There are three of us on the front seat of the Talulah Gosh tour van, Mathew Fletcher, drums, beer, vodka, cider and chips, Chris Bass, a man with Black Sabbath on his Walkman, and I are rhyhm’ and stealin’ our way through an impromptu Beastie Boys set when suddenly…
“Peter’s in the back ’cos he’s skeezing with Amelia!”
Mathew respects neither his sister’s person nor her privacy. While backing singer Eithne lies the other way across the mattress listening to Chris’ Sabbath tape in seemingly blissful ignorance. “There is,” young Mathew claims, “a degree of hanky panky going on underneath the Talulah Gosh tour quilt!”
When you talk to Amelia Fletcher over the ’phone, she sounds the sort of girl you would have hated at school. In fact she sounds like she’s still there, back in the fourth year, still giggling, still getting on everyone’s tits. She certainly doesn’t sound like a second year Oxford philosophy undergraduate, she definitely doesn’t sound like she’s living The Older Man, and there’s no way she sounds like she’s the leader of one of the best pop bands in the country.
But then there have been a lot of misconceptions about Talulah Gosh. Some people have called them cute and twee, others have calledthem fascists and a lot of people have just sat back and ignored them in the vain hope that they’d just go away.
The fools who’ve ignored them have shit for brains! While the idiot who threw the Nazi iron into the fire hasn’t even got that. But the ones who’ve got it most wrong really are the ones who honestly believe in the anorak, cutie-pie, let’s pretend, 15 forever, Winnie the Pooh chic.
“We played in Sheffield a couple of days ago, and this boy, this cutie came up to me after the soundcheck and asked me if I’d like to play marbles! And then 20 minutes later he asked Mathew!” Amelia incredulously recalls. “And then when we were playing he started blowing bubbles at us!”
Amelia isn’t the sort of girl I would have hated at school. She’s beautiful, she’s funny and she’s flawed in a way that would make it impossible for anyone who’s ever talked to her or seen her on stage to hate her. As we sat on the grass outside a motorway service station on the way to Yeovil, chewing both veggie burgers and the non-animal fat, I could understand just why my boyfriend is completely besotted with Talulah Gosh.
So you’re not cuties then? You didn’t want to play with his marbles?
“He wasn’t really my type, and I really don’t think he had all his marbles anyway.”
New names for pop stars, Amelia (right) and Eithne.
Later that night, dancing along to the Talulah Gosh on-stage onslaught, I was shocked by the extreme power this allegedly twee little girly pop band bring to their art. I’ve seen The Stupids and I’ve seen The Cult and I’ve seen Talulah Gosh, and I know which band is the fastest, the most intense, the funniest, the best, the best, best, best.
In her ‘Talulahs Suck Dick’ baseball cap, Amelia dominates the scene in a way which puts smiles on every single face in the room. “Don’t talk to me about The Monkees,” she sings, “don’t talk to me about the Russians, let’s just talk about you. Because you’re the most miserable, manic depressive bastard I’ve ever had the misfortune to fall in love with.”
A sentiment we can all identify with. Sung with an appealing honesty and an essentially feminist assertiveness, these are words which reconcile both independence and romance. You think, the Talulahs sing, that the universe revolves around you, well it bastard well doesn’t!
Though Amelia is the focal point of the group, she certainly isn’t the only good thing about Talulah Gosh. And to her eternal credit, there’s no way she thinks the universe revolves around her. Back in the van on the way home to Oxford after another successful show, the Talulah Rhythm Section spell a few things out for me.
“The thing about this band is that Peter and Amelia love all these nicely, nice, inoffensive little pop groups like The Chesterfields, and they write songs that they fondly imagine are going to sound just the same. But their songs are often a lot better, and then when Mathew and me get our hands on them, well we just don’t play them like that. We beat them up!” Chris Scott has just put his finger on the secret of Talulah Gosh, he’s just explained the wild fragmented exhilaration that makes them just about the best Yeovil—home of The Chesterfields—will ever see.
He and Mathew are the “rock out” element of the band, their tastes lie more towards The Rambones, primitive metal and primal hip hop, and their own aggressive rhythms form the bed-rock foundation for the battering-ram charm of the Talulahs at their best. While Peter and Amelia provide the majority of the melody and the pop awareness (although Mathew has written some of their very best songs, he uses Amelia to translate his thoughts into actual music and chords and things!). But what about Eithne? What does she do? Well, arguably the most lovable Talulah of them all, she has a special talent for happiness—a quality which both she and Amelia radiate from the stage—and she’s simply there to dance and to bash her tambourine and to sing whatever backing vocals she can remember. She has started writing songs of her own, again Amelia is the middleman, and she will get to sing lead vocals sooner or later, but really she’s a Talulah because the others want her to be!
“Eithne’s useless,” Mathew explains, “she’s a real spaz. But she knows she is. She knows she can’t sing or even play in time, but she doesn’t care. So why should we? She’s great. And she’s in the band because we all love her. Eithne’s the most important member of the band because she’s the one thing that stops us getting too serious about it all. She stops us becoming professional!”