Music Features

The Singles Bar - 24th October 2011

It's a sad day for The Singles Bar this week, not only because we're still reeling from the news that Westlife, the third most successful band in UK chart history, have decided to call it quits (not without a lucrative final tour to get through first though), but because Joe's off again. Although this time he can't blame it on depression caused by reviewing too many bad singles, as last week's line-up was pretty good by all accounts.

Not to worry as, just to prove that there are still some things you can rely on, this week's releases have gone back to mostly being awful.

Tribes - When My Day Comes

This fledgling revival of half-rate Brit-pop makes me feel old and therefore must be stopped immediately. Perhaps any time a skinny white teenager professes a desire to learn the guitar they could be forced to listen to a compilation of Northern Uproar's greatest misses and then sit an exam on exactly why this sort of thing will not be tolerated? It's just a shame that my plans weren't implemented in time to stop Tribes. Although I admit that I might just be biased against them because of the guitarist's unbelievably pretentious bowler hat. 3/10

Avril Lavigne - Wish You Were Here

Poor Avril. Not because she's only 27 and already has a failed marriage behind her; that's just what the record company wants you to think. Instead she's been trapped in her own version of Groundhog Day in the nine years since Sk8er Boi (yes it's really been that long), caught in a never-ending loop of arguing with her parents because they "just don't understand" her, flirting with boys on Myspace over a shared love of Green Day and spending hours in her room applying industrial quantities of eye-liner. Which explains why Wish You Were Here sounds exactly like everything else she's ever done. 3/10

Rizzle Kicks - When I Was A Youngster

While Avril remains stuck in 2002, Rizzle Kicks are the (inoffensive) sound of the youth of 2011; the title might suggest twenty/thirtysomething nostalgia but the video reveals them to be about 12 years old. Everything about their back story, from forming at the BRIT school, to their guest appearance on an Olly Murs single and remixing Ed Sheeran, screams caution, and yet I can't deny that their combination of reggae guitar riffs and endearing lyrics about thwarted childhood ambition has a certain charm to it. Although, at the risk of making myself appear even more embarrassingly out of touch with the kids of today, I would say that their rhymes don't have much in the way of 'flow'. 6/10

Noah And The Whale - Waiting For My Chance to Come

While listening to Rizzle Kicks I was convinced that the vocals sounded just like the singer from another band, annoyingly I coudn't remember which one. Turns out it's Noah And The Whale, or at least it was them before Charlie Fink decided to adopt a bizarre Irish accent for no good reason. More welcome are the dapper stylings on display in the video, particularly the Union Jack socks. Waiting For My Chance To Come itself is all very nice and jangly and harmless, and therefore quite inessential. On this evidence it's doubtful that their chance will ever come (but then I find the mega-success of Mumford and Sons entirely baffling, so what do I know). 5/10

Beverley Knight - One More Try

On that note, here comes Beverley Knight (again), with what must be her fifth comeback (at least). Based on her damp squib of a career, choosing to cover this George Michael song seems like a terrible idea, encouraging more than a few derisive snorts and comments like "One more try? One last chance more like!" from wags such as myself. Although maybe, just maybe, it's actually an interestingly self aware one? Either way she delivers it very professionally (if a bit too Joss Stone-y for my liking), it's all been arranged quite respectably, and Radio 2 will no doubt be all over it. In other words it's reassuringly dull, and it's still not going to do her career any good. 4/10  

Professor Green ft Emeli Sande - Read All About It

During the London riots Professor Green revealed himself to be something of an insightful commentator on twitter, so it's a shame that he's not capable of putting such thought into his music. The Professor clearly developed an obsession with Eminem as a teenager and, unlike the rest of us, still hasn't grown out of it. Read All About It is his take on Stan, with Green rewriting the star/obsessive fan narrative to be about his relationship with his deadbeat dad. Unfortunately Emeli Sande's X-Factor histrionics in the chorus are enough to make anyone yearn for Dido. 2/10

