The Ronettes and Bananarama collide on the Pipettes’ debut, We Are the Pipettes.
Released in the UK in July, and currently only available as an import stateside, the album is a 14-track, 33-minute shotgun tour through 45 years of girl groups.
Formed in the spirit of Phil Spector pop by promoter Monster Bobby, the Pipettes synthesize the sonic spirit of 1960s trios with the progressive content of post-punk 1980s acts. They use staples of early-1960s hits, like the chk, chk-chk, boom/chk, chk-chk, boom bass and snare drum backbeat of the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back,” to construct songs like “Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me” and “Sex.”
The subject matter, though, is positively post-sexual revolution. Instead of longing for boyfriends or swooning over rebellious men, the Pipettes — Gwenno, Rosay and Riot Becki — lament that last night’s conquest won't go away (“One Night Stand”) and wish that everyone could shut up and get down to it (“Sex”).
(“Dirty Mind,” another track that embraces the Pipettes’ carnality, tips the cap to another era of female singers, the 1970s, with a piano opening ripped nearly note-for-note from Maxine Nightingale's “Get Right Back to Where We Started From.”)
Not everything is swell on the album, though. “It Hurts to See You Dance So Well,” is an anomaly. The song sounds inconsistently contemporary, with no hand claps or “ooh la-la-las.” This is a rare but glaring misstep on an otherwise fine album.
With their matching polka dot dresses and affinity for pop confection, The Pipettes seem like nothing more than a novelty act. We Are the Pipettes shatters that notion. Through their “novelty,” the Pipettes remake the girl group into the grrl group by taking the genre back to its roots — and getting it a little dirty along the way.