Retro delights: Soul sisters

Since Amy Winehouse put a little soul back into pop’s bloated heart, a trail of nostalgic imitators have followed her every move. Fiona Sturges reports
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The Independent Culture

Amy Winehouse's heart may belong to a trilby-wearing jailbird but the rest of her is in thrall to the Sixties. It's there to see in the slug of eyeliner (see "The eye flick") and the outlandish beehive that puts Marie Antoinette to shame. As for her award-laden album Back to Black, it might well have been the last great soul album to come out of Motown. Note the vintage, Wall of Sound-style production, that sultry purr of a voice. But where Sixties girl groups sounded deliberately innocent, with tales of love lost and found, Winehouse is more like Kat Slater with a bad case of Tourette's.



Now Amy has spawned her own impersonators, from iron-lunged Adele to the Dusty Springfield-esque Duffy. Taking the old-school soul vibe further into panto territory are the Pipettes, a tribute to the Sixties bubblegum girl groups complete with polka-dot dresses and sharp harmonies, and The Revelations, billed as the 21st-century Ronettes.

Of course, pop has always delighted in pilfering from the past and using it as inspiration to move forward – Elvis wouldn't have existed without the blues, after all, and where would Dylan have been without country? But the practice took on a whole new thieving dimension in the Nineties. Dance music had reached its natural conclusion and Britpoppers, led by Oasis, became proud imitators of their musical heroes. What was reverential became referential.

Since then it's hard to think of a genre that hasn't been plundered. In the past five years alone we've seen resurgences of blues rock (The Kings of Leon), cock rock (The Darkness), art rock (Franz Ferdinand) and pomp rock (Scissor Sisters). Postmodernism is no excuse; now it's about nostalgia. If you're not convinced just look at the biggest, most eagerly anticipated concerts of recent years: The Pixies, The Police, Prince, Led Zeppelin.

And let's not forget the monstrous kitsch extravaganza that is the Here and Now tour, a rolling circus of faded Eighties stars, from Rick Astley to Belinda Carlisle, now in its seventh incarnation. And those wishing to relive the Nineties can look forward to tours by The Verve, My Bloody Valentine and The Happy Mondays.

So whatever next? Retro-dubstep? Neo-X-Factor? Has pop finally eaten itself? Quite possibly. But it doesn't sound half bad.

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