from the rooftops.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tender Trap "Step One" (Fortuna Pop!) (part three)

OK. Sorry about the false starts. Here we go again, then. Immediate now possibility: "Step One", the (nearly) new single from Tender Trap, is... grrrrrreat.

This one's for the P.U.N.K. girls, and maybe even for the riot girls: a tongue-in-cheek guide to 'making it' in the ever-crowded contemporary music firmament which takes its cue from kindred spirits Sportique's playfully post-modern appropriation of the 'list' song, "Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell Records" (although for those of us of a certain age, it also harks back to the delicious multiple-choice insouciance of Calvin vs. Amelia in "C Is The Heavenly Option").
"Step One" checks in with an insolent dart of feedback, quickly joined by a strutting combination of angular bass and hangdog guitar which could have been purloined straight from the Gang of Four's trunk of punk funk. Then come the vocals, Amelia reciting a self-help manual for pouting would-be pop-punk poetesses. The lyrics are as charming yet pointed as ever ("step one: get a pink guitar, step two: eschew a manager") but what tears the place down, of course, is the chorus, a dizzy carousel of catchiness. Its constituent parts in place, the song keeps driving forward, but true to the tradition of the classic popsong, the band stop dead as soon as the three-minute mark appears.
When the single mocks the urge to be cool above all else, ("act so cool it hurts", entreats Amelia devilishly) a little more of Kathleen Hanna's Jigsaw piece comes to mind:
"WELL WHILE WE ARE ALL ARGUING ABOUT WHOSE GONNA GET TO OPEN FOR THE MELVINS, WHOSE GONNA WEAR WHAT TO THE PARTY... trying to dictate to each other what is and what isn't cool or revolutionary or true resistence... we are wasting valuable time"
(oh, those last five words are almost... moving)
but, much as we'd like it to be, "Step One" is neither political, protest or polemic: it's just a good old-fashioned slice of smile-making pop music. Despite what we've been saying for these last three nights, it's not *really* got anything to do with the Huggy Nation or the Jigsaw Nation or even the Russian nation, but in our heads that's the rollercoaster ride its release has taken us on, and we don't regret a second of it. Sticking to the noise within the grooves, "Step One" is bright, sassy, punchy and poptastic: there's nothing in it which should scare off either radio playlists or chart success, but one suspects that aside from maybe Radio 6 and the internet stations, this is yet another case of "radio suckers never play me".

Ummm.... look. We saw Heavenly play many, many times. And we've seen Tender Trap a few times, although not nearly enough times. When you're actually watching bands, you're vaguely conscious of an evolution (of set list, of sound, of attitude): but before long each gig becomes merely part of a wider jumble of memories, the years elide into one another, and instead of a succession of gigs you're just remembering a joyful chaos of individual yet somehow interchangeable memories, in which a hollered chorus of "Shallow" at the Fleece mingles with a comedic stab at "Dyspraxic" at Toynbee Hall, a floor-shaking "Fireworks" that shut out the February cold at Buffalo Bars or the first time we heard "Trophy Girlfriend", in a Nottingham upstairs room.
And then there are the records. Oh, we treasure the records. And it's the same thing, really. You initially discover them sequentially, as they trace a band's development, their personnel changes, the fickle embrace of the music press, the switching of record labels. But after a few years, you find that you're chucking them into playlists without ne'er a care for such context: hearing how happily "Oh Katrina" mixes with "Our Love Is Heavenly" mixes with "Do You Want A Boyfriend ?" mixes with "Talulah Gosh" (how we adore the refusal to rhyme "best" with "rest" in the second chorus) mixes with "Atta Girl" (the record that Britpop - all of it - should have been). "Step One", right now, is the latest release to have made us want to put pen to paper, and the newest peak in Tender Trap's now veritably Himalayan catalogue, but soon it will be another beloved, timeless old favourite, to be plucked out from the record collection as a special treat, like a favourite sherry.
And that's *precisely* as it should be.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tender Trap "Step One" (Fortuna Pop!) (part two)

Sorry about that. Where were we ? Ah yes. "Step One", the new(ish) single from Tender Trap, is... oh, but can we crave your indulgence just one more time ?

