One of the most frustrating aspects of underground British indie pop is that a band can release numerous singles overseas to little or no attention paid over here in America. Other bands will release singles to such critical acclaim, American fans of that particular kind of thing rush out and pay expensive import costs. Other bands, however, opt to release singles instead of albums, and then simply compile said 7"s with new songs, and call that their "debut"--often to the consternation of the Americans who paid the big bucks for their records a few months previous.
Screen Prints are definitely one band that TOTALLY slipped under the radar. Fortunately for us, this collection certainly makes up for all of the missed time from the past few years. Bands as small and obscure as Screen Prints exist on an almost mythical plane, and it would probably be near impossible to find most of the singles contained on Perfect City. In such a case, a collection such as this is oh-so handy. Might I also add, however, that this compilation as debut album technique serves this band quite well? Granted, 70 minutes of music from any artist--much less a very obscure band--is a bit much, regardless of utter brilliance.
While the twenty tracks of Perfect City may seem overwhelming at first, the mere quality of the songs quickly eases the listener into a comfortable state. Upon first listen, I shuddered in the same way the first time I heard the Clientele. Screen Prints are that rare breed of band whose sound simply cannot be defined by a single track. Screen Prints obviously like good music, as you'll hear influences ranging from the jazzy pop styles of Zombies ("Autumnal Playing Field"), the harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Air Supply, and later Hollies ("Christmas Must Be Tonight"), and the guitar styles of Durutti Column and Unrest ("Same Time Next Year," "Perfect City"). Like the Clientele, they aren't wallowing in the past; they're utilizing what they learned from the past and applying it to today's style. Labeling them as merely a "retro" band would miss the point entirely; after all, can't a band just be influenced by the past without having to be pinned down as a copycat?
Though it may be slightly difficult to find in the US, if you're a fan of quality British pop, seek out Perfect City (Twenty Singles 1998-2000). They're a simply lovely group, who write deceptively simple songs. Though I'm not sure if they are still together or not, their tunes will simply overwhelm you with their simple charm and beauty.