Music Features

The Singles Bar: 26th November 2012

We’ve spent most of the week upset that our invite for Rihanna’s 777 Tour didn’t materialise in the post. Surely we’d have been invited to spend several days stuck in an aeroplane getting drunk and not interviewing the world’s biggest pop star? Perhaps we’ve a particularly light-fingered postman. Anyway, the joke’s on her, as we got to stay in and write the singles reviews instead, which is clearly a much more glamorous and rewarding pastime. Really.

My Chemical Romance – Ambulance

Ambulance is taken from Conventional Weapons, a collection of previously unreleased material recorded in 2009 by mascara-drenched LOL-deniers My Chemical Romance. Quelle surprise – it’s an over-emotional, melodramatic, hand-wringing track where Gerard Way whines like a man whose whole world is crumbling around him. MCR clearly know how to write a pop tune though, and Ambulance has an absolutely massive-sounding chorus; it’s the kind of song their emo peers would kill for, so the fact MCR have this kind of thing hidden up their sleeve means they deserve some kudos. Looking at the bigger picture though, it’s still music for people with a persecution complex who think a carefully-sculpted asymmetric haircut makes them a unique outsider. A bit broad-brush with the stereotyping there, sure, and it’s a half-decent track. Let’s just say I’m not exactly the target market for this sort of thing. 5/10

Ke$ha – Die Young

Although while we’re talking about target markets, I’m pretty sure the brand team behind Ke-dollar-sign-ha didn’t have me in mind while they were constructing her image. Despite that, I’m quite the fan of the TiK ToK hitmaker; her party-chasing, irresponsible dance-pop can be incredibly addictive, even if it does make me feel about a hundred years old. Die Young doesn’t exactly mess with a winning formula – it’s brash, in-your-face, full of pumping beats and huge synths, and ignores anything euphemistic in favour of the eyebrow-raisingly direct (“That magic in your pants, it’s making me blush”). However, all this high-campery is most effective when paired with a great pop song, and Die Young falls a little flat in that area. It hasn’t got the hooks or catchy quality that’s characterised Ke$ha’s biggest hits, and ends up mostly coming across as the poor relation to some of those previous smashes. Still, it’s a riot, and better than a thousand po-faced authentic troubadours or whey-faced earnest acoustic cover versions. 6/10

Hot Chip – Don’t Deny Your Heart

On their latest album, In Our Heads, Hot Chip made a thoroughly decent job of dragging disco kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Don’t Deny Your Heart is one of that record’s best tracks – great melodies, a slight Caribbean flavour and a riff that harks back to the coda of The Jacksons’ Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground). Wonderful stuff. However, it’s the Peter Serafinowicz-directed video that really steals the show. It’s based on a blocky retro football video game (it appears to be Bradford v. Coventry circa 1998 by the look of the kits) with immaculate attention to detail before bursting into another, more dance-friendly, dimension and finishing with… well, that would be a spoiler, but it’s easily worth four minutes of your time. Even that can’t take the attention away from how great this song is though. 9/10 – SINGLE (and video) OF THE WEEK

Noisettes – I Want You Back

A funny bunch, them Noisettes. Their debut was a giddy rush full of crunching guitars, then they went for sleek pop and found success with album number two, Wild Young Hearts. On the evidence of I Want You Back they’re attempting to replicate that winning formula – classic pop with elements of soul and R&B. The trouble is, in today’s musical landscape, that doesn’t cause excitement as it sounds a little too safe. While there's nothing inherently wrong with I Want You Back (or Noisettes in general), it’s just too damn tasteful, and as such has the feeling of something aimed at the generation above yours, no matter how old you happen to be. It also hasn’t got that nagging, memorable quality some of their earlier tracks managed to harness. 4/10

Delilah feat. Devlin – Never Be Another

The new single by Delilah starts intriguingly – all bizarre, swirling noises and deep, rumbling bass. However, by the time we’re at the verse, most of that has been stripped away to leave just percussion and handclaps, and the unadorned production doesn’t suit after what’s gone before. Those pleasing sounds do make a return and manage to get the song back on track, but then you realise it’s a track missing a chorus. It’s smooth and intoxicating though, which makes the inclusion of Devlin barking his way through the bridge all the more baffling. It’s a bit similar to if Sam Mendes decided to put a Death Grips track in the middle of American Beauty. Never Be Another has some great ideas and when it flows, it’s beautiful, however it seems entirely prone to self-sabotage. 6/10

