The Ting Tings Sounds From Nowheresville(Columbia) Buy it from Insound
There's a particular type of complaint that you'll inevitably find in the comments section under a negative review; the sort that defensively whines at the reviewer that "it's not meant for you" or "you didn't give it a fair chance". While it's tempting to engage with such arguments, to point out that any professional (or amateur) critic worth their salt is doing their job precisely because they love music/films/whatever and that they desperately want to be surprised, or at least entertained by anything they have to write about, truthfully sometimes the naysayers are right. Even before pushing play some cases will be seen as hopeless causes, suitable for nothing more than making an amusing, but easy, target for a good kicking. Sounds From Nowheresville, the long-awaited (or at least long-delayed) second album by Salford-based duo The Ting Tings is one of those cases, with everything about it, from the suspiciously long gestation period, to the horrible artwork, even more horrible title and outright appalling first single Hang It Up (it opens with the horrifying salvo "My friends they get me higher and higher/they're killing me with friendly fire", and somehow manages to get worse from there), suggesting that it would be completely worthless as a listening experience, but an easy slam-dunk for a review.
Unfortunately (for me - I expect the aforementioned naysayers will actually be quite pleased by this news), it turns out that the album's nowhere near the outright disaster that the early signs suggested. Not that it's particularly good, mind, but considering the fact that the act made their name with a debut album that was almost entirely irredeemable, other than for a handful of catchy, but ridiculously over-played and almost intentionally irritating singles, anything more than "particularly good" was never really an option.
While Sounds From Nowheresville never really succeeds in recapturing the snotty energy of We Started Nothing (which is, for many of us, not a bad thing), it does do something completely unexpected, in that it attempts to encompass a considerably broad range of styles over its ten tracks. Some of which are very good and don't at all seem like they've been cynically tooled to be obvious singles. Soul Killing might have looked like good material for a dig at their expense on reading the track listing but it turns out that to be some of the finest cod reggae that you're ever likely to find (which might be damning a bit with faint praise, but faint praise is more than I was expecting to be offering), and One By One is infectious in a far more welcome way than their past hits, thanks to its classy Moroder-isms (if you're going to steal from someone, always steal from the best).
Still, the question does arise as to why exactly did this take them four years to come up with? Yes, there was the whole issue of a deleted album a couple of years back, but even taking that into consideration, ten fairly short bursts of naive noise isn't really a great return on two years of solid work. For an act whose success was so dependent on capturing a moment (Shut Up And Let Me Go and That's Not My Name seem to be quintessentially 2008, Great DJ has aged a little better), such a lengthy wait seems like commercial suicide.
Although that's far from Sounds From Nowheresville's worst problem; Hang It Up isn't the only genuinely unpleasant song here, there's also the equally infuriatingly stupid opening of Guggenheim (surely destined to be a single thanks to its irritating ability to lodge itself in the subconscious) and the unfortunate slow number Day To Day, which is so saccharine that it would even embarrass Atomic Kitten. For all the tasteful borrowings of One By One, there're also at least twice as many more unfortunate homages, such as the Bon Jovi bass-line of Silence or the neutered take on Sleigh Bells on Give It. What's also noticeable is how unnecessarily restrained most of the album is, with the odds and ends remixes, thrown in on the "deluxe edition" to make it seem like a worthwhile investment, all instantly feeling a little bit more fun just for their slightly upping the tempo. But still, considering how difficult The Ting Tings made life for themselves with this album one almost wants to salute them, and such sheer bloody-mindedness just might suggest that this won't be the last that we hear from them.9 March, 2012 - 14:39 — Mark Davison