Music

Sing-Sing: The Joy of Sing-Sing

Adrien Begrand

Sing-sing

The Joy of Sing-Sing

Label: Manifesto
US Release Date: 2002-09-03
UK Release Date: 2001-10-01
Amazon
iTunes

It's hard to believe it's been six years since Lush's final album, Lovelife. After bursting onto the scene in the early 1990s with their own hybrid of My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins, the quartet, fronted by guitarists Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson, gradually became less of a rip-off of the shoegazer bands (complete with indecipherable lyrics), and started creating songs that were more personal. The highly enjoyable Lovelife was a modest success, and things were looking pretty good for the group, but it all came to a crashing halt when drummer Chris Acland committed suicide. Acland's death devastated the other three members of Lush so much, that the band just petered out completely, the bandmates amicably going their separate ways.

Emma Anderson wanted to keep her musical career going, and a chance meeting with vocalist Lisa O'Neill (their boyfriends shared a flat) got thing going again. O'Neill, who had previously sung for both Mad Professor and Kid Loco, and Anderson called the new project Sing-Sing, releasing four singles on various UK indie labels between 1998 and 2000, all the while putting the finishing touches on a debut album. That album, The Joy of Sing-Sing, was released by former Creation head honcho Alan McGee's new Poptones label in October 2001, and finally, we in North America have a chance to hear it.

Produced by Mark van Hoen (who has worked with Mojave 3 in the past), The Joy of Sing-Sing, while sounding very different from anything that Lush ever put out, actually incorporates many of the same traits of the original band. There are the gentle, spacey melodies, pretty female vocal harmonies, and a hint of the droning chords that Lush specialized in. But Sing-Sing's album isn't a guitar album at all. Sure, Anderson plays guitar, but it's mostly played in support of more prominent synth accompaniment, a synth sound that is influenced by both '60s pop and '80s dance that manages to sound fresh.

The backing music might be mostly keyboards, but what gets your attention straightaway are the vocal efforts by O'Neill, whose pixie-like voice hints at some darkness hidden beneath. On the standout track "I'll Be", O'Neill sings, "With me / There are no conventions / See me / Without my pretensions / Could be / You're sent from above / I'll be/The one you can love," over a loping hip-hop beat and layers of guitar, piano, and synthesizers, her voice ascending and ascending, like a lost child's balloon, as the song fades out with the sound of twittering birds.

Other highlights include: "Far Away from Home", a trumpet-enhanced retro tune, complete with the "pada-pa-pa" and "doo-doo-doo" vocals that make such songs so whimsical and sunny. "Everything" is lugubrious in both theme and musicality, with the opening lines ably describing a lazy afternoon: "It's been three long years since Sunday / The clock has almost melted away / And every minute lasts like Sunday / And every second so unkind". O'Neill comes off as coquettish on "Command", childlike on the pretty, sing-song "I Can See You", and then switches gears on the techno waltz "Émigré", as her and guest vocalist Vinny Miller's vocals melt away, barely sounding decipherable in the mix. "You Don't Know", written by Anderson, comes closest to sounding like Lush, the most guitar-driven song on the album, while Anderson's "Underage" is an homage to Chris Acland, managing to sound heartfelt without getting ham-fisted. The hidden track "Keep It That Way" is a cute little accordion-accompanied duet between O'Neill and Departure Lounge singer Tim Keegan that sounds like a bohemian stroll in the park (Keegan and O'Neill also duet on Departure Lounge's recent album Too Late to Die Young).

There are three songs that manage to stand above the rest, representing the best mix of synth and traditional pop-rock. "Tegan", which means "beautiful little things" in Cornish, is a beautiful little thing, indeed, combining layers of synths and vocal harmonies, backwards guitar, and a relentless drumbeat, as O'Neill esoteric lyrics ("Ornaments are monuments to me"). "Feels Like Summer" lives up to its title, borrowing a small sample from "Mony Mony" to create a song that's just as catchy (the video for "Feels Like Summer" is on the CD as in the form of a QuickTime clip). Sing-Sing then go completely '80s on us on "Panda Eyes", an entrancing, spacey song that has you picturing a cheesy music video circa 1983 in your mind as the synthesizers drone, the drum machine thumps away, and O'Neill provides her own Alison Goldfrapp-styled vocal acrobatics. What's the song about? According to the band, "it's a fantasy situation where a girl who lives on the moon and commutes to Earth everyday, wakes up with a dreadful hangover and has to face the day with her aching head and her 'panda eyes'." Hey, I'll take that kind of lyrical theme over something like, say, Papa Roach or Nickelback any time.

The Joy of Sing-Sing isn't deep music, and can start to sound awfully flighty during its 53-minute duration, but it's not entirely lightweight either, thankfully. With this strong debut album, Lisa O'Neill emerges as a top-flight vocalist, Emma Anderson shows she's ready to leave the Lush Sound behind her, and Sing-Sing show us all that there's the potential of plenty of good stuff ahead.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image