The Singles Jukebox
David Jones, Xylophone Enthusiast



given that your segment editor is currently sat facing a window through which the sun is shining like it’s trying to give him eye surgery with a rusty chisel, it seems only reasonable to conclude that The Great British Summer is once more upon us. Your segment editor likes to imagine the panel sat on sun-loungers in their back garden, sipping Pimm’s and thinking up witty put-downs of Tim Henman while their ears are greeted by this week’s picks, including the return of Coldplay and Audio Bullys, the emergence of the Mitchell Brothers, Amerie and Teedra Moses, and the inexorable trudge of The Bravery and My Chemical Romance. We also see our first returning contenders in the form of British Sea Power and The Arcade Fire, both of whom the panel were pretty cool on last time. Could they improve on their previous showings? Surely, for instance, they’d be able to outscore a bloke blowing raspberries over the top of ‘Axel F’… surely…


Crazy Frog – Axel F
[2.67]


David Jones: Ah, yes. This would be the end of civilisation as we know it.
[0]

Jessica Popper: This Crazy Frog ringtone has been annoying us all over the TV for months, but I have never actually heard anyone using it as their ringtone. Hopefully that means no-one is going to buy it, but I think that might be a bit too optimistic.
[0]

Tom Ewing: Nobody at any stage in the manufacture of "Axel F" thinks it's good. Nobody marketing it does. And - here's the crucial thing - nobody buying it really does, either. Which oddly enough makes it a much less awful record than some. It's not being playlisted, so unlike its ringtone parent you have very little chance of encountering "Axel F" in the wild. And it's not using up any of the emotional batteries of its fans - in fact it has zero relationship to anything else in the entire musical universe. The thing that makes the Kaiser Chiefs or Oasis so infuriating is that their fans have directly chosen to value and invest in those particular elements of music, not others. This does not apply to the Crazy Frog. As a song? Cheapo cover of "Axel F" with Frog-related breakdowns - not much to get fussed over, really.
[5]

Mike Barthel: None of my fellow reviewers seemed to want to review this song, and while I'd like to say something along the lines of "now that I've heard the track, I realize they're totally right," I can only say that they are so very, very, very wrong. So long as I don't have to hear it more than once a week, which I'm assuming is why the UK crowd objected. But geez, it's that TV theme thing and that weird voice thing! And it's, um, sort of IDMy! And then it goes bom bom b'dom dom BAM! I guess I should do some research, but I'm enjoying this song way too much to find out how much it sucks.
[8]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Okay, I am all for comedy novelty cover versions, all for the crazy frog being as overexposed as possible so that by the time I return to the UK it has disappeared, and especially all for anything that might hint to the return of early nineties chart dance, but this is sacrilege. Even ignoring the horrendous twittering twattery over the top, the soundtrack to hellish bus journeys stuck behind gangs of yammering little idiots fondling their mobiles with greasy fingers and snickering at each other with acned self-importance -- even ignoring that, Axel F needs to be FASTER.
[0]


John Williams & The London Symphony Orchestra – Star Wars: Battle Of The Heroes
[3.27]


Mike Barthel: Look, if we're going to embrace pop, what the hell qualifies if not John friggin' Williams? Pillaging recklessly from the past, taking only the best bits without regard for history or context and then cashing in with a gullible public, he's like Richard X but successful. That said, even those most talented at pop stumble in their twilight years, and ol' JW's been off his game for a decade or so now. I mean, maybe they're just slow burners, more mature works--certainly I enjoy that weird Sanskrit climax piece from Episode 1 more now--but this one, at least, is pretty unimpressive.
[4]

Alex Macpherson: This doesn't even work as a score, never mind a song. Just like an abundance of special effects will never be enough to guarantee a watchable film, so the mere presence of chorales and strings on a record does not make it a priori epic.
[1]

David Jones: The British intelligentsia, hag-ridden as it is with boredom and pretentious despair, has recently wheeled out every anti-Star Wars argument in its arsenal. Of course this made absolutely no difference to the tens of millions of people, including me, who were enthralled by Episode III this weekend. The soundtrack, like the film, contains all the usual faults which don’t matter one iota. John Williams continues to borrow shamelessly from familiar works (here the usual themes are interwoven with a brass motif torn straight from Dvorak) and his recent penchant for choirs is feebler than usual. What this categorically is not – however – is a single. But in a week when the pop industry is pushing an animated franchise spun-off from a fucking ringtone, well, a four minute film music excerpt seems no more of a cash-in than anything else.
[1]

