Last year, a British duo by the name of Johnny Boy released one of my favorite songs from the past few years, “You Are the Generation that Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve.” Incorporating the absolute pure pop genius of Phil Spector’s production style and vision, the single was set for contemporary dance floors with all the class of the ’60s girl groups it emulated.
The Pipettes have tapped into the Spector vein, trying to mix that blood with a strange combination of Bikini Kill’s “grrrl power” and the Spice Girl’s “girl power!” Musically, the songs are competently written, if not noticeably short in length (ninety percent of the songs don’t even reach the three-minute mark), and the vocals are well-executed and reminiscent of the girl groups they are obviously paying tribute to/borrowing from. But the record comes off as hokey. It pains me to use that word, but it’s the best fit here.
The major failing of We Are the Pipettes is the lyrics. The songs have some of the worst combinations of words and phrases I’ve ever heard in a song. No matter how well-sung they are, I cringe at various sections throughout the record. Take this, from “ABC”: “He knows about ABC, 123, XYZ/ but he don’t know about XTC.”
Are you having a laugh? I don’t care how brain-damaged you are from drug use, that isn’t clever unless you’re younger than twelve. The lyrics from the Spector-era girl groups weren’t exactly Shakespearean sonnets of unfathomable range or depth, but seriously. Usually, I can just shake that off as a joke, a silly reference, but combined with the sickly sweet two-and-a-half-minute “we love Happy Days and Stand By Me” songs on the record, it leaves an awful taste in my mouth.
If you don’t know that much about Motown, Phil Spector’s wall of sound, Duke Ellington, the Ronettes, the Crystals or Darlene Love, We Are the Pipettes can be a fun, sugar-pop romp through the music of the past. If you have a decent handle on the aforementioned subjects, We Are the Pipettes is a poor facsimile, with an almost cover-band mentality that never tries to divert the music down an original alley, which Johnny Boy’s song was able to do. There are no swells, no hooks that get locked into my thoughts, nothing like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” which leaves us with saccharine in our mouths as the record comes to a close.