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.

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