Serendipity Doo Dah!
Just another indie pop combo with a girlie singer? No, DARLINGHEART offer something more, something special, as Craig McLean explains.
he guy at the gig in London claimed
that Darlingheart had ‘podded’ him
like some skew-whiff version of
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. The
guy in Nottingham said he was gay
but Darlingheart had made him re- evaluate his hormonal inclinations. The guy in Glasgow was deeply unsettled by Darling- heart’s performance but totally floored when, after the gig, their singer put her ﬁst, her whole ﬁst, in her mouth.
It’s that Darlingheart Effect. Or more speciﬁcally, and most obviously, it’s that Cora Bissett lmpact, the sting of the singer. Taken alone, the music of this fast-emergent Fife foursome is a rush of buzzing guitars and sweeping vocals, chainsaw fuzz and electric- sugar ﬁzz. And look out, here come the poorly- plotted reference points: Throwing Muses! 10,000 Maniacs! Some mid-80$ pop-goth stuff! Er. . . that’s it! None of which gives full focus to what Darlingheart do and what Serendipity, their debut album, sounds like. Which in turn, does not give full vent to what Darlingheart do live.
On stage Darlingheart explode, busting wide the limitations of their recorded work. On stage Cora bursts into energetic joy and liberating abandon. On stage Cora is a magnet, transﬁxing attention. while her three fellow Darlings provide sturdy, big noise buffers. On stage Darlingheart are a revelation.
All of which might sound like hollow hype, but it’s not. Live, Darlingheart are a sheer triumph and singer Cora Bisset a free-bom star, oozing conﬁdence and natural presence, and all without the bumptious swagger of all-mouth, no-content arrivistes. Darlingheart are a wow and Cora a charm.
‘lt’s a release for me, it’s a release for everybody,’ says Cora of their gigs-as-catharsis happenings, their way of externalising the troubling little defects inside us all and inside the best of Darlingheart’s songs. ‘lt’s not like you’re wallowing in these more ugly bits of your life, it’sjust tackling them, just thrashing them out. It’s like getting something positive out of a whole bundle of negative.’
A kind of personal therapy?
‘Yeah, it’s like squeezing blackheads! Makes you feel good, cleansed.’
There’s no doubt that the live version of the band was pivotal, more pivotal than most other would-be stars’ gigs are, in landing them a record deal in a flash. And now, ﬁnally, as they set off on a high-proﬁle tour with revived rock revisionists Blur (and prospects of a similar slot with The Catherine Wheel in the pipeline) that that same live aliveness promises fame and pleasure aplenty.
Here, then, is the countdown to ecstasy. Kirkcaldy, December 1991 Darlingheart send out demo tapes to various music biz movers
‘liarllngheart’s pop, with all its surface light and dark interiors, will thrill and chill. And in the middle or it all Is the dynamic, lire-artirming gusto or Cora
and shakers in Scotland. It was recorded on 25 and 26 November and had been in preparation in the six months or so since 17-year-old schoolgirl Cora Bissett had joined 25-year-olds Clark Thomson and Cameron Campbell. The ﬁrst of the three tracks is ‘Smarthead’. It sounded great. Sixteen months later it would be their debut single. Edinburgh, January 1992 On the ﬁrst Sunday of the year Radio Forth’s afternoon Double Joint show plays the demo and interviews the band over the phone. By the Friday they have a manager. On the last Saturday of the month Darlingheart, still in effect a threesome, play Negociants. It is their ﬁrst gig outside Fife. ‘You get the feeling that Darlingheart haven’t really got the hang of this performance thing yet,’ reckons The List reviewer. Edinburgh, February 1992 Darlingheart have got the hang of this performance thing now. On the 17th of the month they support greasy Midland grungers Scorpio Rising at The Music Box. l6-year-old drummer Cathryn Stirling makes her debut appearance, hot-footing it down south from a previous engagement. ‘l was playing in the school wind band competition that night,’ she recalls. ‘And we actually won! Then we had a brilliant gig in Edinburgh.’ This is correct, Darlingheart are magniﬁcent. As is right and proper, they have a record deal by the end of the month, with Phonogram.
‘It was really, really rapid,’ says Cora.
‘lt was scary,’ says Cathryn.
‘lt was too quick to take in at the time,’ says Cora. ‘l was really edgy about it all . . .’
Their new manager (who also looks after The Joyriders and TI'F), took the trouble to meet the girls’ parents, ‘to reassure them’ that the devilish world of rock ’n’ roll was not about to carry their teenage daughters off into the sunset. And anyway, there was the steadying inﬂuence of Cameron and Clark, old hands at this being-in-a-band lark.
‘There’s a big age difference,’ nods Cora. ‘We’re almost from different eras. They were going through their goth stage when me and Cathryn were getting our ﬁrst bras! When you think about it like that, it’s weird. But it’s weird how itjust merges . . .’
Pencaitland, June-July 1992 Darlingheart ‘merge’ in the studio, mixing the dues-paid experience of the male two and fresh-faced zip of the female two. They record Serendipity with producer Callum Malcolm — still knee- jerkingly associated with The Blue Nile and Botany 5 but equally adept at twiddling the controls for something as spiky and verveful as Darlingheart.
Britain, February-March 1993 Darlingheart tour, rigorously and vigorously, with Sultans Of Ping FC, Eat, The Cranberries, lan McNabb, Radiohead. The gig-slogging before the record-ﬂogging.
Aberdeen, April 1993 Supporting Eugenius in The Lemon Tree, Darlingheart invoke terpsichorean madness in a town where they’ve never played before.
The World, May 1993 Serendipity is released and the Blur tour starts. Hitching aboard the latter required major record company moolah, but it’s worth it. Darlingheart will meet and treat their biggest audience yet. Something this good can’t remain this (relatively) unknown forever. Darlingheart’s pop, with all its surface light and dark interiors, will thrill and chill. And in the middle of it all is the dynamic, life- afﬁnning gusto of Cora Bissett. This is Darlingheart’s trump card and with it they’ll come up trumps.
All of which again may sound like more hollow hype. But it’s true. I should know. I was that punter in Glasgow who was gob-smacked by ﬁst-mouth.
‘l was telling the band the other day there,’ says Cora, ‘that I woke up in the middle of the night and l was absolutely hyper, just really itching to get on a stage, get a gig going, it was amazing!’ she enthuses with boggle-eyed wonder as kd lang benignly and aptly croons ‘Constant Craving’ in the background. ‘I was just agitated, pacing around my room, saying, “I really need to get on a stage!” ’
Lucky, then, that for Darlingheart all the world’s a . . .
Darlingheart 's debut album ‘Serendipity’ was released on I 7 May. Scottish dates follow in June.
8 The List 2] May—3 June 1993