Tom Ewing: I'm a massive Doctor Who fan so I have no problem with geekdom and its pleasures, but I do have a problem with John Williams. His great groaning scores for every other epic are prophylactics against absurdity: constant sonic cues that this is serious, heavy stuff, not stupid power-tripping or role-playing. But his bombast also numbs you to any more surprising or subtle feeling: after thirty years he feels very much like the safest option.
[2]

Joe Macare: Sometimes people ask me if this isn't the kind of shiny, fizzy pop culture that I should approve of... But as 'Battle Of The Heroes' shows, Star Wars stopped being pop a long time ago: it's just prog rock now, all the way.
[1]


My Chemical Romance - Helena
[3.58]


Tom Ewing: Cider and black is a chemical too! Honest Mum!
[1]

Paul Scott: They make look a bit daft, with their layers of make up and ‘any colour as long as it’s black’ wardrobes, but it has been suggested that these emo / goth / punk fellows are the ones to finally drag mosh culture out of its post nu-metal malaise. Though musically not a patch on AFI they know their way round the kind of chorus that gets frowning adolescents with key chains and hoodies rather over excited. Whether this is enough to tempt the kids outside the Arndale centre away from their HiM Cds remains to be seen.
[6]

Doug Robertson: There must be a factory somewhere, churning out this sort of identikit vaguely angry sounding guitary nonsense. This has been done before, it’ll be done again, and there’s probably a thousand teenagers in garages up and down the country doing it too, and sounding just as good, if slightly less professional as well.
[4]

Fergal O’Reilly: It's (mercifully) easy to forget that there are actually loads of bands out there making this kind of gruesomely histrionic emo-punk, only to have your blissful ignorance occasionally shattered by pesky Singles Jukebox commitments or an ill-advised game of WWE Smackdown. I imagine there's quite a high turnover of them as the singers must quite frequently vomit their own ribcages up while affecting that particularly tortured vocal style. I don't know, they possibly find it quite cathartic. All well and good for them, but it makes me want to take up with the drool-encrusted Express readers and demand National Service be reinstated to prevent too much more of it being made over here.
[1]

John Seroff: It's a sign of just how wack nu-metal (or, god help us, screamo) has become that all it takes for a single to stand head and shoulders above its brethren is a catchy chorus; it's a sign of how little this kind of music has developed that 'Helena' would hardly sound out of place on the eleven-year-old The Crow soundtrack; it's a sign of how inured music listeners are to this sort of tedium that this MTV-unavoidable is at #16 and rising on the US rock charts. I still like it better than Coldplay.
[5]


The Bravery - Fearless
[3.92]


Tom Ewing: "And I know that's why you love me, chico" Chico? CHICO??!! Fearless is right - balls of steel. Something has gone very wrong here: the idea, chico, is to follow "Planet Earth" with "Girls On Film", not with a Stranglers B-Side.
[3]

John Seroff: I know that 80's retread is all the rage right now with the Strokes/Killers/Interpol/Franz Ferdinand/Bloc Party/Kaiser Chiefs doing that Duran Duran throwback two-step, but who made the decision that all these bands get one quality breakthrough single apiece? "Fearless" is the latest in a line of catchy cuts from this pseudo-retro-movement; driven forward less by frontman Sam Endicott's awful caterwauling and more by the mix of dreamy organ, relentless three-chord bass and bare-bones Meg White-ish percussion. It's an enjoyable but paper-thin track that reeks of one-hit wonder. In any case, I sure liked this song a lot better before I found out it was written as a response to the events of September 11th. Now I feel all icky.
[7]

Fergal O’Reilly: Carving out a niche as an even more ridiculous version of the Killers is certainly a brave career move. Where Brandon Flowers can kind of sort of sing a bit after a fashion, though, Sam Endicott's Casablancas knock-off yowling is genuinely unpleasant to endure. Likewise, where the Killers often manage to enliven an otherwise dull track with a gleefully melodramatic synth hook, the Bravery's similar attempts sound rote and uninspired. While the goofy rush of the chorus is briefly exhilarating, they quickly exhaust its potential and witlessly shunt it along to a maddeningly chirpy resolution. The daft fucks.
[2]

Alex Macpherson: This current Britpop redux which seems to vomit up new horror each week really is the worst music ever, isn't it? It all sounds like it was made by people who, in their first year of university, bought an issue of Q with one of those inanely canonical Greatest Albums Ever lists inside it, and who then concluded that the ultimate contribution they could possibly make to life would be to form a band and make music based entirely on various 'qualities' of the bands in that list. That's a really fucked-up perspective on art and life, isn't it?
[0]

