If there is one thing that is guaranteed to make me perk up my jaded ears and sit up and listen, it is a dose of classic harmony singing – think Everly Brothers, Beach Boys or even The Bangles. So when I was wading through the hours of Glastonbury footage and came across The Pierces, I was more than happy to pay attention.
It turns out that The Pierces are an ex-Alabama, now New York based sister act, Catherine and Alison Pierce, who have been around for some ten years yet only seem to be hitting the UK now with their fourth album, ‘You & I’, co-produced by none other than the Coldplay team of Rik Simpson and bassist, Guy Berryman. Their brand of upbeat retro-Californian pop is almost irresistible in these times of austerity. Once you have added their song writing ability that brings together elements of The Mamas and Papas, Stevie Nicks era Fleetwood Mac, early Jefferson Airplane and strangely, Crowded House when both Finn brothers were both on board, to their sibling voices, you have a very marketable package indeed.
Having downloaded ‘You & I’ I am now wallowing in some of the best harmony singing I’ve heard for some time. I gather that their previous albums have been a little quirky and that this is their tilt at the big time, hence it does come across as very polished 70s style AOR which I’d have thought was a little out of fashion at the moment but notwithstanding the production, this is quality stuff. The song writing is solid with the up-tempo stuff sounding a little better than the ballads which are a touch staid but the overall effect is very listenable. However, if their inspiration truly is the sunny Californian pop of the Mamas and Papas, they ought to be a bit more careful how they disguise it as ‘Kissing You Goodbye’ is so close to ‘California Dreaming’ that if anyone associated with John Phillips’ estate gets to hear it there may well be Lawyers at dawn.
But accusations of plagiarism aside, there is something magical about sibling harmonies that just sets the hairs on my neck going. It’s the closeness of those genes that makes everything so beautifully seamless yet just different enough to set them apart in the mix. Someone should devote part of a book to this phenomenon…wait a minute, someone has – it was me. Singing is food to the soul as church-goers past and present have discovered, as have those who now cram the halls of England to attend ‘Rock Choir’ events. And harmony singing is the next step to heaven. Those that can do it well, especially when singing live have my undying attention.
Here is the video that started me out on this trail of discovery – The Pierces at Glastonbury doing a live acoustic spot for the BBC and making their hit ‘Glorious’ sound well, glorious. If the harmonies at about 1:40 don’t make you go weak at the knees, you have no soul.