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Puncture - Early 1997 , # 38

Heavenly Operation Heavenly (K)

Survivors of a British scene more fun and sincere than today's, Heavenly transcend their admittedly joyful, mostly carefree jagged pop ("Quite punk rock, really," maintains frontwoman Amelia Fletcher . . . Mm, maybe . . .) with perhaps their most resolute effort to date.

Operation Heavenly harks back to their P.U.N.K. Girl EP (which, like its title, is almost punk); the teenage worries of opener "Trophy Girlfriend" ("She's kissing boys--and girls--can't decide which she prefers") reflect on, if they don't quite answer, that EP's title track.

Pop ditties on these innocent obsessions belie their real consequences, and while Heavenly, with lines like "Clear blue skies, sunlight dazzling my eyes, feeling dizzy, feeling giddy from the race" still rule among bands maligned for "cutie-rock," there's a strain of mild dissatisfaction, even discontent, running through "Mark Angel" ("Please don't say I told you so. I wish that boy was dead") and, less gravely, "Ben Sherman," where a boyfriend is reproached for his Uma Thurman fixation.

But though one may strain to find those less contented moments, it would be wiser simply to dance and sing along. Heavenly seem never to be less than quintessentially Heavenly--though they do borrow freely--and the marks of a great (and now surely enduring) band are here in abundance. A cover of Serge Gainsbourg's "Nous ne sommes pas des anges" (rousing and uplifting as it is) together with "Snail Trail" show off the band's debt to French pop (strongly evident in most of their work); while elsewhere, influences ranging from '60s girl groups to those nearer home (like the mod-ish new wave appropriated by Elastica) are convincingly assimilated.

If the irrefutable twee-ness of precursor Talulah Gosh seemed overtly anachronistic and unsuited to that time's critical climate, then the similar if more mature Heavenly sounds should ripely flourish in an indie scene that--aside from the affectation of current British chart-toppers--seeks a still-innocent fun. The sad and untimely death by suicide of drummer Matthew Fletcher takes place in a band who don't speak of their griefs. Maybe it's fitting that the last song on the album is the uncharacteristically poignant "Pet Monkey," a duet between Amelia and longtime associate Calvin Johnson, on which the words "Stop dreaming and stop screaming, it's so hard trying not to care . . . you're too much for me to bear, it kinda hurts when you're not there" resonate long after it ends.

Written by Kok Kian Goh

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