Mike Barthel: This is the first time I've ever heard the Bravery, and honestly, I was beginning to think they were a purely theoretical construct, something the god of indie rock had cooked up purely for the purpose of giving people something new to argue about. And now that I've heard them, I'm not entirely sure I was wrong, as I think I'll forget this almost immediately. Which is fine--disposable etc.--but there's nothing to make hate for certain bands look stupid quite like that band's imitators. The Bravery are sort of like what the Killers would have sounded like if they'd gotten it mostly wrong, and doesn't any vitriol you've wasted on them look misdirected in the face of "Fearless"? Still, take heart--there are a lot of other "underground" NYC bands we could be pushing on you that you'd like a lot less, folks. Trust me on this.
[4]


Daniel Bedingfield – The Way
[4.17]


Jessica Popper: I have a distinct suspicion that I may be the only Bedingfield fan on the Stylus panel, but I do believe that the pop world would be incomplete without Daniel Bedingfield. We need him to laugh at (and even sometimes with), to pity, and most of all we need him to go on Popworld when everyone else is busy/dropped from their record label. I'm not sure how this song is going to do - it sounds dramatic but it could spell the end of his career if it flops as he hasn't really been living up to his (or his sister's) first album recently. He could easily be the new Craig David ie. big 1st album, goes to America, comes back, everyone gets bored of him. However, ‘The Way’ is quite good and he has a strong fan-base, so he may just survive.
[7]

Fergal O’Reilly: Much as it is my favourite phrase to tenuously work into any review, "this sounds like the Comsat Angels" is not a claim I would have expected to make about a Daniel Bedingfield single. But there it is, tom-heavy pounding and plaintitive delay n'harmonics guitarism. For a bit. Of course, it only sounds like them in an accidental third-hand way, being a passable U2 knockoff for Dan-Bed to croon borderline-godbothering nonsense over, first in his usual feeble mither (the first line is such a damp squib it's genuinely hilarious) and then alternating between a less-than-convincing BonoYowl and overpronounced American Rock Singer Vocals ("you were the h-wann ahh won-teyd"). Guess what: it's fucking rubbish!
[3]

Tom Ewing: This is getting ridiculous. Daniel Bedingfield does Bloc Party? Like the magpie he is, Bedingfield turns his hand to his tenth or eleventh genre and manages to show how easy it is to come up with a convincingly plangent facsimile of Big New Rock, complete with Bonoid backing cries. The living equivalent of keyboard preset rhythms, he's a useful demystifier but his days of making startling singles are still long behind him.
[4]

John Seroff: So, what, he couldn't sell this to Bono? Same intonation, same bassline, same grind right up to the chorus. Outside of a pretty interesting intro that sounds like a build to an indie version of 'Push It', 'The Way' is flimsy and forgettable, even for Christian rock.
[4]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: I was contentedly bored with this song until the lyric "Jesus, Jesus never changes". Maybe Dedders has got religion!, I thought. Maybe that's why his music is so steadily turning into indie-Maroon-Five gravel! But then I got bored again.
[5]


Coldplay – Speed Of Sound
[4.50]


Doug Robertson: Coldplay, your Dad’s favourite band, are back! And this is exactly what you’d expect from them. Chris Martin seems to be taking his position as Captain of the good ship Coldplay very literally and, as such, boat rocking is very low down on his agenda. It’s not that it’s a particularly bad song, it’s just that it’s a particularly dull song, and that’s probably the most depressing thing about it all.
[5]

Mike Barthel: The problem with chorus (the effect, not the section of song or type of singing group, the latter of which I have a whole other set of issues with) is that every time it looks to become acceptable again, someone goes and fucks it up. Sonic Youth had been doing a lot to reclaim the watery, spread-out sound of chorused guitar, but then every band in the world that used heavy reverb on their snares also used it, and it was hard to turn on without thinking of Whitesnake. Well, we had all begun to forget that, but here comes Coldplay, chorusing the hell out of that guitar in the intro. Thanks, guys. I guess I'll have to use my Super Shifter for octaving things again. Oh, and then the rest of the song happens. Whatever. I mean, honestly guys, you're calling the Futureheads mediocre when things like this are around? Really? Well, OK.
[1]

David Jones: Piano chord one…yes, piano chord two…familiar, piano chord three…oh, for fuck’s sake. Each Coldplay single now sounds like the last one played at a very slightly different tempo. Thing is, they’re not a terrible band but rather a very ordinary one who’ve ended up with the weight of the world on their shoulders. What kind of a world do we live in when a band like Coldplay can knock a quarter of a billion pounds off EMI’s share price by delivering an album three months late? Coldplay are a band for people who don’t want much from life, and want still less from the music they listen to. Coldplay never chose the Dido demographic, but I can bloody well condemn the Dido demographic for choosing them.
[5]

