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The Long Blondes - Someone to Drive You Home

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Artist: The Long Blondes

Album: Someone to Drive You Home

Label: Rough Trade / World's Fair

Review date: Jun. 8, 2007

Like dandelions popping up on green and pleasant land, bands like this seem to emerge from the UK after any strong rain. If there weren't weeds, they wouldn't be nearly as likable. Here's the routine: some roughshod singles get noticed; slicker and stronger sides emerge; mix with filler for a striking debut. After that, things become less predictable. It's hard to say whether it will lead to years of on-and-off shackups (Wedding Present) or remain an explosive one-off (Elastica). Most fade, to be fondly remembered at the oddest moments (Darling Buds, Hefner, Kaito).

So here we are, waking up with The Long Blondes. Someone to Drive You Home is the US release of that second round of singles, the streamlined ones. The package includes an EP's worth of b-sides, and those aren't too bad, either. Frantic guitars, hooks that replay in your head, skeptical lust - they're all here.

If great riffs and literate lyrics are a constant in this genre, a group still needs something to stand out. For the Long Blondes, it's Kate Jackson's voice and Screech's drums. The latter rides the disco high-hat and pounds the toms with authority. During the second half of Someone to Drive You Home, the guitars peter out, giving Screech room to carry the band, especially on the closer, "A Knife for the Girls." He rescues its goth tendencies from sheer melodrama with steadily shifting patterns. His kitwork stabilizes this band, keeping the ballads lively and the noisy parts grounded, sometimes even during the same song.

Jackson has a voice that's a little lower and and lot more mature than your typical Brit-rocker. She's controlled and acrid during the verses, which suits her weary observations. "Heaven Help the New Girl" fits a whole story in the title, but there's no real sympathy for the next girl in his life. Jackson is short on sympathy throughout - the dim lights of hometown Sheffield are all over these songs. She sees the same jerks down at the pub, knows exactly who's had who. As much as she seems to be tired of her circle, savoring nights alone at home, the album closes with the chant of "Don't go to London."

Her delivery is just as shrewd. She seems to have learned some lessons from Debbie Harry, tailoring songs around the strongest spots in her voice, witholding emotion but still sounding sultry. The stylistic jumble of fluttery diva bits, punk broadsides, nasal girl-group choruses could mean there's not many more motorways for her to explore. But she's playing the odds just fine for now. The characters in Jackson's songs are looking for more trouble than their lives are willing to deal out. They're destructive on a small scale, self-impressed and bored. They wish they could be wild. But they settle for whatever's on their headphones during the commute.

By Ben Donnelly

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