The Singles Jukebox
Dancing On Goldfrapp



so yes, the week that I trailed as being ‘rubbish’ last week has arrived and, for the most part (wait right till the end though), lives right up to that. The Cardigans are back! As are Ricky Martin! Robbie Williams! Depeche Mode! Um, Freeform Five! Yeah! First though, the panel decide that James Blunt isn’t as good as Starsailor. Yep, it’s one of those weeks…


James Blunt – High
[2.22]


Peter Parrish: Here’s what people say about James Blunt: “...a major talent in waiting, echoing David Gray and a host of literate, tuneful songwriters” (Q). Hurrah, he’s literate! Congrats on your reading prowess, James. Notice also how this suggests that he’s not actually as good as David Gray. Yeah, just think about that. Next; “...officer class singer-songwriter material... Powerful stuff” (Daily Telegraph). Oh ho, an army reference--DO YOU SEE? No mention of the pitifully weak singing voice which sings “HiiIIIiiIIIEEEeeeyyyiiiaaayyyygg” in as many different shades of shrill as you can imagine though, oddly. And one more; “...the nation's housewives will erupt in a torrent of swooning and march to the record store in battalions” (Evening Standard), which is just frightening. I think it’s worth mentioning the role of rhyming slang as prophetic visionary again. And again. And again.
[1]

Jonathan Bradley: I was going to make a joke about James-Blunt-as-rhyming-slang, but then a search of the Stylus archives revealed that Alex Macpherson had already made that joke a while back. Now I’m sulking. Lucky for me, this is good sulking music.
[2]

Patrick McNally: Is the title a reference to his pre-fame days when he was allegedly dealing some of the best drugs in London?
[1]

Hillary Brown: Would be much easier to listen to without those vocal tics that mean he both sings through his nose and gulps like a fish. The music is decent (the production sounds like the new Beatles stuff), but this is too sensitive frat boy mix-tape.
[4]

Jessica Popper: I have a theory about James Blunt, that despite his massive record sales, he doesn't actually have many real fans. I know a huge amount of people who have bought his album, mostly just out of interest, yet no-one I know would count him as one of their favourite artists. I'm sure he does have some very dedicated fans, but I think there are less than his record sales suggest. However, you should probably ignore everything I say on the subject of Mr Blunt, since my review of his last single stated that he had chosen the wrong single and would not do well with it. Not exactly a psychic prediction!
[4]


Starsailor – In The Crossfire
[3.00]


Patrick McNally: The James Blunt of four years ago, except that Blunt actually makes this lot look ‘good’ in the same way that Starsailor made The Verve look retrospectively ‘better’.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley: Mr. Starsailor sounds far too worked up for such an uninteresting song. Also, he doesn’t see himself when he looks in the mirror. Perhaps he is a vampire. That would be good, because then he could join My Chemical Romance.
[1]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Starsailor go a bit goth. It doesn't make them any more interesting. Though there's this great bit where he wibbles "i hear them scream - oooh!" and as far as inappropriately overblown mock-"Yellow" bobbins goes, it's not all that horrendous.
[1]

Doug Robertson: Well, he still has the sort of voice which some describe as passionate, but which anyone who’s actually experienced an emotion in their lives would describe as irritating, but despite this handicap and, indeed, the handicap of it being a Starsailor song, this isn’t actually that bad at all. The pounding piano and falsetto syllables in the chorus are particularly good and the whole thing manages to trick you into thinking you’re listening to something that’s halfway decent, rather than a Starsailor track.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: The enunciation of the word "myself" is actually painful, which is a shame because sonically, this is the most poised and confident they've ever been - graceful slashes of guitar all over the place and not a bad tune. But oh man, when Starsailor Bloke sings, it takes you back to bed-wetting student music like "Alcoholic" and you shudder in response.
[4]


Ricky Martin ft. Fat Joe & Amerie – I Don’t Care
[3.10]


