They say you can’t keep a good thing down and it is certainly true in the case of UK outfit, Modesty Blaise, despite their own self-destructive tendencies. Emerging from a 20-year hiatus the Bristol hailing band has just released their third album, The Modesty Blaise, and a collection of songs which show just how much the indie pop scene has been missing out all these years.
Formed in late 1993/early 1994 Modesty Blaise soon hit the spot and acclaim with debut single Christina Terrace, a song recorded with Edwyn Collins producing. Already though internal conflicts disrupted the band and were to continue throughout its first coming. Released six months later, the band’s second single saw a new line-up in place something which continued to change and be tempestuous as they released a host of well-received singles and the Modern Guitars with Amplification album. A Beginner’s Guide to Modesty Blaise, a compilation of early singles and remixes was released in 1999 by Apricot Records before, whilst the band managed to find a temporarily stable line-up, the award-winning album Melancholia was unveiled the following year. Its successor was started but derailed by those persistent inner struggles, slowly edging forward until now with the band back from its hiatus with a third full-length complete.
It has been a long and maybe never expected to be realised wait for their fans but The Modesty Blaise swiftly proves their patience and that of original members, vocalist/songwriter Jonny Collins and bassist David W Brown and their determination has been very worthy; the proof coming swiftly with opener I Love You. With its line-up completed by long time guitarist Gregory Jones, drummer Mark Bradley, guitarist Alastair Jenkins and violinist Roger MacDuff, Modesty Blaise almost tease attention with the song’s unassuming opening lure, quickly bursting into the kind of pop saunter they have proven so adept and mischievous with. Calm jangles and eager rhythms collude as boisterous melodies and a just as keen catchiness take ears and feet on an infectious jaunt.
Calling their sound indie pop is never quite telling the whole story though it fits The Farmer’s Boys meets Divine Comedy esque opener and the following Catwalk Queens quite nicely, though to be fair the second track with its baroque lures and orchestral chimes already hints at the varied ingredients making up the whole release. As its predecessor, there is an inescapable catchiness which commands voice and feet while the imagination is stoked by the increasing kaleidoscope of favours making up its compelling character.
Come Lie Beside Me follows and immediately wraps warm melodic coaxing around ears as Collin’s again stroke the senses with vocals and words. It is a croon that commanded engagement with its charm and sentiment while next up Sad Songs worked the same seduction with richer and more melancholic prowess. A southern twang and folkish intimation add to one of the album’s highest points, one matched by the sheer pop dexterity of Girls Just Wanna Dance. With jazz fired brass and a swing that like a puppeteer manipulated limbs and vocal chords, the track is pure joy for a welcome summer, a touch of devilment with a touch of The Higsons to it completing the captivation.
Though for personal tastes Rollerdisco did not evoke the same level of ardour, the track had us bouncing and is sure to richly satisfy any passions for eighties disco before Out Tonight sparked the imagination with its vocal animation and tidal handclaps across an infection loaded jangle. It too made swift and easy work of manoeuvring the body to do its bidding and appetite to devour its curlicued enterprise.
The le Midi climate of Natalie Vendredi proved as seductive as the song’s gentle contagion next, it another companion for a warm romantic summer with Oh! Redmond taking ears down its own Avant adventure of intimation and revelry as punk and indie rock collude in a frenetic and agitated stroll soaked in contagion. The track is superbly capricious and expectation escaping though not quite as unpredictable as the album’s closing pair of offerings.
Pink Champagne on Mars (Return of the Uranium Girl) is a flight through a cosmic kaleidoscope, courting the imagination like a scene from Barbarella within a lively sixties pop, brass fired cosmopolitan serenade while And The Lights Went Out All Over Town with a similar spatial view, is an end of the world vision as apt for the now as the future and comes with a glorious XTC meets Young Knives breath to its striking and fascinating reflection.
It is one truly outstanding end to one richly enjoyable encounter, an album that has become more compelling and addictive by the listen. Modesty Blaise are back bolder and more tantalising than ever; hopefully peace within will prevail so our ears can continue to feast.
The Modesty Blaise is out now via From Lo-Fi to Disco!; available @ https://modestyblaiseuk.bandcamp.com/album/the-modesty-blaise
Pete RingMaster 15/07/2021
Copyright RingMaster Review