The Popguns - Sugar Kisses

matcd079  /  June 2017
The Popguns - Sugar Kisses
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The Popguns - Sugar Kisses

matcd079  /  June 2017

Superb new album from distinguished English band The Popguns! Their fifth studio album, ‘Sugar Kisses’ follows the celebrated 2015 release ‘Pop Fiction’ for Matinée and has a distinctly raw feel with live takes and minimal overdubs capturing the band in all their ragged glory.

The album begins with the infectious title track—an unrestrained but moody minor key bouncer with its hopeful Dover Beach inspired refrain of “love, let us be true”—followed by glam-rocker ‘We Don’t Go Round There Anymore’ and breeze-pop classic ‘So Long.’

‘A Beaten Up Guitar’ is a brilliant, straight down the middle power-pop blaster which delivers an outrageous bass driven rush through to a final breathless denouement of harmonized vocals.

‘Out On The Highline’ is a sultry Sunday morning slowie, while ‘A Dream Of Her Own’ boasts jangling guitars, a singalong chorus and plenty of ba-ba-ba’s. ‘The Outsider’ is a menacing slow burner that contrasts nicely with the power pop of tongue-in-cheek ‘Gene Machine’ which explores the forces of evolution at work on our biological clocks.

‘Fire Away’ is a dream for the pun-writers and a lot of fun as Wendy gets to tell some pub-bore “I’ve had a drink, but not enough tell you what I think, so Fire Away.” The album concludes with pop classic ‘Finished With The Past’ with its bristling mass of guitars and, in the last verse, surely Wendy’s most passionate vocal ever, ending the album on a thrilling high.

Surely this is the perfect British guitar pop album that The Popguns promised all those years ago when they first appeared in Peel’s Festive 50 and on the 90’s indie dancefloors. Cover art is again by Jason Brooks, the award winning V&A Book Illustrator of the Year. Unmissable.

  1. Sugar Kisses
  2. We Don't Go Round There Anymore
  3. So Long
  4. A Beaten Up Guitar
  5. Out On The Highline
  6. A Dream Of Her Own
  7. The Outsider
  8. Gene Machine
  9. Fire Away
  10. Finished With The Past