Hillary Brown: That’ll teach me a lesson about assuming I might like something before actually listening to it. This is a painfully awful attempt to work most trends that have appeared since Ricky Martin last had an album into one song, and it does not work, except for the bit that whooshes.
[2]

Patrick McNally: I don’t care either bcz I pretty much heard this song when fifteen other people released Indian perc and string combo tracks earlier this year. It was a dud when they did it and most of them were way better than the inert Mr. Martin.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley: Ricky Martin sounds a long way from home doing R&B rather than his oddly exuberant Latin pop. Lucky for Mr. Livin’ La Vida Loca, Fat Joe appears from out of the plinky Eastern strings to guide the lost tourist around the marketplaces and back alleys of his strange new locale. Joey Crack’s particular talent, in the best way possible, is to act as a very good placeholder. Whereas Ludacris or Jay-Z would use their allotted time to completely blow away the listener, Fat Joe offers no quotables, but is invaluable simply because he does nothing wrong; the song needed a rap, Fat Joe provided. So this should be pretty good, right? Well, with everyone being adequate but hardly special, the only hope is a stunning performance from Amerie. Too bad she only gets about four lines. It’s a man’s world, ain’t it?
[5]

Doug Robertson: Previously Ricky made you want to take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain, which led to the rather unfortunate hypothermia epidemic of 1999, from which his career never really recovered. This track, however, is unlikely to cause similar scenes of chemise shedding excitement, being the sort of upbeat Usher-esque R&B which we’ve heard many times before and will no doubt hear many times to come.
[4]

John Cameron: When Fat Joe came in, I thought "Boy I wish this was a just a Fat Joe track!" But then I realized that even if Fat Joe was the entire song it would still be a goddamn mess of sitars and boring-ass handclaps. Maybe if all of us shun Ricky Martin, he'll stop releasing music already and just go away.
[1]


Robbie Williams – Tripping
[4.00]


John Cameron: He channels early Bono's rough falsetto well enough, but the music is reggae-esque, haphazardly smashed over a dull disco beat, useless strings, and he does a cheesy spoken word bit in the middle. Overall result: sad.
[2]

Edward Oculicz: In which Robbie attempts to do pretty much what Darren Hayes did last year, to rather less effect, but doubtlessly rather more success. Funny that in taking someone else's path, he's never sounded more distinctive than on this. Not to say that this isn't in fact a ludicrous, overcooked flop of a song that tries to do too much and accomplishes nothing, because that's exactly what it is.
[5]

Paul Scott: This sounds a bit like latter day Pet Shop Boys, but the musical setting in which he finds himself is never really the point for this man. No matter where he is placed his dead eyed anti-charisma blankets everything. A Robbie Williams song is only ever about one thing; Robbie Williams. Fair enough, he's a song and dance man with something that genuinely seems to connect with people, but has anyone ever been so complacent yet clearly aware of their own mediocrity?
[3]

Patrick McNally: The same self-regarding, self-loving, self-loathing self-obsession that Williams, a smug black hole capable of sucking the fun out of anything, always provides. He probably thinks that it sounds like a cross between a Neptunes production and Madness or something equally stupid. It sounds like a mess.
[1]

Doug Robertson: Reassuringly rubbish up until the point the chorus kicks in, when it suddenly reaches really amazing heights in a way that Robbie really shouldn’t even begin to be able to attain. Fortunately the natural order is restored once he does one of his embarrassing raps two thirds of the way through, and it becomes ridiculously easy to once again hate the smug-faced cock, but for a few seconds he very nearly becomes the popstar he actually believes he is.
[6]


Black Dice – Smiling Off
[5.11]


