The Perfect English Weather - Isobar Blues

matcd078  /  November 2016
The Perfect English Weather - Isobar Blues
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The Perfect English Weather - Isobar Blues

matcd078  /  November 2016

The Perfect English Weather are Simon and Wendy Pickles, a duo from Brighton taking time out from The Popguns to create an enchanting collection of odes to overcast afternoons in seaside cafes, conversations with cats, and weekend adventures to cancelled Morrissey concerts. Inspired by the unjaded love of a great pop song, the result is grown up music for those who still prefer a karaoke party to a dinner party.

Their debut album, ‘Isobar Blues’, was originally intended to be a short set of simple acoustic recordings, but as so often it does, one thing lead to another and they couldn’t help turning some of these vignettes into full-on electric guitar pop. The result is a flurry of guitars, words and melodies that stay with you all day … as their signature song ‘English Weather’ so dreamily reminds us. Mixing a little heartache with healthy dose of humour, this is an album for daydreamers to get lost inside, painting hazy glimpses of everyday life, always with half an eye on the skies and those prevailing south westerlies.

Bang out of the blocks opener, ‘The Sweetest Feeling’, has an almost Motown feel to it and a great positive vibe backed by a joyous chorus. ‘Hit Town’ is a very tongue-in-cheek Smiths styled jangler, telling the story of a weekend in Athens where Morrissey cancelled his concert last minute as he couldn’t “make his plane in time”. The perfect, cool laid back groove of ‘Try A Little Harder’ is again less than serious as listeners are reminded not to be too tough on each other’s little imperfections.

‘Reacquainted’ begins with a slow picked guitar and plaintive vocals before opening into its full glory as our clandestine couple emerge into daylight from a cinema matinée. ‘English Weather’ is the first of the fully acoustic songs and is a perfect chance to close the eyes and get lost as Wendy’s gorgeous tones describe a rainy afternoon spent hidden away in a park café. We are then kicked back into life by ‘Spirited Away’, a perfect pop tune with a wicked hook that seems to refer to the death of a favourite pop star – do we wonder who that might be?

‘London In Your Eyes’ changes the mood and is a straight slice of heartache with definite echoes of Lou Reed and Galaxy 500 in an arrangement which features Wendy on organ … and tambourine of course. From this point the album meanders downstream in a more low-key, acoustic vein. ‘Christmas Single’ is a lovely old song about spending Christmas at home with the family with someone else on your mind, while ‘You Wrote’ is a simple acoustic arrangement with to-die-for vocals and a rare appearance of Mr. P on harmony backing vocals. The album closes with ‘Two Stars’, which has a stark, ethereal feel and a lyric loaded with cosmic metaphors, leaving a final image of our tiny place in time and space - a beautiful way to end the record.

  1. The Sweetest Feeling
  2. Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)
  3. Try A Little Harder
  4. Reacquainted
  5. English Weather
  6. Spirited Away
  7. London In Your Eyes
  8. Christmas Single (Call Me)
  9. You Wrote
  10. Two Stars


Pop music is a big tent, with many genres.  We all have music we like, and music of which we are less fond.  Sometimes, the deciding factor is, as least in part, the genre.  But I think the most important factor is connection.  Does the message mean something to me?  Can I relate to the protagonist in the story?  Can I interpret my life through the events in the song?  Does the arrangement send chills down my spine?  One band that has provided me with that connection over the years is Brighton's The Popguns.  And happily I can use the present tense because the band released an album two years ago, and an EP last year, after resting a few decades following their mid-'90s albums.  We don't have another album from The Popguns yet (apparently, there will be one soon), but we do have something similar.  Well, similar and different.  We have the Pickles. Specifically, we have The Popguns' mainstays, and husband and wife, Simon and Wendy Pickles recording as The Perfect English Weather.  Their opening statement is Isobar Blues, which has just been released by Matinee Recordings.  The album contains all of the melody and hooks one expects from Simon and Wendy, with what seems to my ears a bit more intimacy, with the dreamy elements more subtly expressed and the arrangements slightly dialed back and streamlined.  The songs are mostly uptempo guitar pop, but a few ballads nestle in the mix like those wonderful little packages one always enjoys finding under the Christmas Tree in late December.  And over the years, Wendy's voice remains one of the treasures of pop music. Every pop fan who hears this album will choose favorites -- mine include "The Sweetest Feeling", "Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)", "Spirited Away", "Christmas Single (Call Me)", and "You Wrote".  But circling back to our opening theme, the magic here is in the connection.  The Pickles' songs of scenes from their lives, in cafes, record stores, connecting with old friends, a missed concert in Athens, and so on, connect with me to a rare degree.  It isn't that they are stories of my life, but listening to them I feel included in their lives, and it is a comfortable and special feeling. Make room for Isobar Blues, it is one of the year's indie pop gems. —When You Motor Away

