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Heavenly


Country of origin:

England

Type of music generally:

Twee alternative pop

Status:

Disbanded 1996 after death of drummer/songwriter Matthew Fletcher; surviving members re-formed as Marine Research; final album Operation Heavenly, 1996

See also:

TweeNet's The Heavenly and Taluluah Gosh Home Page

Comparisons:

Rose Melberg's bands (Go Sailor, Softies, Tiger Trap), Tuscadero, Jumprope, Velocity Girl, Sleeper, Henry's Dress, The Sundays

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

Heavenly was caught between two see-sawing axes: youthful enthusiasm versus technical proficiency; giddy naïveté versus bitterness and disillusionment. Throughout their career their songs were distinguished by chiming, cheery, propulsive guitars and Amelia Fletcher's gentle, unforced singing, with increasingly intricate harmony parts from second vocalist Cathy Rogers after the first record. As time went on they got better at playing, and the band grew much darker lyrically.
     Fans of Amelia Fletcher's voice should be aware that she pops up for duets on lots of other people's records, including Hefner, the Pooh Sticks, The 6ths and the proto-Heavenly band Talulah Gosh. (dmw@mwmw.com)

Recommended first album:

P.U.N.K. Girl (ep) or Decline and Fall of Heavenly

Recordings:


Heavenly vs. Satan

Release info:

1991--Sarah Records; reissued 2001--K Records

Availability:

Original long out of print and collectible; reissue widely available at well-stocked stores and net outlets

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Amelia Fletcher--guitar, vocals
Matthew Fletcher--drums
Peter Momtchiloff--guitar
Rob Pursey--bass

Comments:

Heavenly vs. Satan is a giddy rush of buoyant pop songs; much sweeter and less complicated than the band's later work, it's charming despite the lightweight material and musicianship; mostly because the band's enthusiasm is palpable. On songs like "Cool Guitar Boy" and "It's You" you almost have the sense that the band is rushing to get to the next verse and then the chorus because it's going to be *so much fun* to play. The 2001 re-release appends several later singles and b-sides; including some of the band's best work. It's great to have them all in one place, but the later material doesn't fit, especially "Escort Crash on Marston Street," which eerily presages Matthew Fletcher's death. (dmw@mwmw.com)

Le Jardin de Heavenly

Release info:

1992--K Records

Availability:

Widely available at well-stocked stores and net outlets

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of the band

Group members:

Amelia Fletcher--guitar, vocals
Matthew Fletcher--drums
Peter Momtchiloff--guitar
Rob Pursey--bass
Cathy Rogers--vocals, keys

Guest artists:

Calvin Johnson--vocals on "C is the Heavenly Option"

Produced by:

Dick Edwards

Comments:

Le Jardin de Heavenly has a brasher, rockier sound than Heavenly vs. Satan, which is not entirely to the group's benefit; they sound more confident and more assured, but sometimes this threatens to overwhelm the delicate melodies. Fletcher and Rogers's vocals are mixed curiously far back, and Fletcher's diction is as sloppy as ever, with the result that the lyrics are a little hard to ferret out. Still, the record has a handful of the bands best (and best-known) tunes. Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson adds a hilariously off-key duet part to "C is the Heavenly Option" a delightful little ditty with a neat rhythm to the vocal tradeoffs and a dizzy coda with all the reckless abandon the band can muster. "Sort of Mine" gets the balance right between the fragile melody, the lightly distorted guitars and the hyperactive snare work; it's a template that bands like Tiger Trap and Velocity Girl would adapt almost entire over the next couple of years. "So Little Deserve" (one of two bonus tracks on the US reissue) has a gorgeous achy quality that evokes The Smiths, only absent the nasality of Morrissey's whine. (dmw@mwmw.com)

Decline and Fall of Heavenly

Release info:

1994--K Records

Availability:

Widely available at well-stocked stores and net outlets

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Amelia Fletcher--guitar, vocals
Matthew Fletcher--drums
Peter Momtchiloff--guitar
Rob Pursey--bass
Cathy Rogers--vocals, keys

Produced by:

Ian Shaw

Comments:

Opener "Me and My Madness" immediately announces that there've been drastic changes in Heavenly-land, Amelia Fletcher's voice has an edge she's never managed before when she snarls "don't believe what people say, they never stay, anyway," and there's even guitar feedback in the outro. Both the lyrics and music have grown more complex; the straightforward, sixties-descended pop of the first record has blossomed into more complex song structures, and while the words still deal mostly with love and loss they've grown much more nuanced--when Fletcher sings "I'm not the same girl you once knew" on "Modestic," it's a sentiment that can clearly be taken at multiple levels--three years ago this band never would have produced a song like "Sperm meets egg, so what?" The playing is stronger than ever, and production is clear and crisp. A real winner. The Japanese edition of Decline and Fall of Heavenly appends the entirety of the P.U.N.K. Girl ep to this very short record, which is convenient, since it puts Heavenly's finest moments all in one place, and adds up to forty minutes or so of music. (dmw@mwmw.com)

P.U.N.K. Girl (ep)

Release info:

1995--K Records

Availability:

Widely available at well-stocked stores and net outlets

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for the not-squeamish

Group members:

Amelia Fletcher--guitar, vocals
Matthew Fletcher--drums
Peter Momtchiloff--guitar
Rob Pursey--bass
Cathy Rogers--vocals, keys

Produced by:

Ian Shaw

Comments:

This EP is a good place to see if Heavenly is your bag or not; five of their best songs--and two of their creepiest--in a low-cost package, showcasing their sonic range from the wistful acoustic "Dig Your Own Grave," to the raved-up "Atta Girl" and the buoyant, exuberant title track. But "Hearts and Crosses" and the a cappella "So?" are chilling if you listen closely: dark songs of violent betrayal. (dmw@mwmw.com)

Operation Heavenly

Release info:

1996--K Records

Availability:

Widely available at well-stocked stores and net outlets

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Amelia Fletcher--guitar, vocals
Matthew Fletcher--drums
Peter Momtchiloff--guitar
Rob Pursey--bass
Cathy Rogers--vocals, keys

Guest artists:

Calvin Johnson--vocals on "Pet Monkey"

Produced by:

Ian Shaw

Comments:

There's a bit of pall over Operation Heavenly, released as it was after the suicide of drummer Matthew Fletcher, but it continues the band's evolution into more sophisticated and varied musical territory; "K-klass kisschase" even flirts with a country-ish beat and their version of Serge Gainsbourg's "Nous ne Sommes Pas des Anges" veers into the new-wave/disco territory of late Blondie. "Mark Angel" has great interplay between its tremolo guitar and Pursey's propulsive, sinuous bassline, which knows just when to walk and when to bounce between two chord roots--at this point no one should be making snide comments anymore about how the band can't really play. The record isn't as lyrically grim as P.U.N.K. Girl, but it's less affecting and direct; songs like "Space Manatee" are, well, a little silly. Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson again matches his creaky baritone growl with Fletcher on album closer "Pet Monkey." (dmw@mwmw.com)


Thanks to dmw@mwmw.com for his work on this entry.

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