John Cameron: I'm completely overwhelmed. I'm serious. I actually don't know what to think. Black Dice work on a completely different musical scale than the rest of us. In their world, rankings would go from % to ~ and nobody would know which end of the spectrum is better, or even if they'd have a difference. There's something vaguely jungle-y about the first few minutes of the track, which eventually becomes something very jungle-y. I think that's all I can tell you, besides the fact that you will never hear this song on the radio or see a video for it, and the fact that I like it a lot despite the fact that it eats ten minutes out of my life every time I listen to it. Oh, and it gets a ^ out of ~, which translates to
[9]

Edward Oculicz: One of the foundations of modern science is that of empiricism, that we're all observers of the same reality. That this is in stores, being bought, by people with functioning ears shatters my faith in this principle. Bad. Really bad. Towers of London covering "Ass Like That" bad. Sounds rather like the sound my toy keyboard used to make when you held fifteen keys down while turning the thing off and hearing it fade into oblivion
[0]

Peter Parrish: On the one hand, this is just a just a load of scratchy, wobbling, noise effects slapped together with some pseudo-tribal chanting to make a kind of vaguely coherent whole. On the other, that’s actually what all music is on some level, isn’t it? And on the biology-defying third hand, I find the idea of releasing experimental nine minute singles enormously entertaining. Especially when they actually turn out to be quite interesting.
[6]

Paul Scott: Over nine minutes of fizzing shifting breaking sounds that seem to curl round themselves forming patterns then dissolving back into the wreckage. There is a discernible continual rhythmic underpinning yet this feels like the weakest part of the track, shifting the focus from the more chaotic elements. A screed of carnage that twists itself kaleidoscope fashion, melds itself into almost pretty phantom mantras. The closet any music I've heard has come to replicating the feeling of staying up till 4 to finish these blurbs.
[8]

Hillary Brown: I hear your Residents reference, but I dock you all the points you gained for that because you are more than 9 minutes long. At least the eyeball folks know how to keep it simple, stupid.
[1]


Bratz Rock Angelz – So Good
[5.20]


Peter Parrish: I was all set to make a shit panel-game style gag revolving around ‘hilariously’ mistaking this band for that Barbie-bashing range of plastic dolls. Except, fantastically, I then discovered that this band ARE that Barbie-bashing range of plastic dolls. Now I have all kinds of questions--is it anyone we know doing the vocals? Will TOTP be forced to show bizarre lingering footage of some dolls sat around on their stage? Who were the unfortunate session musicians dragged in to perform this monstrosity of self-affirming YOU CAN MAKE IT pap? I doubt the gigantic corporate machine behind this enterprise really cares for my questions though, or my patronage--they’ll be too busy building houses out of the vast piles of wealth this record will create. And then some more houses to put those houses inside.
[2]

Patrick McNally: Bratz are the ugliest children’s toys ever, ‘trendy’ dolls that look like they’ve been designed for a paedophile to get bukkake practice on. Their makers have contracted some Scando’s to make a record purporting to be by them and it’s horrible over-compressed soft rock. This is for kidz that’ll be listening to Him in two years and Celine Dion within ten.
[1]

Jonathan Bradley: I had high hopes for Bratz – after all, a musical spin off from a line of nouveau-Barbies is equally as ripe with possibility as a group of Damon Albarn-associating animated simians. Unfortunately this ended up less song and more vision-statement for the Bratz brand over the next quarter. I was fully prepared for it to be primarily a marketing tool, but the tie-in is so unsubtle as to practically be the fashion doll equivalent of “YVAN EHT NIOJ.” Nothing awful, but I can’t get over the fact that I should be toy shopping rather than listening.
[4]

Doug Robertson: This is the sort of song Bonnie Tyler would record if she still had a career and is a shoehorn for the soundtrack if they ever make a Top Gun 2. Pretty damned good, in other words.
[7]

John Cameron: Moving off of a fantastic guitar line and shimmering strings, the song dives perilously deep into Evanescenceland, then suddenly pulls out in-your-face, fist-pumping dance-rock, then combines all three. It baffles and confounds on first listen, but hearing it again reveals layers, full of subtle and beautiful touches buried under a wall of pop-rock noise. It's a little overwhelming, but pretty dang good.
[9]


