Album Review: Peggy Sue – Fossils and Other Phantoms

by Katherine

Supporting the likes of Mumford & Sons, The Maccabees, Kate Nash and Local Natives, God knows London-based duo Peggy Sue are used to playing second fiddle – they know better than most the supreme discomfort of playing to an audience who spend your entire set merrily chattering away, completely ignoring the sweating musicians playing hell for leather in front of their noses; to eternally have their name squeezed under the main act’s in pathetic size ten text and prefixed with that blasted ‘plus’.

So when Peggy Sue announced the news of their debut album ‘Fossils and Other Phantoms’, theLondon folk scene held its breath. Could this be Peggy Sue’s chance to cast off the shackles of the eternal support act? Their chance to eschew their bridesmaid costume, pull on their white dress and gleefully fling their bouquet?

Judging from rollicking album opener, ‘Long Division Blues’, it certainly seems so – it patters along very nicely, aided by Rosa and Katy’s endlessly intertwining coos, before rearing onto its hind legs and reeling like a spitfire – this slowly dissolves into the broken-down torch-song and current single ‘Yo Mama’, which isn’t nearly as sassy as it’s title would have you believe – it finds Katy and Rosa sighing ‘I’m praying to Gods I don’t believe/ Saying you won’t take me quietly’ like a pair of downtrodden housewives, with dark rings under their eyes and stains on their aprons. While ‘Long Division’ spirals and squalls like a sprung jack-in-the-box, ‘Yo Mama’ prefers to unfurl itself quietly, languorously, like silk ribbons from a spool.

As wonderful as the opening tracks are, however, the undisputed centrepiece is the gorgeous ‘Read It In The Paper’ – coming after the lover’s brawl of ‘Yo Mama’, ‘Read It In The Paper’ feels infinitely cathartic, the gently strummed banjo and guitar as fresh and clean as the morning after a storm. The minimalist approach suits Peggy Sue  – free of the overblown sea-shanty instrumentation that clings to their other tracks, ‘I Read It In the Paper’ lets the bell-like purity of Rosa and Katy’s voices shine, as sweet as anything from Chan Marshall’s ‘The Greatest’.

From here on in, however, ‘Fossils And Other Phantoms’ is pure, gin-soaked, bar-room brawl, Peggy Sue summoning up the same storm of pounding percussion and clanging bass they do on every single bloody other track, like a pair of vengeful sirens, tempting virile sailors with their angelic coos before smashing their ships against jagged cliff walls of intrusive bass and drums. Sometimes this works to their advantage –spindly electric guitar and throbbing bass provides the perfect canvas for Katy and Rosa’s harmony-laden, breathless delivery on ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’.

More often than not, however, their tempestuous arrangements work to their disadvantage – the sweet, melodic prettiness of ‘The Remainder’ is importunately crushed by dark, gushing reams of percussion and jarring piano.

‘Fossils And Other Phantoms’ may be, at times, overwrought, overlong and over instrumented – but dig a little deeper and there are some genuinely affecting moments buried beneath the grime. Despite their flaws, Peggy Sue still prove that sometimes the second fiddle can still sound the sweetest.