Guillemots - I Don't Feel Amazing Now

This definitely wins the prize for worst title of the week, if not the year, as it seems more suited to that moment in between consuming a glass of wine too many and projectile vomiting all over a friend's bathroom rather than the lovelorn distress Fyfe Dangerfield intended. And while I'm picking holes, has he always sounded quite so much like Brandon Flowers? It does amble along very nicely though. Even with Dangerfield emoting his heart out and the backing vocals coming over all Arcade Fire, the fan who posted their video of the song on youtube still thought it was perfectly fitting to set it to footage of a herd of cows (and not even a herd of cows doing anything particularly interesting) and I can't say I disagree with them. 7/10

Cobra Starship ft Sabi - You Make Me Feel

So, we go from terrible song names to even more terrible band names. Not that it really matters what Cobra Starship are called, as they came to most people's attention though their song for Snakes On A Plane they're always going to be tainted with an innate rubbishness anyway. As you might have guessed I'm going on about Cobra Starship's name as there's not much to say about their song. It's fine; it's incredibly generic; it feels like it's building to a big climax that it doesn't bother to pull-off; it's actually Calvin Harris' I'm Not Alone all over again (oddly proving itself to be the most influential, or at least ripped-off, song of the past couple of years). 4/10

Florence + The Machine - Shake It Out

There's a tacit confession in Florence Welch's choice of recording moniker, implying that the machine in question refers to the software that's been writing all her songs for her. The more material she releases, the more evident her formula becomes: dreamy opening; verses chock full of vague mumbo jumbo leading into a frantic honk-a-long chorus; and a few references to horses chucked in, just so it feels like it's been written by a posh girl from Camberwell rather than a computer. But y'know it does work for her, and it mostly works for me too (in small doses). Shake It Out does let itself down with a real dirge of a middle eight, otherwise it's another sturdy, reliable Florence number that's bound to be played to death at next year's festivals. 6/10

Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells - Cruel Summer EP

Aidan Moffat is my hero; listening to Arab Strap's funny, filthy vignettes was my teenage equivalent of flicking through stolen porn mags (which, come to think of it, might explain a lot about my relationships) and, as this year's album with jazz pianist Bill Wells proved, he hasn't lost any of his profane powers. So why lead off the duo's latest EP with a cover? Of course it's meant to be a joke, replacing Bananarama's eighties gloss with Moffat's drunken ramble, that doesn't mean that it's interesting enough to be an A-Side though. That being said, the record does also contain three Moffat /Wells originals, so it's probably still worth a punt. 5/10

David Guetta ft Usher - Without You

Is there a more toxic combination of artists than this? Usher managed to ruin R&B in the late 90's and early 00's with his brand of syrupy-to-the-point-of-being-diabetes-inducing schmaltz and Guetta's been ruining it in recent years with the all-pervading influence of his tacky house music circa 1993 beats. Without You's not Guetta at his most brash, in fact by his standards it's almost understated; it still sounds very cheap though, and not just because of the platitudes that Usher spouts as lyrics. No doubt it'll pop up on Glee later this year (probably as a duet between Blaine and Kurt), and I'll no doubt fast-forward through it when it does, unless I've given up on the series completely by that point. 1/10

Wolf Gang - Back to Back  

There's something a bit Joy Division about the intro to Back to Back, and the chorus is a bit Bon Iver. So it's really weird that the song leaves very little impression once it's done. As I'm currently typing this while playing the track through again I can report that it sounds quite nice; dreamy and romantic in a very NME-friendly sort of way. I doubt that I'd be able to tell you anything about it once it finishes though. 5/10

Hard-Fi - Bring It On

What is it with this week's singles line-up and inappropriately named tracks from one-last-chancers? Nobody's cared about Hard-Fi since they decided to go all irritatingly po-mo on their second album cover, and plenty of us didn't care about them before that either. So perhaps, in an odd way, Richard Archer and co should be admired for their sheer bloody mindedness for still carrying on, even after Viva Brother bagged the title that was formerly theirs of the most obnoxiously laddy band from a crap commuter belt town. The usurping of their position has also meant that the gang are now in need of a new musical direction, which, unexpectedly, they've decided to steal from Duran Duran, swapping their old lairyness for breathy vocals and big, glossy pop hooks. Their confidence in the chorus might be misguided, but at least it's a step in the right direction. 5/10