Yeasayer – Reagan’s Skeleton

“Wonky” and “off-kilter” are words used too often by critics when describing music, especially when followed by the word “pop”. However, they seem exceptionally apt when listening to Reagan’s Skeleton. For reference points, there’s an electronic 80s feel to it which, when coupled with the melody line of the chorus, sound very much like a more gothic version of The Beloved’s Sweet Harmony. Comparisons aside, there’s always something going on in this track to hold your attention, whether it be the tight drum fills in the verse, the lightweight synth accompaniments in the chorus or the guitar lines that weave in and out of the vocals. There’s yet another raft of ideas once chorus number two is dispensed with, and you learn that Reagan’s Skeleton is the kind of wildly inventive track that deserves a far wider audience. Come on, sing along everybody: “Let’s come together / Right now / Oh yeah / In sweet harmony”. 8/10

Mystery Jets – Saviour (The Hale Bop)

Mystery Jets seem to have snuck under the radar with their fourth album, Radlands. Latest single Saviour (The Hale Bop) begins with some Scissor Sister-esque falsetto harmonies, which is quite exciting if you like that sort of thing, but then peters out into formulaic, drudging indie. In fact, Mystery Jets themselves sound relatively bored in this song, and even the odd handclap can’t rouse it from its slumber. With Mystery Jets, the public have voted with their feet and now even the band can hardly be bothered. Perhaps the yelpy great white hope of the mid-00s shan’t be with us too much longer. 4/10

Tulisa – Sight Of You

Tough times for be-tattooed telly judge Tulisa and her former N-Dubz bandmates, as all of their solo careers seem to be stalling, prompting the inevitable reunion perhaps earlier than they (and we) would have hoped. Sight Of You is a mid-tempo bore-o-ballad about a former boyfriend that she can’t get over, and contains nothing you won’t have heard a million times before. Uninspiring, unimaginative stuff that brings absolutely nothing new to the table. It’s odd how Tulisa, seen as a strong, independent woman, has called her album The Female Boss, as if being a boss is an inherently male thing and requires the adjective “female” before it. Presumably, if she’d just called her album, The Boss, everybody would have wondered who she was referring to. 2/10

M83 – Steve McQueen

Despite it having been out for ages, M83 continue to promote their epic double-album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming rather than move onto anything new. Haven’t these people learned anything from Rihanna’s indefatigable work ethic? Anyway, the Gallic synth shruggers’ latest single doesn’t quite hit the dizzy heights of OK Pal or Midnight City, but still comes with plenty to recommend it. It shimmers, it buzzes and packs enough into its (nearly) four minutes to keep the interest level up despite the oddly muted tempo. It’s hard to know who this is for though, as we all know what M83 are about by now. 6/10

Bullet For My Valentine – Temper Temper

Metal is a genre that tends to get largely ignored by the mainstream music media, and UK metal in particular. Oh yeah, everyone’s gone mad for Swans and Earth this year, but bands like Bullet For My Valentine are still seen as fodder for over-sensitive teens. However, while acts like My Chemical Romance feel like a parody of themselves, BFMV manage to combine huge vicious riffs with pop sensibilities and make the whole thing sound perfectly natural. But from the YouTube comments beneath the video (which are always a perfectly good source of intelligent debate; in fact, I actually now get all of my news about the world via YouTube comments), it seems this is a step too far towards the mainstream for BFMV fans. The fact Temper Temper doesn’t have a guitar solo is some kind of apparent heresy. Personally, I like it more than any other BFMV song I’ve ever heard, but the fact that a critic who 1,000 or so words ago professed their love for Ke$ha enjoys Temper Temper is probably exactly what’s making the band’s fans get so worked up. 6/10

Were it not for a resolute effort from Yeasayer, we’d have had a runaway winner this week. Let us know what you think of this week’s choices via the usual channels and we’ll see you here same time next Monday.