Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

The Pastels & Tenniscoats – About You

Legends of Real Indie return…


Ian Mathers: I don’t necessarily think we’re cynical here at the Jukebox, but it is true that I often feel a little wary when I queue up a fresh crop of songs to review, as if they have something to prove to me before I’ll like them. So it’s truly a pleasure as well as a little disarming to listen to a song for the first time and have a reaction that’s no more complex or guarded than: oh, isn’t this lovely?

Anthony Easton: Pretty but without much purpose.

Michaelangelo Matos: At least one of these groups is a minor legend, right? I can sort of hear why: the song approaches mesmerizing, though the vocal is too deliberately plain to allow itself to go all the way. Nevertheless I like a nice slow build as well as anyone, and the relaxed horns fold neatly into the droning guitar and organ. It’s pretty, too, which I’m always kind of a sucker for.

Martin Skidmore: Good grief, they’re back. I think the Japanese duo Tenniscoats perhaps add some electronica which is so diffident than even the wimpy indie buries it. There have been much worse bands of this kind since the Pastels, but since that is largely their fault, they lose a mark for that too.

Alex Wisgard: The Pastels haven’t put out a proper new album since 1997 — sneaking out a soundtrack a few years back, most notable for a Sly Stone cover and a Jarvis collaboration — but Two Sunsets, a collaborative effort with Japanese dreampoppers Tenniscoats is the closest they’ve yet come. “About You” is a cover of an obscure Jesus And Mary Chain album track, and doesn’t differ much from the original. However, where Jim Read once sneered, as if he was too good for a straightforward love song like this, Stephen Pastel simply sings it the only way he ever could — straight, swoonful and sincere, like a kid trying to impress his first crush. Add in the lush backing vocals and waves of harmonium drifting through the mix, and somehow these two bands have come up with a hazy, minor classic.

Martin Kavka: This is from a one-off collaborative single, allegedly meant to support a group called “Twee Without Borders.” The name calls out for Judd-Apatow-style ridicule (“How do I know you’re twee? You’re a member of Twee Without Borders!”), but that shouldn’t distract from the fact that this is a wonderful updating of the Jesus & Mary Chain song. When I first heard the melodica, I felt the warm rush of puberty all over again. Younger listeners may think differently, though.

Chuck Eddy: I gave J&MC’s second album a negative review in the Boston Phoenix when it came out (hit me as a damp retreat from Psychocandy, which was a retreat from their debut single in the first place), and this pointless (if theoretically charming if you’re a fan of aging Glaswegian shamblers) cover of the final track sounds even more affectless. But it retains the semi-pretty melody, which counts for something.

Anthony Miccio: Sounds like Jesus & Mary Chain and the Chills improvising for a 1989 promotional flexidisc that’s now a valued commodity to their respective cults. I’ve never heard much of the Pastels, so I can’t say whether this is more or less negligible than usual.

Alfred Soto: At last: the return of the Cowboy Junkies, with the marvelous idea of performing a Jesus and Mary Chain track so that you can actually hear the lyrics.

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