Wipe Off The Dust: "We Were Dreamers...For Awhile", Say The Belle Stars

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Artists with one and only one album intrigue me to no end. So many questions swim around...what happened? Who pissed someone off? Did they get writer's block? Did someone forget to pay the check? What is the deal? The Belle Stars are one of the bevy of "one album wonder" artists that I have in my collection and with an album that feels like uncorking a party in a bottle, it's a slight side-eye as to why they didn't stick around in the spotlight for awhile.

The Belle Stars feel right off the bat as the British answer to The Go-Go's, with the added quirkness unison vocal stylings of Bananarama. I also feel they're more like a female Madness specifically with the strong Ska backbone that they possess. Well, enough of the comparisons, you get the gist. The Belle Stars are what the British New Wave movement of the early 80's to mid-80's was all about---sterile soul, with thumping basslines, pop undertones, and snarky word play. So if you feel for that movement as I do, then the Belles are right up your alley.

Saying their 1983 self-titled album is "just fun" is just lacking in your vocabulary. In the vein of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, The Belle Stars debut is an album that doesn't aim for being a serious game changer, it just sets out to be flat-out entertaining. It's not the most original of albums, as The Belles are known for being cover queens, yet you'll find yourself singing like a moron to their version of "The Clapping Song" all the same.

The Belles actually do best when they do their own stuff. A eager jangle of a guitar brilliantly opens up the funky "Sign Of The Times", their signature hit. It really gets the job done with some fat saxophones and infectious lyrics.  



Following in the same vein is the equally catchy, "Ci Ya Ya" (which predates the 90's club scene in some weird way with the rushing piano) and an alluring haunt of a song that sounds very Duran Duran, called "The Reason". Personally, "Indian Summer" shows that they aren't always about novelty covers, with it's serene and silky soul delivery. Oddly, I get some Sade vibes from this, yet less stylish, but with the same substance. It's some tropical smoothie R&B-Jazz that is worth hearing.



Belles take songs like Al Wilson's "The Snake" and Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" (which the Rolling Stones made a notable cover of on their classic Sticky Fingers album) and paints them over with a grunge sheen. Actually I thank them for making me like "Mockingbird", a song that I particularly didn't care for no never mind that Carly Simon and James Taylor popularized it.

The Belle Stars version of "Iko Iko" brought them sort of back in the spotlight when it was featured in the 1988 Dustin Hoffman film, Rain Man. Why they would get famous for one of the most annoying songs ever is beyond me, but it surprisingly, reached #13 here in the States. The song continued to rear it's head again as the song was also featured in 2009's The Hangover. How odd....



While their debut is the Belles only full-length album as a full sextet, the Belles periodically released singles through the duration of the 80's. Songs like "World Domination" and "80's Romance" found their way on some lengthy compilations that were later released to cover not only this album, but all of the Belle Stars works...and believe me, it's a ton o' stuff.

Not for the high-brow at heart as some will find something negative about all the perkiness going around, but for me, this is the type of pop that doesn't make your IQ levels sink down. No doubt later British ladies acts like The Spice Girls and Betty Boo had to have been influenced by what The Belle Stars achieved during their short time in the spotlight. It's all kinds of obvious.

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