The power of the word is strong. Take for instance words used for comedic purposes. Specific words can either make something funny or unfunny. In the world of Bugs Bunny cartoons, place names such as Azusa, Altoona, and Rancho Cucamonga (not to mention Pismo Beach and all the clams you can eat) are standards of comedy. When it came to company names it was always ACME, and when it came to prisons, it was always Sing Sing. A cartoon convict sitting in Folsom Prison just wasn’t funny, it would have been kind of starkly sad. There’s something subconsciously self-aware about Emma Anderson and Lisa O’Neill’s band that takes the name Sing Sing. It’s not that there’s anything necessarily funny about it, except for maybe the tongue in cheek album titles The Joy of Sing Sing and latest album Sing Sing and I. The double meaning of the repeated musical term and the New York State Prison is simply, as are the women of the band, clever. What is truly serious about Sing Sing is their pop songcraft ability.
Sing Sing and I is the British indie pop album that many have been waiting for. Songs on this sophomore effort can sound alternately like many British icons such as the dual pop assault of Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner of Electronic, the circus-y choruses of Brit heroes Blur, and the sassy raw sex appeal of Elastica. But Sing Sing and I is the album that almost wasn’t. Due to lackluster sales of the first album, along with a disappointing tour, Emma and Lisa were dropped from their label. Left without too many options, they decided to home record an EP and with internet sales revenues, record a second album. The EP, Madame Sing Sing wasn’t quite living up to sales expectations until a blanket e-mail was sent out which basically said, `buy the EP or there won’t be a second album,’ and the money came pouring in.
Most will recognize Emma Anderson as one of the two guitarists and main songwriters from the dreamy pop band Lush that disbanded after the suicide of their drummer. Lisa O’Neill had collaborated with the electronic band Locust (not to be confused with San Diego noise band The Locust). Amazingly enough, after a friend recommended Lisa, and Emma had listened to her Locust collaboration, she realized that she had already met Ms. O’Neill and that their respective boyfriends were flatmates! The duo became a match made in Britpop heaven and now we have the fans who bought the EP to thank for this new aural treat. Lisa’s sweet vocals over Emma’s jangle pop guitars ooze throughout this set. “Lover” and “Going Out Tonight” may be short on vocabulary, but they’re big on catchy hooks and a bouncy chorus in the former with menacing Eno-like sounds in the latter. “Mister Kadali” is one of the most enjoyable, `light and airy’ tracks on the disc with the voice of a Nigerian spiritual advisor in the background, while “A Modern Girl” is reminiscent of Electronic’s “Get the Message.”
I vividly remember being incredibly wowed by and somewhat in love with Lush’s Lovelife. Miki Berenyi’s voice singing “Ciao!” alongside Jarvis Cocker was a milestone for me in my own personal history of pop music memories. With that bias in hand, I was more than pleasantly surprised by Sing Sing’s second effort. Sing Sing and I isn’t just good for a self-made album, it’s good by any standards. Emma and Lisa have taken pop music to the next level, stripping down the pretext and making it simply about the music and the voice. I love this Sing Sing record, and there’s nothing funny about that.