The Singles Bar: 10th September 2012
Hey there, pop-pickers!
Joe’s currently recovering from Bestival (expect the fruits of his and Craig’s coverage later in the week), meaning that once again you have me filling in, and once again I’m suffering from a major case of sporting withdrawal and in no real mood to write about music. I’ve spent the past month and a half admiring the dedication, not to mention the magnificent physiques, of the athletes and I’m just not quite ready to turn my attention back to those swathes of fey young things in vintage shirts and skinny jeans going on about how unfair/lovely everything is, or to those uninspired videos that consist solely of unhealthy amounts of close-ups on girls’ bikini-clad backsides.
I did consider using this week’s column to comment on the music choices at the Games (Orbital’s take on Spasticus Artisticus – genius or a bit too blunt? How about My Girls playing during the blind and partially sighted women’s 400m finals - awesome or slightly patronising?), but eventually I had to admit to myself that there’s not much justification for me to do so as there’s (thankfully) nothing as spectacularly misjudged as that George Michael closing ceremony plug to deal with this week – say what you like about Coldplay, Rihanna or Jay-Z, but all of them have considerably more class than that.
So, enough about the sport, I suppose. Bring on the singles!
Kodaline – The Kodaline EP
Now this is exactly what I was talking about; you can practically picture the fashionably unfashionable cardigans on hearing the falsetto and sensitively strummed guitars in All I Want, the lead track of Irish band Kodaline’s self-titled EP. Add to that a sensitive yet inconsequential narrative video and a universally vague sentiment - that everybody just needs to be loved – and it’s enough evidence to confirm that Kodaline can be filed snugly alongside Coldplay. Nobody could deny it’s all very slickly produced or that the song’s soaring climax is affectingly effective, but I expect that few of us could come up with a decent argument for its reason to exist either. 5/10
The Maginot Band – Slow Down Sundial
The Maginot Band have been around for a while, initially going by the name Maydays, and gathering some support by opening for the likes of Field Music. Slow Down Sundial though is in fact their debut release, and it sees them make a rather promising start. Admittedly there is something of the Gallaghers in the carefree belted out vocals (just with a bit of a Scottish accent), which isn’t entirely to my taste, but there’s still a lot here that took my fancy, such as the laid-back sunniness of the production and their downright luscious guitar sound. 7/10
Tame Impala – Elephant
Odds are you’ve already heard Elephant by now, as it’s been making the rounds of the music blogging community over the past couple of months. If not, it’s a rousingly bluesy stomp, and a definite throwback to late 60s psychedelia. Think Come Together with a Moog solo and you’re pretty much there. 7/10
Plan B – Deepest Shame
Do you ever get the feeling that you’re the sole voice of reason in a world gone mad? For me, the output of Ben Drew does just that – and it’s not just down to the mega success of the incredibly cynical ...Strickland Banks album; even people whose opinions I very much admire have argued that his debut was ‘gritty’ and ‘vital’ or that iLL Manors could be "one of the most important and thrilling singles in UK chart history" (I’m afraid you’re never going to live that one down, Joe). I’m sorry, but I still can’t get on board. Of course the man has talent, but his approach is far too witless to be effective.
Deepest Shame is the latest single to be taken from the admittedly alright soundtrack to the truly awful iLL Manors, and is only really notable for marrying his soul crooner and rapper personas, so will probably be warmly received by a sizeable portion of his fanbase. As for me… well, I didn’t find it offensive as such, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. 5/10
Owl City & Carly Rae Jepson – Good Time
Adam Young has come in for a bit of a kicking around these parts, and quite rightly too – the fact that he’s not only based his entire career on ripping off the Postal Service, but replacing their melancholic wit with wishy-washy (and essentially meaningless) platitudes. On the other hand, I have nothing against Carly Rae Jepson – yes, we’re probably all a bit sick of Call Me Maybe now, but it's held up to repeated listenings far better than most songs, so I still went into this collaboration with a degree of optimism.
