Re-evaluating Daphne and Celeste
As the pop pair return with a new single ahead of a brand new album Save The World, Daphne and Celeste expert Chris Burgess looks at why the much-maligned duo deserve re-evaluation.
Many years ago, in a land far, far away, two young women joined together to create one of the most punk rock and empowering female groups of all time.
Trouble is, they didn’t know it. Nobody did. But it’s true, we have the evidence.
Daphne and Celeste are nowadays known for their novelty value – their camp, cartoony hits U.G.L.Y. and Ooh Stick You!, but they were much, much more than that and as they launch their surprise comeback, we should reappraise their output.
Their energetic, sped-up singles were surprisingly subversive, drawing complaints from many parents, accusing them of bullying, met with the semi-philosophical response of “everyone is indeed ugly in their own special way” by the pair.
Their debut We Didn’t Say That packs more into a pop album than anything by the Spice Girls, All Saints or their spiritual fore-bearers Shampoo.
Instead it still contains a shedload of weird, slightly off-kilter pop marvels. From the monster movie-inspired Peek-a-Boo to the Japanese madness of I Love Your Sushi, you hear something new and hilarious on every listen. It’s an album that in a sane world should have sold in the millions. At once poppy, fresh, naughty and batshit crazy.
Perhaps they were victims of time. Coming in the wake of the Spice Girls and the rather empty post-Britpop music landscape, they perhaps weren’t seen as being cool or edgy enough, when in fact they totally were. Maybe if their debut album had been released in the 1980s, things may have been very different.
Sadly history hasn’t been kind to the pair at all. Ask anyone what they remember about them and you’ll hear one story and one story only – the Reading bottle incident.
But what’s often missed is how much chutzpah, what balls of steel, what self-assured confidence the two singers had. Looking back on that infamous performance, you see two fearless young women OWNING the damn situation and laughing it off.
How many other artists would have agreed to that slot, been totally up for performing and not stormed off stage at the sight of the first bottle heading their way?
50 Cent lasted about two minutes. Josh Homme would have kicked someone in the head. Morrissey would have ran away crying and blaming foreigners or whatever it is he does these days.
Daphne and Celeste performed their whole scheduled set. They laughed all the way through, at the both the situation and the crowd themselves. They took the piss out of signs literally telling them to ‘die’.
And they did it all with incredible grace and heart. If they felt scared, they didn’t show it. If they felt intimidated, they didn’t let it stop the show. It felt like they were on a mission to prove – perhaps to themselves as well as the moshing crowd – that they were untouchable and unafraid.
Now they’re back, and their subversive nature shows no sign of having been diminished. While BB (standing for Basic Busker) isn’t as cartoony as their hits, it is still as cutting. They take aim at the boring, staid musicians currently occupying the radio waves.
It’s a sideswipe at Ed Sheeran and other ‘acoustic guitar and three minor chords’ singers, and it’s long, long overdue.
We don’t deserve Daphne and Celeste, the pop group that have more punk spirit than most alpha-male rock bands. A duo who never compromised, never gave you what you expected and are still kicking ass fifteen years since they started.
In this shifting world of feminism and female empowerment they should be held up as a shining example to women of all ages, not just regarded as cartoony pop.
They are who we all should aspire to be – strong, fearless and fun.