❉ Blue Wave is the Pets’ most personal and reflective album, somewhere between Blondie and Kraftwerk.
Named after the collectable Japanese toy, Tiny Magnetic Pets from Dublin, are unique on the Irish music scene. Rather than be influenced by specific singer/songwriters or indie rock they take their inspiration from Bowie’s Berlin period, ’70s krautrock, ’80s synthpop and ’60s psychedelia. All of this is blended in their studio with a 21st Century approach to form something that is uniquely their own. With the delicate yet powerful vocal delivery of Paula Gilmer, it could be said that Tiny Magnetic Pets operate in uncharted musical waters and lie musically somewhere between Blondie and Kraftwerk.
The past couple of years have been busy for the band; from supporting Killers’ guitarist Dave Keuning on his Irish tour to performing at Belgium’s W Festival alongside The Human League and Killing Joke to a handful of hometown shows before embarking on an arena tour of Germany with OMD, and a European tour with Midge Ure followed by a second tour with Midge, this time in the UK. Exciting plans for 2020 were thwarted by the global lockdown and COVID Pandemic. The band were eager to continue working and so they kept doing what they do best in their own studios.
We’re not writing about the pandemic or lockdown… declared Paula Gilmer rather optimistically before writing sessions for Blue Wave started. However, their album could have been titled Lockdown Blues instead, as all the feelings and emotions associated with the global fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic seeped into the songs that finally became Blue Wave.
The title track opens with a highly melodic intro, showcasing their interesting use of synths before Paula’s sweet voice punctuates the rhythm, adding another layer to the mix. The musicality and vocals are on an equal par here and are both impactful, including the digitized vocal in the midst of the song, decrying 2020 and all its ills, whilst Paula pleads “give me one more chance….” Begging for another go at last year.
Drowning in Indigo is a beautiful melody, showcasing the more tender side of the band whilst Broken Record is a Bowie meets Roxy Music meets Fleetwood Mac epic, with standout segues and a classic, timeless element to it. This could easily have topped the charts in years gone past.
There are some nice surprises on this album too, especially in the track Automation which has a Front 242/Trent Reznor/Numan-esque feel to it, but which is softened by Paula’s vocals despite the hard-hitting sensibility to the track. This is going to be great as a live track, when we’re allowed to attend such events. Here we are warned of workers being replaced by robots, a fear which has come to pass in the last twelve months as Art becomes Reality.
The fear of isolation and the monotony of days running into weeks into months which has affected all of us in one form or another, is reflected in the track Blue Waves Pts I-III delivered in a punctuated, icy, factual manner. The ultimate track is the Eno-esque Mid-Atlantic Drift where even Neptune gets swept away by swirling blue waves. It’s a beautiful track which has elements of Lou Reed and Iggy in the vocals and has the same sensibility as presented by Kate Bush in her Before the Dawn shows.
Not surprisingly, Blue Wave is ‘the Pets’ most personal and reflective album with its themes of lockdown monotony, empty city streets, uncertainty and fear, and enforced separation from loved ones. The physical need for human contact and interaction has proved to be the most important asset of the human condition and it’s all tackled here on the album.
Paradoxically, given its serious subject matter Blue Wave is the band’s most up-tempo and cohesive set to date. The whole second half (side 2 for vinyl) is essentially a love letter to Düsseldorf where the life-affirming exuberance of Krautrock kept the band’s collective nose above the surface during these difficult times. As we reflect on lessons learned in 2020 we face an uncertain 2021 with open eyes and ears; Blue Wave is the perfect soundtrack for these complicated times.
❉ ‘Blue Wave’ by Tiny Magnetic Pets is released on 29th January 2021 on the Vitamin C label. You can find all their music on Bandcamp: https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com
❉ Ange Chan is a freelance writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry. She was also prolific contributor in the anthology collection Me and the Starman, (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon) and is a lifelong lover of music, having first been published in the 1980s music press. As well as being a frequent contributor to the pop culture website We Are Cult, she is working on her long-standing third novel Champagne Flutes and Pixie Boots.