The Cardigans – I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer
[5.89]


Edward Oculicz: The prettiest band in the whole world, and their Country and Northern is awfully easy on the ears as well. Nina Persson's twang is as fantastic as ever, her phrasing is marvellous, and basically she drips pure sex when she commands her dog of a beau to bend to her command. Also she appears to be a drunken harlot from the lyrics. A woman after my own heart.
[10]

Jonathan Bradley: Not nearly as bad-ass as it think it is with its cowbell and “good dog” intro, but still pretty poptastic in places. I Need Some Fine Wine, And You, You Need To Be Nicer is a great lyric/title, and the chorus is catchy, but the whole thing fails to gel. The Cardigans clearly still know how to write that sort of infectious pop that ensures Lovefool is fondly remembered, but it just didn’t quite happen this time.
[6]

Patrick McNally: Like the item of clothing that they’re named after. Comfy, comforting but so what?
[4]

Doug Robertson: Few bands, having expended the creative energy required to come up with a song title that good, would be able to come up with a song that actually matches it, and frankly, Nina and friends just aren’t up to the job. Not that it’s a bad song, it’s just that having been tempted by diamonds, cut glass is always going to be somewhat disappointing.
[6]

Hillary Brown: I think I’m supposed to find the percussion more interesting than I do, but this is still sort of nice sweater-person music.
[5]


Lovebites – You Broke My Heart
[6.00]


Cecily Nowell-Smith: "You broke my heart / so I BROKE YOUR NOSE!" Oh yes, the future of girl punk-pop has arrived and will be sticking around for at least one single and one McFly support slot, and probably a feud with The Faders while they're at it. There's a lot of rubbishness in this song - the snotty little spoken-word snippets are just shoddy - but for those big brash harmonies, for that tambourine and that chorus, and for the shocking-pink mayfly lifespan of their future career:
[9]

Patrick McNally: The spawn of Avril and Busted. Don’t look in the pram, it’s wretched and not long for this world.
[2]

John Cameron: Proof that emo is the most boundary-destroying musical genre, in that sucks equally in the hands of men and women.
[0]

Jonathan Bradley: It’s so great when punk-purists froth at the mouth about the evils of teen-pop mall-punk groups appropriating their art form. I love the Ramones and the Clash, but there is nothing sacred about twenty-five year old music, and Lovebites show punk tradition the proper lack of respect by tearing up the school disco with bouncy pop and bratty interjections. It’s so hilariously high school that it is pointless to do anything but enjoy it. Do they have a fan club I can join? I’ve already picked Aimee as my favourite.
[7]

Paul Scott: In the mid nineties The Period Pains were a group of 14 year old girls from Reading who wrote fantastic punk pop songs about hating the Spice Girls and wanting ponies, they signed to Damaged Goods and got to 78 in the charts. In the intervening 8 or 9 years something has changed; Love Bites are a group who also met at secondary school and peddle a similar line of catchy, ultra-hormonal pop punk though the emphasis is more on the pop. They are signed to MCA, so the lyrics are merely cheeky rather than the 'Pains smattering of "wankers" and gynaecology. Though the ‘attitude’ is clearly in inverted commas the energy is all there and in this post Busted age the production, playing and dynamics are awesome. Precision designed for maximum impact, like Butch Vig's Nirvana being goosed by Talulah Gosh, whose ‘Break Your Face’ is maybe a precedent of sorts. It is clearly a fantastic joyous atomic wedgie of a song yet reviewing it has made me feel slightly sad that they'll probably never be allowed to release songs with lines as good as "With my hormones running wild/I think I'm a paedophile".
[9]


Depeche Mode – Precious
[6.10]


Cecily Nowell-Smith: NO MORE COMEBACKS.
[2]

