The Singles Jukebox
Fingerpaint the Entire Classroom



week 3 of our big conglomerated singles column shebang, and I’ve just been woken up by a pneumatic drill. Ow. Still, this week our panel have sat through Atreyu, Lee Ryan, some German teenagers revealing why German teenagers shouldn’t be doing that whole screaming thing, the return of Him Out Of Roxette, and a folktronica reworking of Bloc Party, so that’ll be a 0-0 draw then. Actually, make that 1-0 to me, because they also got…


Gavin DeGraw – We Belong Together
[2.67]


Mike Powell: Part of the challenge of writing for the Singles Jukebox is keeping an open mind, which occasionally bears the really unfortunate side effect of forcing your tolerance for garbage way beyond your instinct’s capacity; it turns out that parchment and cliff-inspired country-rock anthems are just categorically bad, and I’m really sorry about all this.
[4]

Dom Passantino: One of Zach Braff's favourite musicians, and god knows the Braffster is as fantastic a connoisseur of music as he is a subtle comedic talent. Here Gav drops his usual “end credit music to a movie you'll never see” flow, and it’s so offensively dull I was actually begging for the return of Kristian Leontiou about 30 seconds in.
[1]

Jessica Popper: I might not win many cool points for admitting to being a huge Gavin fan, but I equally can't deny that I love his album. This new song, however, is a bit of a let down. The chorus is strong as ever, but the verses are weak. It's only being released to promote a film, so I'm guessing it was just a song that didn't make it onto “Chariot.” Still, there's no excuse! Hopefully his 2nd album will be back to his usual standard.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Another example of how much better things would be if songs were forced by the laws of radio to keep it under 120 seconds (150 if you want to push it). But unfortunately, credits for the movies take longer than that to roll, necessitating a 4½-minute irritation like this, which otherwise might have managed to creep into the category of “meh.” At two minutes, you could potentially perk up for a second and think it’s not all that awful, but from that point it’s a sharp downward slope, especially when he sings something about the milk of mother earth. Duuude. TMI.
[3]

Ian Mathers: This escapes a zero strictly because it does not make me want to grab a brick (my preferred weapon for frenzied violence) nearly as much as “Chariot”. Instead of being Evil, then, this settles for being Bland. It's from a movie, isn't it? Some shitty romantic comedy? The sort that relies on incredibly annoying plot contrivances like “destiny” and “fate”? Anyone who sings the words “taste the milk of your Mother Earth's love” with a straight face is objectively worse than James Blunt. Fact.
[1]

Koen Sebregts: At last we meet, Mr DeGraw. It's my very first encounter with the man that somehow managed to sneak 2 songs into the Top 50 of the Dutch 2005 sales charts. I can't say it's an undivided pleasure: it's... competent in many ways, but grating in many others. The man's voice particularly - it's not quite smooth enough for this type of sweet lovesong, but not halfway gritty enough to turn this into the power ballad it could have been. It bores me to tears, frankly. Much more fun, though, can be had thinking up anagrams for the man's name. My favourite so far is “Divan Wagger”.
[4]


Atreyu – Her Portrait In Black
[3.73]


Patrick McNally: Pitch perfect for inclusion on the soundtrack to Underworld Evolution, this makes me imagine bloodied goth girls in corsets being chased through snowstorms by, uh, well, me.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Sounding like a commercial for the throat sweet of your choosing, the verses here are the sort of throaty, shouty, I’m-vaguely-annoyed-about-stuff-so-much-so- that-my-anger-has-turned-to-pure-phlegm style of singing that you’d expect, while the chorus has the more understandable, melodic – in an entirely relative sense – vocals of the sort that, again, you’d expect. In fact, the whole song is as predictable as rolling a one-sided die and, if it wasn’t for the fact that their A-sides are just as bad, could easily find itself being released as a Linkin Park B-side which, for all the imagination that’s gone into it, probably has.
[3]

