The Singles Jukebox
A Little Hallelujah



this week in the jukebox: Swygart forgets to write an intro, Love Monkey's star gets the same reviews for his music as his television show did, Betty Boo is back, Bono and Blige team up for hijinks, and Toby Keith doesn't want to beat someone up. Yet.


Teddy Geiger - For You I Will
[2.40]

Martin Skidmore: In case anyone in America was jealous of our James Blunt surplus, here's a home-made answer. Acoustic guitars, slick production, desperately sincere lyrics of the sixth-form poetry variety, and surprisingly old-sounding husky vocals. I hate it. The only thing that makes him less odious than James Blunt is that, with any luck at all, he will be infinitely less omnipresent in my life. I wonder if it has occurred to him that if he wants us to see him as tortured (and he surely does), he could simply let us see him get tortured.
[1]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: You get the sense that Teddy Geiger, this seventeen-year-old poster-boy of authentic acoustic twattery, wasn't so much 'discovered' as 'grown in a vat on a nourishing mulch of the soundtracks to US high school dramas.' Those slobbering 'cellos, the hushed tones and tinkly guitar—it's not so much a song as a Summerland montage that hasn't happened yet.
[1]

Steve Mannion: Acoustic Love…the album…twenty heart-tugging renditions from some of the foremost practitioners in the medium today…modern love songs with classic style…whether at home snuggled up with your special one or in their arms watching the sun dip below the horizon from the top of the hill, Acoustic Love is the soundtrack for the love of your life. Order now and receive a model replica of James Blunt’s own(ed) acoustic-loving heart to keep beside you at all times, forevs.
[4]

Doug Robertson: If Geiger counters measured levels of dullness, rather than the more traditional radiation levels, then it would be going off the scale when confronted with this uninspiring slice of guitar and strings noodling. After listening to this it’s clear that, while he claims that no matter what his girlfriend wants, he’ll do, if it involves breaking into a sweat or demonstrating any sort of passion then it’s going to be pretty far down on his to do list.
[2]


The Fray - Over My Head
[3.00]

Jessica Popper: This starts as a bland but bearable mid-tempo rock-for-people-who-want-to-keep-their-hearing track, but then it gets going and I realise it reminds me of 3 Doors Down, enemy to anyone with good taste, and it starts to sound very bad indeed.
[2]

Doug Robertson: Fray Bentos pies are lovely, all light pastry, dripping gravy and tender chunks of meat. Yum yum. If The Fray were a pie, however, it’d be all stodgy, bland, full of gristle and just generally unsatisfying. As a band they follow their recipe to the letter without even daring to think about deviating from the template and adding a bit of seasoning or spice or anything that might differentiate them from the thousands of other bands who have exactly the same cookery book and exactly the same ingredients.
[4]

Ian Mathers: As far as modern MOR “rock” balladry goes, this isn't bad; the lyrics are ridiculously self-pitying, of course (and isn't anyone else worried that the prominence of this sort of woe-is-me shit is kind of bad for us?), but the chorus is hummable enough, and honestly when this starts playing on the radio you're probably not going to mind. Purely functional as office music, and I don't mean that in a good way.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Now that the vein of American rock bands emulating Pearl Jam has been exhausted, young would-be scenesters look across the Atlantic for inspiration. Arena-size intimacy is Coldplay’s specialty, with a dollop of angst suitable for The O.C. I’ve been told that pianos are the new electric guitars.
[4]


The Mount Roskil Preservation Society ft. Hollie Smith - Bathe in the River
[3.60]

Patrick McNally: By the yard soulful wallpaper of the type that you’d find in a “feel-good film that makes you want to get in contact with your long lost cousins and reminisce about days gone by.” Which it is, according to IMDb. What’s more, it also features that most hideous signifier: an unnecessary gospel choir used as a prop to prove to add unearned soul and gravitas.
[1]

