21st Century Music: The Long Blondes
21st Century Music are playlists and profiles that focus on artists that have released their music since 2000. These highlight new(er) acts that continue the sound and spirit of the older acts that are the focus of Ceremony. Click on the streaming service of your choice below to listen to the playlist as you read along.
The Long Blondes lifespan was brief, but they released a joyous list of songs over a selection of singles and two albums. They were a band tailor-made for me with song after song that were short, punchy, bass-driven, propelled with raw, strumming guitars, featured catchy melodies and bouncy rhythms, and backed an intriguing vocal that grabbed attention. It’s my lament that I only discovered them after they disbanded, brought about by a stroke suffered by their primary song writer, Dorian Cox, in 2008 just as they had released their second album and a collection of their early, indie singles.
The band featured three women – Kate Jackson (vocals), Emma Chaplin (guitar, keyboards), and Reenie Hollis (bass) that could provide strong harmonies when needed, though Kate’s voice was powerful enough – and two men, Dorian Cox (lead guitar and keyboards) and Mark Turvey (aka Screech Louder, drums). They were from Sheffield, England and their sound was reminiscent of the 1980s act from nearby Leeds, Gang of Four. Their modern, energetic and at times almost unhinged takes on their songs also make me think of a contemporary and short-lived band of the time from New York, The Rapture. It was punk, power pop, and catchy as hell.
Their career started with a series of indie singles on different labels, roughly recorded but already showing all the elements that showed the band was full of promise. After the fourth single, “Appropriation (By Any Other Name),” got them onto the UK chart for the first time and their sound was reaching power pop perfection on the fifth single, “Separated by Motorways,” they were receiving accolades in the press as one of the best unsigned bands around, and it wasn’t long before they were signed to Rough Trade records.
There followed two albums in 2006 and 2008 that reached #1 and #2 respectively on the UK Indie charts and cracked the top 50 on the UK album chart. The first, Someone to Drive You Home, continued the punk-pop formula of their singles and was a romp, and brilliant listen from start to finish. It included a couple of their prior singles, “Giddy Stratospheres” and “Separated by Motorways.” The second album shifted to more of a dance vibe, increasing the use of electronics. This was immediately evident on the first single released prior to the album, “Century,” which rode a nifty bass and guitar riff and a new wave vibe through the latter half.
I’m not sure why the band didn’t reconvene after Dorian Cox’s rehabilitation, but the members of The Long Blondes went their separate ways after the 2008 separation. Kate Jackson released an excellent album in 2016, British Road Movies, and Cox has issued music under the name ‘Unmade Bed.’ Hollis and Screech Louder have worked together in other bands together and separately. Otherwise, we’re left with the two albums and the collection of singles and B-sides on the Singles compilation to enjoy and remember the brief but fantastic work of The Long Blondes.
The Playlist - song \ album (year)
New Idols \ Non-album single (2004)
Autonomy Boy \ Non-album single (2004)
Polly \ B-side to “Giddy Stratospheres” (2004)
Appropriation (By Any Other Name) \ Non-album single (2005)
Giddy Stratospheres \ Someone to Drive You Home (2006)
In the Company of Women \ Someone to Drive You Home (2006)
Separated by Motorways \ Someone to Drive You Home (2006)
Weekend without Makeup \ Someone to Drive You Home (2006)
Madame Ray \ Someone to Drive You Home (2006)
The Unbearable Lightness of Buildings (not on YouTube) \ B-side to “Century” (2008)
Century \ “Couples” (2008)
The Couples \ “Couples” (2008)
Here Comes the Serious Bit \ “Couples” (2008)
Erin O’Connor \ “Couples” (2008)
I’m Going to Hell \ “Couples” (2008)
Picture of You (In My Room) \ Singles (2008) - earlier, unreleased song until this compilation