Mike Barthel: Well shit, at least it's loud. In a different context I probably would have been less enamored of thrash like this, but sandwiched in between a bunch of glossy and (this week anyway) half-assed slow jams and adult contemporary dance-pop, it's like a cookie-scented breath of fresh air.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: This is something I've not much heard before - about midway between the mostly-dismal US metal of recent years and UK thrash. It's a bit too muddy in tone and production to capture the energy of, say, the best of Anthrax or Metallica, and it certainly doesn't match the uncompromising attack of the likes of Napalm Death. On the other hand, some rock with drive, even intermittently, is a very pleasant change of pace this week.
[5]

Brad Shoup: I haven’t seen Underworld 2 yet, so I’m happy to report that there’s no spoilers contained within the lyrics. Despite the insistence of some of my fuckophilic cohorts at Stylus, not every genre could do with an infusion of the sticky stuff. As a rule, metal is at once militantly masculine and asexual, and we’re all the better for it. This emo stuff has no reason to live.
[3]


T-Pain ft. Mike Jones – I’m N Luv (Wit A Stripper)
[3.94]


Patrick McNally: Call me a sap, but I don’t find stripclubs and lapdances fun, but creepy. I don’t much like songs about them either. The dynamic usually goes that the male protagonist has such a special relationship with the stripper that he gets for free what other people have to pay for, but this doesn’t imply any sort of relationship beyond an American Dream - that it’s cool own and possess without effort or effect. Of course if the beats or rhymes are good or weird or chilling enough the song can still have an impact but this is just another generic claphands slowjam (say yeah).
[1]

Doug Robertson: Wow, is it the past again already? Dated in oh so many ways, most notably in the use of a vocoder - an instrument so evil that many fear one day Jamie Cullum may get hold of one, a situation which would clearly create the perfect conditions for Satan to rise up and create hell on earth – but also with the heard it all before beats and the lyrics which even a 12 year old would find puerile and embarrassing. A song about a paint stripper – and Nizlopi probably have one of those lurking in their back catalogue – would be sexier than this. The only sort of bump and grind this song contains is akin to that caused by a car crash.
[2]

Robert Walsh: “She got it, she rollin…I’m in love with a stripper” is a ridiculous chorus, but it’s catchy and that’s what the pop is about. Mike Jones isn’t an MC, he’s a ‘game spitter’. I don’t know who the hell this T-Pain is but damn does he know his way around a vocoder. “See I love strippers, because they show me love”; honesty is the best policy, indeed.
[7]

Mike Barthel: Nowhere near as good as it should be given the title and the guest shot. In my mind it somehow marks the final transition of strippers as an artistic muse for grizzled, alcoholic white men to African-Americans with no particular substance abuse problems. This probably isn't true, though.
[5]

Tom Ewing: T-Pain win a few points for not being so dishonest as to claim they're in love with a stripper for anything other than her stripping. They win more points for the cheap but effective combination of lazy stumming and a charming little synth hook. And always good to hear Mike Jones, one of those great MCs who raps as if he's the first human being to work out that words rhyme with each other.
[7]

Brad Shoup: Pity I hold myself to such high standards on the Jukebox; otherwise I’d spot this track five points for the most goofy-ass title ever. Or I’d withhold nine just for the two names credited. Four things: 1) Hip-hop producers, as a rule, have no idea how to make acoustic guitars interesting. 2) Songwriters: have you blown your load so soon, that your synonym for “sex” is “that night thing”? 3) Songs about strippers aren’t slow jams. Never. I think the KLF did a whole chapter on that. 4) The skating rink hates you.
[0]


Lee Ryan – When I Think Of You
[3.94]


Mike Powell: Boutonnière-soul to commemorate Maroon 5 fucking your younger sister after a day of bench-pressing and a new haircut.
[5]

Robert Walsh: I was reading Sylvia Plath’s journal and apparently she had a poem rejected that was entitled “RAIN”. The story goes that the publishing company said something akin to “after any downpour we’re drenched with a million and one poems called that”. A guy falls in love with a recording advance, or maybe even a girl, and we get dreck like this.
[3]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Sounding evermore like an acidulated Elton John, Ryan is back with more of that wipe-clean white-boy soul he seems to think the world needs. And it is very boring. Also I keep not hearing one fundamental consonant in the phrase "the clock rings" and it's very, very distracting.
[2]

