Music Features

The Singles Bar: 29th October 2012

Despite my claim last week that The Singles Bar is the most comprehensive singles review you’ll find anywhere (in fact, I’m choosing to view it as the British record buying public deliberately making me look like a fool), this week’s number one – the grammatical nightmare/terrible pun that is Labrinth’s Beneath Your Beautiful – was completely overlooked by us.

This week, will I attempt to right this wrong and give it a review?

Nah, as Labrinth’s now squeezed six singles out of his debut he’s had more than enough attention from us recently, plus there are plenty of more worthy tracks out there looking for someone to haphazardly review them.


Sebastian Rochford & Oliver Coates - The Boat Sails To A Blind Horizon

Admittedly, we’ve given Seb Rochford’s Days And Nights At The Takeaway series a fair bit of coverage, but with good reasons, not least because a man so thoroughly committed to such a mind-boggling fantastic hair-do fully deserves our attention.

Entry number ten in the series; The Boat Sails To A Blind Horizon, sees Rochford take something of a backseat at first, giving the spotlight to cellist Oliver Coates and, more unexpectedly, avant-garde composer Krzysztof Penderecki whose influence can be heard all over Coates’ stabs and dying swan swoops, and perhaps even in the murky electronics and irregular drumming Rochford later contributes (and as such it could nicely capture the interest stirred in Penderecki from Halloween viewings of The Shining and The Exorcist). Like most contemporary jazz, it definitely isn’t something to be listened to ‘for fun’, but it is unusual in that it operates far more on an emotional than an intellectual level, which makes it more than worthy of investment, even if the remix from Acoustic Ladyland’s Chris Sharkey on the B-side is pretty much the same thing, just with more reverb. 8/10


The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Jeremy/My Life Is Wrong

I’m not the biggest fan of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, largely down to the preciousness of that name, but I am an obsessive Magnetic Fields nerd, and all for more recordings of Stephin Merritt-penned tunes being released into the world. For the lead track of this one-off single, TPOBPAT have taken a track from the Fields’ often overlooked second album The Wayward Bus, and reimagined it in the style of some of their college radio contemporaries back in ’92, replacing the dinky synths of the original in favour of shoegaze-y guitar squalls, and even a well-placed solo. Although the sharpness of Merritt’s lyrics gets lost in the mix somewhat it’s still an excellent combination, which arguably even outshines the original. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK


Adele – Skyfall

Now, I’m as bored as Adele as the next right-thinking person (although, judging by the still mammoth sales of 21, we seem to be a worryingly small minority), but Skyfall is a pretty good Bond theme; definitely the best of the Craig era, although that’s not saying much in itself. In addition to ticking off the boxes of what you’d expect from a Bond song – vowels stretched to breaking point; mostly nonsensical lyrics delivered with such drama that they must be euphemisms for something - it also manages the impressive feat of lodging itself firmly in the head after one listen. Largely, it must be said, this is because most of Skyfall is made up of bits from other themes, that have been drummed into our collective subconscious through years of TV repeats, but as there’s been so much banging on about this being the 50th anniversary of the franchise, that’s probably the point. 7/10


Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Sunset Sleeps Tonight/Hometown Gypsy / My Chemical Romance – Conventional Weapons: Number One

As my dislike of the Chili Peppers has been well documented in this column, and as The Sunset Sleeps Tonight sees them operating at a more annoying level than usual, thanks to Antony Kiedis’ added country-style hooting, there’s no way I’d be giving the latest release in their 7” series a good review, so let’s just skip over it. 

However, it turns out that they’re not the only established band doing the “here’s a load of tracks that we didn’t think were good enough for release on an album, but will expect fans to buy as overpriced singles” thing (admittedly, I am aware that the same thing could be said about the Seb Rochford single, but as I like it I’m choosing to potentially make myself look like a hypocrite by ignoring that… plus, y’know, he’s got that hair).

