Helen Love - Smash Hits - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Helen Love - Smash Hits

by Jeff Penczak Rating:10 Release Date:2016-05-20

Although every Helen Love album could legitimately be called Smash Hits (the Welsh songstress and her eponymous band are that good), the latest salvo lives up to its billing with a dozen should-be chart busters, from the opening (probably historically inaccurate but a hootenanny-and-a-half nonetheless and a wonderful Ramones - and Chic – tribute!) ‘The First Welsh Girl In New York City’ through the fist-pumping ‘Spaceboy!’ and the self-referential ‘Yes We’re In A Band That We Love’.

As usual, there are in-jokes and puns galore and a litany of namechecking of her fave bands and artists, such as ‘Thank You Poly Styrene’ [a tribute to the late X-Ray Spex vocalist who succumbed to breast cancer five years ago], ‘You Can’t Beat A Boy Who Loves The Ramones’ (arguably Love’s favourite band ever, and as a side note, I’m listening to and reviewing this on Joey Ramone’s birthday, something Love will no doubt find wonderfully synchronistic!), ‘Long Live The Modern Lovers’, and the wonderfully esoteric yé-yé-cum-disco diva, ‘Sheila B. Devotion’! [In what is surely a surreal coincidence, they also pay tribute to that other lettered Sheila (E) with an uptempo stomp through the Prince protégé’s ‘The Belle of St. Mark’.

Helen Love (the band) have always had a perky backbeat to all their catchy tunes, not unlike a brashy, poppier Denim (I’m actually shocked she/they haven’t paid musical tribute to Lawrence’s glammy Felt follow-up...yet, although closer ‘Stardust and Glitter’ is a potential nod in that direction), and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the nearly 25 years since they started who capture the zeitgeist of the Ramones’ bubblegum punk with a Buzzcockian sense of power pop (check out ‘This Is No Hit Radio’).

Like Nick Lowe at his precocious best, each song is a treasure trove of inside cross-references that drop song titles, band names, and musical genres into a dizzying array of pop, punk, electronic and New Wave disco, for an all out pogo-riffic good time. (One example of many: the refrain to ‘Thank You Poly Styrene’ encourages all comers to “Let’s turn day-glo” and admits “We were germ free adolescents”, references to the X-Ray Spex classic ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’ and their debut album, Germ Free Adolescents!)

Seven albums and over two dozen singles and EPs later, Helen Love are still creating the most exciting, uplifting, just-plain-happy music on the planet. I LOVE ‘em, and you will too. They’re playing in Newport on 3 June. Don’t miss ‘em!

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