Sisters Go Bangles

I keep neglecting this entry, and the universe keeps reminding me to write it up.

The Puppini Sisters are a trio of singers who perform in the close-harmony swing style of The Andrews Sisters with great jazz backing. If you don't know who The Andrews Sisters are, (1) wow, I feel old — they were before my time, too, but they should be part of the pop consciousness — and (B) you probably have heard them and just can't put the name to the music. Here, I'll prove it.

Cover to the album 'The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo' with the singers and their instruments (violin, toy piano, accordion) on an antique coach; Marcella Puppini, center, is displaying some decolletage

Earlier this year, on an episode of NBC's Chuck, an Andrews-ish rendition of The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" started up in the background and I was smitten. A quick round of Googling turned up the Puppinis — a sisterhood formed in the UK in 2004 that actually consists of just one Puppini and two friends, I learn from the trio's Wikipedia entry and a short interview with Marcella Puppini that's linked from it; inspiration was provided by the great French animated film Les Triplettes de Belleville, those Andrews gals, their antecedents The Boswell Sisters, and Marlene Dietrich, among others.

Marcella, Stephanie O'Brien, & Kate Mullins' two full-length CDs to date, 2006's Betcha Bottom Dollar and 2007's The Rise and Fall of Ruby Woo, mix renditions of such vintage material as The Chordettes' staple "Mr. Sandman" and the above-linked Andrews Sisters signature "Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy [of Company B]" with covers of more contemporary pop like "Egyptian"; Woo also includes a few choice originals. Only a handful of songs are currently streamable at the group's MySpace page, but clipped versions of many songs are piped in continuously at the Puppinis' delightful, eponymous website, somehow undiscovered by me until now. Sadly, I can't find a complete album version of "Walk Like an Egyptian" at this writing, and as a general rule I don't link to illegally uploaded material, but you can hear snippets at Amazon or the iTunes store. If you really want to hear the whole track before buying it you won't have to search very hard.

While their style is novel within the modern musical landscape, The Puppini Sisters are hardly a novelty act reducible to an Andrews Sisters pastiche. It's true that Blondie's "Heart of Glass" comes off as somewhat hokey in its perhaps too precise transposition to the close-harmony template, but the Puppinis' version of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love" is wildly creative in both vocals and instrumentation, veering from big-band sound through a weird fiddling interlude to the blues and back to big-band again, not just swinging but swinging for the fences. Most promising of all is the quality of the originals on Ruby Woo, which like the most inventive of the covers beg to be replayed immediately. "Jilted" begins with smoky cabaret worthy of Dietrich or Peggy Lee and features cheekily modern lyrics; "And She Sang" is so hauntingly, colorfully baroque that my mind's eye owes Tim Burton royalties.

I'll stop now so that you can go listen to the music, if you haven't already, but don't forget to come back and thank me.

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El Qué said...

Who are the Bangles, Grandpa?

Blam said...


Jenea said...

Oooooo harmony!!! I like it!! I have one too but I don't play on it...