archive review – originally posted on the losing today site c.2003 ……
RETROVISION COMA USA
Look I ain’t prepared to argue the point, take it from me, things don’t get any better on a hi-fi than a spot of top of the drawer twang pop blazing out, things get slightly more interesting when you dick about with the chemistry and arm it with sci-fi backdrops stripped from ‘Barbarella’ and then have the nerve to have the whole thing fronted by a girl. Welcome to Brand Violet, a gang of 60’s surf addicts who sure know a thing or two about how to get you ticking and shaking your boots as though bitten by the grooving bug, a laboratory experiment that takes several parts early B-52’s and the Cramps, a smidgeon of Altered Images girly floss (check out the dippy child like naivety of ‘School Disco’), several parts femme fatale Transvision Vamp (especially on the sultry ‘Head’), 60’s Marvel comics, classic ITC retro TV and a whole load of Man or Astro Man and Link Wray, the whole thing supervised by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson had, that is, they swapped puppets for pop.
‘Retrovision Coma USA’ is the quartet’s debut album and follows on from a few well-heeled singles that have recently included the infectious ‘Alien Hive Theme’ (included here). An album that oozes sexual tension, vocalist Sally Anne Marsh prowls throughout one minute purring sensually, the next menacingly vengeful sometimes wide open baring hurt all the time lurking in the shadows the suited and booted zigzagging engine of the band: ‘Cat’ Shatner, ‘Baby’ Igor and ‘Bones’ Jones (obviously secret agent nom de plumes kids). From the outset ‘Retrovision’ locks it ray gun target sights, its great feature is that is doesn’t over elaborate, instead it plays to its strengths by serving up an inviting dish of good wholesome straight forward infectious pop that from the opening b-movie film like credits of the brief ‘Zona di Anima’which manages to conjure images of ‘Earth Vs the Flying Saucers’ or maybe ‘This Island Earth’, Brand Violet don’t hold back with their twisting pop shrill.
By far the albums stand out track is the recent single ‘Alien Hive Theme’ a hip shaking killer of a cut that possesses some of the best surrealist sci-fi pop heard here since the B-52’s ‘Rock Lobster’ and motored by a grinding hot rod dynamic dispersing cutting riffs and twanging menace as though its going out of fashion and capped perfectly by Marsh’s ‘black widow’ like charm while the eerie ‘Voodoo’ clubs you to death with the kind of melodic hook that takes up residency in your waking conscious and redecorates it to its own taste. The feisty rumble pop of ‘Blink’ marries together prime Blondie and classic Pixies to a devastating conclusion, the Blondie fixation deepening on ‘Argyle Gargoyle Grrl’ where things get very ‘Plastic Letters’ in terms of style while in sharp contrast ‘Retrovision Coma USA’ instils a distinct sense of lunatic comic horror appreciation pretty much as though the Munsters had been invited to a pogo party
If it’s something a little more sentimental you want then you couldn’t do better than cast an ear over the goofy 50’s bubblegum pop of ‘They call me a tramp’ which in all honesty takes ‘Beauty School Dropout’ from ‘Grease’ to adult rated extremes keeping you fixed till the end half expecting Frankie Avalon to turn up in the middle in full S and M gear with chains ‘n’ whips. Then there’s always the alluring fix of emotionally torn ‘Soul Patch’ which will lay you to waste. ‘Retrovision Coma USA’ is all at once cute, smart and deadly, dare you succumb?