theaudience have sure ruffled some feathers in the short time they've been around. They could have slipped under the wire unnoticed; instead, they've added an extra bulge to The Maker letter bag on a weekly basis. But more of that a bit later.
If you've got their fine singles, "theaudience" isn't going to he a huge surprise. Singles always tend to be stand-outs and there's no exception here; the spiffing "A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed" with its Orange Juice plinks and plonks romps in as the album's opener, the Hazel O'Connor-ish "I've Got The Wherewithal" and... deep breath, "If You Can't Do it When You're Young; When Can You Do It?" both thrill with their slow, lazy vocal and epic kitchen-sink approach; even be upbeat, Smiths-y jangle of "I Know Enough (I Don't Get Enough)", their weakest single to date, nestles in neatly as an album track. Take them away and... you still have a glittering debut.
Of course, there's a couple of arse moments, most notably the Radio 2-style "The More There Is To Do". Whatever, there's certainly no mistaking Sophie's voice; brittle and faltering it times, it nevertheless has enough charm and character to hold its own. The songs too are rarely as simple as straight three-minute romps. When they are - like the Blondie blast of "Running Out Of Space" - they bit you square between the eyes. Best of all though, you never know what a song's going to do next. It could float, it could canter, equally, it could whisper sweet nothings before ripping your head off and shoving overdriven guitars down your neck. But despite such a fine debut people are still slagging theaudience like nobody's business. The main objections?
1) theaudience are rubbish because Sophie Ellis Bextor doesn’t write the songs.
Duh! Liam Gallagher doesn’t contribute much to Oasis' songs, but doesn't get the same flak. No. What we seem to have forgotten is that songwriting is an art, as is being a singer; they don't necessarily have to stroll hand in hand.
2) theaudience are rubbish because guitarist Billy Reeves is proving some bizarre point about a music biz insider getting famous.
He's doing a pretty good job. It's happened before, too. Look at Neil Tennant, a music journalist who hated everything he heard, so downed pen and lo, a pop star was born.
3) theaudience are rubbish because of theaudienceblokes.
And who else is going to play the songs? What do you want, Sophie as a one-man band with cymbals strapped to her knees and a bass drum on her back?
If you still think theaudience shouldn’t be allowed on the grounds that the singer has a moonface or some such nonsense, why not take them at their word? See, a pessimist is never disappointed. Hey, who knows; if you're expecting the worst you can only be surprised.
Matters of facts
Stuff you probably didn't know about theaudience:
• Apparently, the elision in the band's name is all down to Billy's typewriter having a buggered space bar.
• Sophie claims never to have listened to a Pretenders song in her life!
• Alarmingly, Sophie is something of a philatelist. Her stamp collection includes a variety of Penny Blues, Penny Reds and a mint condition treasure from the 1966 World Cup.
• Sophie's all-time favourite lyric is from A-Ha's "Maybe Maybe": "Maybe I was joking when I chucked you out the Rover at full speed". Oh, dear!
• Though she's famed for her static stage persona, get her into a club and Sophie's very likely to leap up on top of the speakers and start swaying her hips all over the shop. No, really.
Aug 1998 | Melody Maker