Um, yes, we’re BACK. And you’d better believe we’re still angry about the UK’s downward spiral, the continued descent of both public discourse and the economic forecast since the collective madness of one year ago. And frankly find it hard to see past that, past a country that will ever-refuse to admit it just made a stupid mistake (“oh could a joke ever go more wrong... and are you leaving just like that”), past a government of none-of-the-talents that’s about as 'strong and stable' as Ronan Point, and on top of that we find it so hard to grab the precious moments needed to appreciate the usual luscious panoply of absurdly ace records that 2017 has already delivered from every angle, what with work commitments and family and work and wanting to sleep too and work, and did we mention the nation being a total mess? But we expect you don’t need to hear about any of that. Sorry. Luckily, it’s not just us who are BACK. For, re-emerging from the summery swells of the south coast, come those marvellous masters and mistresses of melody, the Popguns, purveyors of "Lovejunky" and "Still Waiting For The Winter", with their latest outing from their 21st century label home (ladies and gentlemen: now twenty years in showbusiness, the one, the only, the evergreen and ever-elegant Matinée Recordings of Santa Barbara). And that new 'guns long-player, “Sugar Kisses”, is ready to shack up with (sorry, 'snog') Eugenie & co in the Popguns section of your record collection (file between the Pop Group and Pop Threat, probably). "Kisses" is a more muscular outing than the finely balanced textures of ‘proper’ LP number three, “Pop Fiction”: it boasts a sound more obviously rooted in the spirit of the Popguns' early records, but building on the momentum of “Pop Fiction” and the sonic diversity which that showcased. Yes, the rich tones of Wendy’s voice are still the icing on the cake: but the cake itself is made from toned and honed layers of *guitar* – fiery, vivacious, alive. It’s as if Simon and Wendy decided to get some of the ‘ballads’ out of the way on last year’s gorgeous Perfect English Weather album, so laying a trail for this return of the raw. There are still a fair few flecks of light and shade, to be sure. There’s a pouting arrogance to the title track, a sassy and brazenly commercial number with ace backing coos and a serviceable bassline that’s lip-to-lip with the dancefloor, before the verses of the debonair “We Don’t Go Round There Anymore” mark the first appearance of the Blondie-via-Brighton American accent and phrasing that rears its head on a few tracks. Disconcerting as that is (since when was an offy a “liquor store”, this side of the Atlantic?) don’t let it distract you from the song, not least the killer chorus that eagerly trampolenes off the down-and-dirty verse. Next come the brace of “So Long” – the preview single, albeit a single limited in physical form to a measly twenty copies – and “A Beaten Up Guitar”, and again these tunes are much more accelerator than brake, all heady swirls of thrilling fuzzfade POP. Only the gentle caress of “Out On The Highline” sees the pace drop; that reassuring lull in tempo you often get as half-time approaches. On side two of the vinyl (that this should be on), and positively *launching* itself out of the blocks, is “A Dream Of Her Own”, one hell of a treat and a song which in a just universe would be the biggest of several hit singles on display. The cascading chorus really is a dream, and the guitars simply crackle with effervescent glee. And then, after the brief respite of “The Outsider”, all seductive shimmer and slow waltz, come a rip-roaring trio of guitar-driven power pop janglers which provide as strong a finish as we’ve heard to any album in recent years: “Gene Machine”, “Fire Away” (perhaps the song which most faithfully mirrors their 80s/90s stompers, with bonus extra shouting in the background - well, it is set in a pub) and the knowing, somewhat triumphant playout “Finished With The Past”. MORE FIRE. There are fragments of these songs that could have come from the Wedding Present’s vast armoury, and I only hope that you lot have been reading this blog long enough to know that comparison, coming from us, is oceans away from damning with faint praise. We did genuinely reckon that “Pop Fiction” was the best Popguns album yet, but we’re now having to revise that opinion: we now have a new ‘go to’ pop record, probably the best 'indie' album of 2017 so far. A winner by miles: Theresa, this is what a landslide looks like. —In Love With These Times, In Spite Of These Times

On Sugar Kisses, the second full length from The Popguns since their resurrection in 2012, the band proves as adept as ever in crafting bittersweet indie pop, and have even filled out the sound with Kate Mander adding her voice to harmonize with frontwoman Wendy Pickles.  And unsurprisingly, they have added some additional maturity and perspective to the songwriting.  But the album finds the band unwilling rely only on that traditional strength and listeners aiming for nostalgia.  So here melancholy janglers like the wonderful showcase song "So Long" are balanced by the robust tracks such as "We Don't Go Round There Anymore", "A Dream Of Her Own", "Gene Machine", "Fire Away", and the glorious "Finished With The Past".  The variety and quality of execution shows this Brighton band to be as vital, energetic and aggressive as are many new bands trying to make there way in music.  The difference is that The Popguns are pros at this, and it shows.  Wendy Pickles' voice still impresses with its power and range, but even more intriguing to any careful listener is her nuanced touch with the emotional content of the songs.  The result is an album as strong as any the band has done, and it will serve as a summer mix tape for the discerning indie pop fan.  Pop the champagne corks for The Popguns -- they have earned it! —When You Motor Away

The Popguns reunion since their original existence a few decades ago has been something of a sustained one with "Sugar Kisses" being their second full length since they got back together again in 2012. They still sound like they used to, albeit it a little more mature and a little cleaner in their sound. Plus the additional backing vocals of Kate Mander add another layer of harmonies to the songs. There's much of their classic sound at play here though with lots of regret and reminiscing about the past in the lyrics. This new album is also full of bittersweet pop songs with catchy choruses like on "A Dream Of Her Own" and it closes with two songs leaning more towards their power pop side. "Fire Away" features what will probably be the closest The Popguns get to a song with gang vocals and "Finished With The Past" is just classic Popguns and the highlight for me. 2017 has seen new music by The Popguns and The Darling Buds - it's like it's 1991 all over again. —Collective Zine