Edward Oculicz: Tasteful piano and tasteful vocal arrangements aren't my kind of thing, even if they're well executed. When I listen to this I get the feeling that I'm supposed to appreciate how felt and passionate it is, but I prefer my emotional over something tizzy, sped-up, and possibly fun—or at least interesting. I do like the brass arrangement—over a punchier song it would have been fantastic.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: Hollie Smith is a terrific singer, and her style (strong and soulful with a touch of Liz Fraser) perfectly fits what is nearly a gospel track, with full choir backing (it's hard to make a bad record with a decent gospel choir involved) and a piano, but a few other instruments added on. I could happily listen to lots more of her doing this, but the title is so reminiscent of Wade in the Water, recorded by so many gospel greats, and Al Green's Take Me to the River, and the comparisons are not ones that would benefit any record.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Blige is allowed to do this this week because she is in a scrap with someone, whereas Hollie Smith is making me feel like I’m stuck in church. It’s really not bad; it’s just a little “hallelujah.”
[3]


Mish Mash - Speechless
[4.00]

Doug Robertson: Anticipation can be a good thing in music, but you have to actually fulfil that promise to make the wait worthwhile. This constantly sounds like it’s about to go somewhere, but every time it looks like it’s about to break away from the path and go somewhere interesting it chickens out, seeming happy to carry on trundling along the tracks a million songs have travelled along before. Nice vocals, but ultimately this song has nothing to say and seems to be more than comfortable with this situation.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: House with an '80s electronica sound (very common these days) with a female vocal that reminds me in places of Linda Lewis on Midfield General's Reach Out a few years back, which is a distinctly good thing. It throws some rock power chords in here and there, and these are fairly well assimilated, if a little irritating. I like the rest of the music and I like the singing on the chorus especially. The odd spell of the vaguely spooky choral singing is less welcome.
[7]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: There's something tragically ugly about this track, the way it crams in disco cliches indiscriminately, with no thought for their individual effects or sounds or anything beyond “ooh, that's a bit seventies, that is.” Like someone trying to compensate for no fashion sense by dressing as “wacky” as possible, or a glutton washing down crisps and chocolate and chipolatas and coca-cola in the same mouthful: stomach-turning and deeply saddening.
[2]

Patrick McNally: Like cheap Ikea shelves—functional but nothing to get excited about. It could be fun hearing it at a stuck-in-the-past provincial gay club whilst getting propositioned by a crummy pissed puff but listening to it anywhere that doesn’t stink of stale poppers, like I am right now, makes no sense.
[4]


The Zutons - Why Won't You Give Me Your Love?
[4.20]

Hillary Brown: Because you sound too much like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy sometimes. Because your garage is too cluttered and the sound keeps bouncing off the yard tools. Because you keep asking me too much.
[4]

Ian Mathers: I haven't been this annoyed by a jokingly “offensive” song since Louis XIV's pointless “Finding Out True Love Is Blind” and, like that little slice of shit, the Zutons here smirkingly go so far over the top that you're not supposed to mind. He keeps her locked up in the basement, see, which is—fun? No, boring. Bands who have actual songs don't tend to have to resort to this sort of thing.
[2]

Edward Oculicz: In the lyrics: sour grapes at the girl who ignores him. In the music: sour grapes at the indie bands getting all their success. There is no feyness here, instead there’s just a rock and roll chorus and a great bit where the chorus is shouted over just the drums. It’s a touch repetitive, but pleasingly raw with nice backing vocals, even if I can't remember the verses. Quite good, even if they do hate pop, the lot of them.
[7]

Steve Mannion: This isn’t really good enough for a big ‘we’re back’ single—it’s more like Coral album filler. It’s hard to tell what’s wrong here: perhaps the sax is underused? (Either way, anything that would help to make this cry for help stand out more would’ve been welcome).
[5]


Toby Keith - Get Drunk & Be Somebody
[4.33]

Alfred Soto: See, I thought the title was “Get Drunk and Beat Somebody.” At the risk of looking like an asshole, that’s the sort of song I expect Toby Keith to sing, not some limp-wristed empowerment ode qua Gretchen Wilson number.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Keith can write some great shit-kickers, but the horns on this one belie his message. They’re too clean, like Glen Miller’s people followed him to the bar, hitching a ride in the back of his four-door luxury truck. Maybe it’s because he hasn’t gotten drunk yet. They need a little mud. Like the way he says “Furr-iday.”
[5]

