The Pastels

Sittin' Pretty

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Two sides of the same C-86 coin they may be, but throughout their career, the Pastels produced far more interesting sides than sometime Creation labelmates the Jesus & Mary Chain. Consider the latter's Darklands, a watered down version of their landmark debut, whereas the former buckled up for the bumpy ride of Sittin' Pretty, their notably harder-edged sophomore effort. The record successfully marriages the Velvet Underground's signposts to the breakneck speed of the Ramones, with a big wink to the rockabilly assault of the Cramps. Shop Assistant guitarist David Keegan -- Stephen Pastel's co-label owner at 53rd and 3rd and avid Ramones fan -- is along for the ride, and so is Eugene Kelly, most likely returning the favor of Pastel producing the Vaselines' debut EP. Sittin' Pretty couldn't be mistaken for twee or fey, as the album's original A-side consists of mostly prime garage rockers like "Holy Moly" and "Sit on It Mother." The second half of the record revisits "Baby Honey" territory with the hilarious, but nonetheless menacing "Ditch the Fool." However, the real winner is the album's single that never was: the brilliantly laconic "Nothing to Be Done," with its starring role for sometime Shop Assistants keyboardist Annabel "Aggi" Wright. Possibly taking the blueprint from Frances McKee's deliciously off-key duets with Vaselines' partner Eugene Kelly, this is a nearly forgotten classic of bruised romanticism. In 1997 it was retrieved for the soundtrack to Acid House, residing in the company of fellow Scotsmen Primal Scream, Arab Strap, and Belle & Sebastian. Curiously enough, after the noisy Sittin' Pretty the Pastels would develop their sound towards a subdued version of a band they partly influenced: kings of shambling U.S. style Pavement. Viewed in this light, a second singles collection entitled Truckload of Trouble: 1986-1993 could equally pass for a transitional record. The Pastels admit to as much in the accompanying liner notes, stating it should be listened to as an album in its own right: a documentation of a period through which they kept their own stylistic pace, on the way to the "comeback" of 1995's Mobile Safari. However critically acclaimed by the music press, their newfound sound would go at the expense of their urgent melodies. By continuing to distance themselves from the so-called shambling movement, they also passed this particular hatchet on to Pavement, who became renowned for shambling 2.0, aka the '90s lo-fi movement.

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