"Vice Vice Vice" by Bar PandoraReview
In the relatively short period of time (about five weeks) since I reviewed the most recent single release "Look At Me" from Bar Pandora, things have moved on a pace: as was clearly happening at the time of that review.
Firstly I was really pleased to catch them live for the first time (please see my review for 8th of this month) and that evening also evidenced that a nationally known touring act (Roxanne de Bastion) had Bar Pandora sufficiently on their radar to include them on the bill. Beyond that, the music is being picked up even further afield and getting featured on playlists on an international basis.
The eponymous debut EP is due out on 5th July and as another step along the road towards that, today the final anticipatory single "Vice Vice Vice" has been issued.
Showcasing yet another facet of Charlie Tophill's lyrical & musical interests, this one probably sits nearer to the pop end of her personal spectrum and may in fact be the one to entice into her world those for whom the ambiguities & gnomic allusions of the earlier singles were some form of barrier.
That, emphatically is not to suggest that Charlie has lurched towards the mainstream here: far from it. She still seems to be using her cut up technique & dancing gracefully around her subject (which apparently is "..a remonstrance to a neglectful lover..") offering enigmatic clues to understanding it. Adopting on this occasion a rather seraphic performance style (though a rather angsty second vocal line meshes with it towards the end), the protagonist is, it would seem, intent on occupying the higher moral ground & not demeaning herself by losing her cool in public: reproachful yes, abusive no. Educational? Quite possibly.
This cool disdain is reflected in the music which grooves along warmly yet is so full of ever changing detail and structure that after a couple of plays you wonder how on earth they keep the groove going so well with so much shifting & devote the next couple of plays to analysing just that. Or alternatively you could simply play it & enjoy it which is probably a healthier choice. She is self identifying as "alt pop" after all & clearly reveling in it herself (apparently it's one of her own favourites to perform).
It would seem from Charlie's comments ("..It's about that push and pull you feel when you're putting everything into a relationship and still being taken for granted..") that there is a significant element of catharsis for her in singing about it & so it's to her credit that she's gone down this almost counter intuitive route of instead of screaming & raging, keeping her cool & demonstrating maturity and superiority of emotional intelligence: not alas the immediate reaction of most of us, but without doubt a better one in both short & long terms. That Charlie uses the word "..unapologetic.." in relation to the song is significant too I suspect. I don't think what she is saying in the song is ever going to be regretted by her & if whoever it's specifically directed at gets to hear it, I trust they'll take note & set their house into better order. I also applaud the clever use she makes of the double meaning: exposing the transgressive behaviour but also using the metaphor of being clasped woundingly tight.
It also pretty much ensures that building on the attention Bar Pandora is already getting, "Vice Vice Vice" should get her the most airplay of her career to date: if people "get" the words, that presumably is a highly desirable bonus. I suppose at best there is a fine line between "multi-layered" work & "subversive" and possible the latter exists only in any intention of the writer: however I'd like to think I find (and applaud) various degrees of subversion in the output of Bar Pandora.
Oddly enough, once I heard the story of how Charlie had come up with the name for the project, my immediate reaction was to think of another legendary café habituated by the very artistic which also gave its name to a band: Cabaret Voltaire…… maybe just a coincidence so not particularly worth mentioning had it not been for the fact that possibly their biggest single was also a single word triply cited: "Nag Nag Nag": the coincidence is now more striking though I'm at a loss to say exactly what it means (if anything) and although both bands share an interest in electronic music and each uses the titular device to amplify the intensity, the 1979 song is certainly much more abrasive on the surface (though arguably less so if you delve deeper)….. However it's little moments like this which can hint at wider patterns out there.
If like me & a rapidly growing number of other right minded people you'd like to catch Bar Pandora live, you can see them at the Elevate Festival on 16th July at the Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Coventry Haven & raise funds for them and with Batsch at Just Dropped In on 6th August.