I first saw Peggy Sue perform in the days when they were Peggy Sue and the Pirates, wearing fancy dress and singing funny, irreverent songs about Superman and wasted teenage girls. Their powerful voices and stage presence were already blindingly obvious, but the main shift in their sound has been a steady darkening. They are heavier now, and fiercer.
Acrobats is a brooding journey, beginning with growly PJ Harvey-like guitars, moving through conflict-driven songs about bad relationships, power games in which hearts are broken and flesh eaten – about either wanting someone else to stay, or wanting to go. Peggy Sue are conscious of their own intensity to the extent that listening can feel like wading through mud, but an easy ride does not seem to be what they’re going for.
At its heights Acrobats reminds me of the gripping, authentic, forceful anger of Sleater-Kinney; at other times it feels more calculated, ‘Cut My Teeth’ slotting neatly alongside Florence and the Machine’s cannibalistic love songs into the vogue for all things vampiric. Not that this is a bad thing (as Florence’s success shows), but it has begun to feel imitative.
However, this misgiving is lifted at the end of the album by three very strong, unpredictable, flowing offerings: ‘Ruthie’, ‘Shadows’, and ‘There Always Was’, which has a great thudding beat to it and circling refrains. ‘Parking Meter Blues’, ‘All We’ll Keep’ and ‘Funeral Beat’ are also suspenseful and compelling. As a whole, Acrobats walks the tightrope from intimate, tense, pared-down vocals and guitar to full-on banshee wailing, strings, brass and drums, Rosa and Katy singing with their hackles raised.
Words: Becky Varley-Winter