As a girl group, it’s difficult for the Pipettes to avoid accusations of being a cheap gimmick. Had they released just a rehash of their first album, We Are the Pipettes, the charge may have stuck. With Earth vs. the Pipettes, however, the English band shows that it is at least willing to evolve its sound. Of course, part of the reason may be the fact that their current lineup has none of the original members. Regardless, their second LP is, thankfully, less nauseatingly saccharine and trades power-pop for disco and synth-pop.
It’s almost unfortunate that this new group hasn’t been rebranded: They suffer most from simultaneously trying to meet old expectations while finding their own sound as a new group. The changes from the jangly pop of opener “Call Me” to the disco funk of “I Need A Little Time” to the dreamy “I Always Planned To Stay” are jarring and distracting. The entire album sounds more like a loose collection of experiments than a functional, cohesive record. Many of the tracks, unfortunately, sound like tired efforts to reproduce songs from the group’s first effort.
Thankfully, some of these forays into new ground are successes. The tracks with eclectic funk and dance influences are both the album’s catchiest and most accomplished. “Stop The Music” showcases the group’s ability to marry delicate vocals with rocking bass and synthesizer. Late standout “Finding My Way” features memorable, gospel-like singing, backed by multiple layers of voices and instrumentation lifted straight from ’80s dance floors.
Although the original lineup of the Pipettes was a refreshing throwback to older brands of Phil Spector pop, it’s clear that the current iteration of the band doesn’t have quite the same talent for infectious music. Earth vs. the Pipettes is bogged down by trying to pander to this old standard. Hopefully, future recordings from the girl group will more fully embrace their new talents, to greater appeal.