[29 July 2010]
Amelia Fletcher is an Oxford-educated Chief Economist for Britain’s Office of Fair Trading and the lead singer of Tender Trap, a mouthful to be sure. Since 1986, she has indulged in classic girl-group pop tunes with her partner-in-life and father of their two children, Rob Pursey. Before founding Tender Trap in 2001, Fletcher was the creative force behind Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, and Marine Research, forerunners of today’s revivalist fuzz-and-jangle indie-pop bands. Fletcher has said that music is always in her head, but the hard part is just finding the time to put it all together. After a few years focusing on the other things in her very busy daily life, Fletcher re-formed her latest act as a five-piece in 2009 to create its third CD Dansette Dansette.
Popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s, a Dansette is a brand of portable record player with a built-in speaker and, of course, only mono sound. It is the fitting focus of a band whose sound recalls the days of this simple electronic device that changed the listening habits of many, especially teens who could now play music in their own bedrooms without adult supervision. Announcing that Tender Trap is “back with a ba-da-ba-ba-da-ba”, the promotional photo for the band shows them doing exactly that—happily gathered around a Dansette. The album offers a range of musical styles that all look fondly to the past for inspiration.
It begins with the feedback buzz of a single note and robotic pulses off a guitar before Fletcher’s sweetly sung vocals enter, asking, “Dansette, Dansette / Share your secrets with me”. The tune swings along with the retro sound Fletcher has enjoyed indulging in throughout the years. Listen closely to the lyrics, however, and everything is updated to capture more contemporary relationships in these trying times of complicated gender roles. Acerbic words full of irony are offered over the soothing guitar strumming, hand percussion, and female harmonies. The song “Fireworks” sweetly confesses, “I should have known better”, while “Do You Want A Boyfriend” expresses how the perfect man must have a brain and please a gal “psychologically” as well as “gynecologically”. “Girls With Guns” is a fun romp with a low drawl reminiscent of many country-and-western admonitions, warning that the band is armed and “ready to get mean”. This track, along with driving sound of “2 to the N”, revisits Fletcher’s more punk-influenced days.
With an expanded lineup, the band is now a proper girl group, according to its label Slumberland. Having background singers no longer necessitates multi-tracked vocals and translates nicely for live performances. If this genre appeals to your listening habits, Tender Trap delivers the goods.