London based indie folk pairing, Peggy Sue formed in the summer of 2008 and soon started to gain real traction, thanks to prominent support slots with the likes of Jack White, Kate Nash and Mumford & Sons. Initially signed to essential label Wichita, for the release of their first two albums Fossils and Other Phantoms and Acrobats, Katy Young and Rosa Slade who share vocals and guitar duties built a sizable following, which meant that third LP Choir Of Echoes caused quite a stir and received widespread critical acclaim when it dropped at the start of 2014.
However, both were feeling the strain of being a band since their teenage years and felt they needed a break before progressing, which has now lasted four years; a long wait for their fans. Thankfully, Peggy Sue are back with their brand-new record Vices which Slade describe as, “an album that bookmarks an incredible period of time,” that was crafted over multiple sessions in Berlin and their London hometown, which saw them write and record ten tracks that explore garage rock, ‘90s alt rock and ‘60s sensibilities.
“Lots of songs on the record are sort of messed-up love songs for things that feel good, but aren’t necessarily good for you – like getting staying out too late, or taking too much comfort from certain people,” Young explains. “That kind of interplay between the positive and the negative has always been in Peggy Sue songs, but it’s particularly true of this album. It’s about the things you do to lift you up when you’re down, or distract you when you’re sad, that can end up circling back.”
“Lots of songs on the record are sort of messed-up love songs for things that feel good, but aren’t necessarily good for you.”
Vices kicks off with ‘I Wanna Be Your Girl’ on which the guitars gently growl as Slade and Young purr with such relaxed self-assurance that makes it hard to believe that the pair have been away for so long. ‘In Dreams’ has the sort of melancholic ‘60s surf vibes that always feel timeless and powerful third song ‘Vices’ is suitably anthemic to be the title track and really shows off their beautiful vocal harmonies.
Lead single ‘Motorcade’ is Young’s breath of air following a difficult breakup; “it was probably the first moment that I was ready to be a bit mean and honest about it all. When we started arranging the song with the band it just kept getting louder and faster and more powerful, now it’s this burst of energy that we’re terrified of playing live but always love every second of.” The sense of relief following the tense intro is palpable, as they really let rip with the most impassioned singing on the LP and furious guitars.
“’Motorcade’ is about recognising the difference between what you need and what you want and asking for it as fast and loud as you like.”
The album takes a slightly unexpected, yet certainly not unwelcome, turn down a different avenue with ‘Souvenirs’ and ‘Better Days’ as both present a chic avant-pop feel, albeit still very much rooted in the Sixties revivalist sound that largely characterises the record. The pair get a bit more punchy on ‘Validate Me’, but the song doesn’t sit right as I can’t quite shake the feeling that it sounds a bit too much like Tom Jones’ ‘Help Yourself’, which is a shame because there does seem to be an interesting story of an unhealthy relationship buried in there.
‘Slow Fade’, as you would expect from the name, has a resigned quality to it. The lilting vocals express the frustration of the daily grind and the inescapable drawn-out crush of routine; ‘Try going out, try staying in \ Try talking with my friends \ Try not talking about anything’. The ennui continues with ‘Remainder Blues’ although this forlorn ode is seemingly directed at a single person rather than the whole world. The penultimate track feels like it has nods to the blissful highs of The Velvet Underground and has a stoned feel with a delicate strength in its soul. The tender heartache of the two previous songs is a beautiful way to set up closing number ‘In The Shallows’ on which the rolling rhythm is met by vocals that similarly mimic the tides as they rise and fall, and is a wonderful way to wind down the album.
It must have felt like a real gamble for Slade and Young when they chose to put Peggy Sue on hold, but Vices proves that it was the right decision. Showing a considerable development in sound from their previous records, Peggy Sue sounds like a band full of fresh ideas and eager to be back on stage, which is far better than rushing out a half-hearted album no-one, including the artists, can be bothered with.
Vices is out on 21 February. Full tour dates below.
24 – Portland Arms, Cambridge
25 – Green Door Store, Brighton
26 – Louisiana, Bristol
27 – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
28 – Kings Arms, Manchester
29 – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds
31 – Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
01 – Studio 2, Liverpool
02 – Hug & Pint, Glasgow
03 – Cluny, Newcastle
04 – The Tin, Coventry
05 – Picture House Social, Sheffield
09 – The Dome, London
Photo: Zora Kuettner