One more before teatime, and it’s the début record from The Perfect English Weather, one which the discerning listener will soon recognise as a side-project of blastic wifester/hubster Wendy and Simon from Brighton’s Popguns, a combo who must be up there with 14 Iced Bears as that fine city’s most majestic musical exports (for these purposes, we’re assigning Keris Howard to Worthing, much as that rings of cruel & unusual punishment). Last time this fanzine ventured to Brighton, a year or so ago, the front was ravaged by umbrella-bending seaside storms, but then The Typical English Weather wouldn’t be half as good a band name. And anyway, as the sleeve makes plain with its print of sodden boots on rain-bred mudbanks, there’s really no such thing as perfect weather here. “Isobar Blues” is a ten-track cavalcade of joys: its watercolour tales of cafés, cinemas and yes, record stores are, musically, spread fairly evenly between acoustically-honed ballads, and more uptempo tunes (in which the duo fill out the instrumentation a little with extra, plugged-in guitars or a spot of organ or tambourine). The former group include triumphant calling card (and paean to positivity) “The Sweetest Feeling”, the addictive strums of Moz-baiting jangler “Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)” and the excellent, surely single-ready “Spirited Away”, a pristinely poppy tribute to the late David Bowie. Shout-outs too to “Reacquainted”, which reels you in with a more becalmed intro & verse before blossoming into another textbook chorus. The latter group of songs are epitomised by the delicate, rainsoaked trills of the title track, the soon-to-be-seasonal longing of “Christmas Single” (imagine a comma between the two words, and you have the meaning!) and the album’s magical night-sky denouement, “Two Stars”. The yin and yang of it all works impeccably, with the poppier numbers dominating proceedings early on before we find ourselves gradually seduced by the slower, more reflective pieces: it’s as if the ebbs and swells of the English Channel are receding, to be replaced by the gentle splash of pebbles cast into glinting rockpools. Sometimes it’s good to be feeling the Blues. —In Love With These Times, In Spite Of These Times

A longtime love of mine is The Popguns. Simon and Wendy of the band – Mr and Mrs Pickles, if you’d rather – did their own thing with a side project called The Perfect English Weather. The resulting album Isobar Blues (Matinée) was another joyful pop collection and it continues to get regular airplay chez moi even during the festive period. —Jocknroll (Albums of the Year)

Just when things looked bleak, indiepop came in to save my day…and of course, it had to come from Matinee Recordings. They’ve just announced a new album from The Perfect English Weather, the duo made up of Simon and Wendy Pickles from The Popguns. We’ve got two tracks from the band’s Isobar Blues, telling two different sides of the band’s pop adoration. The first offering is a more traditional upbeat number, filled with harmonies and brightly ringing guitar lines. On the latter tune you get to hear the softer underbelly of the group’s sound…now with even more soulful vocals! —Austin Town Hall

The Perfect English Weather are husband/wife duo Simon and Wendy out of The Popguns. Unsurprisingly it sounds like their main band given the instantly recognisable vocals of frontwoman Wendy. There are some good songs here such as The Sweetest Feeling, Reacquainted and Spirited Away but I am thinking it’s a shame that they did not have a full band behind them. A pleasant album. —Records I Like

Bon, il pleut, c'est l'automne, la saison ocre créant ses premiers frissons de froid qui poussent à sortir écharpes, bottes et mitaines, idéale pour des beautés pop comme The Perfect English Weather. Le duo de Brighton Wendy et Simon, fondateurs des Popguns, offriront l'album Isobar Blues le 25 novembre 2016, une collection de mélodies pop fort chaleureuses. Les titres nous plongent dans une atmosphère romantique avec l'évocation de petits cafés dans les parcs, en bord de mer, de complicité avec les chats, de clins d'oeil et références drôles comme sur Hit Town, qui raconte comment Morrissey a dû annuler un concert à Athens après un vol loupé au départ de Dublin. L'album est orné d'images, d'histoires et d'arrangements fleuris, de voix galopantes qui devaient au départ rester au stade de démos acoustiques. Heureusement, le stade de création a fait pousser des ailes à The Perfect English Weather jusqu'à celui de l'enregistrement studio peaufiné de guitares, d'orgue et de tambourins. The Sweetest Feeling avec sa rythmique entêtante, la voix rayonnante de Wendy, entame la pléiade de notes pop sur un thème amoureux fouetté de hand claps. Les cordes de guitares sixties de Simon glissent et gonflent la mélodie de Hit Town, avec une basse aussi souriante que dansante, où la référence aux Smiths devient légitime. Suivent le groove de Try A Little Harder, le langoureux et intimiste Reacquainted, avec son chant émouvant comme sur English Weather qui nous enveloppe et protège, chaude et duveteuse. Suit Spirited Away, rendant hommage à une star de la pop récemment disparue, suivie d'une ambiance similaire avec London In Your Eyes qui fait penser au Velvet Underground. Christmas Single voluptueusement orchestré annonce le délicat et élégant You Wrote pour finir dans l'émotion avec Two Stars. Les thèmes et les airs nous ouvrent une liberté dorée d'interprétation, la possibilité d'acclimater les sujets qui me font personnellement penser tour à tour à David Bowie et à Lou Reed. Wendy Morgan et Simon Pickles sont des grands dans le milieu indie-pop et depuis leur premier album en 1990 Eugenie avec la formation Popguns, ils ne cessent de nous ravir, de créer des mélopées pop toujours vibrantes et brillantes. A plus de Cent signé en 1996 a dû attendre deux décennies pour être suivi du grandiose Pop Fiction de 2014 et c'est un réel bonheur d'accueillir ce nouveau projet, ces nouvelles chansons, judicieuses, soignées et sublimes. Les anglais savent mieux que quiconque parler de la météo et la braver magnifiquement via la musique. De manière inaltérable, Wendy, Simon, The Perfect English Weather, attisent et galvanisent l'attention et font exploser tout voile sombre pour laisser entrer les rayons de soleil sur nos têtes de poppeux. —Piggledypop