John Seroff: At least Coldplay's naked ambition is somewhat impressive. Unfortunately, the music is a bit of a snooze; vast layers of grand/bland sound, high school poetry ("where do I go/if you never tried/then you'll never know") and echo-chamber hyper-production produce an entirely by-the-numbers anthem about... um... by-the-numbers anthems? 'Speed of Sound' is just innocuous enough to never become annoying; it's music to put on in the car with your parents when you don't feel like talking.
[5]

Tom Ewing: I am 32 years old, white, male, comfortably off, with a middle-management level job. So why can't I imagine ever buying a Coldplay album? Like anyone else I have my moments of lightly pained introspection, and like anyone else there are times when I want to feel as huge as the horizon and as lonely as the sky. And perhaps then a Coldplay record would fit nicely. But just as Coca-Cola's real competitor is water not Pepsi, so Coldplay must compete on those terms with a stiff drink, a brisk walk, a warm bath or a good wank. Bad luck, Chris and the lads.
[6]


Audio Bullys vs. Nancy Sinatra – Shot You Down
[4.82]


Jessica Popper: Was this mix originally done by someone else? I swear the first time I heard it, it was by some unknown act yet if I remember correctly it sounded exactly the same. Was that Audio Bullies (I refuse to spell it with a "ys" - it's wrong!) testing out their new song under a pseudonym or have they poached the song from someone else? Whichever it is, it's a clever idea but the novelty wears off pretty quickly.
[5]

Doug Robertson: The Audio Bullys are good. Nancy Sinatra is good. You’d think then, that the combination of the two on one record would be something really rather good. Unfortunately, in direct contravention of the laws of mathematics, two positives have come together and formed a negative. It’s the Audio Bullys who come off worse in this particular battle, sounding dated and irrelevant here. With all the best will in the world it’s hard to think of any good that’ll come of this, other than that it might inspire people to check out the original.
[3]

Tom Ewing: This record is immediately striking, highly unusual, curiously haunting and it's been stuck in my head for four days. And I'm not sure whether it's any good or not. The trick with this kind of record is to make the breakdowns just the right length so your body feels like it's still dancing even when it's at rest. And the Nancy bits of "Shot You Down" feel just a fraction too long. But on the other hand, I've not heard it on a dancefloor yet. And the way the Bullys bits and the Nancy bits bleed into each other is wonderfully creepy. And it's Nancy Sinatra.
[8]

John Seroff: 'Audio Bullys,' indeed; this house remix of the "Kill Bill" revived Nancy Sinatra standard is mostly notable for its overwhelming assaultiveness. You have to give them some points for daring: adapting a quiet and contemplative track like "Bang Bang" for a club banger in the first place shows some cojones; upping its dancing degree of difficulty by peppering it with long gaps between the apocalyptic beat is even ballsier. I imagine the inevitable remixed remixes will improve on this quite a bit; even so, the apparent lack of creative effort on this leaves me wishing it had been better executed. More a blueprint than an actual release, "Shot You Down" sounds suspiciously like a lark; still, for sheer brute force, this is hard to beat.
[6]

Joe Macare: A severe “what WERE they thinking?” moment. Let me try and guess what 'they' were thinking: “Hey, remember that mournful murder ballad from the soundtrack to that Tarantino movie from a year or two ago? What if we tried to fuse that with floor-filling house in the most awkward and ill-fitting manner possible? That would rule!” Now, I have heard some weird mash-ups in my time, some very odd recontextualisations that might not have been expected to work but did. 'Shot You Down' is not one of them; it is a botched job, a cock-up, a mess. Needless and pointless.
[0]


The Magic Numbers – Forever Lost
[5.25]


Jessica Popper: This is quite jolly. I like it. More happy indie please!
[7]

John Seroff: Equal parts Monkees, Mamas and Papas and Soul Asylum; The Magic Numbers are being sold as a throwback rock band that likes to smile. The hype seems accurate; their debut single shows up tapping its foot, bobbing its head from side to side and grinning like a fool. The happiest song you'll ever hear that incorporates the phrase, "Looks like it all went wrong / What am I to do?" into the chorus, 'Forever Lost' is A++ music to hold hands to, clean your house or start the party with. I'm a bit suspicious that this is likely to get flat if it sits out too long; but, for the moment, I'm A Believer.
[7]

Mike Barthel: Wait: "Don't / let the sun / be the one / to change you baby"? Really? Uh, OK. Good for you, fellas. But if you're going to rip things off, couldn't it have been from more exciting things?
[3]