Doug Robertson: With various bands trying to out Depeche Mode Depeche Mode, it seems only natural that Depeche Mode themselves should have a shot at trying to steal back their own crown. Unfortunately this falls a bit short of the target and is more like receiving an iPod shaped keyring for a birthday present: cute, but not quite what you wanted.
[6]

Peter Parrish: Dave Gahan takes his usual leap forward in singing ability (experts predict that if DM manage another three albums, he will be the greatest vocalist on earth) and ruminates on his favourite subject--delicate little flowers whose innocence is SUDDENLY AND CRUELLY RIPPED FROM THEM. Oh yes, and religious imagery. There’s a touch of “Enjoy the Silence” about the intro, but this is less hooky and more reliant on a wandering piano phrase striding over whispy atmospherics. Probably an odd choice of single, but fantastic nonetheless.
[8]

Patrick McNally: I don’t really know Depeche Mode so if you’d told me that this was a single from five years ago I’d have believed you. If you’d told me it was a single from ten years ago I’d have believed you. If you’d told me it was a single from twenty years ago I’d have believed you. This is no doubt good for their fans but not for me.
[4]

Edward Oculicz: So archetypically Depeche Mode you feel as if you've heard it before, and can't believe they've never done it before. Very good, mesmerising chorus distracting you from the fact that the lyrics are cack, and the polite thudding in the background is disturbingly lovely.
[9]


Freeform Five – No More Conversations
[6.11]


Peter Parrish: This is curious, I’m sure I enjoyed this track more when I last heard it. Something is hiding within the song and diminishing the power it exudes with every listen, sapping the strength from the arrangement and leaving it all limp and lifeless in the manner of a crap Star Trek alien. Fortunately, you could put this on a fortnightly loop and it would still come out better than James Blunt. What was there to previously like, though? Must ... remember ... Ah, yes, I think it was the harmonic ahhhAhhhAHHahh-ing and talk of revolutions (the literal rather than exciting political kind, but I can pretend).
[6]

Edward Oculicz: Good, forgettable fun, with a distinct air of early 80s about it. The fact that the iterations of the chorus melody that come in front of the guitars sound so much better than the rest of the song makes you wonder how great FF5 could be if they put their foot on the accelerator and made something loud, fast and punishing. As they are, fine, unexceptional dance music, which is probably enough for most.
[7]

Patrick McNally:‘Clever pop’ stupid enough to forget the tune. A procession of moments leading up to THE AMAZING BIT that never arrives. It would sound good if it was loud and I was drunk but those events are never going to intersect, alas.
[3]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Starts off like it's Elastica, back and newly electro-slinky, but the resemblance doesn't last even as far as the bridge. The singer's voice has this warm thrill to it, oddly tender, and the rest of the song closes around it with squelch-deep bass synth and skewed-muted organ, and I'm seduced. I wish I could dance the way this chorus stretches and twines about itself, the way these drums shake and shimmy.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Ha! That noise is someone peeling tape off something, which is a noise I haven’t heard in a song before. Other than that, this is amiable enough but not any big thing.
[5]


Bloc Party – Two More Years
[6.44]


Patrick McNally: The Police playing a soft rock ballad with a drummer emulating a drum machine, this could be easily improved by getting a singer with a more powerful voice, like Stephen Hawking. With his computer turned off. Lighters up, as Lil’ Kim wld say.
[3]

Paul Scott: Humourlessness is often seen as an almost insurmountable character flaw but it's Bloc Party's greatest strength. They tap directly into the emotional immaturity that "indie" music in the traditional sense needs to truly work. When Kele sings in pained tones of scars on arms and lying to parents he is with a remarkable or foolhardy lack of guile painting himself into the position of the voice in the corner of the bedroom which, in this case literally, says "The pain won't last forever." The song has a subtle power, comforting voices clouding the precise rhythms, a dry surging momentum that seems to generate an almost euphoric sense of sadness. Perhaps being to some degree teenage, emotionally or literally, is the only way to truly appreciate this. If you've already been there you probably don't want to be reminded.
[7]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: I'm so out of the indie loop, you know, I think this must be the first Bloc Party song I've heard in full. And, well, I was expecting something more… offensive, perhaps, aggressively 'hipster', hateable. Not chop'n'shimmer guitars and workaday drumming, faintly embarassing lyrics delivered in that standard semi-goth breathe and yelp, dull verses but such a nicely-crafted chorus. There's nothing here to get all that worked up over, is there?
[6]

