Tasmin Archer – One More Good Night With the Boys
I love almost everything about pop, but I have one major frustration with it: our attention spans. When it comes to new pop stars, we’ve sort of become short-term serial monogamists, flitting from one grand affair to another. As with any new relationship, it’s all marvellous at the beginning: we are attentive and devoted lovers, lavishing praise and Brit awards upon the objects of our affections – but by the time it comes to album two we’ve dumped them and moved on to someone else without so much as an explanatory phone call. You might call it Macy Gray syndrome, or KT Tunstall, or Jessie J. But in my opinion, this phenomenon really started with Tasmin Archer, who was 1992’s Anointed One, just Another One by the end of 1993, and No-One (in chart terms) shortly thereafter.
Tasmin was of course cursed from the get-go, because Sleeping Satellite was so brilliant that it turned out to be one of those career swallowing records that everyone bought and then felt like that was quite enough of a commitment, thank you. It appeared (in the 99p new release section) as if from nowhere and it sounded like nothing else around at the time and everybody – or at least everybody I knew – loved it. The pop kids, the indie kids, mums and dads, and of course The Chart Show, who got behind it very quickly. It had one of those beautiful chart journeys where you actually saw the love affair blossoming: entering at no.50, it crept to no.37 the following week. After that boost in visibility it shot up to no.13, then 4, then 3, and at last to no.1, where it spent two glorious weeks just as winter was beginning to bite. I can’t hear Sleeping Satellite now without smelling spent fireworks in the air.
Unfortunately for most people, that was all they needed from Tasmin Archer and it was diminishing returns from that point on – though it wasn’t entirely our fault. In Your Care is a brilliant song but it was not a good choice as the follow up. That should have gone to the eventual third single, the completely brilliant Lords of the New Church. Seriously, it’s amazing.
AMAZING. Anyway, In Your Care got by on goodwill and its charitable status, reaching a not-too-bad-considering no.16, but it didn’t half take the shine off Tasmin’s stardom. Lords of the New Church – which in my opinion ought to have been number one for three weeks, petered out at no.26 in June, at which point Gabrielle came along and turned all our heads (a longer, more complicated relationship, but it ended the same way).
Still, if you look at it from one certain viewpoint, everything was brilliant: you had an artist with a no.1 hit, three further top 40 singles, a gold certified top ten album and a Brit award for Best Breakthrough Artist. But from another, you had an artist in commercial decline from their very first single, and that’s a very hard thing to reverse – especially if you take several years to follow up your debut (something Rita Ora is just about to find out).
The spring of 1996 finally brought the first release from Tasmin’s second album, Bloom. Without the thrill of the new, or much effort from the record company, it never really stood a chance – and so One More Good Night With the Boys became her final charting single. Bloom spent a solitary week at no.95 in the album chart and she parted ways – amicably, which of course means not at all amicably – with EMI the following year. Wikipedia tells me she turned to clay modelling afterwards: this is what pop life does to people. What handicrafts will Sam Smith be taking up a year or two from now?
All of this would just be a cautionary tale for the pop stars of tomorrow were it not for the fact that One More Good Night With the Boys is so very, very, good. Produced by Mitchell Froom, it lives in the same sort of space as Suzanne Vega’s 9 Objects of Desire album (with the added bonus of a drive-in) – the kind of place where soft furnishings are in short supply and everything is a just a little bit careworn. I could quite happily live there and Tasmin certainly sounds very much at home. Her voice is just fantastic on this – there is immense power there, but she uses it sparingly and wisely, making those glimpses (“youuuuu twist the knife” at 3:03) ever so slightly thrilling. Every part of the production is working to make Tasmin sound the best she possibly can – it’s perfectly balanced and it’s beautiful (especially the almost, but not quite out-of-time tambourine jingles).
Coming so long after Great Expectations, Bloom might have felt late, but it was bang on the money for 1996, sound-wise. Had One More Good Night With the Boys been, say, a Sheryl Crow record, it would have been a hit, here and in America. Its chief problem was us – we’d moved on and we weren’t looking back. EMI knew it. I daresay Tasmin knew it.
But that, of course, doesn’t make it right.
Entered chart: 23/03/96
Chart peak: 45
Weeks on chart: 2
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Today? No-one. I think we may have to wait a few years for this sort of sound to swing around again.