There’s something about girl-bands. No, not your scary modern shiny-legged, big haired pop behemoths a-la Girls Aloud or Sugababes but rather the ones that can not only make you float away in a puddle of your own drool but the ones that posses voices that spread goose bumps and have that quaint snappy sass, the dreamy retro girl band of yore that exist in stylish monochrome.
Since the days of wiggy old man Spector and Berry Gordy’s school of pop fascism manys a would-be svengali has tried to grow the perfect Petri-dish girl band and if ever there was a man to hit on the right formula it should be the duke of twee Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch.
Unfortunately rather than conjuring up a delicate trip full of whimsy and witty tales of urban decay and moral dismay as he usually does so deftly, Murdoch has instead created a monster – a cheesy, ludicrous inexplicable bit of useless faff. This imaginary musical soundtrack is a parping, tooting, whooping, embarrassing farce so cringe-inducing and contrived that it could easily be mistaken as a terrible Andrew Lloyd Webber vehicle.
This comes as a surprise given Murdoch’s obvious talent at creating beautiful well-crafted songs containing their own freeze-frame filmic moments, like Saint Etienne, Belle and Sebastian songs were almost like lost soundtracks to classic New Wave films and sharp sixties novellas.
Nothing is that radically different musically, it’s filled with lush arrangements, rinky-dink pianos and sweet jangling guitars. The themes are the usual fey fare of girlish innocence coupled with confusing desire all wrapped in the recurring sullen Sunday evening dullness, familiar Belle and Sebastian stomping ground.
The marked difference that turns a potentially likeable piece of nonsense into a nauseating cutesy affair is the vocal techniques. Fans of the endearing shy vocals and wonky pitches that normally populate Murdoch’s down-at-heel melodramas will be aghast at lead Catherine Ireton and internet competition winner Brittany Stallings’s voices. Both are so intensely dramatic and over-blown in a pronunciation perfect musical-theatre style that they may as well be swinging from a cardboard lamppost.
This lack of character renders the songs utterly unremarkable and charmless not even the addition of Murdoch’s own customary trill on duets such as -Hiding Neath My Umbrella” can save it. Nothing is sacred, even a rendition of the Belle and Sebastian number -Funny Little Frog’ is mutated into a fog-horn hollering affectation drenched audition tape. Murdoch may think he’s tripping the light fantastic but sadly with this effort he’s shuffling closer to the stage door.