The Pastels/Tenniscoats, Two Sunsets

Anthony Mark Happel

The Pastels/Tenniscoats, Two Sunsets [Domino/Geographic]

This seemingly strange pairing of Steven, Katrina and Gerard from the Glasgow band the Pastels with Saya and Ueno from Japanese band Tenniscoats may not be quite so strange after all.

It was recorded over a two-three year period, usually whenever the Tenniscoats were touring the U.K. and available to record. Also joining the collective group for this audio-lab experiment is Norman Blake, from Tennage Fanclub, among others. The music, it turns out, is even more fluffy than most of the Pastels catalogue. Saya’s vocals are light and airy and lilting, and they present the dilemma of rendering everything she sings almost cartoonish at first blush: her silky, soft pipes stand out in a way that initially distracts one’s attention from the songs, and she’s perhaps a bit too pronounced in her primary affectation.

But, after a while you get used to the tone and you can get past the trappings to really hear the musical subtext underneath. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough of the free-wheeling art pop of the C86 movement, which they lay claim to as a partial inspiration for this piece of work.

“From on a Mountain Sadone,” for example, is refined and somewhat delirious, as it falls all over Belle & Sebastian, but it doesn’t really add anything of substance to the canon from whence it originates. There is a graceful quality to it all, and one can certainly respect the effort, but it needs something else to keep from being just another lighter-than-air pop confection.

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