Peggy Sue, Fossils and Other Phantoms
Reinventing the sea shanty for a new generation
Sonically, Peggy Sue aren't always as "pretty-pretty" as Buddy Holly's titular heroine, but there's a dark, compelling beauty to their lilting songs of love gone sour. The Brighton trio's full debut (which follows a set of self-released, sold-out E.P.s) sees them singing with quirky charm and integrity of the complexities of frustration and heartbreak, over a giddy whirl of folk-based stylings.
While they're as reluctant to describe themselves as "new folk," as like-minded friends Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, traditional arrangements and instrumentation are very much the backdrop for their ambitious bouts of brooding. With the accordion to the as lead accompaniment, they often seem to be reinventing the sea shanty for a new generation. Rosa Slade and Katy Young's voices are striking and aggressive, both individually and in tandem. On lead single "Watchman," Young wails "I only came here to watch you watch me leave" in a throaty, alley-cat yowl over a melancholy bed of ticking, spaghetti-Western acoustic guitar. Slade, meanwhile, is equally brusque and bruised. On "Yo Mama" she snarls, "I'll forget your hair, forget your smell, until there's none…I'm praying to gods I never need, saying I won't go quietly…" "Long Division Blues" derives its tension from the interweaving of the two women's voices.
These fraught torch songs analyse endings, pick at scabs and emphasise absences. Underneath their sorrow, Olly Joyce's wilfully rickety, punk-edged drumming kicks things forward. Guests include Mumford & Sons' Ben Lovett and Blood Red Shoes' Steve Ansell, but it's the two female personalities — vengeful, vulnerable, bitter and compelling — that command the attention on this remarkable debut.