She* disses other girls, is a greedy bisexual, and probably fucked your boyfriend. Just a few of the reasons why we love KATE JACKSON from the Long Blondes.

Beret
Fan art of Kate Jackson
By Sarah Thompson, age 14.


“Kate Jackson strikes me as the kind of girl you don't want to be friends with. All the songs are about cheating/being cheated on/attempting to lure away other girls' boys. Hussy!”

Livejournal comment, 28/10/06

Indie boy on the sofa. Long Blondes on the stereo.
“I can see why you like her”.
Long neck wispy scarf flicky eyes

“What are you saying? I don’t only like them because she’s hot-”
Beret belly black stilettoes
“I’m not going to deny that she’s attractive. But I’d never listen to a band just because the singer was hot! I mean, it’s a bonus, of course - but I really really like the tunes. They sound like early Elastica. I really like those Wire-esque guitars."
"Rrrrrright."

 


 
 

interpretation vs authenticity

So. First things first. In this article I will be talking about “Kate Jackson”, the persona conveyed through songs of The Long Blondes. I have no knowledge of Kate Jackson the individual, who worked in a second-hand shop in Sheffield, and sold vintage clothes on Ebay, and is in a band that has recently signed to Rough Trade and has just released their first album. The Long Blondes’ attitude towards their lyrics - mainly written by guitarist Dorian (a boy) - is one of interpretation and performance rather than ‘authenticity’, as described in a recent interview in Plan B magazine:

“It all stems from Motown and the Sixties writers that wrote for singers like Dusty Springfield and Scott Walker. The reason they were such great singers was because they could interpret other people’s lyrics and make them their own. They took a step back from that earnest Lennon and McCartney approach: ‘we write and sing all our own lyrics.’ So what? That’s just a means to an end.”

So, if that's what the Long Blondes want, then that's what they're going to get. If “Kate Jackson” the character is singing a love song to a girl, then for the purposes of this essay, “Kate Jackson” is a bit of a lesbian sometimes. If “Kate Jackson” the character is proffering herself to a wavering, potentially unfaithful suitor in a song, then for the purposes of this piece, “Kate Jackson” is a vamp. Death of the author and all that, right? All we have is the text. Onwards!


moral ambivalence

As the indie boy inadvertently pointed out, musically The Long Blondes are doing nothing particularly new. They’re working within a well-established tradition of stop-starty Wire-esque guitars, obscure-ish pop cultural references, and spoken word interludes in regionally accented English. They recall early 80s girl-pop: a friend thought I was listening to the Au Pairs when I played them this morning.

They’re produced by Steve Mackey of Pulp, and comparisons to said band have been frequent - and somewhat flattering. But there is one way in which they are reminiscent of Sheffield’s finest, and it’s this that lifts them far above their contemporaries: the intoxicating combination of a charismatic front-person, and songs shot through with moral ambivalence.


 

sleaze and murk

Remember the sleaze and murk of the world invoked by Pulp lyrics - a world where Jarvis had been sleeping with your wife for the past 16 weeks, smoking your cigarettes, drinking your brandy? A world where Jarvis would fuck a girl when her fiance was out of town just for the sadistic thrill of it (‘I only come here ‘cause I know it makes you sad / I only do it ‘cause I know you know it’s bad’)? A world where sex was never simply sex: it was revenge, loathing, disdain, a way to connect with or punish someone other than the sex partner?

The narrator of these songs inhabits the same realm, and I’m not just talking about Sheffield. The band are further distinguished by the fact that their lyrics aren’t eviscerating the exhausted psycho-sexual dynamic of the male side of romantic love. Unlike the narratives of their contemporaries (Franz Ferdinand et al), the Long Blondes’ lyrics traverse the underexplored terrain of the female experience with discomfiting honesty.

*N.B. We realise that most of the lyrics are written by the guy. We are analysing the persona of Kate as presented / performed in these songs, the way one might analyse the actions of a female character in literature, regardless of the gender of the author. 'Once and Never Again' would indeed be a different song if it were performed by a male, and we would draw a different analysis from it - but it is not: and so we take it as a tale told by a female narrator, and analyse it as such.

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