Having the emotional maturity of a fairly sulky 15 year old, I have a fair amount of time for My Chemical Romance, especially when they’re at their most bombastic and ridiculous. Boy Division, the A-Side of this first single taken from their aborted Conventional Weapons album, is definitely plenty of the former (quite literally so, in all their yelling about how they’ve ‘got the bomb’) but not enough of the latter. 5/10


Ethan Johns – Whip Poor Will

Given the BRIT awards’ predilection for all things glossy and silly, it was a bit odd that veteran folky, beardy type Johns walked away with the prize for Best British Producer this year. Whip Poor Will precedes his own forthcoming debut album, and comes practically screaming about its cameos from Ryan Adams and Laura Marling, amongst others. Even if it’s pretty hard to make out what any of them are contributing. 

It is, as you’d expect with the talent involved, handsomely done, but also so anaemic and innocuous that I can’t think of a single compelling argument for its existence. 4/10


John Wean – M.A.P.

John Wean come with a misleading name (they’re a four piece, none of whom are called John), comparisons to The View and recommendations from the likes of Fearne Cotton, but let’s not hold all that against them, as M.A.P. (it stands for Morning After Pill, apparently) is a rather refreshing blast of youthful noise, that I’m probably too old to be listening to. 

Think the scuzzy, jangliness of Arctic Monkeys at the height of their popularity, played on fast-forward, slightly at the expense of comprehensibility when it comes to the wittily gritty lyrics, and you’re pretty much there. 7/10


Post War Years – The Bell EP

On the subject of comparisons, Post War Years’ previous appearance in The Singles Bar saw the name of The Human League being thrown about a bit (which is a very good thing, in case you were wondering). However, while Joe expressed concerns then that they really weren’t bringing anything new to the party, I’m a bit more disappointed to find that they are on their latest release, as its various bleeps and bloops are far more New Rave than New Romantic. It’s perfectly fine, if a bit unmemorable, but by going for something a bit more up-to-date, they’ve oddly ended up sounding a bit less current. 6/10


Wave Machines – Ill Fit

I’m a bit surprised to find that Wave Machines are still going. Not that I mean that in an unpleasant way (unlike, say, The Twang, who also have a new single out today despite an overwhelming lack of demand - unsurprisingly, it’s an unlistenable load of old shit), but rather that I admire their perseverance for carrying on despite their always the bridesmaid/never the bride/perennial support act status.

Despite a new found confident funkiness – I think they listened to a lot of Prince over the several years since the release of their first album – I’m not sure Ill Fit will do much to change matters, unfortunately, as it seems to have come at the expense of their ability to come up with a breezily melancholic melody. 6/10

Justin Bieber Featuring Nicki Minaj - Beauty And A Beat

Beauty And A Beat contains a lot that’s wrong about pop music today – autotune, ‘dubstep’ breakdowns, and, arguably, a shoehorned-in verse from Nicki Minaj - and comes with a found-footage gimmick of a video which makes precisely no sense, but thanks to keeping those factors to a minimum, and the general professionalism of the Biebs, it actually works. Still, in the unlikely event that I get invited to one of Justin's soirees, I think I might decline – sure, the waterpark-based fun and games in the video look like suitably wholesome good time (although how they managed to get away with the choreographed dance routine in the shallow end without incurring the wrath of the life guard on duty I don’t know), but I fear when he mentions partying “like it’s 3012” (kudos to the writers for being considerably more forward thinking than Prince and future proofing the song’s radio-friendliness) he means ‘hanging out in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, fighting to death over the last scraps of canned food’. 7/10


Robbie Williams – Candy

A week might be a long time in the go-go world of singles reviewing, but I’m still a bit annoyed with Shinies and their self-indulgent nostalgic naval gazing. Perhaps this will serve as a reminder that the nineties weren’t all that, as it was the time when Robbie Williams stood unchallenged as the nation’s biggest pop star.
As what must be his third ‘comeback’ (at least) by now, Candy contains pretty much all of the elements that made him so staggeringly successful to begin with. In other words, it sounds like an obnoxiously chipper, slightly reggae (in the UB40 sense of the word) take on Stand By Me, with rhyming couplets so astoundingly awful that attempting to make any sense out of them could result in a brain tumour. 1/10


On that unsavoury note, that’s it for my two week stint managing The Singles Bar. I’ve never been very good at goodbyes, so let’s just leave it at "Why not offer your thoughts in the Disqus box below?".