The Singles Bar: 28th May 2012
Hello, how are you?
Apologies if service in The Singles Bar seems a little bit slow this week - we've just been putting up the bunting and setting up the patio furniture for the upcoming holiday. Fingers crossed the weather stays like this, eh?
Yes, you can't even get away from Jubilee fever in weekly singles round-ups, as perhaps the biggest track this week is the first official release of Britain's National Anthem, as sung by blind (not that that really matters, but everybody else has mentioned it, so I will too) soprano Lissa Hermans. Alternatively, someone's gone and re-released The Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen on a 7" picture-disc, so if you really want to stick it to "the man", maybe you could buy that instead? Of course a review of either of them would be a bit redundant as it's not about the music (which is just as well as both are fairly dreary... yes, you heard me, I do recognise the importance of The Sex Pistols' work, but I sure as hell don't care for it), but take them both together and you get as good an idea of the glorious, terrible contradictions of being British as you're likely to find (in about three minutes - Hermans' rendition of the anthem only seems to go on for 45 seconds on youtube, suggesting that, like the rest of us, she has no idea how most of it goes), so for that both get a slightly reserved yet broadly patriotic miniature flag wave/10
Gary Barlow & The Commonwealth Band ft. Military Wives Choir - Sing
This, on the other hand, is really how you don't do a tribute (cash-in) single. Not that its badly performed or anything, it's just that it falls into the trap of shoving a whole bunch of stuff together, forgetting what made it worth acknowledging in the first place and covering it all in schmaltz to compensate.
Still, it is pretty enough, and at least Barlow had the good grace to not throw his vocals into the already over-crowded ring. I very nearly docked some points for the horrible bagpipe section (is there any other type of bagpipe section?) at the end, but as its for charity (I assume) I'll be charitable myself. 4/10
Lawson - When She Was Mine
Even the most uninspired of "charidee" records are more worthy of your time than this. If you were thinking, "that looks like a Maroon 5 title", then you'd be right - and one Maroon 5 is more than enough, thanks very much. 2/10
Liars - No. 1 Against the Rush
I've never really managed to get my head around Liars; there's always been something to admire about them, such as the occasional great song, and the always inspired titles, but never really much to love. Which has been the one constant in a very transformative career that's seen them, in a way, sort of do the same thing as The Horrors, moving from fashionable (but not fun) noise through to dreamy krautrock-inspired grooves, but Liars have just been a lot more extreme about it (at both ends).
Despite all that, I'm very partial to this. While it might not be the most original thing out there (I can't help but think it sounds a bit like John Maus attempting to cover selections from the Drive soundtrack - although I acknowledge that half of that comparison may be based on the handsome, but inappropriate, violence of the video), or the most memorable of this week's tracks, the harmonic-driven guitar riff and big swathes of synth are genuinely lovely, and that's not something I thought I'd say about a Liars track back in 2004. 8/10
Ladyhawke - Sunday Drive
Pip Brown's second album, Anxiety, has been a long time coming. Perhaps too long as the lead single, Black White & Blue's pop fizz didn't exactly capture the public's imagination. Sunday Drive is more of the same, if a bit less scuzzy, which is probably for the best. Oddly, something about it makes me think of Roxy Music's Love is the Drug but I'm not really sure what that particular something is - maybe it's the piano riff? 7/10
Loreen - Euphoria
Cannily reissued to capitalise on the Swedish answer to Claudia Winkleman's triumph at Eurovision over the weekend, Euphoria does exactly what it says on the tin, being a big, uplifting Euro-dance number, and it's absolutely glorious.
Yes, there is something of the Guetta, or at least the Calvin Harris, about it, and as both artists regularly come in for a bit of stick on these pages, you could argue that I was being a bit hypocritical in endorsing this. So why does Euphoria work? To an extent it's about context; Eurovision is the right place for that sort of thing, whereas Nicki Minaj records aren't; mostly though, it just nails that sound so much more simply, even elegantly, than they do (while it's unapologetically boisterous, it never feels like it's attempting to bludgeon you into having "a good time").
