Tender Trap – Dansette Dansette

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Talulah Gosh transformed into Heavenly upon the disintegration of that band. The core members – Amelia Fletcher, drummer Matthew Fletcher, guitarist Peter Momtchiloff, and original bassist Rob Pursey – regrouped for several excellent albums, and when Matthew Fletcher took his own life, Heavenly was no more. With Heavenly vocalist/keyboardist Cathy Rogers, the group then became Marine Research, now with drummer DJ Downfall. After one album, both Momtchiloff and Rogers left. Amelia Fletcher led the remaining members into another change – this time, Tender Trap (which eventually added drummer/vocalist Katrina Dixon (Downfall having moved to bass, with Pursey now on guitar), and vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Morris (of Allo Darlin’), and then Emily Bennet (Betty and the Werewolves) replacing Morris. I own a comprehensive Talulah Gosh comp (they only released singles); all four Heavenly albums; and the lone Marine Research offering, but only one of the four Tender Trap albums. I at one point owned debut Film Molecules, but I did not care for the programmed beats. Dansette Dansette is much more organic, and as for the other two discs – I think they’re just okay. Fletcher, Pursey, and Hue Williams of the Pooh Sticks (who Amelia sang with) now make up the core of the band Swansea Sound.

What I Think of This Album

As much as I love Amelia Fletcher’s genius, including her voice, the fact is her songs sound best when she has another female vocalist to harmonize with. Drummer Katrina Dixon and guitarist Elizabeth Morris not only fill out the instrumental arrangements (thank god for live drums), they also do wonders for the vocals (any fan of Morris’s band Allo Darlin’ can attest to her wonderful voice).

The title (Dansette was the leading British brand of portable turntables in the ‘60s) is a good indication of what you’re going to get:  ‘60s inspired pop, with plenty of girl group harmonies. Shit, the lead song and title track references Sandie Shaw (who recorded with the Smiths in an unexpected career resurgence twenty years after her heyday) and Lesley Gore. Too, the dangerous and cheeky “Girls With Guns” relies on spy movie guitar.

As in Talulah Gosh and Heavenly, there is a good deal of humor baked into these songs, making them even more joyous. Notable is the complex “Do You Want a Boyfriend?” which veers from forlorn to hopeful to assertive, as Fletcher in frank fashion advises young women about what to look for in a partner while harmonies cascade around her:  “Does he have to please you psychologically? / Does he have to tease you gynecologically?”  and – finally getting to the heart of the matter – “Does he have to like the Jesus and Mary Chain? / Yes, that would be heaven.”

“Girls With Guns” is a stunning message of menace, warning men about the retribution they will face for mistreatment of women. There is a muscularity to the music on “Fireworks,” which still makes room for the delicate harmonies and sweet melody. A pleasant crunch on the delightful “Suddenly” is worth noting, and “Danger Overboard” builds nicely from a subdued opening.

The band chugs along with brio on “2 to the N,” the lushness of “Capital L” (the other capitals sung about are, of course, O-V-E) only deepens is melancholy, and there is a great deal of sophistication behind the cinematic sweep of “Grand National.” There is not a bad song on this album.

The Best Thing About This Album

The three part harmonies are wonderful.

Release Date

June, 2010

The Cover Art

I very much approve of the art style, and the sticker-like element with the band name and album title (love the quotes) is perfect. This is one of British artist Chris Summerlin’s pieces.

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