John Cameron: It sounds like Bloc Party's taken some of the criticisms levelled at their album - specifically, that Kele sounds too earnest too often - and turned them into fantastic new material; this song's soaring, but sublime, and emotional without being over-eager to show that he cares, until the last few lines. Beautiful without being over-the-top, lyrical without being heavy-handed, and with a dance-music drumline you could probably dance to if you tried.
[9]

Edward Oculicz: An infectious beat spoiled by a lot of mumbling over it. Vaguely tuneful mumbling, but listen up! Do you have a hook? Make it louder so people can hear it or you might as well not even bother. I know you indie kids like songs as long as they're not overly hooky and attention-grabbing, so I don't expect too much, but this is actually surprisingly close to being great...
[5]


Rachel Stevens – I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)
[8.80]


Jessica Popper: I have no doubt that this will get the highest ever Stylus score, and if it doesn't I plan to have a huge diva strop.
[10]

Peter Parrish: Strange things are afoot in the world of Rachel Stevens (or, if you’re that way inclined, in the world of the people who pull Rachel Steven’s strings like the POP PUPPET SHE IS--DANCE RACHEL STEVENS, DAAANCE! AHAHA! Yes, anyway.) Blatant Adam Ant drumming, for one thing. And ... right, this just sounds ridiculous, BUT ... the line “you’re the one who’s creeping” is sung in what can only be described as a Siouxsie Sioux style. Heavens, it’s even a Banshees-sounding lyric. Meanwhile, the rest of the ensemble is a predictably all-conquering pop triumph. If this isn’t our weekly winner I will purchase novelty headgear specifically for the purpose of consumption.
[9]

Patrick McNally: Stevens brings the Status Quo correct after they fucked it up themselves two weeks ago. This is what Quo would sound like if they’d kept progressing after the heart breaking “In the Army Now.” This is fucking QUO 2005.
[8]

Paul Scott: Who exactly are Rachel Steven's records made for? There is a knowingness to the construction that seems to reward those with some knowledge of pop history and admiration for clever construction. The level of nudging and winking going on is slightly maddening. The problem is Rachel Stevens herself, there is something curiously non descript about her. As a voice she is serviceable of course but no more expressive than the vocal part of a funky house record. Perhaps that’s the point.
[6]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: It must be awfully galling to be Alison Goldfrapp right now. Everything she makes her own, her glam beats and dominatrix gloves, seems to find its way into Rachel Stevens' wardrobe; and then Stevens has the cheek to carry them off with more aplomb, more panache, more shine, more hooks, more pop. Perhaps it's because Goldfrapp songs mostly go 'cor I am one sex kitten, me', which after a while becomes so very one-note compared to Stevens' 'oh dear, men are rather awful, ps I am one sex kitten, me.' She's such a nicely-brought-up young lady, biting her lip and euphemising her little indiscretions - let him in your back door, did you? The backing vocals go "heyHEY!" like beered-up leering lads, but her enunciation stays crisp, her hips barely sway, and the song stomps toward you, destroying everything in its path.
[10]

Edward Oculicz: Exhibit B in why Rachel is actually a great pop star; she's a lot cleverer with her limited capabilities than you think. Here, you might criticise her for sounding polite and mild, but remember, the song's about being in a helplessly on-off relationship and being pretty disempowered as a result. You're going to give it to someone who'll belt it out with feeling? You'd be a moron. Her softness only makes the demented backing seem even fiercer.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-10-03
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