If you remember, "Step One" came out just as Pussy Riot were convicted and sent down. Now we'll just have to agree to disagree about Pussy Riot's music: I must vouch that I think it's a fine racket. Which makes just me and Everett True (mind you, he goes on to spoil it by suggesting that the nonplussingly-overhyped "Ill Manors" may be better: Simon Reynolds is much closer to the mark on that one).
But whatever you think about Pussy Riot's songs, their charade of a trial was madness (and we say this as self-confessed Russophiles, in thrall to a fabulous, fascinating country with an incredible history and a tapestry of enviable literary and musical tradition). It's worth reading the judgment in full and trying to guess what century it belongs in: at times, it's positively unhinged. Take this, for example:

"The court does find a religious hatred motive in the actions of the defendants by way of them being feminists who consider men and women to be equal... Orthodox Christianity, and Catholic Christianity and other denominations do not agree with feminism and their own values are not in line with feminists.

In a modern society relations between various nationalities and between religious denominations must be based on mutual respect and equality and idea that one political movement can be superior to another gives root to perspective hatred between various opinions."

Wow. That is total mentalism on any level (and, yes, we know that the last paragraph reflects reasoning used to fashion some of our own "respect"-based laws). It's also no surprise that the case engendered a familiarly unsympathetic response from the usual misogynistic blowhards on message boards in our own, "civilised" country, who seem to regard any reference to feminism, in any form, with such strange fear (we in our indie-pop bubble are far from immune to this, as many a response to Clare's more strident contributions to the Sarah fanzines proved all too vividly, while the complacent and unhelpful responses of many to this modest but well-meaning experiment show how far we have to go, some of the point-missing surely being wilful).
Aside from the nonsense of Putin's power politics, an intriguing sideshow to the Pussy Riot episode has been seeing Kathleen Hanna et al resurface in the media, and renewed interest - however fleeting - in the Riot Grrrl phenomenon. For we're of the age to remember Riot Grrrl pitting boy against boy and girl against boy and girl against girl in toilet venues across the UK and US, and to remember it with relish, and to treasure the way it felt to protest and be excited and to be angry, and to rail at each other just as we railed at wider society. In many ways, it was a second coming of the fanzine culture, too. In issue 4 of Jigsaw, Kathleen Hanna wrote:
"I don't know what this means anymore than anyone... only what it means to me, Standing proud and saying "I don't know who I am, I wanna know more, I am not afraid to say things matter to me""
and hey, that may not seem the most erudite quotation to pick, but to me that admission of vulnerability and the attendant uncertainty helps better *explain* the appeal of riot grrrl... that it was about DISCOVERY *not* just didacticism... much as accusations of the latter were constantly levelled at its exponents, and on this side of the water, at the Huggy Nation that had totemic UK combo Huggy Bear at its epicentre.

We saw Huggy Bear play a few times back then, but our favourite was probably a night at the Jericho Tavern twenty years ago, possibly supporting the Pastels, when as we recalled here,

