The UK town of Sheffield has given the world more than its fair share of top-flight musicians. Among the many to emerge from the region over the past 30 years include Paul Carrack, ABC, and Heaven 17. And I hear elements of all these great artists in Standard Fare’s debut, The Noyelle Beat. But there is much more to the trio of Andy Bez (drums), Emma Kupa (bass, vocals), and Danny How (guitar, vocals) than simply regional influences.
Standard Fare are all about the eternal angst of teen love. Emma Kupa’s vocals soar throughout the album’s opening song, “Love Doesn’t Just Stop.” Her magnificent pathos rival those of Martin Fry, on ABC’s “The Look Of Love.” Danny How’s background vocals complete the picture. The way he chimes in on the chorus takes me back to such glorious pop moments as “Starry Night,” by The Records.
The very next track, “Nuit Avec Une Amie,” turns the tables, with Danny taking the lead and Emma backing him up. It is another winner, with a structure reminiscent of “We Could Send Letters,“ from Aztec Camera. While Standard Fare’s emotional anguish is not quite as deep as Roddy Frame’s was, it is a strong contender.
From what I have read in the Brit presses, “Philadelphia” is the song that has garnered the most attention initially. But any tune that begins with a line like, “Global warming is getting me down,” scares me. Fortunately, Ms. Kupa redeems herself by revealing that it is a metaphor for missing someone who is an ocean away. What really makes the song work though is the tasteful guitar of Danny How.
Another attention grabber is “Fifteen,” in which 22-year-old cougar-in-training Emma Kupa declares her passion for a boy of 15. It’s such a jaunty, politically-incorrect song, you just have to love it. “Wow” is the title of the final track, and may say more about the band than any of the rest. I hear so much of what Beat Happening were doing in Olympia years ago in this song, it is uncanny.
There is a line of pop music that runs parallel to all of the “eras” in rock. You can trace it back to The Everly Brothers if you like, and probably before. The Beatles were certainly aware of it, as were Big Star. Even Kurt Cobain understood the beauty of innocent charm. The Noyelle Beat will probably not shift the musical landscape as we know it today. But it is as enjoyable a record as I have come across so far this year, and well worth checking out.