Trembling Blue Stars Her Handwriting / Lips That Taste of Tears

Bobby Wratten has always made his private life personal. Anybody who has heard an album by the Field Mice knew of his relationship with band-mate Anne Mari Davies, and probably expected it all to go horribly wrong sooner or later. And it did. Originally planned as a one-off solo project, Trembling Blue Stars somehow become Wratten’s longest lasting band, despite going through many personnel changes over the years. The music was a natural progression from the electronic experimentation of Northern Picture Library, although from time to time there were songs that would have fitted in nicely to any Field Mice album. Always ahead of his time, he was bringing together indie pop and electronic music before it was cool to do so. When it comes to break-up albums, it would be hard to imagine a more comprehensive one than Her Handwriting. The songs document the end of the relationship between Wratten and Davies, just as the Field Mice’s For Keeps tells of the relationship’s beginning. It does so in a way that had to be cathartic for Wratten or else he would never have recorded such personal moments for the entire world to hear. It never crosses the line into self-indulgence even though there are times where it can make for uncomfortable listening. Still, it is hard to argue with the lush, trippy beats of "Abba on the Jukebox.” Lips That Taste of Tears arrived in 1998 and, rather dramatically, saw Wratten and Davies reunited, at least artistically. It isn’t quite as downbeat as its predecessor, perhaps hinting that wounds were beginning to heal, but there are still some devastatingly sad moments where Wratten doesn’t so much wear his heart on his sleeve as his soul. Sometimes the upbeat songs seem a little out of place, probably because it was getting hard to imagine he could be happy. But with that change in mood came more experimentation and the reunited duo flirted more obviously with dance music than ever before. These albums are probably the two finest moments in Trembling Blue Stars’ canon — both were well-received critically on their initial release but it wasn’t until the band’s third album was given a North American release by Sub Pop that they were really noticed. (LTM)