Joe Macare: I can only put up with this kind of music when it plays over a scene of suspiciously old Californinan teenagers brooding on a pier. Oh wait a second, is this still the same song? It just went into a much better coda with a woman singing “looks like it all went wrong”... That means I have to bump it up a point.
[6]

Paul Scott: Acoustic guitars, sixties stylings, harmonies, handclaps, bad hair! The Magic Numbers have all the qualities that make Teenage Fanclub or Badly Drawn Boy so important to your average Nick Hornby loving, Waitrose shopping, Mercury Music Prize respecting, broadsheet music review reader. The relentless pleasantness of this song is enough to get anyone who doesn’t believe Jo Whiley is an arbiter of cutting edge sounds reaching for Suicide, Scooter or Snoop Dogg.
[4]


British Sea Power – Please Stand Up
[5.75]


Alex Macpherson: Rather boring number which can't decide whether it wants to be Epic Soaring Indie (choruses) or Mumbly Bedroom Indie (verses). Fails to realise that the problem is not in the Epic Soaring/Mumbly Bedroom split, but in the Indie constant.
[2]

John Seroff: Whispering needy vocals over jangling mid-80's Cure doesn't set my world on fire. I'm under the impression that 'Please Stand Up' is much more accessible, poppy and anthemic than most of BSP's output, but this track hardly compels me to find out more.
[4]

Doug Robertson: There seems to be a slight tendency to dismiss British Sea Power, probably because in interviews they come across as bunch of up their own arses studenty cocks. But while they probably are the sort of people you wouldn’t want to meet in the pub for fear of being overcome by a desire to give them a slap, when it comes to their tunes they’re rarely found wanting. This is another epic slice of widescreen pop, soaring to heights beyond what most bands reach. This is ace, and I’m quite happy to stand up and say it.
[8]

Fergal O’Reilly: BSP are seemingly on a similar second album pattern to Interpol, where they've opted to release the nice but slightly dull ones as singles. Like on "It Ended On An Oily Stage", though, they do seem to have this knack for gradually building up to a fever pitch that ends up more emotional and affecting than the rote guitarism should by rights allow it to be. But still, you've had your fifteen minutes of improbable minor fame, can you start releasing the ones with the mop-haired bassist singing in his adorably feeble voice now?
[7]

Mike Barthel: Look for reaction song "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat" by the Decembrists any day now in the alternate indie universe I've constructed in an old Amiga in my bedroom.
[5]


Sons & Daughters – Dance Me In
[5.83]


Alex Macpherson: Take one harmless, innocent, traditional Scottish folk tune. Arrange it in style of sea shanty, adding chanting, tumbling backing vocals as necessary. Turn all instruments UP so that they are ROCK. Get cabaret-era PJ Harvey to front it. Serve hot.
[8]

Tom Ewing:"Tupelooooo-oh!" Yes, sorry kids, it's a boring old fart here to spoil yr fun by pointing out who your new favourite band is ripping off. There was a time when Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds didn't make eye-gougingly stern records full of songwriting craft and instead made Bible-drenched gothabilly which sounded more or less like this. His version of "Dance Me In" was called "Tupelo" and was about omens and portents and Elvis' dead twin: it's pretty good so go and download it.
[4]

Paul Scott: Taut minimal guitars, gang chant backing vocals and a singer who sneers and slices her words like prime PJ Harvey – Sons and Daughters have, it seems, snatched the last remaining items on the increasing knackered post punk revival conveyor belt. It’s better than most, but really, can we leave 1978 - 84 alone for a bit? Surely there is some other era that hasn’t been cherry picked for inspiration yet. Maybe I’m being crazy but perhaps the kids could have some ideas of their own or something…
[5]

Doug Robertson: The only sort of dancing you could actually do to this track is of the tribalistic kind, the kind that’s normally carried out before someone gets sacrificed to some constantly hungry God. Quite what any God would think of this CD if it turned up in the offering plate is unclear, but from a more earthly perspective, it’s pretty good, even if it does lack the spark needed to be truly special
[7]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: This isn't supposed to remind me of "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)", is it? But, oh, I'm a sucker for the train-rattle marching drum and the barebones scratchy guitar - even if what tune there is is lost on the singer's voice. It sounds like some kind of sinister barn-dance, fire in the middle and wolves without.
[7]


The Mitchell Brothers – Harvey Nicks
[6.25]


