The Singles Bar: 17th December 2012
DING DING DING! Time, please! It’s finally come to this. After over sixteen months and roughly 700 (700?!) singles digested and reviewed, it’s time to call it a day. Our licence expires at the end of 2012 and our application to have it renewed has been rejected by the brewery (something about “lock-ins”, “negligence”, “subsidence”, “infestation” and “a danger to the public” – Health and Safety, eh?). But still, it’s been fun, hasn’t it? Think of the good times, like… well, you know, and… that other one, that was good too.
On a more serious note, thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read, comment on and share this column since its hasty inception back in August 2011. It’s been a pleasure to write and I’ve discovered some fantastic tracks that I probably never would have otherwise. Here at No Ripcord, we’re still committed to seeking out the best in new music, so plans are already afoot on how to continue that tradition as we move into 2013. In the meantime, take your time, finish your drinks and peruse the ten tracks that make up the last ever Singles Bar.
For the uninitiated (which is presumably everybody outside the UK), Eddie Stobart is a huge British haulage firm which originated in Cumbria. You can barely drive ten minutes on a motorway in this country without encountering one of their lorries undertaking illegally while the driver simultaneously texts and eats a Scotch egg (legal disclaimer: this is of course a joke and their drivers are highly skilled and well-trained). All this means they’re probably the second most famous name to come out of that tiny part of the world since the very website you’re reading now (we might be based in Sheffield now, but that’s not where it all began, you know). You won’t be surprised to hear that this is a charity single, with the beneficiaries being Help For Heroes, who look to help wounded Armed Forces personnel. While we obviously support charitable causes and hope this single does well, it’s musically a bit lacklustre, and the adapted lyrics haven’t played on the haulage connection anywhere near as much as I’d liked. Maybe if lorry drivers spent more time writing prose and less time murdering women, this would be more of a festive treat. 3/10
While comeback single, Something New, was pretty darn great, it should be noted that it didn’t hit the top spot in the charts and has dropped like a stone out of the Top 40 in subsequent weeks. A Girls Aloud ballad is rarely a good sign and the opening couplet, “Standing over the basin / I’ve been washing my face in”, is likely to set your teeth on edge. What has set Girls Aloud apart from their pop peers over the past decade is their sheer otherness, the fact they rip up the rulebook and aren’t afraid to deviate from tried and tested templates. However, Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me is pretty much the definition of the antithesis of that. It’s an empowerment song (literally, oh dear) which wrings out everything unique and exciting about Girls Aloud. It’s disheartening that Nicola Roberts has shown she can do “haters-gonn’-hate” songs with wit and style on her solo album, yet her parent group are putting out rubbish like this. Oh, Girls Aloud, what are you doing? 2/10
It might be the festive season, but Brixton Road is about as far removed from Christmas as it’s possible to get. An odd time to release such a track, perhaps, but you can’t listen to Wizzard and Slade all the time, can you? There’s a filthy, dirty feel to Brixton Road, with bar-room piano, squealing guitar and wandering bass. It’s also a wonderfully constructed track, which feels like it’s doing its part to continue the storytelling tradition of song that originated long, long ago. With this whiff of the sinister pervading the air, there’s more than a hint of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to Charlie Lankester and the Mojo Killers, if you can imagine a more Cockney version. A solid, entertaining bluesy number and no mistake. 7/10
I get the feeling this will be a week where lots of explaining will be needed to the readers outside of these fair isles. So, The Justice Collective is a collection of artists, including Robbie Williams, Mel C, Paloma Faith, Glenn Tilbrook and Sir Wacky Macca Thumbs-Aloft Paul McCartney, who have got together to raise money for victims of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. It’s also the favourite to unseat X Factor winner James Arthur and clinch the Christmas #1 spot this year. There are also a number of comedians and footballers on the track (including some who played in the infamous game itself), which sticks to the original pretty closely. And, leaving the money-raising aspect to one side for a moment, what a track it is! When you’ve heard songs so often they’re practically in your DNA it’s very difficult to hear them with new ears, but He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother truly is a marvellous track. It’s simple, unfussy and moves with an effortless grace and ease through its verses and choruses. It really is for a very, very worthy cause and, without wishing to sound like someone three times my age, they don’t write them like this anymore. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Us Generation Y, we’re a selfish lot, aren’t we, with our smartphones, our super-fast Broadband and our microwave ovens? Back in the day, Roy Wood simply wished it could be Christmas every day, but Midlands rockers LostAlone are a damn sight more demanding. Were they never taught that ‘”I want” doesn’t get’? It’s difficult to believe this has been released in 2012, as the glam stomp makes it sound as if it came firmly out of 1973. It would appear this bunch are very popular with the Kerrang!-reading urchins, who would probably give me a very nasty paper cut were I to point out that this sounds a bit like a Scouting For Girls song but with heavier guitars. However, at least LostAlone have approached writing a Christmas song in the right fashion and it sounds like they’re having a jolly lovely time doing so. If someone could tell them that they’re allowed to listen to recorded music from the past three decades though, that’d be nice. 5/10
