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.

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