Koen Sebregts: If I seem overly generous with my marks, please note that I have heard all of these songs in the same run as a Mogwai track. Anything with half a tune compares favourably, and so does this. The fact that this song lyrically reminds me of a Barry White song also does it a lot of good, but ultimately you can't help feeling that Ryan is three blokes short of a decent boyband to carry this off properly.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Painfully lame and wedding receptiony nouveau soul in some ways, but a) good horns can make the worst song bearable, and b) it would be worth it if only for the way he sings the “the sweetest thing is what you are” part, which is possessed of birdsong-like multi-tracked oddness and strangeness. It doesn’t belong in the song at all, and yet it interrupts it successfully enough to pull the whole thing up to a different level.
[6]

Peter Parrish: Of course he couldn’t write a depressing song, could he? Just to stop me saying, ‘He used to be in Blue, but now he’s simply feeling blue!’ no doubt. Bastard. Damn you, Lee Ryan. Damn your wicked attempts to stop my weak and tenuous wordplay. This means I have to talk about your track. Your horrible, simpering OOH I LOVE YOU LOTS (ps - here are some harmonies to remind you I was in a boy band and stuff) drivel. Now no-one is happy, Lee. And it’s all your fault.
[2]


Tokio Hotel – Schrei
[4.00]


Dom Passantino: Tokio Hotel are a group of barely pubescent (average age: 17) Deutsch rapscallions who have either gotten in a guest female vocallist, or the lead singer still has a bit of tenseness “down there”. Either way, back when I could get German music TV in the late 90s, Guano Apes were running things proper, and its nice to see that the sk8 rock shouters had such an impact on the nascient Tokio Hotel. Bucky Lasek reported “moderately impressed”.
[6]

Mike Atkinson: On the strength of this stridently yowling, faux-rebellious, pop-metal monstrosity – with a chorus that must have been precision-tooled to annoy the living fuck out of anyone over the age of consent – their chances of international crossover success would seem mercifully slight. Really darlings, it’s quite the most fearfully horrid racket I’ve heard all year.
[2]

Brad Shoup: Can you imagine Avril fronting Limp Bizkit? I’m sure you can. Can you let that image dissipate, like fog in sun? I can’t. I’ve heard the song. Save yourself.
[3]

John Seroff: Does it mark me as an ugly American that I giggle whenever he says "Nein nein nein n-n-n-n-nein"? Or is "ugly" an appropriate response to this reheated Soundgarden-uber-alles riff-fest? Tokio Hotel lack appeal and originality but they scream okay. Well, sorta okay.
[4]

Tom Ewing: All my favourite goths are big pop kids at heart: this has the best hooks of the week even before we get to the amazing way he sings "Schrei" on the chorus. But that one gimmick is what makes a good record great - the way the word becomes an explosive lungy blurt, a phlegm bomb.
[9]

Martin Skidmore: American rock of the kind that is mostly produced to be entrance music for WWE wrestlers. This would sound apt accompanying some overly-muscled 20-stone man stomping towards the ring. Sadly, without such a context readily to hand (I did try stomping towards my wardrobe mirror, but it wasn't the same) this is just predictable and deeply tedious.
[3]


Tunng – Pioneers
[4.14]


Dom Passantino: Wow, between America's rising “Recently fired Starbuck's employee” folk underground, and Nizlopi's blatant disregards for the dangers of having a child sit on a fucking toolbox in a moving vehicle with no seatbelts, boring bastards with an acoustic guitar and nothing to say haven't been hotter since the they helped set The Wicker Man on fire. Here Tunng have decided that the only thing that could make Bloc Party better was if they were in a coma. They're wrong.
[2]

Doug Robertson: Halfway through this turns into a Chas and Dave style cockney knees-up for about 30 seconds. Ignore this section - unless you’re a big fan of Chas and Dave style cock knees-up, in which case can I suggest therapy – instead enjoy the fact they’ve turned Bloc Party’s worthy but dull track into a slice of glitchy pop which is only occasionally dull, and does feature a rather fabulous enunciation of the word ‘bloody’, which is always something to celebrate.
[6]

