Reviews tend to privilege the kind of music that hits you immediately, as opposed to albums that take more time to become beloved. Perhaps this explains pop’s continued domination of Western music. If this is the case, The Pipettes are a pop juggernaut. I haven’t stopped listening to We Are the Pipettes once in the last three days, and it doesn’t look like the troops are going to retreat any time soon. I am completely smitten by the Pipettes’ updated spin on classic girl-group sounds. It’s all there—the bright piano, call-and-response vocals, the slow-building drums that make you want to pull someone close and slow-dance. And it’s all turned up to 11.
Where Camera Obscura and the Concretes merely take hints from girl-group stylings, The Pipettes work completely within the genre, producing pop-perfect melodies and revamping traditional girl-group songwriting. Unlike true-love balladeers The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las, The Pipettes aren’t interested in walking in the sand—they’d rather kick it in your face. In “Your Kisses are Wasted on Me,” the background vocals croon, “He’s so sweeet,” as the lead intones icily, “I’ve had about enough of sweet,” in a tough-sexy Brighton accent. The chorus of “One Night Stand” declares, “I don’t love you, I don’t want you, if you think this is cruel, you should see what my friends do…” The combination of caustic lyrics with traditionally sentimental and vulnerable music is an excellent prank: in the song “Sex,” for example, the lead singer explains to a pretty-but-loquacious boy, “When you get going, you’re really quite a bore” overtop classic oooo-eeeee-ooo-ooo background vocals. On the other hand, more straight-up tracks like “Under a Winter’s Sky” and “Tell me What you Want” prove that even without the jokes, the Pipettes are a force to be reckoned with. We Are the Pipettes is a modern classic for girls who don’t wait for boys to call, and for boys who like their girls more smart-mouthed than lovelorn.