Tender Trap - "Girls With Guns" (Dansette Dansette)
If your taste in music tends at all toward the twee end of the spectrum, Amelia Fletcher’s voice is unmistakable. It’s equally suited to rushes of astute wordplay and breathier expressions of emotion, and it neatly fits beside jangling guitars and uptempo drumbeats — a description that could apply neatly to any of Fletcher’s bands (Heavenly, Talulah Gosh or Marine Research). And much like the one-piece record player depicted on its cover, Dansette Dansette exists in a timeless space. The key pursuit of this album might well be a quietly blissed-out acceptance of catchy melodies and unexpected lyrical turns -- a band acknowledging its strengths but also, for better or for worse, maintaining a dedicated focus on that style.
On Tender Trap’s third album, Dansette Dansette, Fletcher and bandmates seem to be perfecting their particular style here rather than taking that style in new directions. On one hand, it’s a perfectly fitting style — and something of a return to the more rock-oriented feel of Fletcher’s previous bands than the restrained pop surrealism of, say, 2006’s 6 Billion People. On the other hand, if you’ve heard anything else from this group of musicians (Fletcher, Rob Pursey and John Stanley have all played together since Marine Research’s birth in 1997), it’s likely you know what to expect. “Do You Want a Boyfriend?,” opened by a rapid-fire call-and-response section and featuring a shouted Jesus and Mary Chain reference, is perhaps the most archetypal song on here. And the focused shuffle of “Girls With Guns” is alternately playful and menacing.
That said, there are certain moments on Dansette Dansette where the template is lightly shifted. The fuzzed-out washes of guitar on “Counting the Hours” makes for a fine expansion to the album’s tone, and the low rumble that runs as a constant in “Suddenly” both threatens to shift the song into the realm of shoegaze while contrasting nicely with a more ethereal vocal section. In many ways, these end up being the album’s most rewarding moments. Dansette Dansette is never short of catchy; there are no wrong notes played or unexpected stylistic risks gone horribly wrong.
But it’s also a difficult record to review. On its own, it’s a fine pop album. With an eye towards its members’ musical histories, though, there is a fair amount of familiar ground covered — which may be an asset or a liability, depending on where you stand.