If you are a fan of the 1963 British comic strip ‘Modesty Blaise’ featuring a fictional character of the same name or the subsequent movie, about an exceptional young woman with many talents and a criminal past, you would already suspect that a band by this name would present some fashionable European retro flair. And you would be right.
Avant indiepop outfit Modesty Blaise is exactly that – both in music and style, the Bristol indiepop stalwarts are back after a hiatus of 20+ years and, with them in hand is their long-awaited third album ‘The Modesty Blaise’. Set to release via German label From Lo-Fi to Disco!, this baroque pop collection is the band’s first long-player since their head-turning ‘Melancholia’ LP in 2001 (featured hit single ‘Carol Mountain’).
“When everyone else was in their bedrooms working on guitar solos and dreaming of being a rock god, I was reading biographies of Cole Porter and listening to Gershwin and Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin. I try to write concise things, with deliberate moves away from that where necessary,” says frontman and songwriter Jonny Collins.
Earlier, the band previewed several album tracks, including the latest ‘Come Lie Beside Me’, lead single ‘Girls Just Wanna Dance’ (a perfect orchestral pop song and live favourite singalong that is more Music Hall than Dance Hall), ‘Sad Songs’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Natalie Vendredi’ (with its endearing nouvelle vague video).
Modesty Blaise have been around for a few decades in various guises. After forming in 1993, the band quickly recorded their debut single ‘Christina Terrace’with the esteemed Edwyn Collins at the helm, garnering them immediate success with a live appearance on ITV and inclusion among many many end-of-year top music rankings. This acclaim however was not enough to quell the kind of internecine warfare that Modesty Blaise have become famous for.
After ‘Melancholia’, the band faced one delay after another with line-up changes and deteriorating personal circumstances. An all-too-familiar spiral, the years went by slowly but, no matter how bad it got, Jonny still had his guitars in his mum’s attic.
“Melody, arrangement and counter melodies… The 3 minute pop single is, I’d contest, the summit of great art. It is timeless, and we consistently get it wrong confusing art with commerce. If your art (or your pop record) sounds like today, it may sound like yesterday pretty soon. Pop iconoclasm,” says Jonny Collins.
Oher Modesty Blaise career highlights include supporting Robbie Williams at London’s O2 Arena, inclusion in a Rough Trade compilation, an ITV company documentary on Jonny Collins, and a BBC Radio session involving seventeen people.
As of March 26, ‘The Modesty Blaise’ LP will be available digitally everywhere, including Spotify, Apple Musicand Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=modesty+blaise+vinyl&ref=nb_sb_noss . In the UK, it can be ordered from Rough Tradein the UK at https://www.roughtrade.com/gb/the-modesty-blaise/the-modesty-blaise, hhv in Germany, Disk Unionin Japan and via the label itself.
Jonny Collins – vocals
David W Brown – bass
Gregory Jones – guitars
Mark Bradley – drums
Alastair Jenkins – guitars
Roger MacDuff – violins
Jörn Elling Wuttke – mixing at Klangfabrik Frankfurt
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