Something might be lost in the studio version, not least the Ringu/Capoeria inspired dance routine, but it's the best song that the contest's thrown up in years (or at least since Jedward's Lipstick). 9/10
Rihanna - Where Have You Been
Remember when Rihanna didn't have a new record out to promote? No, I don't either. Where some pop acts (such as Ladyhawke) have operated on the assumption that absence makes the heart grow fonder, RiRi instead clearly believes in saturation being the key to adoration. Still, you've got to admire her work ethic, and her writing team's willingness to throw anything together in case it sticks. In this case it's the usual Euro-inflected synth-pop, mixed with the country standard I've Been Everywhere, which works about as well as you think it would. 3/10
Kylie Minogue - Timebomb
Perhaps it says a lot about how devalued the single's currency is these days that a new release by one of our biggest pop-stars can can come as a complete surprise. Of course, it is a nice surprise but still it is a bit weird, not least because Ms. Minogue's recent movements have been fairly well documented, what with her being the talk of the town at this year's Cannes Film Festival (a genuinely great Kylie-featuring film? Who'd have thunk it).
To be honest, the lack of fuss might have something to do with Timebomb being good, but not exactly vintage Kylie. But then what is? Even in the current purple patch that pop is going through, something as unarguably brilliant as Slow or Confide in Me is just as hard to come by, and of course anything else that she releases will pale in comparison to those (and other) titans.
Actually, I suspect that Timebomb will prove to be a bit of a grower (and it's tricky to form an accurate opinion on the song when it comes with one of those annoying videos that dicks about with the music for no good reason), but for now I'm going to play it safe and give it a 7/10
The Maccabees - Went Away
The Maccabees are the very definition of a middling 5/10 act. There's plenty to like about them - in Went Away's case it's the blissful, intricate guitar parts that sound like they could stretch on for ever - but there's also nothing that exciting or unique. Judging by the slightly more lilting quality, and definite higher pitch, that frontman Orlando Weeks' voice has taken on, they're apparently no longer aspiring to be the Tesco Value Arcade Fire, but instead the Poundstretcher Wild Beasts.
Friends - Mind Control
A lot of fuss has been made about Friends recently, but even if you didn't know the first thing about them you'd probably be able to tell just from listening that they're another bunch of hotly-tipped Brooklynites, trading, as they do, in that funky, slightly childish dance-punk sound that never really goes out of style. And third single Mind Control should lure in plenty more potential fans, if only for the inspired, almost disturbing, horror movie of a video (not that that's the only thing worth talking about here - the bass-line and percussion are both superlative, and there's a wonderfully hard-edged duet later on in the track). It's just a shame that frontwoman Samantha Urbani starts hooting like an owl for no good reason about halfway in. 8/10
Drake ft Lil Wayne - HYFR
Because apparently it just isn't a Singles Bar without there being a Drake offering for me to puzzle over. And HYFR (it stands for Hell Ya Fucking Right, if you were wondering) is no exception, in fact all it really serves to do is just raise further questions - for one, as the only difference between Drake and Lil Wayne's vocals is a bit of autotune, does this mean that they are in fact the same person?
The Bar Mitzvah themed video is amusing though and Drake seems to be having a good time for once, so that's got to count for something, right? 3/10
Turnpike Glow - The Turn, The Pike, and The Glow
Right from the start there's something extremely amiable about Turnpike Glow; to be specific/insensitive it's the fact that while they may dress like your average indie band, they sure as hell don't look like them. Not that that's a bad thing at all - as has been proven time and again the outcasts and weirdos tend to be the ones with the best tunes and Turnpike Glow happily carry on this tradition, bringing intelligence, complexity and a slight Hot Chip-influence to the guitar band template. 7/10
Saint Etienne - I've Got Your Music
After 20+ years it's hard not to take Saint Etienne's modest, kind-hearted, dance-pop for granted, in fact it's even hard to think of anything to write about them after Julie Burchill's masterful dedication on their 1995 singles collection Too Young to Die. Which is a shame as I've Got Your Music demonstrates just how special they still are; it's a simple, sweet, admirably short, soul hug (to paraphrase one of their past hits) of a record, about nothing more (or less) than how wonderful music fandom is in itself. If it didn't sound unfortunately like a back-handed compliment I'd keenly point out that, with them sticking around so long, fashion has gone full circle and caught up with them again; its easy to imagine someone like Friends coming out with this (it wouldn't be as easy to love though). 9/10 SINGLE OF THE WEEK
So a well-deserved win for the appropriately, quintessentially, British Saint Etienne, althougn Loreen put up some very stiff competition - and, in fact, if she hadn't already been suitably lauded over the weekend I would've been tempted to give the title to her, as Euphoria's been stuck in my head for the past few days. But enough talk of who did or didn't win; when release line-ups are as strong as this, we all do.28 May, 2012 - 23:55 — Mark Davison