Fascinations Grand Chorus - Anglesea EP - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Fascinations Grand Chorus - Anglesea EP

by Mark Moody Rating:10 Release Date:2017-12-08
Fascinations Grand Chorus - Anglesea EP
Fascinations Grand Chorus - Anglesea EP

Legend has it that the first song attributed to rock n’ roll was played in the Wildwoods, New Jersey, on Memorial Day weekend of 1954.   Country music singer Bill Haley & His Comets debuted ‘Rock Around the Clock’ at the HofBrau Hotel at the corner of Oak and Atlantic Avenues in this seaside town and the rest as they say is history.  The New York duo of Stephanie Cupo and Andrew Pierce, operating as Fascinations Grand Chorus, were just sparkles in their respective grandparents’ eyes back then.  Described as rival songwriters (what is this West Side Story?), the two have set their differences aside for the moment and joined forces for the good of humanity.   On their latest and lengthiest release to date, the five song Anglesea EP, they long for the simpler times of the Wildwoods’ heyday.  Having already appeared live on the boardwalk there themselves, though the town’s star may have faded, these two have put together a miraculous throwback set of songs to rival anything this brilliantly girl-group retro since Blondie’s debut in the mid-70s.

Perhaps Cupo doesn’t have Deborah Harry’s sneer, but she exudes confidence and their doo-wop stylings with a heady mix of garage-y keyboards and drums recall several songs from when Harry burst on the scene.  As Blondie did so well when they debuted, Fascinations Grand Chorus recall vocal groups like upstate New Jersey’s The Shirelles and on the opening notes of the EP you are brought back to visions of go-go dresses, shaking tambourines and bouffant hair-dos.  Cupo goes it alone vocally, belying the Chorus of the duo’s name, but she and Pierce still manage to create a full sound on par with what Phil Spector was doing with other groups of the day.

The album opens with the infectious ‘When You’re Mine’ - keyboard phasers are set to ‘Stun’ and they build and decay on overdrive throughout the song.  Pierce’s drums roll and crash as Cupo earnestly coos about the relationship she just has to have - “when you’re mine you won’t be in the dark, not when you’re mine”.  It’s four minutes of pop perfection and resistance is futile.  The other full out rollicking song ‘Wait’ spells out what happens when whoever she had to have no longer wants to be the object of her affection as she implores “why are you leaving, I don’t know”.  The rattle of a tambourine and a repetitive surf guitar riff add to the flavoring on this track.  

Summer relationships may come and go quickly and times change, but the Wildwoods remain in some form as the balance of the EP more directly addresses the theme.  The beautifully nostalgic centerpiece of ‘Sundown’ describes the fading of the day, of a relationship and of the town itself.  A cool trick as the lyrics of “sundown now we’re older, you’re just the same only colder” and “faded out, now it’s over” refers to much and the final call of “gentle as a tidal wave” lures you into thinking major upheaval is a painless thing.  The vaguely ‘Blue Moon’-ish melody and expertly struck cymbals throughout set a perfect mood.  The brooding thrum of ‘Anglesea’ sets the stage as the lights go out around the island whether that is for the night or as businesses permanently shutter.  But matters turn darker still on the siren song of ‘Hereford Inlet’ as geographically things move North to the tip of the island and Cupo's stalker tendencies from the opening track return.  Her chunky haunted house keyboard chords and promise of “I will be waiting” are more of a threat than a promise.  

Fascinations Grand Chorus have put out some deliciously retro tracks over the past few years, but their tribute to a forgotten beachfront musical Mecca is undoubtedly their high water mark to date.  Whether they could pull this off over the course of a full album remains to be seen, but for five tracks they have achieved nostalgic perfection of a sound and a place.  Maybe styles fall out of favor from time to time but this duo’s insistence on using analog instruments to recreate the authentic sound of an earlier era bring it all rushing gloriously back.  Hopefully Cupo and Pierce have bigger plans in store, but if it’s another forty years until the next group resurrects this sound we have this and recorded history to hold us over in the meantime. 

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