Turns out I shouldn’t have bothered though, as Good Time is unfortunately far more the work of the former than the latter; Jepson may dominate the chorus, the majority of it though practically drips in Young’s signature wetness. The Euro-pop synths may be catchy, in an annoying sort of way, but it’s so screamingly innocuous (Exhibit A: Young blandly trilling the lines “Woke up on the right side of the bed / what’s up with this Prince song inside my head?”) and such a blatant attempt at squeaky clean fun that one suspects it’ll be gleefully adopted as the soundtrack of teen abstinence rallies across the western world, which is not the basis of decent pop music. In short, it makes Kodaline look like fucking Shaft. 2/10
Tulisa Featuring Tyga – Live It Up
Although she really doesn’t need my sympathy, what with her glittering career and enviable youth, I do feel for Tulisa. Not only has she had to spend years putting up with and excusing the idiocy of bobble-hatted cock Dappy (*spits*) but now she’s part of the Simon Cowell juggernaut, forced to spend her weekends sat next to Louis Walsh and crushing the dreams of the young and innocent (and, it must be said, borderline mentally ill).
I must say that I feel somewhat less warmly towards her after having to listen to Live It Up though. For a start the fact that it’s a summer song that’s been inexplicably released in the Autumn is somehow the least of its problems. As for what the most offensive part about it is, well, it’s difficult to say - the dancehall-aping siren-based riff is unpleasant; Tulisa’s lairy and tuneless vocals are unspeakably irritating and Tyga’s input is so lazy it’s barely there. To put it bluntly, it’s positively ghastly. How ghastly you may be (but probably aren't) asking? Ghastly enough that the video’s similarity to that of Paris Hilton’s Stars Are Blind made me realise that I’d much rather be listening to that instead. 0/10
Society – All That We’ve Become
As with The Maginot Band, there’s a bit of a musical and vocal disconnect in All That We’ve Become. There’s a definite (and mostly successful) striving towards the lush orchestrations of The Walker Brothers, yet the vocals come across a bit too Richard Ashcroft for comfort. It’s still slickly done, and rather lovely though. 7/10
Old Apparatus – Realise EP
Never has there been a more appropriately named band (if they are, in fact, a band – just about the only description I’ve found of Old Apparatus calls them a ‘shadowy post-dubstep collective’) as Realise sounds like the clicking and ticking of broken down electronics, in a rather romantic way. The only problem is that, while trying so hard to be tastefully attractive, it ends up a bit too dry and wispy to make much of an impression. 6/10
Lorn – Weigh Me Down
I’m starting to think that I probably shouldn’t write about electronic music as it’s getting harder and harder to not show my age when attempting to pick through the various genres and sub-genres, not to mention the seemingly endless faceless, and often ridiculously monikered, producers (it’s a slippery slope from here to grumbling at passing kids that music was better in my day). While I could attempt to classify Weigh Me Down (I think it would also qualify as ‘post-dubstep’) or do a cursory bit of background research on Lorn so as not to come across as a complete ignoramus, I’d probably be better off just spending the time and word-count on describing what it actually sounds like, which is tricky enough in itself as there’s plenty going on here – doomy, even disturbingly filthy, vocals, movie soundtrack strings, clattering beats (it certainly packs the punch that Old Apparatus were missing) and what may be a hammered dulcimer - all in the space of less than four minutes. It requires a lot of effort to take it all in, and is absolutely worth it. 8/10 Single Of The Week
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Magpies On Fire/Victorian Machinery
The second in the Peppers’ series of double-A sided singles and somehow it’s so much worse than the first. Even hardcore Chilis fans (such people must exist, surely? Not that I’ve ever met any) will struggle to find much of interest, or even a discernible tune, in Victorian Machinery (and while Magpies On Fire might be a marginally less unpleasant listen, that’s still a long way off being a recommendation). Please Stop/10
And that’s yer lot. Joe should be back next week, in the meantime I’m off to see someone at LOCOG to present my ideas for extending the franchise. Hopefully they’ll agree that a Doglympics would prove wildly popular.