Edward Oculicz: For a second this sounds like a male version of Shania Twain's timeless "Man! I Feel Like A Woman!" and as such threatens to be the best song ever. It isn't, but it's got energy and a kicking arrangement, making it a vast improvement over everything on that dull, lifeless last album of his. The horns and the harmonies are terrific, the slowed down middle eight is a nice touch and Toby's rediscovered his charisma. Very nice.
[7]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Honky-tonk tripe that makes drunken delusions of grandeur sound about as exciting as flossing, or picking grouting off the bathtub, or listening to this song.
[2]


Mary J Blige & U2 - One
[5.17]

Steve Mannion: Blige really doesn’t work here, as will no doubt be pointed out by most people. “One” always demanded a huge amount from Bono, but Blige just seems to be running through it without any real challenge or feeling, compared to her greatest work in the past. Sounds just like you would expect it to, plus with The Edge’s original guitar pangs also deflated, why bother?
[2]

Alfred Soto: Bono, in a gesture of Christian charity, surrenders the mantle of overwroughtness to Mary, who in this context sounds less like the Queen of Hip-Hop soul than the Daughter Of Pat Benatar. Not great, but pretty good. Download it now; it’ll save U2 the trouble of including it on a Rattle & Hum sequel.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: I don't really understand why this is happening at all, nor why, if you have Mary J. Blige at hand, you would let Bono within a furlong of the microphone. She is reduced to ululating in the background for a while, then trying to sing what is blatantly a rock song, and she doesn't know what to do with it, how to phrase it—it's as poor and uninteresting a performance as I've ever heard from her, though there are some impressive parts, some mighty notes. She's still a million miles better than Bono, obviously, but it's an absurd waste.
[4]

John Seroff: Here's the thing: I just don't like U2. More power to Bono that he's doing good things on the world stage and all that, but I can't stand the guy's voice. As a band, I don't think they've produced, at best, much of anything more than vaguely worthwhile pop fodder since about 1983. Mary J, on the other paw, is evergreen to my ears but who the hell convinced her that a cover of “One” was what her fanbase was clamoring for? It sure isn't anything I'm clamoring for; pairing these two like some big budget mash-up brings to mind the old adage about mixing ten pounds of ice cream and ten pounds of manure. Surprisingly, this somehow ends up a reasonably tasty sundae; thank God that U2 had the sense to hang back and let Mary roast this chestnut. Trainwreck averted.
[7]


Luxuria - Odio
[5.40]

Hillary Brown: Violent Femmes meet Shakira. Fight. Dance. Horrible infant is produced. We all bring strychnine to the baby shower.
[2]

Doug Robertson: A naggingly familiar thrill-a-second angry girl pop-rock masterpiece of the kind that Lindsay Lohan no doubt thinks she makes. Rage has rarely seemed like so much fun, and I’m not just raving about this because I’m scared of getting on the wrong side of the singer. Promise.
[8]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: I agree, I agree, Queens Of The Stone Age would sound a lot better if they were fronted by Shakira. If there was this... this voice out front, snarling and crooning, raging and prowling across its range like some predator amid the muddy guitars. And then you could get rid of all the boring bits, the dull mindless pummel of drums and lumpen slug of bass, in fact all the bits that sound like QOTSA, that'd be good, and—oh, that's too much to ask, is it? Ah, well.
[7]

Edward Oculicz: I worried that with that bass-line it was going to be a bunch of grotty boys, but thankfully we have a girl and a tune. Well, definitely a girl, the tune's a bit insubstantial initially. It really kicks into gear with an enormous "aaaaah!", and you wish that bit would go on forever, because the bite of the riff is matched by the sexy growl of the singing, but both subside far too quickly. Might be a grower.
[6]


Morning Musume - Sexy Boy
[6.00]

Steve Mannion: A jam packed fried doughnut of gleeful bouncing J-pop. If you have a headache stay away. If you don’t, it may well give you one.
[4]