Alex Macpherson: These days, Mike Skinner is far more palatable when using his industry leverage to promote new grime artists than making records in his own right. It's a pity that the Mitchell Brothers aren't the most inspiring of MCs, but 'Harvey Nicks' is still far from a dud: nipping at the heels of footballers' wives with production as glossy and shiny as their perfectly-manicured nails. The star of the show, however, is Sway, who elevates it from a decent pop-grime effort to something approaching comic genius in just one guest verse. With Sway on the mic, taking the piss becomes an artform - out of himself, Skinner's flow, the police, Labour politicians, the world, and all done with such irrepressibly understated confidence. Acquire his mixtapes (This Is My Promo Vols 1 & 2), wait for the album to drop, then watch as Sway goes stratospheric.
[8]

Tom Ewing: Oh, those Mitchell Brothers - always getting into scrapes! "Routine Check" worked because its monotony reinforced the way taking crap from the police is an everyday fact for the Mitchells. Getting grief off shop assistants is probably an everyday fact too but it's sorely lacking in dramatic potential: as the Mitchells grimly ring the changes on the word "overall" I start wondering why this ever got a release. Luckily Sway transforms the track with a sparkling guest verse, veering wildly off-topic and doing a little comedy routine, a bit of very welcome patter and charisma in a dreary context.
[5]

Fergal O’Reilly: Quite a good idea, this; complaining about the standards of customer service in a clothes shop on a menacing synth-fuzz laden single alongside a famous broadsheet-sanctioned rapper is probably a much better way of demanding the titular retail outlet's attention than a sternly worded letter. It sounds a bit like it should be soundtracking a dank underground cave level in a Commodore 64 game, with Skinner just echoing the brothers for the most part until an amusingly agitated tirade at the end. Ultimately though, the highlight is undoubtedly when Sway's verse swaggers in haemorrhaging charisma all over the place and managing to actually be pretty funny without grating.
[9]

Paul Scott: If it wasn’t for Sway’s hilarious interjection almost three minutes in this would, despite the shuddering spinning zither like sound that keeps it all together, be getting on for unlistenable. The never knowingly interesting Mike Skinner and a couple of his mates do little more than congratulate themselves on realizing that the shop Harvey Nicks sounds like it means someone called Harvey has been stealing. Harvey nicking from Harvey Nicks?! Geddit? A modern poet indeed… But then Sway turns ups and his cameo is so tongue twistingly sly and smooth that by the end you have forgiven the less than glorious first few minutes, now rendered little more than an intro, and realized you may just be in the presence of genius.
[7]

Jessica Popper: This is rubbish, but I have to love it for one reason - it namechecks Lemar! Lemar! Who would have thought when we were in the midst of Fame Academy that one the contestants would be name-checked 3 years later on a mainstream 'grime' single?
[2]


Teedra Moses – Be Your Girl
[6.58]


Paul Scott: It all seems so thin, the vocal and minimal backing floating like the haze across the road on a summers day. Then as you draw closer the features come into focus, the intricacies of the production, twisting and bubbling like tarmac in sunshine, the way Teedra’s voice so easily draws you in and envelops everything in its warmth.
[7]

Mike Barthel: Hey, what are you doing? What? No, just writing something. It's for this website. No, no pay, but it's fun, anyway. So what are you doing? Oh, OK. Cool. This song? Um…Teedra something? I don't know, really. Oops! She just said "touch myself," guess I should turn that down, eh? Unless you like it, in which case…oh, you don't. No, I don't either, really.
[2]

Alex Macpherson: The kind of song which worms its way into your heart, revealing something new to love every time it's played. The dusty piano loop paired with those strange, wet sounds in the production and sharp, crisp beats: an old soul diva in an evening dress licking her lips, or maybe Sade brought suddenly into really sharp focus. And above it all, Teedra's voice, possessed of such fierce clarity and complexity, capturing every nuance of this emotional moment - the confession of shyness followed by the confession of horniness; the perfectly judged pause after "sometimes I even touch myself" is a truly breathtaking moment.
[10]

John Seroff: Listening to 'Be Your Girl', you'd swear you'd heard it somewhere before. Like maybe 1995. The beat and the sound are vintage Mary J. (circa "My Life") and the sentiment is Tweet right down to the "sometimes I even touch myself" line. With such obviously derivative schtick, it's hard to tell why Teedra has been getting such a barrage of A-list props, but props she's a-gettin': critically, she's been lauded as the nicest nu-soul flavor of the month and love from r+b luminaries like ?uestlove and the criminally underrated Raphael Saadiq don't hurt either. It's a lot of praise for something so low-key; I may be overthinking Teedra's aims, but when you've already got the likes of Jaguar Wright and Jill Scott to provide the same sort of quiet storm with a bit more oomph behind it, it's awful hard to get too excited by these sort of sweet nothings.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly: This is quite fantastic. The meekly plaintitive tone of the lyric is totally offset by the summery, laid-back soul arrangement, making it a perfect soundtrack for idiot-grinned walking in the sun. And oh, the vocals: those effortless, dreamy harmonies on the "and IIIIII...", the little awkward pause after she sings "sometimes I even touch myself" and goes into that little descending scale, the backing vocals... Near-perfect. Actually, no: perfect.
[10]


