The one thing that has marked songs from The Beautiful South is how they have managed to put such stingingly bitter lyrics against such honey-coated music. But vocalist Jacqueline Abbott says TBS is hardly the bitter band that everyone thinks it is. 'Bitter band? Not at all,' said Abbott over the telephone from London. '[The boys] just have a very, very sarcastic sense of humour. It comes across in Paul's [Heaton] lyrics because he's very observant. He's very honest as well about the relationships between people and the stories he's telling come across as sarcastic in a humorous way. The melody that goes with his lyrics are sweet. It's an unusual combination.' Most of TBS' songwriting duties are taken over by Heaton (vocals) and David Rotheray (guitarist), who started the band with Dave Hemingway (vocals), Sean Welch (bass), and David Stead (drums), more than a decade ago after they broke away from the Housemartins. Abbott joined the band in 1994 after original female lead Brianna Corrigan left in protest over what she described as 'sexist songs'. Abbott says she has not had the same problems. 'I'm not the kind of person to take things to heart. I think for Brianna, she saw the lyrics and thought about the people who were listening to her singing. 'I think she just took it too seriously. You've just got to have a wide opinion about Paul's songs and be a bit lenient with him in what he writes. I think he's getting more and more honest as he goes on. 'There'll be more and more songs that he will write that will probably offend people. He's trying to tell a story. I think that was why she went and I don't think there's any point in that.' Don't Marry Her, one of the singles from TBS' new album Blue Is The Colour might perhaps be one of these 'offending' songs. With lyrics such as: 'She'll grab your sweaty b******s and slowly raise her knee, don't marry her, f*** me,' it would not be surprising. And, TBS obviously expected backlash too, because the band wisely decided to record two versions: the 'cleaner' version saying: 'Don't marry her, have me.' 'We knew that if we were going to release [the original version], it wouldn't get played,' Abbott says. 'So we did another version. We don't really mind but it would have been nice to keep the original version because that's the way Paul writes. He wants to be brutally honest, but I suppose it's worth it to let the record do well and let it be heard.' Abbott's husky vocals are radically different from Corrigan's clear high-pitched voice, and stepping into Corrigan's shoes was not easy for the former supermarket check-out girl. 'I was quite nervous at first thinking a lot of people would want Brianna and not me, and I suppose it was a bit nerve-wracking. But I think everybody knew that she had left and it was just time to move on.' Before joining the band, Abbott had never sung professionally. But she met Heaton at a party in St Helens, in the north of England, where she was persuaded to sing a song. About a year later, Heaton sent a friend to ask her if she was interested in auditioning for Brianna's job. Ironically, Abbott had not been a fan of TBS - which gained Hong Kong attention when the Soft and Hardcore Kids recorded a cover version of Song For Whoever. 'I'd heard a few of the more popular songs like A Little Time but I never really followed their work. Everybody was asking me at the beginning if I liked them, and I said, 'no, actually'.' But once she had joined, she had to sit and listen to all the albums and found herself getting quite 'into' the music. 'It's a strange sort of thing really. I really started to like them and the way Paul writes his songs.' She had a lonely time adjusting from supermarket check-out to lead singer of one of Britain's most successful bands. Their compilation Carry On Up The Charts sold more than 2.2 million copies in Britain and ranks among the country's 20 best-selling albums. 'It was really lonely at first. I was just a session musician and joined immediately afterwards. We went for two tours, a month each time. Two months away from home, living out of a bag, night after night in hotels. It was really, really hard. 'I was the only female in the group. There were 25 lads [on the road] and just me. But I'm used to it now.' Critics have said that Miaow, Abbott's debut with TBS, marked a turn towards 'darker lyrics' for the group, and Abbott agreed that her arrival led naturally to a new path for the band. 'The Beautiful South has gone in a different direction because there's a different voice in the band. In a way, it was a turning point for us because I think Paul was thinking of something different because Brianna had gone. 'It's changed even more with Blue Is The Colour I think because he's got used to this voice and writing to get round my voice. Each album is changing more and more as he's going along.'