Contrary to what some poor, misguided souls might have lead you to believe, it’s not all hilarity and high jinks being a music hack. Endless deadlines, over zealous PR people, petulant musicians, and the daily grind of trying to summon up a vague resemblance of enthusiasm for the endless barrage of anemic “product” trying desperately to get your attention. So when not one, but two, strikingly perfect pop singles appear almost simultaneously, it’s (nearly) enough to restore one’s faith in humanity. That said, in the case of the Drowners’ “Long Hair,” and Sweet Baboo’s “Let’s Go Swimming Wild,” they’ve succeeded almost in spite of themselves.
Let’s take the Drowners first, shall we? For the uninitiated, they’re a precociously fresh faced, NYC-based trio fronted by a ginger haired, Welsh male model. That sentence alone should fill you with a certain level of morbid unease. It’s bad enough that he’s a male model, but Welsh as well? None other than Pat Robertson once referred to the Welsh as a “strange, dark race.” Admittedly, old Pat was even more deranged than usual, but, to be fair, he had a point. This is, after all, the country that gave us Tom Jones, Rugby as organized religion, and an unnatural penchant for all-male choirs. They did, to their credit, also give us Dylan Thomas, John Cale, and the criminally underrated Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. But why let logic stand in the way of an impassioned rant unencumbered by such outlandish concepts as balance, integrity and logic?
What’s more, the video for “Long Hair” features a band who look nothing so much as a PR’s wet dream — an identikit, indie band-by-numbers, cavorting around with the likes of Alexa Chung and sundry other bright young things who exude such an overwhelming air of inane smugness, the only logical response is to reach for the nearest heavy, blunt object and beat all concerned in the face. Repeatedly.
All of this would be quite horrendous of course, if it weren’t for the fact that “Long Hair” is just under two minutes of perfectly executed indie-pop bliss with just the right amount of tousled, carefree attitude. It’s as if someone had taken the best elements of a certain school of mid-late ’80s British indie pop (Weather Prophets, Wedding Present, House of Love), and distilled them into a wondrous whole.
Sweet Baboo, meanwhile, are also suspiciously Welsh, and possess, frankly, one of the most atrocious band names ever. (It’s up there with the likes of the Pooh Sticks and Field Mice, in the knock-kneed, asexual, faux naïf stakes, and is thus, hugely repellant.) The video for “Let’s Go Swimming Wild” features Mr. Baboo himself (one Stephen Black), clad in a succession of virulent, eye-gougingly bad sweaters (the kind that only a particularly misanthropic aunt could love), in a “whimsical” cut-price psychedelic homage to the works of English, schizophrenic boggle-eyed kitten artist Louis Wain. You’ll be lucky to get through 45 seconds before developing a severe migraine.
Musically, however, it’s an entirely different story. It’s wonderful. Really. Black cites the likes of the Beach Boys and Daniel Johnston as influences, and there’s an undeniable element of childlike wonder in this performance, along with the psychodrama of, say, Antony Hegarty. The verses are fantastic enough, with a clipped retro-soul vibe and Black’s plaintive, trembling vocals, but then the chorus swells up and kicks in with huge washes of brass, underpinned by electric organ, and an overwhelming sense of melancholy which is nothing less than cathartic. As soon as it finishes — all too quickly — your first urge is to play it again. This is beautiful, blissed out brilliance and should be treasured as such. It’s nigh on perfect and has pretty much filled my every waking moment this week. And what’s more — if I was an impressionable, hormonal adolescent, both this and the Drowner’s “Long Hair” would have rapidly become my soundtracks to the Summer (despite the fact that it’s only March…). And that’s a good thing. As a jaded 40-something however, they’re just fantastic tracks that have lightened up an otherwise dull week, and reminded me – just when I needed reminding – of the enduring importance of the old Noel Coward maxim (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Never underestimate the power of cheap pop music.”