I first encountered the Hepburns on what is probably my favorite indie pop compilation of this decade. 'The Sounds of Leamington Spa' (Firestation Tower Records) features 20 of the best post C86 hits you’ve never heard. Little did I know that they recorded in this decade as well! The Tweenet site has good biography and discography information on The Hepburns.
This disc, the first in four years packs a lot of music (14 tracks) in just over 34 minutes. The lyric booklet also contains explanations of each song from frontman Matt Jones in English and Japanese.
- Tokyo Rollerball Cheerleader Chant is just that. The phrase is repeated over some groovy keyboard flourishes with some female accompaniment towards the end.
- Dead Don King features breezy acoustic guitar with smooth vocals with a xylophone, adding a jazzy 70s feel. The singing gets more urgent towards the end, adding more depth to the track.
- The rhythm of Blouson Style Jacket mimics Golden Brown by The Stranglers and the singing sounds like a more ironic, less adenoidal version of Paul Heaton from The Housemartins. They borrowed from too many sources here.
- High Street Fashion reprises the jazzy 70s sounds with flute and xylophone. Judging from what Matt Jones says about the track, it’s meant to be one of the guilty pleasures of the disc, a little cheesy, not as strong as the next track.
- I’ve Seen Your Sort Before has a cool late 60s feel with flute and horn nicely arranged with more pop stylings. Matt does some of his best singing here, especially on the chorus. Ten out of ten for presentation. It seems a little short and ends with me wanting to hear more, a good sign.
- On Your Knees Cowboy! has treated vocals and 70s spacey keyboard sounds mixed with acoustic guitar speedy quick drumming for a neat mix of sounds but ends abruptly and feels incomplete.
- Smaller Than Life goes back to the 60s, like Birdie does, with flute, horns, strummed guitar and keyboards that sound like some kind of exotic animal. The singing here again is strong and I like the irony and self deprecating humor here.
- The Girl Who Lost Interest In Everything keeps the breezy feel going, but has a sparser sound, acoustic guitar, xylophone and percussion. Any song that works insouciance and burning the candle at both ends into the lyrics into it works for me.
- The Hairstyle That Looked Like A Hat is a neat instrumental that sounds like something you would hear at the circus when someone climbs up a rope and starts spinning or gets on a trapeze and starts doing tricks with a pause and a flourish for the finale.
- Saturday Night Satellite has a 70s feel with its strummed guitar, xylophone and exotic percussion. The singing here is a little more dramatic and the theme is modern zoning out to the tune of consumerism and disenchantment all coming from a couch potato.
- Happy Bachelor starts out soft with some strong drumming and builds nicely, telling an amusing gin soaked tale extolling the virtues of bachelorhood and as Matt Jones notes, espousing the virtues of cookery and sex over car maintenance.
- Hotel Grover is a breezy speedy instrumental with guitars strummed almost but not quite too fast. It has some groovy keyboards and doot doot doots doubled over the guitar for a nice effect. It sounds like it could have come from the 70s Disney film Love Bug.
- Coach Park No. 6 is the most straight ahead pop song here. Besides the nicely strummed guitar, the keyboards sound modern. I like how the drums come in strong towards the end as Jones repeats the refrain… gone too long or have I been... Some good horn parts and spacy keyboard sounds come in towards the end. It’s a wistful song, full of evocative imagery and memories of things that don’t seem important at a glance but mean something after all.
- Themonic Possession, an instrumental closes out the disc. It features some wobbly guitar sounds and spacey keyboard parts mixed in with acoustic strumming that would be at home in a 60s beach movie with a UFO landing.
Favorite Tracks 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13