the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Heavenly
eclectic reviews and opinions
Heavenly Vs. Satan
(Quattro, 1991, Reissued 2001)
Heavenly vs. Satan is a giddy rush of bouyant pop songs; much sweeter and less complicated than the band's later work, it's charming despite the lightweight material and musicianship -- mostly because the band's enthusiasm is palpable. On songs like "Cool Guitar Boy" asnd "It's You" you almost have the sense that the band is rushing to get to the next verse and then the chorus because it's going to be so much fun to play.
Le Jardin De Heavenly
Le Jardin de Heavenly has a brasher, rockier sound than Heavenly vs. Satan, which is not entirely to the group's benefit; they sound more confident and more assured, but sometimes this threatens to overwhelm the delicate melodies. Amelia Fletcher and Cathy Rogers's vocals are mixed curiously far back, and Fletcher's diction is as sloppy as ever, with the result that the lyrics are a little hard to ferret out. Still, the record has a handful of the bands best (and best-known) tunes. Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson adds a hilariously croaky duet part to "C is the Heavenly Option" a delightful little ditty with a neat rhythm to the vocal tradeoffs and a dizzy coda with all the reckless abandon the band can muster. "Sort of Mine" gets the balance right between the fragile melody, the lightly distorted guitars and the hyperactive snare work; it's a template that bands like Tiger Trap and Velocity Girl would adopt almost entire over the next couple of years. "So Little Deserve" (one of two bonus tracks on the US reissue) has a gorgeous achey quality that evokes the Smiths, only absent the nasality of Morrissey's whine.
The Decline and Fall of Heavenly
Opener "Me and My Madness" immediately serves notices that there've been drastic changes in Heavenly-land, Amelia Fletcher's voice has an edge she's never managed before when she snarls "don't believe what people say, they never stay, anyway," and there's even guitar feedback in the outro. Both the lyrics and music have grown more complex; the straightforward, sixties-descended pop of the first record has blossomed into more complex song structures, and while the words still deal mostly with love and loss, they've grown much more nuanced -- When Fletcher sings "I'm not the same girl you once knew" on "Modestic," it's a sentiment that can clearly be taken at multiple levels. Three years ago this band never would have created a song like "Sperm meets egg, so what?" The playing is stronger than ever, Ian Shaw's proudction is clear and crisp, and the arrangements don't overwhelm the songs.
This Japanese edition on Quattro appends the "P.U.N.K. Girl" ep to this short record, which adds 5 more of their best songs -- and two of their creepiest -- showcasing their sonic range from the wistful acoustic "Dig Your Own Grave," to the raved-up "Atta Girl" and the bouyant, exuberant title track. But "Hearts and Crosses" and the a capella "So?" are chilling if you listen closely: dark songs of violent betrayal.
"Trophy Girlfriend" / "Keroleen" (7" single)
It's the latest International Pop Underground offering from K, with the first song from what should be a new Heavenly album in late fall or thereabouts -- a bittersweet pleasure, to be sure, since drummer Mathew Fletcher chose to shuffle off this mortal coil and the band apparently has no plans to carry on at the moment. It's a bit hard to write about it now -- I always thought what made Heavenly one of the very best bands in indie-pop was they way they married glorious sunny melodies and harmonies to lyrics with a much darker outlook, which seems more than a little ironic. Anyway, before I read the news this was a pure and unalloyed pleasure, with Amelia Fletcher just a shade catty on the subject of the woman trying to be a "Trophy Girlfriend"
She's kissing boys, and girls
Trying to decide which she prefers
She laughs a lot, tries to sing...
Amelia carries the vocal until the end, when after a short and sweet solo from Peter, harmony vox pile up in a delerious glorious mess. This is the kind of music that can make me glad I'm alive, and there's something just really sad about that.
("Trophy Girlfriend" is included on Operation: Heavenly)
So, uh, on to Bis, the Scotts creators of the teen-c movement, Pop of the Tops frequenters, pseudonymous teenagers with distortion a plenty, pretty fair pop sensibilities and a drum machine. This is their first US release. The lead track, "Keroleen" gives a clue what the hype is about. It's fast and kinetic with call and response vocals and unexpected shifts in dynamics. The Britpress has crowned them next great thing for some unprecedented number of months, so the backlash will surely start when the album comes out. In the meantime, my world is not changed, they are not the new Beatles, but they are fun to listen to. Isn't that what it's supposed to be about? But wait, you also get "Grand Royal with Cheese" a leedle instrumental doodle (i read somewhere that the drums are real, a departure for the groop) which reminds me somehow both of Stereolab and of the B-52's. something about the lead bass, mayhap? It annoyed me the first few times I heard on it, but now I'm afraid I may find myself humming it.
(Two versions of "Grand Royal With Cheese" are included on Bis's Intendo)
There's a bit of pall over Operation Heavenly, released as it was after the suicide of drummer Mathew Fletcher, but it continues the band's evolution into more sophisticated and varied musical territory; "K-klass kisschase" even flirts with a country-ish beat and their version of Serge Gainsbourg's "Nous ne Sommes Pas des Anges" veers into the new-wave/disco territory of late Blondie. "Mark Angel" has great interplay between its tremolo guitar and Rob Pursey's propulsive, sinuous bassline, which knows just when to walk and when to bounce between two chord roots -- at this point no one should be making snide comments anymore about how the band can't really play. The record isn't as lyrically grim as "P.U.N.K. Girl," but it's also less affecting and direct; songs like "Space Manatee" are, well, a little silly. Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson again matches his baritone growl with Fletcher on album closer "Pet Monkey."
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