The Arcade Fire – Power Out
[7.00]


Mike Barthel: Everybody knows that the Arcade Fire are just ripping off this 1982 album by a Rochester band called The Darning Society, that Win's grandpappy didn't really die, and that they don't play their instruments anyway. There, that should continue my policy of only caring about this band enough to annoy the people who like them. You gullible li'l cutiepantses. Also, did you notice how much the drums here sound like they should be in a Huey Lewis song? No, I'm serious about that one. Isn't that weird?
[3]

John Seroff: 'Neighborhood #3' was one of the first tracks I heard from Arcade Fire's Funeral and it still strikes me as their best work. What impresses me most is the depth of the song; there's so much action and activity and it really meets harmoniously. The songwriting is accomplished, Win Butler's much-maligned vocals actually fit in nicely amidst the bustle and excitement and the toy piano seals the deal. This is the card I'd pull from the deck if I wanted to justify the hype; it's an excellent choice for a single.
[8]

Fergal O’Reilly: I think I might be laboriously coming round to quite liking the Arcade Fire a bit. This sounds quite Big, and the stuttery "I went out into the night" bits are quite nifty even if the singer does sound like a demented hillbilly. Yeah, s'alright! By this time next year this mark will be a SEVEN!
[6]

Paul Scott: A few weeks ago, on the dance floor of a local indie disco, I “got it”. The way each instrument jars out at angles from the body of the song but absolutely refuse to derail the momentum. The momentum, that’s the key, you close your eyes and you’re in the thick of the song, you’re out on that street speeding through the night with them. You can’t believe it can go any faster, but then you realise it was only in third and suddenly you are lurched forward as they hit fifth gear, and all you can do is hold tight and revel in their euphoric recklessness; “I went out into the night, I went out to pick a fight.” Then it’s over. They leave you dizzy, exhilarated and desperate to do it all again.
[9]

David Jones: Funeral’s got better every single time I’ve heard it over the past year. ‘Power Out’ doesn’t particularly stand out on the LP, but compared to the rest of this week’s singles it’s blazingly original. Philistine that I am, I might never have picked out all the stuff about dead family members had it not been mentioned in interviews, but I do like the way you can sing the ‘Fraggle Rock’ theme tune over the first verse. And, er, there’s some smashing xylophone.
[9]


Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
[7.50]


Paul Scott: Ditching the geisha girls, Gwen out of No Doubt recruits the cast of hit West End musical Stomp to perform a vaguely musical interpretation of George Orwell’s famous “Boot stamping on a human face forever” line.
[1]

Alex Macpherson: UH-HUH, THIS MAH SHIT! One of the first times I heard this in a club, it was preceded by 'Heart Of Glass'. When Gwen's opening bellow rang out, three things happened simultaneously: 1) the entire crowd went slightly mental, 2) except for Token Drunk Bloke who stumbled through our drinking circle thereby spilling the entire bottle of wine my friend Anna-Marie and myself were sharing, but 3) neither of us minded in the slightest because 'Hollaback Girl' was on and we could dance to it! That kind of sums up big dumb 'Hollaback Girl's essence and appeal: it taps into the sure knowledge inside all of us that there is nothing more fun than stomping our feet and chanting expletives like a particularly trashy cheerleader over beats which sound like knockout punches. The best bit is the B-A-N-A-N-A-S bit, obviously.
[10]

Joe Macare: It's funny how by just arranging a few fairly simple elements – drum beats, horns, a cheerleader chant vocal – you can make quirky, brilliant pop music. Of course, when I say “you” I mean Gwen and The Neptunes (here showing they've still got a few tricks up their sleeves that we haven't heard before) and when I suggest that the process is simple and easy I am lying to you, 'cos if it were then there'd be a lot more songs like this in the charts and a lot less bands who are a bit like The Bravery. Apparently there are some people who find this song incredibly annoying. Sucks to be them!
[9]