Ian Mathers: Beardy glitch-folk (or whatever) duo and friends take on one of Bloc Party's most propulsive songs, one that has (to be nice) minimal lyrics. So it shouldn't work, but actually the density of repetition winds up being the most interesting thing on this version of “Pioneers”. Someone who sounds like a very, very mellow hippy placidly repeating “It's all under control” and “We will not be the last” is an inversion of the original, yes, but not a self-consciously “clever” one. It's hypnotic. They make the chorus even slower than the verses, of course. Both versions rather heatedly attack the idea of empire, but they take opposite paths to get there.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: I don't know the original (and it seems early to be covering Bloc Party), but this seems short on energy and punch, punk or funk, possibly because it's a version that prefers folky strumming. There are occasional glitchy bits that presumably hope to invigorate matters, but these don't fit and function as they do with, say, the Shortwave Set, and the track stays wholly supine.
[3]

Mike Barthel: Mainly when I was listening to this song I was thinking about how banal a song it is musically, and whether or not this song would stand out an album as a single. I don't know a thing about Tunng, but I get a sense that everything else on their LP would sound like this without all the glitchy touches and panning nonsense. It does kind of make me want to drink cocktails.
[3]


Mogwai – Friend Of The Night
[4.53]


Brad Shoup: Nu-metal baroque, then. Really. No uplift, no devastation, just five minutes of contrived gloom. The pinched synths are a laughable choice, and I take back the baroque thing. This is condom commercial music.
[4]

Tom Ewing: Were Mogwai not lairy Scots hardmen I would shake them by the lapels and cry "But what's it FOR?" When they first appeared the band were feted for playing post-rock with a menacing, aggressive edge, an edge which rather obscured the quite important question of why anyone would play post-rock in the first place. I didn't like them but nodded along to the general feeling that they might Go Somewhere. Ten years later Mogwai have lost most of their early fire but the impression remains of some vast boilerhouse of angry energy that is never put to any use and just ebbs sulkily away. "Friend Of The Night" is five minutes of moody piano practise, scared to commit to a hook or climax: if you can see beauty in this you're squinting too hard.
[2]

Mike Barthel: At this point I can only assume that Mogwai's master plan is to carry on doing their thing until they get like a lifetime achievement award and Starbucks starts selling some CD marketed as a "return to form" because their fans have reached middle age. It's impressive they're still doing kind of the same thing but with progressively more percussion instruments, but it would be more impressive if they actually added vocals to their songs. The three is less reflective of this song's place in the Mogwai canon and more of the essential OK-ness of it in relation to the other songs in this batch.
[3]

Ian Mathers: Oh, Mogwai. We used to be so close. Why did you have to start playing piano? Happy Music For Happy People was fine for an album, but why make a follow-up single that might as well be an outtake? Why become so predictable? Don't get me wrong, coffee-table Mogwai is better than coffee-table most bands, and this is persistently pleasant, but at this point I'm no longer wishing for a return to the days of “Christmas Steps”, I'd settle to a return of the days of “Dial: Revenge”.
[6]

John Seroff: Mogwai's puffed up wordless chamber pop would be a lot easier to dismiss if it weren't so effective. With 'Friend of the Night', the band sands off the grit and noise of earlier, quasi-experimental work, revealing a gem that reads like the aural equivalent of a New Yorker short story; compact, polished, oblique and dramatic. Sappy crescendos, expectant piano chords and nervous guitar distortion coalesce into an anthemic "never-gonna-give-you-up" interior soundtrack that's hard to put down. It's not a quantum leap forward from previous releases in terms of artistry, but it is as accessible as anything they've ever done. Mogwai are proving themselves willing and able to produce music as manipulative, shmaltzy and moving as anything Mariah Carey has on the airwaves right now; if they ever pick up a frontman and a singalong chorus, watch out.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: This seems as beyond criticism as Cliff Richard, in a way. They've found a niche and they deliver what their audience wants with real skill every time. I'm not part of that audience - what they do sounds to me like a well-crafted first eight bars of a quiet rock number that I probably won't much like anyway, stretched out to five and a half boring minutes. But they are very good at that.
[4]


Chris Brown – Yo (Excuse Me Miss)
[4.94]


Mike Powell: If Chris Brown had released this song before “Run It,” the whole salivating for you across the bar thing would’ve been even less convincing; not only is Chris Brown 16, but it turns out he’s got a lisp – adorable!
[4]

