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Theatre, Music, etc.


September 14, 2007


Two retro releases extend
the latest British invasion

Christina Aguilera has much to answer for.

After the success of her song “Candyman,” that piece of 1940s fluff whose video was played to death, from her Linda Perry-produced album Back to Basics, it seems that everyone is stepping into the Wayback Machine and trying out their chops on decades past.

Even more oddly, it’s another wave of the latest British Invasion, with Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse taking point with their ’60s-inspired soulful songs.

Now, another two battalions have reached our shores: the Puppini Sisters and the Pipettes.

The Puppini Sisters, whose Betcha Bottom Dollar is on shelves now, style themselves after big-band girl groups like the Andrews Sisters. In fact, they cover “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” on the album.

Led by Italian-born Marcella Puppini, the group does the genre one better, mixing more contemporary (although still retro) songs like Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and the Smiths’ “Panic” with standards from the 1940s and ’50s.

Irving Berlin and Sammy Kahn might seem like sensible bedfellows on an album, but Debbie Harry and Johnny Mercer are another thing entirely.

The harmonies between Puppini, Kate Mullins and Stephanie O’Brien are solid, pleasing, and the album is sound from beginning to end.

One does wonder, however, how long it will be before the Puppini Sisters are relegated to that kitsch closet in which the bands from the lounge music revival of the 1990s are now imprisoned.

Following more clearly the path cleared by Winehouse and Allen are the Pipettes, already out of the gate with their Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me EP. Their full-length album We Are the Pipettes hits the streets on October 2, two days before their only Ohio stop on the current tour, at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland.

On their website, they have an incredibly pretentious explanation of where they’re coming from, replete with references to everyone from John Lee Hooker and Phil Spector to Sonic Youth. However pretentious it is, though, it is also apt.

Riotbecki, Gwenno and Rosay blend the ’60s British girl-group sound with an early punk aesthetic, creating something in the vein of Winehouse and Allen while still keeping some indie cred.

(Of course, with as much as Amy Winehouse drinks, drugs and swears, one could be forgiven were they to mistake her for Sid Vicious’ little sister.)

With the release of the full album still three weeks away, and no review copy in sight, one can only opine on the merits of the Kisses EP. That being the case, the Pipettes are a great trio, paying homage to the past while looking towards the future, seamlessly blending the styles of different decades without completely giving in to camp.

Which is not to say that campy music is a bad thing. Even the worst of the covers on the Puppini Sisters’ album (probably “Heart of Glass”--it simply does not work well) is still enjoyable at some masochistic level.

The Pipettes, however, play it a little straighter while still having fun with the whole schtick.

Dueling compilation discs

For music a little closer to home in decades and styles, there is a battle brewing between Silver Label, Tommy Boy’s LGBT imprint, and Columbia Records’ Music with a Twist label.

Silver Label was started in 2000, mainly to release Tommy Boy’s dance tracks, before being spun off into its own queer nation in 2005.

The following year, Columbia announced Music with a Twist.

Both have now released competing collections, although Twist’s is primarily to promote itself, while Silver Label’s is the album of the True Colors tour organized by Cyndi Lauper.

Music with a Twist’s Revolutions includes 11 songs by queer artists ranging from Sarah Bettens of K’s Choice--who will be in Columbus on September 15 at East Village on a cervical cancer awareness tour--to Levi Kreis, God-des and She, indie darlings the Gossip, and Kirsten Price, who played Cleveland Pride this year.

Silver Label’s True Colors collects tracks from various artists who performed on the tour. A dollar from each album sold goes to the Human Rights Campaign, who were also beneficiaries of the concerts.

There’s a dance mix of Lauper’s song “True Colors,” and, interestingly, the Gossip contribute a song to this album, too. Big names like the Indigo Girls and Erasure shared the stage, and the CD, with lesser-knowns like Jeffree Star and Cazwell, as do geniuses like Rufus Wainwright and lackluster talents like the Cliks. Oh, and the Dresden Dolls are in there as well, but it’s difficult to decide what honorific should describe them.

Of the two compilations, True Colors clearly has more mass-market appeal, while Revolutions goes farther outside the mainstream. Of course, the simple solution is to buy them both.




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