The Pipettes We Are The Pipettes

[Memphis Industries; 2006]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: “girl-pop,” revivalist girl group
Others: Teddy Bears, Shangri-las, Phil Spector, The Crystals The Ronettes

The Pipettes want to write new "histories" of pop music, according to their biography. Instead of starting with The Beatles (really, who starts with The Beatles anyway?), they want to make the Spector/Brill building-era the starting point from which to tell their story. This is what they consider the "golden age" of pop music, roughly the 1950s and early '60s, a time when television replaced radio, the entertainment industry finally discovered the lucrative youth market, and the spectacularization of celebrity life produced wide-eyed optimism and idealism. In music, this was reflected in pop — the irresistible hooks, the simple rhythms, the cloying melodies, the look — it pretty much marketed itself.

With We Are The Pipettes, The Pipettes have encapsulated this brand of pop for the 21st century, and they've got polka-dot dresses and synchronized dancing to emphasize this intent. Waving off feminism and Riot Grrrl politics like a fly on ham, The Pipettes are proffering a "girls just being girls" aesthetic, a sort of tautological pop for the sake of pop. As stated in interviews, The Pipettes want to stop you from "having to think." And how can you with such sweet, sugary, saccharine melodies? The hand-claps, the dancing, the harmonies — after listening to the album so many times, I've become a walking cliché, "humming and whistling the tunes long after the music has ended."

So, does this make it "good" music? Let me put it this way: for a lot of people I know, music functions as pure escapism, pure entertainment. It's a release, completely separate from everyday life. It can be therapeutic in this sense — emotional rehab — which I think is fantastic for those who need it. Some people just want to shake it and not think about all the dread in the world. For these people, I would definitely recommend this album. We Are The Pipettes has all the essential elements that make music FUN.

But music in this context is also pure distraction. The more I take music "too seriously," the more I find myself yearning for something that facilitates new ways of thinking, new approaches, new anything. The Pipettes are only fresh in the sense that they've appropriated Spector-influenced girl-pop for a new era (for the record, the concept of the band was created by their veiled guitarist, Bobby). In my mind, this isn't music that celebrates, it negates. It extracts what it sees fit and drops it into a new time and place, essentially stripping away its original relevance for a hedonistic, spoiled one, simply because it might be "fun" to do.

Essentially, The Pipettes want you to believe in the power of pop music, and I'd like to think we all do. But this is perhaps why a group like The Pipettes may very well be promoting political apathy and underscoring gender roles more than anything else. After all, pop music in the '50s and '60s served as the perfect diversion from Cold War politics and racial tension. It's no secret that the white-washed, toothpasted mid-20th century was the rhetoric of conformity and The Dream. The result? The temporary suppression of women's rights and civil rights, the Red Scare, the rise of suburbia (a.k.a. "white flight"), and some horrible wars. Are The Pipettes responsible for the occupation in Iraq? Of course not, but We Are The Pipettes sure wants me to stop "having to think" about it.

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