Mike Atkinson: Put together by A Touch Of Jazz productions, who have done some good work with Jill Scott in the past, this tries and fails to transplant “nu classic soul” values onto a wholesome, fresh-faced ode to teenage courtship. Several things let it down: the cloying winsomeness of the song, the unappealingly weedy lisp of young Master Brown (who you just know is only a couple of years away from ripping off the prom suit and the dickie bow, to reveal the usual oiled-n-tatted tits-n-abs), and a horrible loop which sound like two wooden blocks being knocked together, mixed up way too high, which – once you’ve spotted it and locked onto it – all but dominates the whole track.
[5]

Hillary Brown: I could go on for paragraphs about the tangerine sweetness of this beautiful little R&B number from the new new Usher. But what I’d like to focus on here is his lisp and how in some ways it makes the whole song, a gentler, younger come-on than Bobby Valentino’s “Slow Down” or Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” When it comes to you that he’s singing “you make me wanna thay yo,” the feeling of a high school (or even junior high) crush comes rushing straight back into your heart—not the bad parts where you didn’t get the guy/girl, but the time you actually danced together, even if nothing was said. Plus the woodblock is awesome.
[8]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Suspiciously reminiscent of Bobby Valentine's execrable "Slow Down", except the instrumentation's nowhere near as slick, the production nowhere near as shimmery, and the singer twice as smackable. And yet – somehow the utter, utter lack of balls nearly makes it interesting; the weedy way he lisps out those mediocre lyrics, how convincing, portrait of the artist as a young loser fumbling at romance and coming off grasping and creepy. But there, see – why buy it? Why listen to it? It is clearly music about whiny, needy personality-zeroes who the moment they get a girlfriend will cling to her like a fungal infection because they know that no-one else will ever be wrong-minded enough to even contemplate sleeping with them; the appeal can only be masochistic. Say no, kids: we do not need another emo!
[6]

Koen Sebregts: Brown is seen by some as the future of R&B or the new Michael Jackson, but if "Run It" was his "Wanna Be Startin' Something", then this is his "You Are Not Alone". The barely bearable sort of weak, syrupy ballad to follow up a dancefloor hit. On to the Free Willy soundtracks next, then.
[4]


Shuji & Akira – Seishun Amigo
[5.00]


Peter Parrish: I have my suspicions that this is the theme to a light-hearted, buddy-cop drama. You know, like “Due South”--except with less Canadians, obviously. *Dramatic panning sweep*, high above the buildings of Tokyo as brooding intro plays. It is night. *Crash zoom* on the window of our heroes’ car, cruising through the mean streets. They turn to one another and laugh while the verse clues us in to the basic plot premise. *Ripple-swirly dissolve* to the chief’s office. Our team burst excitedly through the door and slam a folder down on the desk. *Rapid pan* upwards to the dynamic duo running down an alleyway in ultra slow-motion as the chorus swells. Gentle *fade out*.
[6]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: The two best ways to get into the Japanese charts are: 1) to belong to the most staggeringly successful boyband stable the country - the world, perhaps - has ever seen; or 2), to have your song featured heavily on a prime-time television show. No prizes for guessing who did both! Which leaves you with two options: to 1) decry the deathgrip marketing has over everything these days; or 2) note the sheer stupid catchiness, the James Bond brass, the outrageously overblown string flourishes and backing coos, the brazenly cheesy Spanish touches, that insanely jubilant way they blast triumphant into the chorus-- oh maybe it's all a cash-in, and maybe it's a sad state of affairs, but they're having so much fun!
[9]

Martin Skidmore: I'm all in favour of Japan on almost every artistic level there is, but this seems pretty weak and bland and old-fashioned, an apt accompaniment to pretty boy soap operas perhaps, but, separated from such a context, of almost zero musical interest. Perhaps not understanding a word limits the enjoyment to be had. Also it fools you into thinking it's finished a minute earlier than it has, and not in a good way.
[2]

Robert Walsh: Admittedly, there’s a lot going on here and if you’re a housewife who takes art classes and has a lot of time on your hands this’ll probably be right up your alley. It’s like what the Osmonds would probably sound like during one of their extravaganzas if their alien escape pod landed in Japan.
[4]

