I suspect I’m going to get some stick from Pretty Cartel because they’re not actually from Belfast but nearby Lisburn, 8 miles away. Still, I imagine when the good people of Lisburn want to go out on the town they spend some time in the much bigger metropolis of Belfast. Then there’s the fact that Jet Black Tulips, who are from Belfast, have received support from Pretty Cartel getting started so the music scenes clearly overlap. And let’s face it, ‘Lisburn and Belfast calling’ as a post title would be just too much of mouthful. But enough excuses: this is about the music and these two bands could be from anywhere that loves Britpop, the Who, and jangly guitars.
The first record I could find by Pretty Cartel was 2013’s Tales from the Working Class. So far, so good just on the title alone. The EP features a range of styles from folky ballads to more Oasis-in-a-mellow-mood numbers. But the star track is undoubtedly the rambunctious and rollicking “She’s The One.” This song and another single released separately the same year, “Night on the Town,” take things in a more Cast or Real People direction. Then there’s an apparent break until 2019 when it seems two albums come out, Top Hat Ballroom and Subbuteo Balls and Rock Stars. Overall the former is a bit more rocking but “El Diablo” has a some nice minor chords hooks and subtle change ups over the course of the song. The latter recycles two tunes from their debut EP but the album sound is still coherent, though more jangly and atmospheric than prior efforts “Streets” sound like early U2, before they went all rawk star. “Days Gone Bye” plays like a Britpop anthem. “Willow Tree” is wonderfully low-key Oasis. “Night Out on the Town” turns up the jangle guitar and increases the pace to good effect. Then in 2020 the band blew the doors off their sound with “Sunkist Sun,” a song so perfectly put together it can’t help but be an instant-replay single experience. A whole album of tunes exuding this level of confidence and skill can’t come out fast enough.
Newcomers Jet Black Tulips have only released two songs. But what tunes! 2020’s “Oh Yea!” is a driving guitar number that reminds me a bit of the Hoodoo Gurus with its straight-up vocal style and relentless rhythm guitar backing. Brand new single “Never Gonna Be” fattens up the rhythm guitar sound and adds jangly lead guitar lines for some pure Britpop bliss. This is another repeat-play number. These boys are on the right track, as far as I’m concerned. We can only hope there’s a pandemic-induced backlog of new material just waiting to come out.
Northern Ireland is changing and Pretty Cartel and Jet Black Tulips are definitely a part of the new excitement. With bands like these Belfast, I’ll be right there!