Although he's not a musician and his name is almost completely unknown outside of a dedicated cult following, Mike Always is a legend in British indie pop circles. As the head of A&R for Cherry Red Records, he almost single-handedly invented the template of childlike yet sardonic irony that's the basis of what became known as twee pop, a concept he took to new and ever more over-the-top ends with his labels Blanco y Negro and (especially) El Records. Although he's slowed down since his mid-'80s heyday, Always keeps his hand in, and in 2001, he unveiled a new creation, Death by Chocolate.
Death by Chocolate formed in 2000 when Always introduced musicians and producers Jeremy Butler, John Austin, and Matty Green (formerly guitarist in the noise pop band Boyracer) to a 19-year-old hotel chambermaid named Angela Faye Tillett. The four like-minded souls immediately bonded, inspired by Always' dictum that their new project should sound like a musical equivalent to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Inspired by the lushest and most oddball corners of '60s psychedelia, sunshine pop, and freakbeat, Butler, Austin, and Green create sumptuous and melodic soundscapes over which Tillett recites her daffy spoken word poems and ruminations in a tiny, adorable, and veddy English voice straight out of Alice in Wonderland.
After a couple of demos appeared on 2000's Songs for the Jetset, Vol. 3, Death by Chocolate unveiled their full-length, self-titled debut in early 2001. Including covers of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's "The LS Bumblebee" and Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," Death by Chocolate was an unabashedly sweet creation. Released in July 2002, Zap the World (named for the theme song of the villain Witchiepoo in the '70s children's series H.R. Pufnstuf) continued the quartet's sugary twee pop aesthetic.
After a decade long break the group (by then consisting of Tillett, Butler, and Canadian soundtrack composer Jason Frederick) returned with a new album. Bric-a-Brac was released by Darla Records in February of 2012. ~ Stewart Mason