Despite it sharing little with the similarly-named Antipodean one-trick ponies, those of a sweet disposition could do worse than to check out this summery, sixties girl group-tinged comeback album from the newly reformed and expanded Tender Trap, led by much-travelled jangly mainstay Amelia Fletcher. Dansette Dansette is the third album from Fletcher’s fourth project (following Talulah Gosh, Heavenly and Marine Research), with her long-term partner Rob Pursey still in tow.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album is hardly a departure from the summery, sugary, three-chord melodies her CV would suggest, and as with many twee-pop acts of this nature, there’s barely a modicum of grit in the whole thing, or indeed anything (barring some quite polished production) to suggest that the past 24 years ever happened.
The problem with reviewing an album like this is that the things a reviewer may usually look for in a successful album include elements of inventiveness and great leaps of ambition. While even mainstream pop music can borrow leftfield ideas and incorporate them into something universal, sixties-tinged jangly twee-pop’s trademark characteristics are so very basic by their very definition (a crucial part of its initial appeal was its shambolic simplicity) that if it tried anything modern it wouldn’t be sixties-tinged, jangly twee-pop anymore, thus alienating fans of sixties-tinged, jangly twee-pop.
So a wealth of C86 cliches are here – well-worn chord sequences, doo-wop harmonies, massive feyness, melodies that are now so familiar they must now be in the public domain, major keys, ‘Be My Baby’ drum patterns, paint-by-numbers arrangements, forced (and now middle-aged) childlike innocence, and non-infectious contentment.
‘Do You Want A Boyfriend?’ and the soulful title-track highlight open the album in a typically timeless fashion, the former obviously very adolescent in it’s subject matter, with tongues firmly in cheek, incorporating some saucy call-and-response vocals (‘Does he have to please you? Gynaecologically‘). The expanded line-up, while abandoning the electronic sheen that had been prominent on the earlier Tender Trap albums, allows for some colourful three-part harmonies, and Fletcher is still in possession of fitting honey-toned vocal chords.
The stripped-down Spectorisms of ‘Capitol L’ however, embody the failings of this work in microcosm – instantly memorable, but indistinguishable from a bottomless pit of musical landmarks that have preceded it. ’2 to the N’ is a rawer affair, Jesus and Mary Chain power chords driving a speedier change of tack, but like the majority of the album, is largely formulaic and unfullfilling, and too aligned to a now-ancient era. ‘Stop and rewind/ Go back in time‘, instructs closer ‘Suddenly’. If only she had ignored her own advice.
‘Dansette Dansette’ isn’t a bad album by any stretch of the imagination, and music isn’t even Fletcher’s main line of work anymore. It’s just that hearing this kind of music estranged from the DIY ideals that fuelled its ascent but with obviously better production values, throws the necessity of this record into question. The juxtaposition of glamourous, sunkissed pop melodies with humdrum lyricism and lo-fi aesthetics was once an exciting movement but 25 years of bastardised indie later, it seems as generic as ever.