Mike Barthel: Oh J-pop, how we love you. This is a pretty good example of the genre's problems: great, unexpected stylistic intro (like a transvestite Clint Eastwood on a sequin horse sashaying across the Italian wilds) leading into a pastey cop-out once the vocals come in. There's more than enough to recommend it but, as always, it could stand to be way more batshit insane.
[7]


Utada Hikaru – Passion
[5.25]


Doug Robertson: Imagine a world where Enya still exists, but she’s actually good. It’s quite hard, isn’t it? Well, listen to this, then get back to us, as Utada makes the whole concept of a good Enya seem like one of the most gloriously beautiful ideas the world has ever had. Now all we need to do is persuade the real Enya to retire and suddenly the world will become a good and wonderful place. Apart from the ongoing existence of James Blunt, of course.
[7]

Tom Ewing: The kind of delightfully unplaceable pop that turns sombre critics into babbling lists of references. The Cocteau Twins, but more focussed. The Sundays, but not twee. Lamented pan-flash duo Thieves. Forgotten new age synthpoppers Single Gun Theory. Kate Bush! Kate Bosh? Who cares, it's lovely.
[9]

Ian Mathers: The only other thing by her I've heard is the wonderfully sentimental “Exodus 04”, so hearing Utada Hikaru come up with a single more dream- than J-pop is a nice change of pace. Nothing is quite as good as the gossamer intro, but the various layers stay strong throughout and the whole thing sounds like good music to skydive to.
[6]

Brad Shoup: Don’t care for the supra-ethereal vocals. But the rhythm section was pretty good, at least at the beginning, before the verse-long guitar EFX breakdown. Who’s the target for this? Trance fans who’ve gotten the taste for Jewel? This jukebox is for singles, not the painfully alone.
[2]

Patrick McNally: Hikaru was called “a young and charming Japanese singer" by Lenny Kravitz, but in fact this is impossible to remember despite having backward vox in it. I hope he scored with her anyway though.
[3]


Son Of A Plumber – Jo-Anna Says
[5.31]


Tom Ewing: There surely comes a point in the life of every pop songwriter where they decide it's time to write their Beatles Pastiche. This point is generally right before the point at which they stop being any good at all - hello Roland Orzabal - but that's not to say the Beatles Pastiches themselves are a horrible thing. (Strictly speaking, like "Jo-Anna Says", they're more ELO Pastiches anyway, but let's not get recursive.) They do tend to sound like a songwriting exercise rather than a living pop thing, and this pleasant record is no exception.
[7]

Patrick McNally: The one out of Roxette who wasn’t Roxette (Even though, I know, she wasn’t called that) returns with a solo project so poorly named that even Dave Stewart couldn’t do worse. Check it out – he’s an international pop star but he’s also sort of normal guy. Here he whacks out a song with the type of perky but unassertive rhythm that signifies the type of adult oriented pop that could only be of interest to the adult that actually made it. It sounds like a something that Neil Innes would write for a CBeebies programme.
[2]

Hillary Brown: Yay for fake Abbey Road-era Beatles. Would it be better as part of a crazy-ass medley at the very end of an album? What wouldn’t? The number of songs that would be vastly improved if cut to under two minutes is one probably better expressed with an exponent than written out fully, and this is included. Stuff it somewhere in the middle of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and its weaknesses would be compensated for.
[6]

Brad Shoup: If this had come out a few months ago, at least a couple folks would’ve cut Stylus slack for the ELO thing. The chorus, all wedded to tubas – tubas! - is vintage Lynne; that is to say, it’s vintage McCartney. Absolutely charming. The best thing about this single is its performance by a callow-throated 46-year-old man. Half my brain gets that there’s a rootcellar collective in New Mexico that’s handcarving better songs onto raw vinyl, but there’s no way they’ve got a better single than this.
[8]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: What is this Wings shit?
[3]


Hi_Tack – Say Say Say
[5.56]