"the band started ganging up on a member of the audience who'd been singing "boy / girl revolution" along to "her jazz", carpeting him in no uncertain terms for failing to recognise that the band was actually calling for "girl / boy revolution"..."
At the time, the incident - the Huggies abandoning the song halfway through so that they could berate their audience properly - seemed totally in keeping with the nature of the beast, and added to the tension and the *fire* of that movement, however briefly that conflagration flickered in any kind of sustained media spotlight. It's a fire we could really do with now: after all, we're now firmly ensconced in a world where feminism has been critically sidelined in favour of the more nebulous and free market-friendly "girl power", a gift handed down from high by those obvious successors to the suffragette movement, the Spice Girls (as an aside, for seven brief days the phrase "Girl Power" belonged to Shampoo instead: their song of that name had teased the hit parade for a week before the Spice Girls made their chart bow). By 2012, the fact that no female artists ever wear more than their underwear on MTV is seen not only as a given, but as some kind of positive empowerment issue. Which nearly reminds us of the great Even As We Speak "swimwear in the video" debate, but better not go there now.
What has any of this got to do with Tender Trap, you ask ? Well, for a start, Dame Amelia Fletcher doesn't get enough attention for her part in fanning the flames of riot grrrl. We're not suggesting a direct lineage from "Where's The Cougar, Matey", say, to the Huggy Nation, although as Simon Reynolds acknowledges in "Bring The Noise", the C86 / "cutie" scene did help pave the way for the grrrls. But it seems clear that Amelia was, however unwittingly, something of an agente provocateur in uniting the US and UK riot grrrl scenes: see Pete Dale's fine treatise, "Anyone Can Do It", for more on this. 
We remember, too, with no little fondness, how Amelia joined with Huggy Bear on Channel 4's "The Word" one Friday night for a cracking performance that prompted one of our housemates to remark, in the classical tradition, "that's not music, that's just noise" and stomp off in a huff. (Huggy Bear's first ever gig, of course, was supporting Heavenly, with both bands going on to record for Wiiija, too). And Heavenly's drummer Mathew Fletcher (r.i.p) acknowledged the US grrrls, covering Bratmobile's "Panik" for the Bugbear's sole LP (to bring things back to Ms Hanna, but also to the personal, our 1990s compilation tapes would invariably put another track from that album, the rather un-Heavenlyish "I Like Violence", alongside Bikini Kill's equally lively - and self-explanatory - single, "I Like Fucking").

*Sigh*. This all makes sense in our heads, it just loses a certain something when we try to put it in linear form. It's just that... well, we've got the sleevenotes to Huggy Bear's "Her Jazz" 7" in front of us...

"IMMEDIATE NOW POSSIBILITY:- truck loads of girl groups and girl-boy groups ready to riot to the sound of their own desire... turning history into herstory, challenging dull, restrictive conceptions of difference. Transforming noise friction into a precise beat critique."

At the time, that applied to Heavenly as much as Huggy Bear, and for us it still applies to Tender Trap, a band who continue to fly in the face of macho pop tradition. Not so much with their music - for the idea that indie-pop is somehow 'girly' is as old as the hills and as wrong as wrongness itself - but in lyrics that cut dead the somewhat passive depiction of female protagonists that you find elsewhere in indiedom (you know, the unfailingly high percentage of songs that portray the girl one-dimensionally as either unattainable object of desire, or cruel bringer of undeserved heartbreak, or both). And that's something to be cherished.

Which brings us back to "Step One".

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tender Trap "Step One" (Fortuna Pop!) (part one)

"Step One", the new single from Tender Trap, is... no, hang on. You'll already own it, after all (it came out weeks ago: we just originally pre-ordered it from the world's slowest distributor, and eventually purloined it from the world's second-slowest). We'll get there, but first let's REWIND.

As we affect to be steeped in indie-pop tradition, we've of course passed idle drawing-room comment on quite a few Tender Trap singles and long-players over the years, but it's only on taking stock now that we fully realise (a) just how long the Trap have been making our ears feel loved and (b) what a solid body of work already trails (sails ?) in their wake. After all, a band who on inception were known principally by reference to the broader tableau of Talulah Gosh and Heavenly and Marine Research have proved more durable than each of those fine beat combos. It's possibly also the case that we'd overlooked Tender Trap a little due to the overlap (in personnel and in time) with Sportique, who were an understandable distraction, what with being one of the best bands ever and all that.
However, given that in the second half of the '00s, Sportique (like all old soldiers) sadly faded away, that impediment to fully recognising the Trap's genius has long since gone.

Yes, we're about to do one of those annoying recap things.

