Music Features

The Singles Bar: 20th August 2012

Happy birthday to us! The Singles Bar first opened for business on 15th August 2011 which means that in the past week, we’ve celebrated our first anniversary. There have been plenty of thrills and spills along the way, so a big thank you for anyone who’s ever read, commented on or shared this column – we hope The Singles Bar has got legs for a while yet. So, while we scoff our jelly and ice cream, you can tuck into this week’s ten top tracks.

Devlin feat. Ed Sheeran – (All Along The) Watchtower

Oh no, they haven’t… have they? Oh dear, they actually have. Poor man’s Plan B, Devlin, busies himself by rapping over the riff from the Jimi Hendrix Experience version of this track and Ed Sheeran struggles desperately throughout the chorus. They’ve also added hip-hop beats, a lorryload of cymbals, and all the respect for songcraft of the proverbial bull in a china shop. This kind of thing makes It’s Goin’ Down by Linkin Park and The X-Ecutioners (this song’s closest cousin) seem like a work of unparalleled genius by comparison. During this song I drank half a beer and I’m now already eyeing up a second. 0/10

Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean – As Long As You Love Me

Go on, be the Backstreet Boys song, go on… oh, it isn’t. Things aren’t off to a great start when the Bieber’s over-emoting, whiny voice intones, “hehs long hehs you love meh,” and it’s downhill from there. Over a generic dance-pop backing, he informs us that he’d be happy to be homeless and starving as long as his paramour remained true – a scenario I’m sure we’d all like to see put to the test. There are also the sort-of-dubstep bit that many pop songs seem to try and include these days, which features something which seems a pneumatic drill. Big Sean’s limp rap has yet more poor metaphors, but also the line, “I’d rather work on this with you than go ahead and start with someone new”, which is hardly the most reassuring of couplets. Are we going to get any points on the board this week? 0/10

The Maccabees – Ayla

They keep trying, don’t they, those Maccabees? Three albums of releasing singles that all sound a bit like the last one and still they’re here. To me, there always seems a bit missing from Maccabees songs that it’s difficult to put your finger on; maybe it’s the weak vocals, maybe it’s the lack of a middle range or maybe it’s the fact that they just don’t really go anywhere. Whatever the reason, Ayla also falls into that category; it’s entirely pleasant but instantly forgettable (even while you’re actually listening to it, which is quite a feat). The ascending piano arpeggios are quite pretty but are little more than window-dressing, and Ayla is the sound of a band who are defeated and lacking in inspiration. Remember, guys, you joined a band because it was supposed to be FUN! 4/10

Bastille – Bad Blood

Sometimes, you can feel really distant and cut off from what’s creating a buzz in the music world. A quick shufty around the interwebz reveals that Bastille have got people excited, and what they’re saying is good. They’re talking about a new talent that could really break through, that they’re racking up YouTube views, they’re selling out gigs and they’re supporting Emeli Sandé. But… this is just nothingness. It’s a sort of mid-tempo, plodding ballad with dirge-like vocals and the odd half-hearted, electro bloop. Did I miss a memo? Is this what you all like now? Because seriously, count me out. The Guardian have called Bastille, “grand but a little hollow,” which sounds about right (apart from the ‘grand’ part). Dan Smith (who pretty much is Bastille) says his record company would call Bastille “Coldplay meets Friendly Fires”, but if that’s true they’re taking the worst elements of both. Oh world, will you never cease to confound me? 2/10

Hadouken! – Bad Signal

The music of Hadouken! sounds like what all people over the age of 50 think that the music teenagers listen to sounds like. By which I mean it’s noisy, unrelenting, and seems to focus entirely on mobile phones and social networking. In small doses, this is entirely fine, and I’ve a secret admiration for the band’s first record, but having been around a few years, Hadouken! now sound like a parody of youth culture. The references to voicemails, texts, status updates, friend requests, etc. – it paints a picture of an entirely self-centred and vacuous youth. Hadouken! initially claimed to speak for Young Britain with their interesting “grindie” concoctions (which, really, predated brostep by a few years) but if I were younger and these goons were claiming  to be my spokespeople, I’d be distancing myself from them post haste. 3/10