Doug Robertson: I’m sure, like me, that you’ve often wondered exactly what would happen if you force fed a group of hyperactive types their own body weight in icing sugar, before locking them in a room with a variety of electronic instruments. Well, finally someone’s had the balls—and the lack of morality—to carry out this twisted experiment and what a thrilling, beautiful result it turns out to be. The world would be a much better place if more musicians turned to icing sugar instead of another form of white powder to get their kicks.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Naturally enough, sooner or later Japan was going to produce something so over-caffeinated that it'd be impossible to stand. And the thing with the kind of pop music we've been hearing from Japan in recent weeks is that it's so energetic, so over the top that when it works it really, really works and when it goes just that fatal bit further (in this case someone in the back singing along to the backing track, and 13 (!) singers chanting out the same hyper-speed chorus), it is like unto an abomination.
[2]

John Seroff: Do the Japanese put amphetamines in their drinking water? Red Bull in their cereal? Coffee enemas? How else to explain the relatively recent explosion of speedy J-pop like “Sexy Boy”? Equal parts Gabba, Reggaeton and Hello Kitty, “Sexy Boy” hails from Morning Musume, the Japanese talk show hosts/bubblegum band that's best understood as an all-girl Asian Menudo. Band members are auditioned yearly, a la American Idol, to fill in for retirees. Morning Musume have been around nine years and have hit number one on the Japanese pop charts nine times, making them likely the most popular group you've never heard of. “Sexy Boy” may be less an introduction and more of a slap to the face; few songs are quite this assaulting and intense on first listen. Don't get me wrong; it's still great raucous fun and, if you've got a taste for this sort of thing, a supercharged spray of colors and bright lights that'll make for hella good wake-up-and-greet-the-morning music. All that said, nota bene: repeated listenings may cause caffeine headaches.
[8]


Bodies Without Organs - Temple of Love
[6.00]

Ian Mathers: It's a shame this song won't be representing Sweden in this year's Eurovision contest, because it's hard to imagine the song that beat it being any better. True, BWO's traditional heedless pop delirium seems to have been reined in here a bit and not to the best effect—but listen to those “woah oh oh”s and just try to deny “Temple of Love.” You can if you really want to, but you're only cheating yourself of wonderful 80's synth and further proof that Martin Rolinski is one of the more winning pop vocalists out there.
[8]

Patrick McNally: Organs missing include heart, brains, and balls.
[2]

Jessica Popper: I've come to accept the fact that most people will never like BWO, even if they want to. To me, they are the perfect band. Apart from being Swedish, they are a boy-band, girl-band, young and old, mainstream and unique, cheesy pop and cool electro all in one—what more could a pop obsessive like me possibly want from a band?
[10]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: The amount of love BWO have been getting from the usual pop suspects, you would be forgiven for expecting them to be in some way interesting. Alas, the only noteworthy thing about them is that they're capable of taking hi-NRG and blanding it out into listless mush, which up until now I'd thought impossible.
[4]


Belle & Sebastian - The Blues Are Still Blue
[6.00]

Edward Oculicz: Back in the days that I derided B&S for being so insubstantial and fluffy and wanky even when they veered towards edgy, I didn't actually expect that they'd do something about it. The riff might lumber, but the chorus is deceptively sunny, the crunch of the drums works remarkably well. Rock, almost. I think an entire album in exaggerated silly voices is the next logical step.
[9]

Hillary Brown: Not even a pale shade of blue, but it’s amazing to make this kind of guitar still work. Half Beatles, half early Of Montreal, and with occasional keyboard quotes from “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” which are always, always a good thing.
[6]

Patrick McNally: A weird combo of Hefner plus Scientology-period Incredible String Band. Like a lot of Belle & Sebastian singles, this is irritatingly close to something that I could get into, but just, somehow, falls short of the finish line. I think it’s that they always sound too polite, too held back, too wound up, and I think that that may be the point for some people, the thing that they can relate to. Not me though.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Stuart Murdoch’s transformation from wannabe folkie miniaturist to wannabe rocker generalist reminds me of Jake Gyllenhaal going from emo dork Donnie Darko to the swaggerin’ cowpoke Jack Nasty, er, Twist: unexpected, ingratiating, and a little awkward, which is probably the point, until you notice the bulge in his crotch; he knows he looks great. Less awkward, however, than Murdoch. Who can say whether his latent fondness for the grand gesture proves to be more than another role; but I’m glad he’s as bored with mumbled miserabilism as his audience.
[7]


