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The Long Blondes

During the mid-2000s, the Long Blondes carved out a singular spot in the U.K. music scene. Not only were their songs spunky, punky nuggets of nervy attitude and sparkling melody, but their visuals added loads of thrift shop glamour. Led by Kate Jackson's megaphonic vocals and Dorian Cox's knack for whipping up memorable tunes, their early singles and debut album, 2006's Someone to Drive You Home, are time capsule-worthy examples of a band firing on all cylinders. Their second album, 2008's Couples, took a detour into frigid new wave territory -- the guideposts were disco Blondie instead of early Blondie -- and then it was all over due to illness. Though the group's career was short, it was indelible, and anyone looking for a clue as to what the mid-2000s had to offer musically at their best could do worse than checking the Long Blondes out. The band formed during 2003 in Sheffield, England, when the members all decided to pick up instruments and start playing. Kate Jackson and Reenie Hollis were sharing a house; the former bought a guitar, the latter a bass. Meanwhile, in a different part of the city, Dorian Cox learned to play guitar and roped in his friend Emma Chaplin to play guitar as well. Cox reached out to Jackson about starting a group. All four decided to throw in together and were joined by drummer Screech Louder soon after. They began writing songs right away in a furious rush, clapping together the energy of punk and the faded glamour of groups like Roxy Music and, more contemporaneously, Pulp, while adding their own postmodern twist that relied more on giddy enthusiasm than it did musical skill. They were also voracious consumers of vintage pop culture, and their lyrics are dotted with references to old books and films. The Long Blondes' initial shows were so impressive that after only three, they were approached by labels wanting to release their music. They did a split single with the Boyfriends for the Filthy Little Angels label, then later in 2004 issued a 7" for the Sheffield Phonographic Corporation made up of the songs "New Idols" and "Long Blonde." The band began playing shows around the U.K. and Europe, all the while cranking out more and more songs. They signed up with Angular Records and started releasing a run of singles -- 2004's "Giddy Stratospheres," 2005's "Appropriation (By Any Other Name)," and "Separated by Motorways" -- that showed their growth as writers and musicians, while at the same time gaining them a dedicated following. Not only did the band have catchy songs, their style was enticing and the visual impact of the single sleeves -- each painted by Jackson -- hit the sweet spot between nostalgia and kitsch. It was no surprise that the Long Blondes were courted by labels at this point; the band decided to join up with Rough Trade and began work on an album with Steve Mackey of Pulp in the producer's chair. Working through the best of the numerous songs they had written over the years, the group delivered a lively and purposefully unpolished debut album in 2006. Someone to Drive You Home featured remade versions of "Giddy Stratospheres" and "Separated by Motorways," along with one of the classic singles of the mid-2000s guitar pop scene, "Once and Never Again." The band toured the world after the album's release, from Europe to America, and issued the non-LP single "Five Ways to End It"/"Fulwood Babylon" in 2007. As they were jetting around the world, they wrote songs when and where they could and soon entered the studio with producer Erol Alkan to begin work on album number two. Taking a different approach, the group stripped back the guitars, added more keyboards, and aimed for an icier, more new wave-inspired sound. Couples was released by Rough Trade in 2008 and the band took their show back out on the road. Their career was halted suddenly in 2009 when Dorian Cox suffered a serious stroke. Though he survived, he was left unable to play guitar and the band called it quits instead of trying to replace him. They released a collection of early tracks titled Singles the same day they announced their split. Each of the bandmembers continued playing music, even Cox thanks to a successful stint of rehab. Jackson's 2016 album British Road Movies, which she made with Bernard Butler, was the most high-profile of the projects. The band celebrated the 15th anniversary of Someone to Drive You Home with a 2021 reissue that included all the single B-sides as bonus tracks.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo


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