Talulah Gosh – Backwash

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Amelia Fletcher is a giant in the indie world, and so is her first band, Talulah Gosh. I got into Talulah Gosh backwards, having started with Heavenly, which I adore and after noticing Fletcher’s unmistakeable vocals on work by other bands I love, like the Wedding Present, Hefner, and the Pooh Sticks. If Talulah Gosh didn’t start the twee pop genre, they were certainly one of the early, major players. Talulah Gosh formed in Oxford, England in 1986. Economics student Amelia Fletcher met artist Elizabeth Price via matching Pastels pins (or badges, as they are known in the UK), and formed the band with Amelia’s fifteen year old brother Matthew on drums, Rob Pursey on bass, and Peter Momtchiloff on lead guitar. Pursey left quickly and was replaced by Chris Scott. Price departed before the third single was released, and her substitute was Eithne Farry. The band broke up in 1988, but the Fletchers, Momtchiloff, and Pursey reformed in the heavenly Heavenly (and then reformed to varying degrees after the demise of Heavenly in various other iterations, which you will read about later). Amelia Fletcher is an esteemed economist and university professor (East Anglia), and Momtchiloff is the/a (?) philosophy editor at Oxford University Press. Price won the Turner Prize for her art – in the medium of video – in 2012. Farry went into the magazine publishing world, while Pursey became a television producer. Amelia and Pursey are life partners. Matthew Fletcher took his own life in 1996.

What I Think of This Album

Released on K Records, as pretty much ordained by the indie music gods, these 25 tracks are almost everything Talulah Gosh recorded in their short, shambolic two year existence (a different comp will give you an additional four demo versions of songs, apparently pegging the band’s total output at 29 recordings).

From the get-go of galloping “Beatnik Boy,” Talulah Gosh establish themselves as unique, by fusing indie-pop sounds to girl-group vocals and a winsome stance. Steering away from anything sexy – note hilarious song title “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Thank God)” – the band focused on the more romantic aspects of interpersonal relationships. But neither the lyrical content nor the musical style was simplistic or silly, even if the presentation was primitive.

From the punky “Break Your Face” to the desperate and frustrated “My Best Friend” (“So why should we both be so sad? / I’ll give you my heart / . . . / If you’ll give me yours / . . . / But I know that you won’t / Because you’re selfish that way”), Amelia Fletcher and company paint honest, devastating, and humorous portraits of young love. The vocals on the gossamer “Just A Dream” – with, I guess, an attempt at “Be My Baby”-style drums – are lovely. “Talulah Gosh” breaks the subject matter mold, exploring fame as relevant to Altered Images’ Clare Grogan (who was also an actor), and features some subtle whammy bar twangs, a wonderful shift in tempo from verse/bridge to chorus and back, and gloriously stacked-to-the-rafters vocals.

The band rides a Jesus and Mary Chain chord progression on “Steaming Train,” and jangle their way to greatness on the bleak “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (Thank God)” (“Did you know I’m a pessimist / Have you ever wanted to die? / Have you no decency? / It’s a hard world, that’s no lie”). Meanwhile, waves of distortion inform “My World’s Ending” and all hell breaks loose on feedback-laced, scream-filled “Testcard Girl.”

While the lyrics can be difficult to discern, the vocals are an absolute joy (the vocal arrangements are stupendous) and the music is energetic and fresh. Almost every track is a tiny gem – intricate “My Boy Says;” giddy “In Love For the Very First Time;” Katherine Hepburn tribute “Bringing Up Baby;” and the spy-guitar framed “Girl With the Strawberry Hair,” just to identify a few – and well worth tracking this album down for. This stuff was, appropriately, the inspiration for legions of indie pop bands, including spiritual cousins Cub; one listen to “Sunny Inside” or “Testcard Girl” tells you exactly from whence sprang Vivian Girls.

Among the producers involved here are John Rivers (Close Lobsters, Yatsura); Dale Griffin (drummer for Mott the Hoople); Martin Hayward of the Pastels; and Barry Andrews of XTC and Shriekback.

The Best Thing About This Album

The vocals are majestic.

Release Date

May, 1996

The Cover Art

This is an unmitigated disaster, but I love the music so much, I just overlook the cover.

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