Reviews: the Pipettes and Sharon Jones

By: Bryan Gutridge

After being available for more than a year over in the UK, the Pipettes self-titled debut is finally on American record store shelves. If you haven’t heard this threesome yet you are truly missing out; its next to impossible not to fall in love with this album. Using the music and vocal harmonies of the innocent, bubble-gum pop era the Pipettes sound as if they belong on an oldies station. That is until you listen closely to the lyrics: these girls are more likely to sing about having one-night stands and the joys of sex than some boyfriend breaking their heart. Point in fact they actually have a song questioning why an anonymous man stays around when they treat the guy poorly. This is the type of “girl power” that the Spice Girls seemed to think they embodied, except the Pipettes get it right and without being overwhelmingly obnoxious or shoving it down our throats. They just sound like they are having a damn good time being themselves without concern.

All this may sound good in theory, but the formula easily could have fallen flat if the Pipettes had gone some ironic/hipster path, poking fun at the era they are emulating. Instead the album revels and respects the bygone sounds of the early baby boomer America. Much of this comes from the music the girls harmonize over, which is just fantastic and, much like the sound of the three vocalists, takes the sound of a specific genre and applies it to contemporary settings. For another analogy, think back about twelve years when the neo-swing bands started popping up all over the place. On one side you had bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, which took modern sounds production and instrumentation and played swing music. And then you had the Squirrel Nut Zippers, who were a group of musicians that played traditional swing music for modern audiences. In this respect, the Pipettes are much more in line with the SNZ mentality.

This is true for another amazing new release courtesy of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Their new album 100 Days, 100 Nights builds on the promise of their last success, and may actually surpass it in some aspects. For those uninitiated, over the past five or so years the Daptone record label has been putting out some of the best new funk, soul and r&b records around. Much like the Pipettes, this is not some ironic, “look at us, we can play funk” music, this is true to form soul that would sound right at home on a mix full of James Brown, George Clinton, Ike and Tuna, et al. Part of this likely due to the fact that, unlike the Pipettes, Sharon Jones is actually from the age of the kings of soul/funk during the sixties and seventies. She grew up listening and singing along with the greats, and has lived long enough to sound genuine when spinning her tales. Another reason for the album’s ability to sound so true-to-form is the support from the Dap Kings the phenomenal house band for the Daptone label (and also session musicians for acts such as Amy Winehouse). Shunning modern production gimmicks for a more traditional setting certainly enhances the album, bestowing even more of an old school sound.

100 Days often comes across as more relaxed than the previous album; during the first track Jones actually tells the band its time to slow it down. This often allows both the band and Jones more opportunity to develop the songs. There is really no misses on this album, from beginning to end it is a treat to listen to and cements this group as the herald of the soul revival. Its going to be a joy to see where they go next and lets just hope it doesn’t take them too long before gracing us with more songs such as these.




All opinions expressed by Bryan Gutridge are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.


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