Head to Brighton and behind the throng of daytrippers and holidaymakers, there’s a melancholic echo of days gone by: Salt air peels paint from houses. End of the pier entertainments, the ghostly voice of the old music hall’s Wurlitzer caught on the breeze. The land’s end, before vertiginous cliffs give way to a sullen sea.
Rose Elinor Dougall, formerly of The Pipettes, is herself a Brightonian and writes songs that capture this sense of small-town dreams and faded seaside glamour. Moving on from bubblegum pop to a self-assured solo project, it isn’t a complete departure, more where the riot of polka dots grows up, and through mascara-stained eyes surveys the mess of the party and tangle of relationships from the night before.
With Dougall and her band the Distractions dressed in black, there’s now a coolly monochrome 50s look and a sound that hovers coyly around the fringes of new wave and independent record labels like Sarah and Heavenly. It’s the kind of English indie-pop - think The Sundays or Cocteau Twins - that used to find its way onto the soundtrack of American brat pack movies, when the doomed romance at the heart of the picture falls apart. It’s there in the gorgeous May Holiday, tentative and wistful with pattering brushed drums, when she sings, “In the future, what we will make of these days of ours”. And on To The Sea, they sound like no-one quite as much as The Smiths, with duelling mandolin and guitar that gallop hand-in-hand towards the cliffs. Morrissey could only hope to write like this again.
There’s an exhilarating take on first single Another Version of Love Song, its giddy fairground-waltzer keyboard reeling with the thrill of funfair rides and a new beau, and next single Start/Stop/Synchro bristles from major to minor like fellow dream-popsters Broadcast. Dougall’s pretty songs swoon with the bittersweet reminiscence of falling in and out of love, breaking hearts and broken hearts. It's a bright new start.
The single ‘Start/Stop/Synchro’ is out on 8th June.