Riemersi alla produzione discografica dopo quasi vent’anni con i loro Popguns (“Pop Fiction”, 2014), la cantante Wendy Morgan e il chitarrista Simon Pickles hanno riscoperto a tal punto l’inestinguibile passione per il pop da intraprendere una nuova avventura di coppia, nella musica e nella vita, che fin dalla denominazione e dall’iconografia sotto le quali si presenta, collima appieno con quell’estetica indie-pop che non ci si stancherebbe mai di ricordare come non conosca tempo né età. Ecco dunque The Perfect English Weather, idea che è insieme dichiarazione d’appartenenza geografica, professione sentimentale e artistica, tradotta in dieci canzoni mutevoli come la pressione atmosferica e in continuo movimento come le correnti d’alta quota. Fuor di metafora (ma nemmeno poi tanto), “Isobar Blues” mette in mostra il lato più sbarazzino, semplice e immediato del duo, non a caso nato come divertissement casalingo destinato a caratterizzarsi in senso prevalentemente acustico. Invece, quelli che dovevano essere demo o poco più sono diventati un prodotto finito, nel quale le chitarre elettriche continuano ad avere un ruolo significativo, anche se non esclusivo. Il contesto più circoscritto rispetto a quello della band d’origine consente comunque al duo di depotenziare la grana elettrica di popsong dalla durata “radiofonica” media di poco superiore ai tre minuti, dando così luogo a una varietà di suoni e sensazioni che corrono sul filo di melodie fluide e aggraziate. Benché non manchino nostalgici accenni jangly (“Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)”) e sbarazzine incursioni twee (“Spirited Away”), il tono complessivo del lavoro si mantiene tra i due cardini di un understatement acustico dai riflessi nostalgici (“London In Your Eyes”, “Christmas Single (Call Me)” e, ovviamente, “English Weather”) e di una matura raffinatezza pop fuori dal tempo (“The Sweetest Feeling”, “Try A Little Harder”). “Isobar Blues” risulta così un album delizioso, nella sua agrodolce freschezza di scrittura e nella leggerezza di melodie dalle quali traspare la spontaneità dello spirito di un duo, che nel pop più genuino non smette di trovare il proprio veicolo espressivo privilegiato, l’unico davvero possibile. —Music Won’t Save You

Sembra di rivivere gli idilli famigliari di Don e Kathy Peris nell’apprezzare il calore sprigionato da questo “Isobar Blues”, esordio del progetto casalingo di Simon e Wendy Pickles, titolari dei Popguns, una delle band di culto dell’indie-pop, abbastanza da essere inclusa nella prestigiosa collezione “Scared To Get Happy” della Cherry Red pochi anni fa. Il nome scelto per il progetto, The Perfect English Weather, nella sua iconica perfezione, inquadra bene la proposta musicale della coppia, improntata a una naturale prosecuzione di un repertorio che, in tutta onestà, non ha perso un grammo della sua freschezza originaria. Certo, nel genere (come in altri) il grado di sovrapposizione tra le melodie scritte nel corso di questi trent’anni e più è piuttosto alto, e “Isobar Blues” non è da meno, ma nel disco è palpabile la capacità di attingere dalla fonte più pura, con il rispetto e il tono di un capolavoro minore. Nel disco si possono apprezzare arrangiamenti acustici che fanno risaltare l’eleganza delle interpretazioni vocali di Wendy (“Christmas Single (Call Me)”), così come piacevoli amarcord della zuccherosità twee dei Popguns (“The Sweetest Feeling”, “Hit Town (A.T.H.E.N.S.)”), e paralleli senza questioni di paternità con i Camera Obscura di “Desire Lines” (il singolo “Spirited Away”). Oltre che dinoccolate, innocenti ballate Wareham-iane (“Two Stars”). Sebbene in “Isobar Blues” risalti alla fine un’abilità al confine tra arte e artigianato, e il peso dell’”iconografia” indie-pop, nella forma e nella sostanza, si faccia sentire, in questo genere il peso dell’esperienza, la capacità di interpretare archetipi, forme-canzoni fissate nella pietra diventano davvero il cardine del valore di un ascolto. Un altro centro firmato Matinée. —Ondarock