Genetic duplicates are the latest rage in pop music. Groups like Nelson and the Triplets have effortlessly parlayed freak cell division into hugely successful careers. But things weren't so easy for the Cuff twins of Britain's Soho.
The early days of this group played like a particularly poorly scripted episode of The Patty Duke Show. No one--not managers, not fans, not even fellow band mates--could tell Soho's singing siblings, Jacqueline and Pauline Cuff, apart. Confusion reigned at the group's first gigs when Pauline got the cues of lead singer Jacqueline.
Worst of all, many people saw the Cuffs' monozygotic status as some kind of gimmick. Agents and record labels shunned Soho, thinking it was just a novelty act.
"In the music business, being twins really hasn't been an advantage for us at all," insists Pauline Cuff in a recent telephone interview. "But we've never played up being twins anyway. We're just not into that. We want people to know Soho's not Jackie and Pauline--it's a band."
After nearly ten years of paying its proverbial dues on the London club circuit, Soho finally hit pay dirt last year with the British and American club hit "Hippychick." This song, which is laced with a sample from the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now," is one of the most original dance singles in recent memory. Even former Smiths guitar god Johnny Marr has unofficially given the track his stamp of approval.
Besides being irresistibly funky, "Hippychick" is also uncommonly literate for a dance tune. The song's lyrics contain fresh, compelling images of female oppression: "Today you sit here drinking coffee in your insolent mood/Tonight you'll close the door and lock me in that beveled room."
Actually, "Hippychick" was just one of many feminist manifestos planned for Soho's debut album Goddess. "Our original vision of Goddess was an album about being female in the Nineties," notes Pauline. "About standing up for yourself and doing whatever you want to do."
That concept never won the okay of the band's label. But there's still a feminist sensibility at work in several songs, like "Boy '90" and the title track, which comes off as the Nineties' answer to "I Am Woman."
Musically, Goddess is fairly diverse, from the lazy reggae of "Shake Your Thing" to the sunny, early Sixties pop--right down to the Shangri-Las sample--of "Nuthin' on My Mind." Soho pulls off every stylistic curve. Even a ridiculously feel-good ballad, "Another Year," is saved by the Cuffs' passionate vocals.
On Goddess, the Cuffs can sound sweet one minute and downright surly the next--witness the Sapphic "Girl on a Motorbike." Even more impressive than the emotional range of their singing is the seamless vocal interplay. It's difficult--even for the Cuffs themselves--to tell where one glistening voice stops and the other starts.
"I've got a deeper voice," notes Pauline. "Her pitch is a little bit higher than mine. We just sort of blend. When people hear us sing, they can't tell the difference. Even I can't tell a lot of times."
As much as she wants to downplay the "twin thing," Pauline does credit genetics for the Cuffs' fluid vocalizing. "I don't think I could work with another singer quite as easily as I do with my sister," she admits. "Obviously, the same chemistry isn't going to be there. Jacqueline and I are quite locked into each other."
Soho will perform with Jesus Jones at Club Rio on Monday, May 13. Showtime is 8 p.m.
"In the music business, being twins really hasn't been an advantage for us at all."
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"When people hear us sing, they can't tell the difference."
Many people saw the Cuffs' monozygotic status as some kind of gimmick.
"We want people to know Soho's not Jackie and Pauline--it's a band.