Dom Passantino: Filter disco: the Sensible Soccer of genres. It's easy to pick up. It's impossible to master totally. It's horribly ropey and cheap. And life would be a lot more dull without its charms. Hi_Tack (who used to be mid 90s dance forgettables the Klubbheads) have been studying the form, and they've got this down to a time and motion study: take one popular if slightly forgotten 80s pop track, jack that sample, loop it until the words cease to have any meaning at all, and then concentrae on making motherfuckers dance with the rest of the track. Who'd have thought Frederick Winslow Taylor would be packing them in on the dancefloor in 2006?
[10]

Martin Skidmore: I like Eurohouse. Give me a half-decent tune, filter it in and out, throw in some tolerable female vocals, and I'm happy. This only ticks off those boxes without doing too much more, really, and is less than outstanding in its field, but it's a good field. One of only two this week I actively wanted to listen to again, and it sounds better every time I play it. I'm not sure how much to deduct for the fact that I have proven incapable of giving it my full attention for the length of the song - not much, I think, given that it is obviously not sitting and thinking music.
[8]

Ian Mathers: I'm sure some very clever people are using this single as an excuse to chortle about this being the most they've enjoyed Michael Jackson's music since Thriller or something, but not only is that the behaviour of total assholes, it does a grave disservice to Hi_Tack (whoever he, she, it or they are). Yes, sampled Michael does a fine job, but when you listen to the original is that the line you would have thought to choose? It's extremely well used here, and the rest of the track is no slouch either – check out the way everything goes ghostly after those “ooh ooh ooh”s. Quality, and not nearly as disposable as some would tell you.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Wow, it’s just like being at a CLUB with lots of SEXY PEOPLE having a GREAT TIME. Except not, because it’s coming out of TINY SPEAKERS on a COMPUTER and I’m sat in my PYJAMAS eating TOAST. Is it harsh to judge this track completely outside of it’s only useful context? Why yes, yes it is.
[1]

Hillary Brown: It sounds like everyone’s having fun except me. I keep being told it’s fun and to come out and dance, but I’d rather stay home in my pajamas and eat tacos on the couch. Tonight at least.
[3]


Elena Paparizou – Mambo!
[5.67]


Jessica Popper: This has to be one of my favourite pop songs of the past few months. "Number 1" was fantastic, but this is even better. Latino party pop at it's very best - I challenge you not to dance!
[10]

Patrick McNally: Punctuation in song titles scares me, as does the word ‘mambo’ - always a sign enforced jollity. This song will appear on a freebie CD attached to the cover of Bella or in an advert for Reef within three months, I’m sure.
[3]

Mike Atkinson: Greece’s reigning Eurovision champion returns with a cautious re-jigging of her winning formula, including – oh God, the flashbacks! – copious helpings of those infernal Big Drums which so dominated last year’s contest. (This year, to save us all, the powers-that-be should look at introducing some sort of European Big Drum Quota, impounding all excess percussion at Customs.) Although light on anything which might resemble your actual Mambo as such, this is a cheerfully efficient romp, with plenty to commend it – particularly the Eurodisco-meets-Cossack-wedding-party inflections of the bridging section which follows the chorus.
[6]

Tom Ewing: Greek Eurovision winner does a reasonable Shania, but there's little lonelier than a song like this without a song contest to call home. Tons of production ideas, all beaten into submission by Elena's desperate jollity, partying on as the chairs get put on tables and the lights go up.
[5]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: ...Wow. This thing is mammoth, Eurovision drums the size of houses and a voice tundra-huge, hard to imagine it existing at volumes below earthshakingly loud. They probably only chose the title 'mambo' because of the lipsmacking gusto with which she belts it out, the rich lingering on the consonants; it's more hoedown than anything else, all whoops and stomps and strange nasal synthetic accordion noises. Also, under all that massiveness it appears to be sampling the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio theme, marvellous.
[9]

Mike Powell: <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< “La Tortura”
[3]


West End Girls – West End Girls
[6.69]


Peter Parrish: First there was a “West End Girls”. Then there was another one. Of it. Which is this one. The same message of emotional commodification in a dour, nihilistic world, plus a couple of bonus shiny bits. Witness the cosmetic switch to a female vocalist and slightly more urgency in the rush to get out of the chorus. Same old track. Same old bloody brilliant track. So, really it comes down to whether the public need another sharp dose of this. Which, in fact, they do.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: No, sorry, I don’t get this. Why, pray, does the world need a Swedish girl duo whose entire act is made up of cover versions of Pet Shop Boys songs? (There’s a whole album of this stuff, I’ll have you know.) Who decided this was a good idea? Which I guess it might have been, had this been re-conceived as, ooh I dunno, boshing Eurotrance or something daft like that. As it is, this disappointingly faithful re-working strips out all the atmosphere and context of the original, leaving nothing but a homogenised sheen of gormless vacuity.
[4]

