Bis/Heavenly – “Keroleen”/ “Trophy Girlfriend” Split
Acquired K Records Mail Order, New, 2008
In my twee pop days of late college, Heavenly was the most flawless twee band I'd ever encountered. I really can't think of a single song of theirs I don't like, and even now I have a hard time trying to pick out my top five favorites. “Trophy Girlfriend” is definitely top three though, because like many Heavenly tracks, it's fucking perfect. Those almost P.U.N.K. Distorted power chords that open the song remind us where Twee's roots lie, and the only slightly veiled bitterness in Amelia Fletcher's iconic vocals and naturally, the way that the verse is hooky enough to be a lesser band's chorus. This song kicks ass, and that's kind of where Heavenly excelled. Having rising from the ashes of twee-punk heroes Talulah Gosh, it just makes sense. Sure, there's the blisteringly sweet love-song twee pop of “C is the Heavenly Option” and “Our Love is Heavenly,” but hell, both of those songs are pretty much kiss off songs (the latter especially). “Trophy Girlfriend” is a cleaner sounding tune, and was the lead-off track from their final LP Operation Heavenly. Sadly, Amelia's brother and Heavenly's drummer Matthew Fletcher took his own life prior to this album's release, making it Heavenly's last album and “Trophy Girlfriend” their last extraordinary single. The profound tragedy was, in a strange turn, referenced by the Hold Steady on their latest album, which is one of the reasons I can't bring myself to admit that it's easily their weakest effort. “He wasn't just the drummer/ He was the singer's little brother.” Oof. Still, Heavenly were the best. People can talk shit on twee all they want, and oftentimes, yeah, twee is kind of annoying, but Heavenly did it without playing up the overly cutesy schmaltz that's come to overrun the genre. It's punk rock for wimps and sensitive kids.
Bis contribute two songs to the b-side, and I don't know anything about this band because all I ever did was play “Trophy Girlfriend” over and over and over again. It's quite cool, listening to it right now. Bratty DIY punk mixed with influences ranging from dancey New Wave to art punk to Sarah Records with vocals akin to Bikini Kill. “Keroleen” is the jam, a fun artsy little tune in the same thematic vein as “Trophy Girlfriend” whereas “Grand Royale with Cheese” is a little synthy instrumental that's almost overshadowed by its backbeat. Perhaps if “Keroleen” were devoted its own 7” it might stand out more, but here it just stands in the shadow of one of Heavenly's best tunes. Still, it's a nice contrast and really, I think that's what the point of the International Pop Underground was. A bunch of different bands from England and America (in this case, both were British) forming a sort of pop loser union that made for some of the catchiest and most interesting records of the 90s.
Note: I've always thought of this as the Bis/Heavenly split, even though I believe Heavenly's track is on the A-side. However, the cover for Bis' side looks more like a front cover, so this will continue to be filed under B despite having written the little thing up there out of order.
The awesome video for "Trophy Girlfriend"