Sam And The WompBom Bom

OH, THANK [insert deity of your choice] FOR THIS! I was starting to worry as, before Sam And The Womp, the leading contender for Single Of The Week was a Maccabees song that I’ve already forgotten the tune of. Bom Bom is a brilliantly daft Europop track incorporating elements of Balkan brass and sounds quite a lot like Touch & Go’s Would You…? (reference for the kids there). The vocals, courtesy of Lady Oo, are like a cross between Björk and Saga Norén from The Bridge. She’s certainly got the Guðmundsdóttir growl when she delivers the song’s pay-off line: “I’m so cool and I’m so groovy, when I go BOM BOM BOM!” It’s meaningless and the kind of song that soundtracks Club 18-30 holidays but also extremely well put together and has a heck of a tune on it. Oh, and Trevor Horn’s son is involved too, which can only be a good thing. 8/10

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Household Goods

I see my moratorium on misleading artist names didn’t get through to Orlando Higginbottom, who’s decided to name himself professionally as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs despite being a one-man operation. He also makes the kind of music you wouldn’t expect from someone with such an in-your-face sobriquet, as Household Goods is of the SBTRKT school of dance; good, pulsing beats and lots of interesting things going on, yet somehow downbeat and introspective at the same time. Household Goods doesn’t jump out of the speakers in the same way similar superior songs do, but it’s still a decent effort and the kind of thing which will certainly pique your interest to investigate further. 7/10

Muse – Madness

After the overblown pomposity of their Queen-aping Olympic single, Survival, Muse have thankfully returned with something a little more sedate. Madness begins with some great squelchy bass and pulsating synths, and only Matt Bellamy’s po-faced vocals threatening to ruin proceedings. They can’t seem to kick the Queen-copying habit though; the double-tracked vocals recall Freddie and the boys, and the short guitar solo around the three minute mark is pure Brian May. That said, it’s not a bad effort and a timely reminder that Muse can knock out a decent tune when they’re not galumphing around with everything turned up to eleven. Still, from Plug In Baby to this in a little over a decade – you can’t help but feel some disappointment. 5/10

Simple Plan feat. Sean Paul – Summer Paradise

Simple Plan were one of those groups I assumed – along with New Found Glory and Sum 41 – disappeared when the pop-punk revival subsided. But no, they’ve carried on and have recently released singles with both Natasha Bedingfield and Rivers Cuomo. Green Day have shown that, for better or worse, pop-punks tend not to grow up and Simple Plan here show that if they do, they turn into Train. Summer Paradise is a jaunty, wet tune that makes Hey There Delilah sound like Reign In Blood. Sean Paul shouts the odd, nonsensical thing in the background like he’s got a particularly dancehall-focused strain of Tourette’s before he gets the inevitable guest verse. Given the kind of thing both these artists are better known for, it’s difficult to believe even they could be happy with Summer Paradise. 4/10

Little Mix – Wings

The uncanny ability of former X Factor contestants to synchronise their single releases with the return of the poisonous television show never ceases to amaze. Little Mix are likely to be in breach of contract though, because Wings is really pretty darn good. Not just good-for-X-Factor good, but good-in-the-context-of-all-pop-music good. They’ve followed their anaemic cover of Cannonball with a song that’s vivacious, fun, brash and confident. It’s got that clapping, syncopated percussion that was all the rage in 2003 (mainly courtesy of Amerie and Lumidee – where are they now?), and an absolute belter of a chorus. No, really. Girl groups like Little Mix should be streetwise enough to make girls want to hang out with them and alluring enough that boys want to be with them, and they look to be striking that balance perfectly. There are great choruses, thumping drums and, I’ll mention it again, that chorus is fantastic. The X Factor winners’ first single is always terrible but it looks like Little Mix have got the character and attitude to actually make a go of this pop music lark. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

It seems strangely fitting that a column that originally sought to continue the spirit of Smash Hits celebrates its first birthday with Little Mix winning the coveted Single of the Week award. We’ll be back next week and, if you love us, so will you. Comments via Disqus as usual, please. Remember to pick up your party bag on the way out.