Categorization can be a very blunt instrument with which to try and chisel out an accurate description of music. Take Peggy Sue, for example. The name, even since that time some five years ago when they jettisoned the Pirates from their full title, still conjures up an image of Buddy Holly and the genesis of rock ‘n’ roll. Peggy Sue Play the Songs of Scorpio Rising, the 2011 album of their own arrangements of the soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s cult 60’s film merely seems to reinforce that view. And then once account is taken of the facts that twin vocalists Rosa Slade and Katy Young initially bonded over the music of Regina Spector and Peggy Sue having previously supported Jack White, First Aid Kit, Wild Flag and Joan As Policewoman on tour, you could place them pretty much anywhere on a musical continuum that stretches all the way from the delta blues to post-punk.
But their third full length offering Choir of Echoes is much less about genre classification than it is about voices. It is a celebration of singing and the enjoyment and empowerment this can bring. It is about Peggy Sue having once more found their way after being temporarily blown of course.
One of the very first songs written for the album, ‘Idle’ – with its repeated refrain of “let the devil make work for my idle hands” – captures that apparent sense of aimlessness and after finally coming to fruition it then shaped the subsequent direction of the album. Emboldened by this renewed sense of purpose and building upon the creative platform afforded them by the recording process for the Scorpio Rising soundtrack, Peggy Sue shed yet more of their hitherto fey folk skin.
Choir of Echoes demands repeated listens and for this you will be rewarded by the record’s extra dimensions. This is a much bigger, bolder Peggy Sue sound. The voices of Slade and Young somehow appear stronger; Olly Joyce’s drums have become huge; and with the additional security of a bass beneath them, the guitars are now suddenly liberated. Phil Spector may well find himself behind bars but his spirit clearly still runs free.
Doo wop vocals provide a perfect accompaniment to the shimmering melody of ‘Always Going’; an approach that re-emerges to equally stirring effect with the strong 60’s rhythm and blues influence running through ‘Longest Day of the Year Blues’. ‘Electric Light’ is possibly what Siouxsie and the Banshees might sound like were they to start over again today, and whilst ‘How Heavy the Quiet that Grew Between Your Mouth and Mine’ may not quite crest the two minute barrier there is still sufficient time for it to step confidently into country-noir territory.
With Choir of Echoes Peggy Sue have found a new voice. It is a bold, powerful voice, born of their musical evolution; one that speaks its mind and refuses to allow itself to be shackled by the narrow confines of categorization.
Choir of Echoes is released on 27th January 2014 through Wichita Recordings