The Veronicas - When It All Falls Apart
[6.33]

Ian Mathers: The vocals remind me a bit of the original “Eternal Flame,” but in what possible world is that a bad thing? As much as I warily applaud the marketing machine from wringing as much as possible out of the Veronicas' background (the bio on their website is kind of terrifying), this is a pretty fantastic pop song no matter how fiercely the band is being pushed. The whole post-Avril/”Since U Been Gone” pop/rock balance is a tricky one to nail properly, and they actually get it right on this song, so much so that it's easy to imagine thousands of teenage girls singing heartily along in the privacy of their bedrooms, pining for that impossible guy (or girl).
[7]

Martin Skidmore: A friend has persistently sent me Veronicas tracks for a while without persuading me at all. They are his idea of pop thrills, and my idea of the more tolerable end of indie—but without nearly enough Kelly Clarksonish pop excitement for my tastes. The singing is weak and strained, the guitars routine and formulaic, it all sounds totally familiar, and I have never been able to remember any of their tunes beyond the fadeout. I can see how the image and style would appeal to many, but they need stronger support from the music.
[4]

Jessica Popper: This is one of my favourite tracks on the Veronicas' ace album, mainly for its catchiness and their innovation in replacing the profanity with "effed up", which for some reason works brilliantly. Apparently it's between this and “Everything I'm Not” as to what will be the band's second single in America, and although I'm doubtful that either will capture US hearts if “4ever” didn't, whichever they choose will keep fans more than satisfied as the quality is very consistent.
[9]

Edward Oculicz: A general rule of thumb with the new girl-pop is that the faster the song is, the better, usually. Count this as a bit of an exception, because the high school rhymes, dumb dynamics evoke hair metal and the little guitar motifs after the choruses are like a musical embodiment of whoever produced this giggling to death because even they can't work out what 80s hit they pinched it from. It could have done with a big key change on the last chorus to throw it into the realm of the sublimely ridiculous, but a pretty tuneful kind of pissed-off nonetheless.
[8]


Three 6 Mafia - Poppin' My Collar
[6.33]


Martin Skidmore: They gave us one of the highlights of last year, so I had high hopes for this. It doesn't have the storming hook that “Stay Fly” did, but it's another winner, a rich backing, dark and electronic and compelling, behind a range of rappers somewhat reminiscent of the Wu. I have no idea what the title means (I expect it's something to do with sex, drugs or violence, as it almost always is), but I was rapping along with it by the second play, which is a very good sign. They're an interesting case of the underground not so much going overground as waiting for the overground to get to them.
[7]

John Seroff: “Poppin’ My Collar” isn't anywhere near as spectacular as “Stay Fly”; it's actually not as good as the other potential singles Three 6 had to choose from (the admittedly somewhat difficult to market “Pussy Got Ya Hooked” and “Knock the Black Off Yo Ass” are both far superior). Even so, “Collar” is miles ahead of the odious “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” and the hook can hold its own well enough against anything else on the dial; a compulsively chantable chorus, the trademark Hypnotize Minds crosscut drum machine/dirty horn loops and a judiciously used Kanye-esque gospel choir see to that. Lyrically, unfortunately, it's not any better than anything else on Hustle and Flow; thematically, “Collar” is just another braggadocious document of the singer's skills at convincing women to prostitute themselves. For better or for worse, it'll still keep your head bobbin'.
[7]

Patrick McNally: They pop their collars? Like oafish rugby playing students who barrel around the bar like everyone else is a skittle to be knocked over? That’s not exactly something to brag about. And neither is the rest of the single which buffs up the surface sheen too much and loses all that was appealingly, genuinely weird about the Three 6 in favour of generic pimp talk.
[3]

Alfred Soto: They’re Oscar winners, and sound like it.
[8]


Wigwam - Wigwam
[7.83]

Steve Mannion: A distinct nod to Blur’s “Girls And Boys” throughout with the carefree but persistent frugging of Alex James intact, “Wigwam” takes Damon Albarn’s musings on love in the 90s and replaces them with Alison Clarkson’s throaty diss on all other pop right now (‘everything just sucks’) and cat-like warbling, which surely we can all agree constitutes a massive improvement in this enlightened 21st century. Tacky and throwaway in precisely the right way.
[8]