In yet more explaining-for-non-UK-residents news, The Games Makers was the name given to the legions of volunteers who helped the Olympics run smoothly and ensured the multitude of events were enjoyed by all. Again, it’s for a good cause, with all proceeds raised from the sale of this track going towards Olympian and Paralympian charities. It’s an extraordinarily syrupy song, with lots of rousing strings and uplifting sentiments. Basically, it’s the kind of grating arrangement you’ve heard a million times before, and it’s made even worse by the fact it’s been backed by straw-haired cartoon figure of fun Boris Johnson, who has somehow been elected the Mayor Of London despite being incapable of forming coherent sentences and having a face like a balloon that someone’s drawn on. (Yes, I know he’s extremely intelligent and that’s what makes it all the more galling; people fall for his bumbling shtick and vote for him like they do for TV talent shows. There’s a decent chance he’ll be the next Prime Minister – can you imagine?). So, to summarise, the song’s not very good, Boris Johnson is a cretin, but the Games Makers are ace and it’s a good cause, so perhaps just donate to them directly rather than going anywhere near iTunes. 2/10
Seriously? Another charity song and impenetrable reference for non-Britishers? I could have just copied and pasted half of this week’s column. Despite sounding like a low-quality niche pornographic magazine, Military Wives are in fact a choir consisting of women whose partners are serving in the armed forces, which means we’ve another track raising money for charity. If you can imagine a choir singing an X Factor ballad, you’ve a pretty decent idea what this song sounds like. If you heard Wherever You Are, the group’s Christmas single from 2011, you’ll have an even better idea of what Stronger Together sounds like. Wherever You Are scored 7/10 on The Singles Bar this time last year (probably the main contributing factor to it becoming Christmas number one, in retrospect) but it’s difficult to retain the same level of enthusiasm this time round. Of course, still, good cause, donate money, be charitable and all that. 5/10
It’s impossible to read anything about Alex Day without seeing the phrase “YouTube sensation” and he’s certainly got an interesting business model and approach to the industry. He also holds the record for the highest chart placing for an unsigned artist but, despite the decline of the record industry, you can’t help but think that if he were that good, he’d have a proper deal. Stupid Stupid is a facile, irritating track where it appears Day is starting to believe the hype surrounding him. In the video he comes across as smug and condescending, and that’s without mentioning the part where he dons a Union Flag mankini. Lyrically and musically, it makes Scouting For Girls look like Leonard Cohen, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about Stupid Stupid. 0/10
How strange of Richard Fairbrass and co. to do something so cheesy – they’re normally such reserved and demure chaps. Mrweebl, an animator known for such works such as Weebl And Bob, has joined forces with the Deeply Dippy hitmakers for a cheap-sounding, hi-NRG Christmas singalong, which features an actual getting-faster bit, a la Come On Eileen. The whole thing sounds like it took about ten minutes to put together and really, I suppose that’s part of its charm. While I can’t exactly pretend I ever want to hear it again, it is the season of goodwill (my evisceration of well-meaning charity singles aside) and at least it’s an attempt to write an original Christmas pop song, the kind of which you don’t hear enough of these days. Small caveat: if you listen to this more than three times in one day, you will probably go insane. 6/10
Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler – Zombie Christmas (video NSFW)
Emmy The Distinctly Average and her beau from Ash make their first appearance in The Singles Bar since this time last year, where they waltzed off with the coveted Christmas Single Of The Week award. As you may imagine from the title, there’s something Scooby Doo scary going on in Zombie Christmas, which sounds like Monster Mash has been given a 21st Century reboot and had its subject matter slightly tweaked. While it’s all very tongue in cheek, if you can’t abandon yourself and give into joy at Christmas, when can you? And as such, it all feels slightly too knowing, especially with the line, “Christmas time is here / I hate this time of year”. That said, the video features zombies being stabbed with a candy cane and a dazzling array of Christmas jumpers, so it’s hard to know whether this stays on the right line of festive fun or not. 7/10
And that really is it. The first edition of the Singles Bar gave a 9/10 and Single Of The Week to Battles and, perhaps more tellingly, consisted of about half the number of words as this week’s column. We might be gone, but please keep listening to singles; really do. Albums are great but singles shouldn’t be considered a lesser art form. There is little finer in music – indeed, life – than the three minute pop song. I hope you’ve enjoyed your time here at the Singles Bar.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.17 December, 2012 - 20:36 — Joe Rivers