Ian Mathers: I do think age could affect how much you like West End Girls and their modest updating of the Pet Shop Boys. To me their versions sound ever so slightly poppier than the originals, and that's a result of the fact they're using production tropes closer to my generation's ideal of gleaming melodic idealism. If you grew up with the originals these probably seem like painting over a Matisse or something, but as much as I adore Neil & Chris the Girls just sound better. Credit where credit is due, though, they wouldn't be a tenth as good without such good songs, and this version of “West End Girls” serves as a needed reminder of how much bleakness and strife lies underneath that chorus.
[8]

Jessica Popper: Despite ABBA being one of my all-time favourite bands I wasn't keen on the A*teens covers of their songs, so I didn't expect to love the WEG covers either. Yet for some reason I really do love them, and I think that reason is that I know the songs less, so I'm not constantly comparing them, and with the girls' versions being quite different too, they're just a great new Swedish pop band whose album I can't wait to buy!
[9]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: I think I'm supposed to like this. Swedish, right, and who doesn't love those Swedes and their pop music, and who doesn't love the Pet Shop Boys, and who doesn't love this song, and-- no. There is no reason for this record to have been made, no need for carbon-copy covers of pop classics, for any of this post-ironic pissing about. Its existence is superfluous, pointless, and actually kind of insulting. Brilliant song, though.
[4]


The Go! Team – Ladyflash
[7.41]


Mike Powell: Finally, kids in junior high school media tech classes all over the country have the fucking anthem for vaguely arty Super 8 footage of their friends skateboarding. Next time keep it < 4 minutes, pls.
[7]

Dom Passantino: Considering this lot seem to release a single every four days, and I get chosen to write the blurb every time, I'm kinda running out on dashing insight into their music. The Avalanches with guitars? Said already. Ninja is totally over-rated as frontwoman? Said. The band really could do with using some restraint? I'm not one to repeat myself. OK, how about “Considering how their peers want to recreate 1996, they seem to have jumped a year and are now setting about giving the world a Brighton-renaissance big beat revival”? This is a lot less annoying than their usual output, for what it’s worth.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: This seems a strange mishmash of pop and hip-hop. A nice string part, some sort of pop tune that doesn't emerge or cohere, some almost Spectorish singing, some grimey (or maybe just naive) rapping and some scratching. When the violin figure comes to the fore it puts me in mind of the Avalanches, but I'm not sure it quite comes together. I like its details very much, but I'm not sure they add up to quite as much as the sum of their parts - though I've kept playing it, and I'm liking it more every time.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: Slap a bit of Cookie Crew/Wee Papas proto-femi-rap on top of the guitar chops from Archie Bell’s “Tighten Up”, shove some late 90s Big Beat underneath for ballast, lighten the mixture with the odd string sample, leave to marinate on a Mercury-nominated album for the thick end of 18 months, and then – just when everyone assumes that every last drop of promotion has been wrung from said album – bung it out as a single and see what happens. Raucous, messy, invigorating... and very, very Brighton. (In any case, most of your sales will come from the Kevin Shields mash-up of this track with “Huddle Formation”, on the CD single and the B-side of the 7-inch. Word to the wise: it’s serviceably catchy, but you’d never know that Shields had anything to do with it.)
[7]

Koen Sebregts: I've no idea how, where or why this is getting yet another release, but it doesn't matter. Having played it to death over a year ago, it still sounds fresh and lovely and wonderful. This song epitomises the Go! Team's approach, sounding like a complete blast. You can hear the joy that went into the making, and that translates 1-on-1 with my own enjoyment. What I said about it over a year ago still goes: it's the aural equivalent of saying to a five-year-old: yes, you may fingerpaint the entire classroom. As long as you use all the colours.
[10]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-01-30
Comments (1)
 

 
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