Trophy Wife’s one and only album – bar a quickly released re-envisaged working of the same tracks downloadable via the band’s mailing list – is contemplative, conflicted and outwardly observant – similar to the quintet’s name: the band describe Trophy Wife the persona as something between glory-chasing soccer mums and the dank reality of their null existence. In musical terms, this is soft-edged pop beats and distorted vocals; and opposingly, complex and uppety phantom structures covered in sound qualities which largely work in crescendos – big style crescendos that could make light work of mountains.
This doesn’t make TROPHY WIFE a tough listen. ‘Like No Other’, ‘Absence’ and ‘Glue’ dance like no one’s watching – this is power-pop with time on its’ hands.
Asides the nifty splintered grooves there is perplexingly tight production qualities as in the vast ‘Antipodea’, but Trophy Wife are wordsmiths as well as music makers. ‘Heavy Touch’ illustrates how easily the band create tension via the simple tactic of grating lyrics with sound: ‘comfort me with certainty’ frontman Jody Prewett pleads, nulifying his point against the grating and prolonged reality of some minor keys.
‘Microlite’, and ‘Always Falling Away’ are more memory makers. The first is a dainty number – akin to a ‘Microlite’ itself – and is oh-so Oxfordian in its vocal, synth and string layering which is as unpredictable yet revelatory as a microlite flight – the band are on a progressive journey of sorts – with the news of the band’s split, we should expect ‘Trophy Wife’ to be only a passing role, a musical moment among many for all involved.
You’ll be sure to see these musicians elsewhere, but this news is a tough consolation prize to the niche fan set this band have garnered – who, including myself, found some sort of clarity and truth in the disjointed but essential messages of Trophy Wife.
Here lies the quintessence of tragic artistry. A tribute to perseverance (its jangly new-wave showpiece ‘Microlite’ was released back in 2010), Trophy Wife owes its intensity of feeling to years of battling. To perfectionism, in the studio and pounding the circuit, and to the counsel from fellow Oxonians Foals along the way. The finished LP is graceful and marvellously produced; as Trophy Wife’s first and last, its evocations for any would-be muso are as poignant as they are inspiring.
Hence the sense of loss pervading this affective set of melodies. What ‘Absence’ expresses in title, ‘Like No Other’ communicates through spartan grooves and deft syncopated passages. Although their album represents determination and triumph, all Trophy Wife’s imagery is of nihilism. Their self-branding as ‘pentatonic pop’ – pentatonic describing a stripped-down set of notes giving rise to haunting textures – confirms that all the way up to music-boffin level, the band is to be remembered as a minimal and depleted entity.
Yet the effects are huge. ‘Absence’, its tremolo guitar scratching out an Ennio Morricone-like passage, is written on blockbuster scale. ‘Heavy Touch’, ironically, boasts a delicate assembly of electronic instrumentation, while the magnificent ‘Hold On’ outputs some shapely bass figures reminiscent of those other Oxford innovators, Radiohead. Trophy Wife, we hardly knew ye.
Trophy Wife’s TROPHY WIFE is the end credits playing along to the last images (for now) flickering on a screen soon to be turned off.
Trophy Wife are no more.
A band who never seemed to scale the heights reached by friends and fellow Oxonians Foals. The similarities between the two are only subtle, but it is in the subtleties that Trophy Wife live. Neat little guitar lines, neat little synth lines and neat old vocals.
The whole thing is tidy.
Tidy calm disco pop.
Nothing explodes. Nothing careens. It just dances happily and enjoyably along.
‘Glue’, ‘Surfacing’ and ‘Heavy’ seem to have something more than the rest, maybe the guitar line in ‘Heavy’ or the atmospheric pangs of ‘Surfacing’, and whilst the album as a whole is a solid one it was these tracks which stood out for me .
So as Trophy Wife come to an end I can’t help but wonder has the dodo really disappeared? Isn’t the T-Rex just hiding down at the local social club playing cards with D.B Cooper?
Trophy Wife may yet reappear again after a healthy break. I mean look at the Coelacanth fish, they weren’t extinct like everyone once thought, they were just enjoying the waves for a while.
Enjoy the waves Trophy Wife.