In my neck of the woods it’s back to school time for just about everybody. Now if this were a movie there’d have to be a transition-to-school montage and event-appropriate music to mark the occasion. To that end we turn to Spain’s superior power pop record label Elefant to provide talent in sync with our theme. And boy do they deliver.
Legend has it that Elefant signed Cardiff’s The School after playing just four live shows in 2008. Since then the band have taken a go-it-slow approach to releasing material, putting out just 3 albums since 2010 and spate of stand-alone singles and EPs. What hasn’t changed over time is their loyalty to an early 1960s girl group-meets-English dolly bird sound, with the occasional nod to more upbeat Mod dance numbers. You can hear this variety on their debut album Loveless Unbeliever with tracks like “Valentine,” “Hoping and Praying,” and “Is It True.” Yet the vibe is not merely a retro revival. Tracks like “All I Want To Do” have got the updated 1960s aura that Tracey Ullman managed to capture in the 1980s while “Can You Feel It” has the energenic imprint of The Primitives. Still, if I’ve got to single out just one tune, I love the stylistic melange going that is “The One Who Left Me” with its great horns, Zombies-like breathiness and unpredictable melodic turns. Keyboards come to the fore on the band’s follow-up Reading Too Much into Things Like Everything in 2012. But the early 1960s sonic teenage melodrama remained the same on cuts like “Stop That Boy!,” “That Boy is Mine,” and “Some Day My Heart Will Beat Again.” Though this time out I prefer the more rocking numbers like “Why Do You Have to Break My Heart Again?” and the Farfisa-drenched “Never Thought I’d See the Day.” The band’s final album Wasting Away and Wondering from 2015 sees things heading into Holland/Dozier/Holland territory with “Love Is Anywhere You Find It” and reaching Dusty Springfield-levels of heartbreak on “Don’t Worry Baby (I Don’t Love You Anymore).” But the standout should-be hit single here is undoubtedly the propulsive and ear-wormy “All I Want From You Is Everything.” Oh, don’t miss “When He Kisses Me” from the Never Thought I’d See the Day EP – this is some skip-along, can’t stop smiling fun.
What would school be without pushy parents? Less toxic, sure. But the band Pushy Parents just want to make sure we get the melodic message they’re putting out. Coming together as a kind of one-off super group in 2011 Elefant managed to get them to put out one EP, the enigmatically titled Secret Secret. The quartet of songs assembled here are like a chocolate box selection, lusciously different but clearly by the same maker. Both “Secret Secret” and “Hold Me Tight or Let Me Go” sounds like something you think you know but they go unexpected places (e.g. check out the inventive bridge in the latter). The band’s presser links “He’s My Saturday” to Nancy Sinatra stylistically but what I hear is totally Lesley Gore in its bumptious melodic swing. Then there’s “Dear John” which sounds at times like an understated Pet Shop Boys, at others like a deep cut from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode Once More, With Feeling. What a gem this one-night-only performance turned out to be.
The fun is just starting for kids, parents and teachers. Let’s enjoy it before the inevitable crying begins.
Photo courtesy Queensland State Archives.