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it would be easy, almost too easy, to categorise chew lips as electro pop. the temptation would certainly be there - two guys (james watkins and will sanderson) on all manner of synths and keyboards. one girl, the superlatively monikered and golden throated frontwoman tigs. it would be easy, but all too wrong. their early (sold out) singles on kitsune, 'salt air' and 'solo' pointed to a band more interested in mining more unconventional (though no less infectious) terrain, while their raucous live gigs had all the energy and vigour of vintage punk rock shows, with tigs clambering up on equipment, writhing on floors and sashaying through crowds as she dazzled them into submission. their debut, dave kosten produced album 'unicorn' is pop, no doubt about it, but not pop as you know it. there are far too many quirks here, too many human idiosyncrasies, too many rough edges, to fit neat neatly into any preconceived box. spectral opener 'eight' for instance, wafts in on a ghostly breeze of synth washes and shimmering keyboards and little else, with the beats only kicking in halfway through, along with tigs' eerie refrain of "a high speed chase on a wedding day / give and take it's all the same". 'karen', meanwhile, seems like a solid gold pop hit on the exterior, until you find out tigs is actually singing about the short and tragic life of karen carpenter. indeed, for every classic-in-waiting like 'slick' (imagine chrissie hynde whirling dervishly around a discoball and you'd be somewhere close), there's a startling leftfield manoeuvre like 'gold key', which relocates them in a very modern mesh of seesawing keyboards and wailing guitars, and contains possibly tigs' most emotive vocal, crying 'the time has come...they're playing with guns' as if begging for salvation.
so, chew lips then. an altogether different - and exciting - proposition for 2010. a gloriously off-kilter take on pop, with some wayward electronic elements. a brilliant new band with ambition and talent to burn and an iconic frontwoman in waiting. and, with 'unicorn', quite possibly the best future classic pop album of next year.