Ah, Daphne and Celeste… Here we go again…
I first became aware of this peppy pop duo two decades ago when they supported B*witched at what was then the Newcastle Telewest Arena. As a prelude to the even peppier elven Irish quartet, the pair worked great, bouncing around the stage with seemingly endless excitement as they chirped out their two chart-toppers ‘Ooh, Stick You’ and ‘UGLY’ with infectious excitement. I’m sure they did more than two songs, but I challenge you to remember any more. They were fun, they were fluffy, and, lets be frank, that was about it. They had their time in the spotlight and then, like so many, disappeared again.
Fast forward to 2015 when, driving in the car one day, our music editor, in his usual nonchalant way asks “Have you heard the new Daphne and Celeste song?”. I laugh, regaling to him the above tale. He turns to me with a look of intensity akin to Ryan Gosling in The Notebook and repeats, “No, have you heard the new Daphne and Celeste song?” he pulls out his phone, and we sit in a carpark listening in silence to ‘You & I Alone’.
And it’s good.
No, it’s not good.
It’s fucking great.
Under the watchful eye of British producer Max Tundra, best known for his work with the likes of Franz Ferdinand and The Pet Shop Boys, the duo have been transformed from their former status of bubblegum bobbins to veritable artistes. The release of their new album, Daphne & Celeste Save the World, does nothing but confirm this.
Gone are the vacuous lyrics of their salad days. Tundra and the girls have drawn influence from the aforementioned Pet Shop Boys, as well as some of the masters of the J-Pop world to produce an album almost unrecognisable from 2000’s We Didn’t Say That.
Opening with the delightfully chirpy ‘Save the World’, one could almost be mistaken for having picked up something from Kate Nash’s earlier oeuvre, before we begin our journey through the AKB48 inspired ‘Sunny Day’, a song that is sure to be this summer’s ‘Call Me Maybe’. The latest single, ‘Alarms’, meanwhile, is a retro-eighties fest of orchestral electro and catchy harmonics, punctuated by a plethora of nostalgia-inducing lyrical witticisms.
Other highlights include the somewhat Killers-esque ’16 Stars’, as well as my own personal favourite, ‘Paint Can’, a song that one can’t help but compare to British-Japanese group Kero Kero Bonito. Sarah, if you’re reading this, get collaborating; a KKB/D&C supergroup could literally “save the world”. We need a little more joy these days to escape the maudlin doldrums of the “Basic Buskers” polluting our airwaves.
Reinvention is the key to survival in the industry, and Daphne and Celeste have done just that. They have learned from the mistakes of the past; they’ve listened, not only to criticism, but also to everyone out there who’s doing it right. Sure, it took nearly two decades, but they’ve come back fighting, producing a record that showcases an aurally satisfying cocktail of the greatest sounds in modern music.
Welcome back, girls, it’s great to see you again. Let’s not wait another twenty years.
Daphne & Celeste Save the World is out now from Balatonic