Confesso di non essere mai stato un grande fan dei The Popguns, per quanto abbia sempre avuto un enorme rispetto per la band di Brighton. Mi sono sempre sembrati troppo "perfetti" per i miei gusti, e troppo legati ad un immaginario french-sixties che non mi fa impazzire. Pop Fiction, l'album di due anni fa che ha segnato il ritorno del gruppo dopo uno iato di vent'anni (sì, vent'anni) e che ha inaugurato la collaborazione con la mitica Matinèe Recordings, mi era sembrato un lavoro piacevole e raffinato - in perfetto stile The Popguns - ma non mi aveva rapito il cuore. Non posso dire lo stesso per il nuovo Sugar Kisses, che invece - sorpresa sorpresa - mi fa davvero impazzire e si candida seriamente per diventare la mia colonna sonora ufficiale dell'estate. Il guitar pop brillante degli inglesi, pilotato con esuberante sicurezza dalle voci di Wendy Morgan e Kate Mander, non è cambiato, intendiamoci, ma è come se la band avesse mollato improvvisamente gli ormeggi e lasciato scorrere libera un'indole di gioiosa, dinamica e coinvolgente spontaneità che domina tutti i dieci pezzi del disco, nessuno escluso, con una propensione essenziale, diretta e senza fronzoli da esibizione live.  Difficile in effetti restare con i piedi fermi con i sorridenti e super orecchiabili uptempo di A Beaten Up Guitar, A Dream Of Her Own, Fire Away e Finished With The Past, in una infilata di pop songs di intelligente, energetica, sfrontata semplicità. —Just Another Popsong

È davvero una seconda giovinezza, oltre che una seconda vita artistica, quella ritrovata dai Popguns dal loro ritorno sulle scene dopo un’assenza quasi ventennale, coinciso con la pubblicazione di “Pop Fiction” (2014). Da allora, la band di Brighton sta inanellando una costante presenza discografica, fatta di uscite frequenti, che denotano una freschezza rinnovata e un’ispirazione che va affinandosi man mano che i coniugi Simon e Wendy Pickles acquisiscono nuova confidenza con la scrittura di canzoni pop. Ecco dunque, a due anni di distanza dall’ottimo Ep “Still Waiting For The Winter”, le dieci canzoni di “Sugar Kisses”, un assortimento di delizie del più classico indie-pop chitarristico che, come d’abitudine per i Popguns, spaziano da languori jangly a passaggi più vibranti e scatenati. Calato alla perfezione nell’estetica pop, a partire dal titolo, il lavoro mette in circolazione un’equilibrata miscela di energia e dolcezza, declinata in canzoni tutte intorno ai canonici tre minuti e che come tali si candidano a una fruizione disimpegnata e “radiofonica”. Come già nelle due pubblicazioni più recenti, la band si dimostra più efficace negli episodi intrisi di agrodolce malinconia (in particolare “So Long” e “Out On The Highline”), che non in quelli innervati da una più grana elettrica esplicitamente marcata e da ritmiche incalzanti, a tratti caricati di un eccesso d’enfasi in chiave quasi post-punk. Resta comunque, in filigrana a tutto “Sugar Kisses”, la scorrevolezza di una scrittura melodica, ormai ritrovata dai Popguns con una naturalezza da non lasciarsi più sfuggire, ancora tradotta in una mezz’ora di assolata spensieratezza pop, come non mai incurante di elementi in fondo secondari quali tempo ed età. —Music Won’t Save You

Pour ce titre, on va être honnêtes, on l'a reçu avant l'été. Et on a préféré vous le garder bien au chaud pour vous le ressortir quand le temps commencera à devenir pourri. On y est. Ce morceau sobrement intitulé "Baisers sucrés" nous offre une pop rafraîchissante, que l'on savourerait bien, allongé dans un transat au bord de la piscine. Et bien entouré pour les Sugar Kisses, tant qu'à faire! La voix est professionnelle est posée, très juste, avec des envolées dignes de Dido (et ça, on adore!). L'album est disponible depuis le 16 juin dernier, et on vous le recommande. Car si vous en voulez encore, c'est juste ici, en dessous! —Indie Music Center