Helen Love - Gabba Gabba We Accept You
Helen Love dwell in a world of perpetual summer, a teen Eden habituated by bubblegum chewing pop kids forever tuned to the MC5 on brightly coloured plastic radios. Their moral code is simple: "love; kiss; run; sing; shout; jump!" Bestriding this innocent paradise like a Levi-clad Colossus is benevolent god Joey Ramone - a deity worshipped with fan club zeal. One day, in the distant future, archaeologists seeking evidence of this lost world will comb a beach somewhere in the vicinity of Swansea Bay searching for its artefacts: huggy bear tee-shirts, laser guns and, if they're really lucky, a scratched copy of Does your Heart go Boom.
You don't have to be an intellectual to work out the Helen Love philosophy. A cursory glance at their record sleeves - dayglo collages of 70s Top of the Pops albums, Jamie Reid style cut-up headlines and Roy Lichtenstein pop art messages - reveals a preference for lo-fidelity musical values and a d-i-y punk/pop aesthetic.
Helen Love exult in the very
notion of being pop stars, after all it is the apotheosis of
"From Swansea Bay to the USA, Yeah, yeah we're Helen Love!" they joyfully shout. Evidentally thrilled at being qustioned by one radio station in New York, they sample the resulting interview on record. You see, Helen Love are happy to wear their gaucheness on their sleeves. They believe in pop with the same innocent perfervidity that some people believe soap opera characters are real. We Love You they proclaim, a sentiment as far removed from the cynicism of Manic Street Preachers' You Love Us, as you could get. And they mean it too, for them being a fan is as important a part of the pop equation as being a performer.
Which brings us to their enduring love affair with The Ramones, emperors of three chord melodic punk and Helen Love's entire raison d'etre. It was Joey himself (now sadly deceased) who invited the band over to play in New York, reputedly their first ever gig. Radio Hits, their debut (compilation) album, even bears his written endorsement. Frankly it was the least he could do as almost every song on the record contains some paean to his work. The mutual appreciation was cemented when Joey and Helen dueted on Punk Boy the highlight of Helen Love's brilliant Love and Glitter, Hot Days and Music album.
Cartoon innocents they may be but these popsters are not without political or critical bite. Their very first vinyl utterance on the seminal Formula One Racing Girls (long before the lamentable Spice Girls turned the term into a vacuous catch-phrase) was: "Girl power, girl power". A later single Long Live the UK Music Scene was a heavily ironic attack on the moribund state of the British record industry and mainstream radio in particular. Woe betide anyone that fails to live up to their pop ideal - Chris Evans, Kula Shaker, Longpigs, Bush and The Bluetones have all been comically 'dissed' on record.
After the recent tragic death of Joey Ramone where now for a band whose entire existence is a musical reference to the great man's punk oeuvre? My guess is they'll carry on making brilliant pop records until the world catches up with them and their summery optimism. Let's hope the world hurries up and gets its arse in gear - there are some poor unfortunates out there who've never even heard: Shifty Disco Girl, Atomic Beat Boy or Big Pink Candyfloss Haircut. Hey ho, let's go.
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