Chew Lips, ‘Unicorn’ – First Listen

When I first heard about this nifty little trio I must admit my eyes glazed over a little. Lady vocal-led electronic pop from London, how original eh?

BUT, we hadn’t bargained on the music sounding as gorgeous as debut single ‘Solo’ or ‘Salt Air’ – which boasted a Man vs Magnet-directed promo that went on to become a number 1 most-watched video on Youtube.

Weirdly, neither of these swoonsome ditties are featured on the band’s hugely anticipated debut album (due out January 25th, 2010), the title of which can now exclusively reveal to be ‘Unicorn’.

But that just shows how bloody awesome Chew Lips’ first offering is; as knockout tunes abound, no need whatsoever for the two singles we know and already love. Now that’s confidence.

Eerie doom-laden bashes and crashes and melancholy synths simmer as this track bubbles gradually into life, with Tigs’ soaring, yet understated vocal hinting at the depth to come from ‘Unicorn’.

This is electro pop, sure, but with feelings. It all goes a bit Alanis Morrissette’s ‘Ironic’ for a bit as the frontwoman sings about a “high-speed chase on your wedding day” but then squelches, strange samples and minimal beats kick in and we forget all about the lyrical similarities to that horse-faced hippy from the 90s. Phew!

‘Gold Key’
Beats pulse and creepy electronics provide a backing as Tigs croons “oh oh your hands were tied…oh oh we’re playing with guns” – this is a menacing addition to the album, the likes of which we were not expecting from the cherubic looking Chew Lips.

It’s at this point that you start to realise beneath the band’s sweet sound lies a whole world of darkness, and then the big bassline kicks in and a guitar squeals out a screeching solo and we’re literally huddled, shaking, sweat-dripping, behind the sofa in fear.

‘Unicorn’’s first poppy, upbeat, guitar-led number, ‘Karen’ is an intricately arranged and ever-so-scratchy sounding standout that will stick in your head forever. Plus the girl Tigs can sing and on this one she lets rip to spellbinding effect. Now I don’t know who the hell this ‘Karen’ is but my god I’m considering changing my name just so the song can be about me. Goosebump city!

‘Piano Song’
What sounds like a gale-force wind blows strong as a tinkling piano guides Tigs through her saddest melody to date. Recalling the eccentricity of Kate Bush and the rip-your-heart-out emotion of Karen Carpenter, ‘Piano Song’ starts off stark but is soon enveloped by a whole host of sonic oddities. Another stunner.

‘Play Together’
Our tearducts are given a bit of a break as ‘Play Together’ does what it says on the tin and makes you want to cavort and leap around the room a bit. All cheeky synths, relentless bass and dirgey electronics, the smart sonic layering ensures the more technical muso types will be pouring over the mechanics of this track trying to figure out exactly what makes it tick.

Probably the most straight-forward electro pop number on ‘Unicorn’, ‘Seven’ is all 80s sheen and boasts a huge whooshing chorus. The clever instrumentation and strange little sounds that pop out sporadically throughout ensure you hear different things each time you pop it on, and when it fades out you can’t believe it’s all over so soon and will let out a little wail. Quite possibly…

The most interesting thing about ‘Unicorn’ and what makes it stand head and shoulders above most other electro pop records is the way it mixes mind-melting musical expertise and experimentation with infectious melodies and extreme longing. It’s perhaps highlighted most clearly on ‘Slick’ which features gorgeous harmonies and a verse that creeps, ever so stealthily, into your consciousness from first listen.

‘Too Much Talking’
Can you hear that? It’s like a gazillion telephones buzzing under the sea, signalling the start of ‘Too Much Talking’. This is another sad one, and it’s so stripped down it allows Tigs to pour her heart out vocally with warm electronics soon surrounding to mesmerising effect as she sings about “the comfort of an all-time lover”. Snug.

It’s hot-o-clock as an elastic bassline judders and ‘Toro’ finds the band dealing in, well, kind of sexy stuff. Playful melodies abound as Tigs sings of “filthy minds” and “electricity” – “it’s you I want” she croons, all sultry-like, over and over again. That’s us told then.

‘Two Hands’
Bizarre electronic bits and bobs close proceedings, fluttering around this subtle little ditty.

And then it’s right back to the start for another spin. We’ve been stuck in this delicious, and kind of delirious, Chew Lips circle for weeks now because in a track-heavy music scene, with new songs flung at us almost daily, the threesome have created an utterly peerless work; ten tracks to completely lose yourself in. Rare thing indeed.