Doug Robertson: After a few years avoiding the limelight and instead using her talents to help out such shining beacons of talent as Girls Aloud, Hear’Say, Girl Thing and, umm, The Tweenies, Betty Boo is finally both back and booming, teaming up with Alex James, the third most punchable member of Blur, and inviting us to check out her Wigwam which, yes, probably is a bit rude. It’s an unlikely combination and it really shouldn’t work, but by crikey it does. It crackles with raw energy as the cats chorus of a vocal line kicks in, excitement pulses through the whole track, and a whole new generation give thanks to the deity of their choosing having realised, as we all do eventually, that Betty truly belongs to the pantheon of pop greats.
[9]

Ian Mathers: Well, I found this song immensely annoying when I had no idea who WigWam are, and sadly I'm not postmodern enough that finding out they're Alex James and Betty Boo makes a bit of difference, despite my affection for both of them. The voice that does the “melody” and “me mi mo mah” parts is incredibly grating, and the problem with making a song like this featuring the line “everything just sucks” so prominently, well, is that you're making it too easy for us.
[3]

Patrick McNally: I usually have an anti-Alex James rule—after Fat Les and Me Me Me and those shocking wannabe country squire columns in The Independent it should be three strikes and he’s out, but I’m prepared to make an exception when Betty Boo is involved. On the first time through it sounded like nothing was happening, but the second time around everything’s happening, the song is overloaded in detail; tube-amp reverb splashes, black metal backing vox, dumb faux-reggae drum machines that sound simultaneously addictive and like the first preset out the box. And Betty Boo of course. The best single of the year so far.
[9]


Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
[8.20]

Jessica Popper: I don't always go for these convergences of modern and old-skool, but this one always gets me bopping when it comes on the radio—which is a lot, and I'm not bored of it yet, so I’ll take that as a sign.
[9]

Martin Skidmore: When I saw the name, I thought this was going to be a craggy old country singer covering Willie Nelson's great song. Instead it's somewhere between rap and R&B, with a really kinetic, poppy approach (thanks to Danger Mouse—I think this will catch people in very much the way that Hey Ya did), and oodles of energy: we have a vocalist who combines rap and soul in a way I've not heard from anyone else—it has the rhythmic sensibility and drive of the liveliest hip hop, and the beauty and feeling of old soul music. It's only in recent years that vocals like these became a possibility, even though his tones hark back to old soul and even older blues.
[10]

Patrick McNally: Every couple of years, jazz labels with a certain type of back catalogue, Blue Note and Verve being good examples, release compilations where their funkier or more DJ friendly material is ‘brought up to date’ by being remixed by high-mid ranking producers like, well, Cee-Lo and Dangermouse. The results are invariably indifferent at best. “Crazy” cuts out the middleman by being an original song that sounds like some clunky, modernised version of an old song. The Jack Johnson loving South African at work said that the first time he heard this he thought that it was Moby until the chorus came in. He meant it as a compliment; I took it as a warning from history.
[4]

John Seroff: Gnarls Barkley might be business as usual for Gorillaz/Grey Album alumni DJ Dangermouse, but it represents a ballsy career move for Cee-Lo Green, the once and future best-known member of Goodie Mob and august statesman of the Dirty South. Over ten years ago, Sugah-Lo and the Goodie came hard and angry with tracks about ghetto philosophy and street beatdowns; what the hell's prompted him to take on the mantle of this century's Sylvester? Actually, who cares; when pop music is done with this much heart and soul, better just to appreciate. Less hip-hop than pop and more dance than electronic, the track rings of instant vintage on a first spin and only improves from there. Thank god it's so easy on the spirit too, because I'll bet we're all destined to soak in this with “In Da Club” and “One Thing” frequency. Really, if this isn't a massive international hit, we're the ones who're crazy.
[10]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-04-04
Comments (1)
 

 
Today on Stylus
Reviews
October 31st, 2007
Features
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
Reviews
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Features
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews