ello, my name is Paul. Usually William B Swygart has the freedom to filet my rather indulgent tendency toward the opaque and verbose. Not this week! No, for one week only I get the run of the singles. Unfortunately it’s nearly 4 in the morning and I have eaten a whole packet of processed cheese and drunk the best part of two bottles of foul energy drinks. What better time, then, to consider what I have “learnt” as a contributor to Stylus’ infamous UK Singles Jukebox…
Babyshambles - Albion
It‘s not too much of a surprise to see Pete Doherty languishing at the bottom of this weeks rather sorry heap. Thing is, just a few years ago The Libertines sort of meant something to me; I’m not sure what now but they promised something, something intangible and deeply romantic. They seemed to inhabit the lonely mythic England that only really makes sense when you’re an angsty teen in the provinces. Just a few short lifetimes later and perhaps this is spawning mini epiphanies in some 17 year old, and I’m not sure whether this should make me sad; if it means something to them then who am I to say it’s under produced, lyrically banal and seemingly half inched from ‘That’s Entertainment’. That’s the dilemma, because even now I can still make out something, that unexplainable thing in Doherty’s shot voice that seems to promise some kind of connection yet the words about “gin in teacups” and bullshit “English” imagery just seems trite and uninspired. It’s the kind of half arsed self mythologizing nonsense that could arm a “poptimist” straw man for months.
Tina Cousins - Wonderful Life
This might be trance, it’s got those little synth stabs that make Dave Pearce moist… anyway, it seems to be quoting the refrain from “Wonderful Life” off that advert for a bank or something, was it by Black originally? I’m not sure. Oh dear. I really do find it hard to find anything to say about this type of thing, there just doesn't seem to be anyone in these parts who really knows or cares that much about MOR dance music. There is surely something interesting to be said – I have known people who genuinely live and breathe this type of stuff – I just don’t know how to say it. The most I can say is that it doesn’t really annoy me that much but I wouldn’t choose to listen to it.
Oasis - Let There Be Love
I usually find myself sticking up for Oasis but this is just so Rutles-lite it’s not even funny. ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ had an air of queasy menace but this is just empty, the orchestration is too timid in that by going for an approximation of the more subtle psychedelic era Beatles sound, there seems to be a Mellotron in there. Rather than playing to their pile-driving strengths the airy textures are sandbagged by their leaden rhythm section and the whole thing just plods along without ever doing anything. It doesn’t have the stern repressed emotionalism that hallmarked their best work despite having a similar shared vocal to ‘Acquiesce’, and fails to signal beyond the platitudes in the way their best work does.
Sean Paul - Ever Blazin
I’m not sure about Sean Paul; there’s something about him that puts me a little on edge. Perhaps given the right situation I could enjoy this but as with so much in the jukebox sitting in front of my computer late on a Sunday is not it. Despite sounding rather Dad-like I will say that beat has a nice enough sound to it, but since my fellow panelists don’t seem so keen either I may not be as alone as I thought I was in finding it rather dull, especially the whole tenuous and frankly metaphorically inaccurate linkage of everlasting love to soft drug usage.
Pussycat Dolls - Stickwitu
I’m a little surprised this has scored so low. It’s certainly far preferable to ‘Don’t Cha’ in that it refrains from being viscerally irritating. Curiously, instead of being “freaks” the ’Dolls now promise a life of comfortable monogamy which, though less desperate, isn’t particularly exciting. It’s pretty enough but just sort of mills around without getting up the courage to go OTT, and that’s actually a good thing. I guess you could call it a slow jam cos it’s slow and rather aimless, though admittedly rather pretty in its own breathy way. Either way, what it really needs are a couple of over dubbed and contextually irrelevant sleigh bells to sew up the Christmas market East 17 style.
Blink 182 - Not Now
Wait a minute, didn’t Blink 182 split last year? Anyway, it’s far too mature and joyless to come close to their late ’90s willy flashing glory days. The interim years in the UK saw Busted develop their sugar rush pop punk into something truly awesome, and in the US the emo hordes bastardised it into something wretched. Unfortunately, though not unsurprisingly, this staggering corpse of a band embraced the wrong route and decided to grow up. The sound – great big drums, Avril guitars, nasal vocals – is all in place, but deployed in the service of angst they just sound lacking, especially when My Chemical Romance have claimed the territory so well.
King Creosote – Bootprints
You know how everyone seems to complain about how awful all the identikit haircut indie bands are? Well, if this kind of whiny irritating oompah record is the alternative then bring on the next bunch of clueless poseurs. Of course I’m setting up false alternatives and cheap rhetoric but what else is music writing about? Appealing to objective truth is not really part of the job description, is it? I could describe how this has a really horrid organ sound but hating on stuff is rarely that interesting unless you have something amusing or controversial to say and I am, despite my best efforts, no Dom “Yes Boss!” Passantino.
Sigur Ros - Hoppipolla
There’s something so frustrating about this, the way it seems afraid to be genuinely musically interesting and at the same time too vacuous to try and forge an emotional connection. It just sits prettily not going anywhere, like Coldplay without the overbearing sincerity. In general I find the kind of sublime beauty Sigur Ros aim for only makes sense if there is some contrast; whether silence or violence “ear bleeding noise and sugar sweet melodies” ala My Bloody Valentine is always a good combination. Otherwise it feels like being given meringue when you’re not hungry.
The Futureheads – Area
As “indie” acts’ career paths become more and more like those of pop acts (couple of big hits, no second chances when the first single from album number two misses the top 40) The Futureheads make the rather unwise decision to re-engage with the pop world with what sounds like an album track. Not that I’ve ever listened to their album. Like Franz and his Ferdinands there’s something a bit wearing about the prospect of listening to the ’Heads do what is essentially the same song 12 times but with occasional slight differences. It’s an OK approach if you can release killer singles like ‘Hounds of Love’ and ‘Decent Days and Nights’ every couple of months but when it also involves songs that are this workmanlike it does not bode well.
Rihanna - If It's Lovin' That You Want
The tune’s got a lovely synthetic pop reggae lilt and Rihanna is coquettish though curiously and perhaps crucially innocent. She promises “I can be your friend” and it just feels sort of refreshing, like a throwback to some time when pop songs were about “taking walks” rather than promising to be a freak in the bedroom. It’s so light, held together by rolling drums and a vocal performance of breezy sincerity, that it seems odd releasing it so near to Christmas as it feels so insouciantly summery. One of the most disappointing things about writing for the Jukebox has been that it sometimes feels that, instead of broadening my horizons, it has made me less adventurous in my tastes. I don’t really think this is true, it just often feels that way; when the Jukebox sort of pushes itself towards polarization, one is left defending a caricature of one’s tastes. Good as Rihanna is, it does feel rather unlikely I will ever choose to listen to this song again.
Kelly Clarkson – Because Of You
I simply do not get Kelly Clarkson. ‘Since U Been Gone’ was alright, but Kim Lian, The Lovebites and The Faders were (presuming all the stalwarts of Sister-off-My Parents Are Aliens
-Core have been retired) so much more fun… maybe I’m missing something there. Anyway this is an airtight, airless power ballad that seems to work in the opposite way to ‘Since U Been Gone’, with Clarkson coming over all emo at the loss of her lover – not that this in itself is a bad thing, it just feels oddly incongruous. You’d never see The Lovebites reduced to this sort of thing. She should perhaps take a leaf out of The Decemberists’ book and do a few songs about pirates or maybe even dinosaurs, then perhaps everyone would be happy, but as the Jukebox has hammered home week after week that’s not going to happen is it?