How many pieces can you replace on something before it loses its essence? Whether it’s EVE rebuilding a damaged WALL-E from scrap, or my own quest to restore my Jeep after some rascally car thieves stripped it for parts, the question persists: just how much addition and subtraction can something withstand before it becomes something else entirely?
That’s a concern that’s plagued The Pipettes in recent years. The UK trio made a big splash in Europe and Asia with 2006’s chart-topping We Are The Pipettes, a delightful collection of catchy, girl group-inspired pop with a winking, post-feminist twist. Thanks to unforgettable singles like “Pull Shapes” and “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me,” the record established the steely Gwenno, the demure Rosay, and the prickly RiotBecki as worthy carriers of the Phil Spector torch.
The Pipettes seemed destined for success until 2008, when Rosay and RiotBecki left to pursue other musical projects (Rosay released her dreamy debut, Without Why, as Rose Elinor Dougall last year). Losing two-thirds of the lineup would normally spell the end for a band, but Gwenno decided to keep the Pipettes name and regroup.
It wasn’t long before Gwenno filled the two slots with her sister Ani Saunders and Anna McDonald. The new lineup was about to record the follow-up to We Are The Pipettes when McDonald abruptly left to “pursue a song-writing career outside of the band.” Undaunted, the Saunders sisters replaced her with Beth Mburu-Bowie and completed the album, the disco-centric Earth vs. The Pipettes. The Pipettes curse was a persistent one, though, and Mburu-Bowie quit in 2009.
Rather than seek out yet another singer to fill the vacancy, Gwenno and Ani decided to keep the band a two-piece, and the lineup has been stable ever since. But can this latest version of the group hold a candle to the one of 5 years ago? Or have The Pipettes changed too much, and become something else entirely? You can find out on May 5, when the duo plays the Casbah with Family of the Year and The Very. Tickets for the show can be purchased here.
Watch: The Pipettes – “Stop the Music”