* * * * *

The Tender Trap era began nigh on a decade ago (cripes). "Face of 73" and "Oh Katrina" were two smiling and somewhat instantly catchy 7" singles that appeared on their first album, "Film Molecules". We can't trace our reviews of said singles or LP right now, but are confident our commentary was incisive, witty and urbane (not really: but we *are* pretty sure it was full of the praise the songs merited).

Soon, in 2004, there was "Cómo Te Llamas", a cleverly-concocted dual language single which built on the "Molecules" sound:
"firmly of the electro-pop lineage of the Trap's own "Face of 73", Pipas' beguiling brews, the lighter, fluffier Fosca and even the peerless early Bis"

before the "Language Lessons" EP emerged in the autumn of 2005, presaging a certain change in style:
"a delightfully jangly and harmonic single that reminds me more of the early Heavenly 45s on Sarah than anything Amelia or Rob have done since. "Talking Backwards" is a grower, lyrically all about being tongue-tied and head over heels, musically impossible not to fall for as a discreet hommage to 60s girl groups and delicate psychedelia"

Second album "6 Billion People" arrived in mid-2006, and we managed to sandwich our summary of it between reviews of Darkthrone and Tinchy Stryder, no less (what a fine live bill that would be):

"purged of the electro experimentation that fosca-ised their first album, the easy hooks and winning harmonies make me think of marine research, whoever they were... would-be hits nestling in a lovingly crafted mix of scrummy girl group wiles and more modernist swooning indieness"

There was then something of a hiatus (boo), before a renewed and sustained assault of classics. First, "Fireworks" lit up our skies in '09,

"a tale of burnt fingers unlucky in love, fair stokes our still-simmering hearts: perhaps gutsier and more rooted than previous outings, it still comes over as pure indie pop, but 60s-tinged (not fatally so) and played with a harmonic, almost garage-punk edge half a world away from the drum machine electro-pop of their first, equally (ahem) pop canon-mastering forays. indeed, you could even say it takes tentative steps into "comet gain territory"..."

with "Danger Overboard" hot and heavy on its heels:
"the verse continues the tilting, reverb-happy crunching 60s guitar sound that lit up recent Fortuna Pop! single "Fireworks"... a crater-sized chorus then emerges".

The hits just kept coming in 2010, thanks to the tongue-in-cheek, high-octane "Girls With Guns"

"as twangy as Heavenly, as sprintingly quick as Talulah Gosh at their furious steaming-train fastest, Amelia upping the ATTACK as fur flew to a rollicking, almost cartoony soundtrack"

and then a welcome return to 7" vinyl with the heavy-hitting "Do You Want A Boyfriend ?"

"the great leap forward, probably their best ever single, clad in a great sleeve too and housed on fresh Dulux-white vinyl. Even more than on last year's diamond-bright mmm-muscular pop gem "Fireworks", "Boyfriend" has the guitar sound *just right*: the harmonies *just so*. Indeed, when Amelia sings "heaven, perfect heaven" in the chorus, it's as if she's giving you a glimpse of that very place."

"DYWAB?" raised the curtain on their not remotely 'difficult' third album "Dansette Dansette", which included "Fireworks" and "Boyfriend" and "Guns", meaning it could only be "a typically accomplished set", of course.

And that's why we keep this diary (albeit one that occasionally masquerades as a fanzine). Re-reading past entries brings the original thrill of listening to many of the songs gushing back, even if also revealing how many of our descriptions were basically references back to Rob and Amelia's past bands (ever intended as a compliment, but after all this time we accept it's probably time to move on). What we were trying to do, I suspect, was to document how Tender Trap's sound had evolved, most obviously away from the electronic influence epitomised by the experimental wiles of first album closer "You Are Gone (So You Should Go)", and towards a crunchier, girl-group sound, but with a number of more subtle variations along the way.

* * * * *

Which brings us back to the present. "Step One", then.