IMAGINE a slow song
that opens with a soothing synthesizer backing, a strumming guitar,
then adds a girl's voice of impressive purity and melodic sentiments
of gentle celebration, and snap on a label for 1983. Then prepare to
think again. Even it the first of these songs, "Waiting For Us".
does tend towards the pastoral, there's at least a council estate at
the back of the fields, and by the end of side two the feeling's definitely
One of the strengths of this LP, in fact, is its unpredictability: though
the same personality is apparent throughout, it covers a range of moods.
Taking the increasingly popular and very useful format of the "mini-LP
, this collection of eight tracks, the first release from Shiny Two
Shiny, is of necessity something of a showcase, and the opportunity
has been grasped with a vengeance.
Though the work of only two musicians. Robin Surtees and Flo Sullivan,
there's no sense of limitations. Neither a synth group, nor a guitar
group, though both instruments are used. they simply make the most of
everything that's available: electric and acoustic guitars, synthesizers,
drum machine, organ, tambourine and other percussion, and two voices.
Yet their enthusiasm is tempered by precision. and if the resulting
sounds are more complex than the kind of arrangements you would expect
from a duo, it's always for a particular effect.
Sometimes the songs can be overwhelming or confusing (particularly on
the darker second side), but always on purpose. Other songs (on side
one) are structured to give an illusion of simplicity, with Flo's double-tracked
vocals, clear and compelling, dominating the supporting layers of sound.
The two sides of the record, in fact, are as distinct as they're distinctive.
Side one has the more personal songs. giving a pensive air with an introspective
tone that's almost old-fashioned under the modern technology. Depending
strongly on Flo's voice, it's very attractive, but never bland.
Even here there are slightly disturbing moments (in 'Through The Glass",
for example, which has a synthesizer riff that's positively sleazy).
The only really relaxed song is the only non-original, “The Boy
From Ipanema". well suited to Flo's swooping voice.
Side two is less comfortable, though strangely enough also less individual.
The synthesizers, for example, are used in a more conventional way,
from the spacey sound effects of "Susquehanna" to "Concentration"
which evokes early Dalek I in places. "Wake" and "Grey"
are more effective, their harsh and desperate music matching the observations
of futility and loneliness.
Obviously the record reaches no conclusions about an ultimate Shiny
Two Shiny sound, yet (perhaps because of previous work together) they
already have more individuality then other groups of longer standing
and this lack of restriction is a part of that. What distinguishes them
- apart from the obvious strength of Flo's outstanding voice - is their
thoughtful adventurousness. This record shows them both experimenting
with and displaying their possibilities, and proves them ready to make
SHINY TWO SHINY
are a young Liverpool duo: Flo Sullivan (vocals, synths) and Robin Surtees
(guitars, bass), both of whom used to be part of the irritatingly pompous
A Formal Sigh, so it came as a pleasant surprise to find them turning
out a promising debut.
The eight tracks on this mini LP catch them at an intriguing formative
period. Some ideas work, many don't, but there's always something different
happening which makes for challenging listening.
The sound is very much in the sensitive mould of the influential Young
Marble Giants, but whereas their work always seemed rather restricted
and ultimately empty, this record is colourful, sometimes sombre, sometimes
gay, but never dull. Mood and atmosphere shift dramatically, the instrumental
tinkerings providing a superb foil for Flo's soothing vocal nuances.
Side one is the more straightforward, containing four conventional pop
songs. including a wonderfully fresh version of the Astrid Gilberto
classic 'The Boy From Ipanema' (recently covered by Antena, to whom
the duo bear some little resemblance), though the deliciously sensuous
opener 'Waiting For Us' shows their own songwriting ability at its best:
cool, very sophisticated, but always something more than the easy listening
crooning which has been so plentiful of late. The second side is more
experimental, less satisfying, but a creditable failure nonetheless.