Twenty Twenty - Move It

If ever there was an argument against human cloning it's Twenty Twenty. Imagine if Busted's management decided to resurrect the b(r)and, this time restaffed with Justin Bieber look-a-likes and you're about half way to understanding the horror of Move It. Even the video's director realised that its unbearable, covering up as much of the track as possible with innocuous sound-bites from the lads backstage. 0/10

Drake - Headlines

I get the impression that Drake's actually huge in America, while success over here has hardly been forthcoming. Headlines won't change his fortunes in either country; the three note Philip Glass-style riff is solid (although, of course, repetitive) but Drake's voice has been so autotuned that he sounds like a sad robot. Still I'd rather listen to this than Paranoid Android. 3/10

Manchester Orchestra - Virgin

Virgin's eerie devil children singing over an ominous guitar riff opening suggests that the track might be something a bit special. Then the vocals come in and put a damper on things by being wetter than a pool party round at Owl City's place. Fortunately Manchester Orchestra (who, it's customary to point out, don't come from Manchester) manage to turn things around again by relocating their balls in time for the wig-out of a chorus. And even if the suburban-angst video is a bit of a tired emo cliche, the genre up to now has been rather lacking in trumpet breaks, so they deserve some points for giving one a go at least. 7/10

Labrinth ft Tinie Tempah - Earthquake

Well, it's not Pass Out mk 2 unfortunately. Where Labrinth and Tinie Tempah's first collaboration was a bold, gobby instant classic that genuinely never gets old, this time Tinie sounds like he's coasting while Labrinth keeps himself occupied by dropping in a "Labrinth come in" sample that's annoying enough the first time, and when the beat kicks in things get worryingly close to Skrillex territory. On a more positive note, the Gregorian Chant interlude is interesting, even if it doesn't really work, and the 8-bit Tetris-tastic intro is amazing (as is the way that Tinie spits the word "Yeah!"). 6/10

Friends Electric - Puzzle Pieces

Friends Electric won me over with their Numan-referencing name, then almost lost me again with Puzzle Pieces' video (not that it isn't well done, it's just inexplicably horrifying). Neither of these things really reflect their Hot Chip-by-numbers dance-music-for-indie-discos music though. Puzzle Pieces may not really go anywhere during its four minute run time, but that doesn't stop it from being fun while it lasts. 7/10

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis - Don't Make A Fool Out Of Me

A fair chunk of Kitty, Daisy and Lewis' wikipedia page is devoted to the vintage equipment the band use when recording. Which tells you all that you need to know about their music; Don't Make A Fool Out Of Me is handsomely done, and yet still inexcusably dull. 3/10

LMFAO - Sexy and I Know It

Just when LMFAO couldn't get any more wretched, they go and dump this pile of shit on us. They might claim that it's 'ironic', what with the 'comedy' video and the confrontationally lazy chorus, but that doesn't make me not want to stab myself in the ears to make it stop. Although the internet acronym name, and the fact that they don't have any tunes, does suggest that they've got an built-in obsolescence period that's shorter than the lifespan of the average iPod, so a couple of years down the line we'll all be blissfully ignorant of the fact that they ever existed. Hopefully. 0/10

Polinski ft Big Black Delta- Stitches

Stitches may be a bit subdued for die-hard fans of Paul Wolinski's noisy work in his day-job as part of 65daysofstatic. To make up for the relative lack of drama though it does come with a properly brilliant ZX Spectrum text adventure video, complete with the abrasive loading-screen noise (to be even more shamelessly nerdy, the parent album's Psygnosis-inspired cover art left me so in awe of its beauty that it very nearly made me weep). Perhaps more importantly, the song itself is bloody gorgeous too. Like Drake it could be said to be at the forefront of sadrobotcore, but in this case it's intentional (well, as intentional as they can be considering I've only just made the genre up), as Big Black Delta (AKA Mellowdrone's Jonathan Bates) mournfully mumbles a list of regrets through a vocoder while Wolinski's midi synths quietly go ballistic. 9/10 - SINGLE OF THE WEEK

That was a close one. Before Polinski made a strong last minute showing I was genuinely worried that I'd have to withdraw the 'Single of the week' award for this column. As ever feel free to leave your thoughts on this week's releases in the Disqus box below. Joe should be back next time, I hope that he's welcomed with a better line-up of releases than this week threw up.