20 August 2008

Boutique - Strawberries and Cream

Boutique - Strawberries and Cream

Label: Trade2/ Island
Year of Release: 1996

I've already posted Inaura's album in full, and gone into some depth about their problems getting it released - the final product seemingly magically appeared on the racks a whole two years after it had been completed and the last single had been out. As part of the Romo movement, however, I can't help but think they were lucky the product saw the light of day at all. The subject of this entry, Boutique, certainly never managed to leak out a long player.

To be brutally honest, the record company's mercenary attitude seems less mysterious in this instance. Their debut single "Strawberries and Cream" is a short, snappy and delightful little single, somehow miraculously ripping off riffs and feels from David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes"
and The Jam's "Start!" without sounding as preposterous as you'd expect that to be. The simultaneously camp and strangulated vocals are decidedly peculiar and oddly enticing too. For all that, though, you have to wonder if any aspect of the record really screamed "We have arrived!" to the public at large - despite getting Island Records' marketing behind it (99p in the first week of sale, as you can see for yourselves), it does sound for all the world like one of those indie singles that slips out in a pressing of 500 copies, is put in a transparent bag with a cheaply printed sleeve, and only gets adopted and loved by a few weirdos and friends of the band. It's one of the strangest sounding debut "pop" singles I think I've ever heard, which is either tremendously admirable or willfully perverse depending upon your point of view.

It obviously didn't help that the Romo scene which spawned Boutique turned out to be a damp squib, and nor can its chart prospects have been improved by the slow freezing of the British public's interest towards all things of a slightly quirky or alternative bent by the tail end of 1996.
All in all, I doubt William Hill would have given you very long odds on this flopping, but that doesn't stop me from finding it a curious little track which I still occasionally pull down from my CD shelves and listen to.

It was also a placed track on the Chris Morris site Cookd and Bombd's Top 1000 singles of all time, curiously enough, and no, it wasn't me who nominated it - so this clearly found a small, appreciative audience somewhere.

CD EP Track Listing:
1. Strawberries and Cream.
2. Paraffin
3. Strawberries and Cream 12" extended mix
4. Armchair (Scissorkicks Remix)



panos said...

i love it!

they played in athens and the support band played longer than them!
they did not have enough songs!

Codrin said...

The brother of Gary Chapman (one of the two members of the project) recently posted what I believe to be all of Boutique's videos on YouTube.

Here's "Strawberries and Cream": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUJP0s_Wmb4&feature=related.

P. S.: I didn't know about "Butterfly", but it's also GREAT!

Graffitika said...

These guys were great. And your description is on the money! Cheers.

Anonymous said...

just thought about this band again and found your site through google!

nice post. i actually wrote a letter to boutique (how quaint!) in 1995 and got a letter back. with a badge! i'm sure they're around here somewhere...

one inaccuracy here, though. "strawberries & cream" was NOT their debut single. that honor goes to the "butterfly" 7 inch (b/w "shame on jane") in 1995. still have my copy which i bought at a long gone record store in california. the handwritten sticker on it says "london synth band influenced by soft cell, erasure, pulp, smiths, pixies!" ha!

their second single appeared in 1996 - that was "i've told you before," which was backed with "my mistake," "where's your grandma?" and "let's talk about the weather" on CD.

so "strawberries & cream" was actually their last single (as far as i know!).

would love to know where they went? i thought they were great.

Unknown said...

Saw the lead singer in the pub last night in Harlow. He was chilling reading a book with a pint of ale.