Mike Barthel: I'm not quite sure why I stopped listening to LAMB, although I still think it deserved its place on my 2004 best-of. Maybe it was the mastering job, or her insistence that all the productions resemble the trebly intensity of the J-pop she was (is?) so fond of, so the Western mastering engineers took this idea and put the worst brick-wall compression on it they could find. Whatever the reason - and I think I am going to blame sonics here, because I like everything else, but man, it tires your ears out like I Get Wet - this track in particular grates under the particular EQ settings Gwen's imposed, the scratchy, barren percussion and her tuneless vocal line. I can see the appeal, though, and I certainly enjoyed it a lot upon first listen, so I'll judge it on past reaction rather than current inclination.
[8]

John Seroff: My girl likes to call this tune 'Gwen's Trust Fund', as it will likely be a sports, TV montage and cheerleader staple for the next few decades, providing the lovely Ms. Stefani with a royalty sluice for her needy great-great-great-great grandchildren. Blatant opportunism aside, there's any number of reasons to dislike 'Hollaback Girl'. Hate it because it's likely the most dubious "girl power" cut of the year (this shit is clearly for vaginas, V-A-G-I-N-A-S; but who would the average teenybopper feel most akin to in a fight: the strawman pom-pom waver, the take-no-nonsense Gwen or neither one?) and a mindless summer anthem. Hate it because it's a cocky retread of 'Another One Bites the Dust' that features a blonde bombshell bragging that she's "gonna get a touchdown, gonna take you out". Hate it because it slogs through a swamp of synth tuba and divebombing bass with a strident sneer. Hate it because Gwen takes the baton from Beyonce and twirls it like the nastiest flag girl in the world. Just don't hate it around me, or else I'm gonna make you fall, gonna sock it to you. Sorry. It's my shit.
[9]


Amerie – 1 Thing
[8.33]


Tom Ewing: So let the record show that during the great revival of 2005, the best post-punk record was made by an American R&B star. This has the crazy rhythms, the yelping vox, the guitar stabs - Amerie even has an arts degree! It also has the nervous energy so missing from most revival records: "1 Thing" is a snapshot of a crisis moment, a step before a step into the unknown, so its mix of neurosis and thrill is totally fitting.
[10]

Paul Scott: Like the Coldplay song this is one of those songs that seems like genius on daytime radio, but subject to repeated listens its charms rapidly fall away. Each horn stab and vocal tic, so vital when transmitted across the FM frequencies, seems thin, obvious, almost cynical, and tragically all that’s left is an emaciated ‘Crazy In Love’ tottering about in ill fitting sling backs.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly: Realistically speaking, this is clearly the rightful heir to this week's number one spot. It is Manifest by the Natural Light. On the face of it it's almost too primitive and sparse to be a Proper Big Hit; with Amerie yelping hook after hook over the top of it though, it just sounds joyously frenetic and vibrant. It's one of those things that's likely to just appear in your head unannounced at any time of the day or night, and given that this quality means it'll probably be around all summer it also bears gratefully remembering that given slightly different circumstances it'd have Jennifer Lopez's dead-eyed groaning over it. Which is a bit like getting an ice-cream when you were expecting to lose three of your limbs.
[8]

John Seroff: A definite contender for song of the year, '1 Thing' improves on its sound-alike predecessor (another Rich Harrison effort, 'Get Right') by not forcing Amerie's personality to the front end. Jello's egomaniacal need to make her reedy voice stand out on a track that benefited most from its amazing production undercut 'Get Right'; Amerie is wise enough to be satisfied with becoming a ghost within a well-oiled machine. Her best moments are onomatopoetic: ecstatic squeals, orgasmic 'OH's and high heels that ring like bells; while Amerie's voice is beautifully capable, she never tries to force herself over the amazing blend of bongos, minimalist guitar, keyboard wash and violent percussion that make up '1 Thing's joyous, undeniable hook. More addictive than cigarettes, the compulsiveness of '1 Thing' is its most elusive and most gratifying quality; there was a glorious couple of weeks in NYC where the Meters were pretty much the ONLY thing booming from the back of the jeep; you could walk five blocks and hear this ten times.
[10]

Alex Macpherson: 'Crazy In Love'-plus. This song is everywhere, as if the nation has collectively and automatically decided that it is to be 2005's official summer jam - beautiful. At any given time, there's probably someone out there blasting those yelps of ecstasy cunningly disguised as lines in a song and that flurry of drums spinning its way throughout; this makes me so very happy! The second verse is maybe the most glorious, euphoric extended moment in pop right now - the ditzy lyrical brilliance of "my car keys are jingling in my hands...my high heels are clicking towards your door", the way Amerie seems to become utterly consumed by her thrill, the "ding dong ding dong"s. And those wordless vocal hooks! A higher high.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-05-23
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