Flannel File: "Girl Bros." Wendy & Lisa

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[Note: Flannel File is an offshoot of Retro Active, focusing on the new hot nostalgia decade - the '90s, of course.]

As Retro Active expands its purview from the '80s to the '90s, it's somewhat appropriate that this post remarks on some folks who became massively popular in the '80s but who, oddly enough, didn't truly find their voice until the next decade.

Prince cohorts Wendy & Lisa have just released their first new album since 1998's Girl Bros. LP. Written and recorded as a form of creative catharsis after the death of Wendy's brother Jonathan Melvoin (Smashing Pumpkins), Girl Bros. had a spare, unfussy approach that, despite the pallor of despair that hung over it, managed to finally bring the essence of W&L's popcraft genius into focus.

Of course, it was released under the name "Girl Bros." not Wendy & Lisa, and was distributed through World Domination, a label whose name was more reflective of its endless ambition rather than its capabilities, so it generally escaped notice.

Which was truly unfortunate. 

With its expansive and atmospheric acoustics-and-effects approach, Girl Bros. was decidedly adult-alternative in nature, but wholly blessed with an original sound that was far too quirky and dark for the Starbucks crowd, and closer in spirit to the mood set by artists like Lisa Germano. It was also, needless to say, light years away from "Raspberry Beret."

That approach continues on their latest album, White Flags of Winter Chimneys, exclusively via their Web site. (CDs and vinyl will be coming in March). Though - and thankfully for Wendy & Lisa - there's not quite as much sadness inspiring it, the new disc manages to take up nicely where the last one left off.

It's been said that the main thing Prince learned from Wendy & Lisa was how to "color" a song; maybe he could also stand to learn another lesson: when you wait a while between records - until you've actually got good songs that mean something to you - your albums come out of the oven sounding pretty fantastic. - Jason Ferguson

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