The Singles Jukebox
Half-Volvo, Half-Minibus



le Stylus’ UK-ish pop panel casts its glance over the cream of the week’s UK singles releases. Judging by last week’s column, where lavish praise for Lady Sovereign propelled her to the dizzy heights of #73 in the chart while overall indifference to Tony Christie resulted in him getting to #1 and outselling the rest of the top 20 put together, the hot tip for this year’s Grammies would appear to be British Sea Power. Also—Manuva gets Victorian, Tom Vek reports to the dancefloor, and The Faders “do that whole girls-with-guitars thing”. But first, 50’s got his cock out…


50 Cent – Candy Shop
[3.4]

Alex Macpherson: The best Fiddy cuts have this amazing metallic, monochromatic vibe to them, regardless of whoever's actually doing the production: it fits Fiddy's voice, too, that effortless monotone glinting off the stabbing synths like a reflection. "Candy Shop" is great because of this, and also because it is entirely about Fiddy's cock, something we should all contemplate much more. An extra point because a lot of twats seem to be holding him up as an example of Why Hip Hop Is Shit: there's too much lifeless sneering along the lines of 'he thinks he's so hard' and utterly dull moralising about criminality/capitalism around right now.
{9}

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Yet another 50 Cent single where the instrumental's the best version, and even that's not as good as it could be. There's just this one point, where the synth strings start to rise incrementally, little crisis-notes, semitone by aching semitone, as if the whole thing is building up tension, about to peak. And then a flaccid little warble, and the whole thing's back where it started. As for the lyrics: oh, Fiddy, you're not Luda, you're not Petey Pablo, you're never going to sound sexy.
{3}

Mike Atkinson: "I'm trying to explain, baby, the best way I can; I'll melt in your mouth girl, not in your hand, ha ha!" YES YES OK WE GET THE POINT. IT'S A METAPHOR. YOU'RE NOT REALLY TALKING ABOUT LICKING LOLLIPOPS. And did no-one tell you it's bad form to laugh at your own jokes? Smacks of desperation, don't you know. Much like the rest of this thigh-rubbing "knickers knackers knockers" claptrap, which displays a half-assed puerility that even the likes of Roy "Chubby" Brown would have baulked at. Worse still, Fiddy sounds as bored as the rest of us; and ultimately, it's this lifeless lack of enthusiasm (for both the quality of the music and the sexual favour in question) that offends most of all.
{1}

Rollie Pemberton: Curtis is sleepwalking HARD on this one. 50 mumbles through the “Magic Stick” template, Scott “I Look Ridiculous” Storch throws out a failed “Lean Back” experiment (Mr. Joseph Crack claims that he had this beat before 50, but shunned it when he heard the big one) and Olivia sings and has squinty eyes. Also, if the video is true, Lloyd Banks enjoys the company of women. Oh and the first time I heard this song, I was all “OH SHIT 50 CRIBBED THE NEW POLLUTION” but that 3 seconds led into 3:28 of some other nonsense. Phallic chorus, soft synth, a bored 50 Cent = Inexplicable Hit Maker Loses ‘It’; Buying Public Fails To Notice.
{2}

Peter Parrish: Sorry, is this the new ‘Stranger Danger’ campaign for schools? Look, I don’t want to see your puppies, I don’t need a lift and there’s no bloody way I’m letting you take me to your so-called candy shop. Oh ... OH, wait, he’s just talking about sex. That’s ok then.
{3}


The Subways – Oh Yeah
[3.5]

Paul Scott: The Subways won a competition to play at last year’s Glastonbury festival. It was rather nice to see their excited faces as one of their Dads told them the news over tea on the patio (This was on TV, I wasn’t actually there). It’s well executed—a bit punky, a bit bluesy, a bit rocky. They probably own more than one White Stripes album.
{5}

Fergal O’Reilly: This song's already been released about 300 times, surely. By different bands. It has that shuffly garage rock drumbeat thing, and then big chuggy guitars, and then some out of tune wailing and like, I basically refuse to believe it took more than eight seconds to write.
{2}

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Practically unlistenable. Not because of the music, which is a rather charming generic sub-garage-rock thud, but their accents. This horrible mangled yowling thing, somewhere in the hinterlands between US-Southern, West Country, and cockernee. "heaaaaaave you eyeeeeever seeeeeeyen the loiiiiite?" No, thanks.
{2}

Alex Macpherson: The moment where all the instruments drop out and this terrible, terrible boy yowls "have you ever seen the looiiiiit?" with all the verve of a chartered accountant is utterly horrifying. Dude, I have indeed seen the light, and lemme tell you one thing: it is NOT FOUND IN SUBWAYS, you cunt. Now fuck off back to your provincial university, finish that no-mark degree in town planning or whatever, and get a proper fucking job, preferably one you are slightly competent at.
{0}

Doug Robertson: There’s some nice girl/boy vocal dynamics going on here, even if vocal training is clearly thin on the ground, but other than that there’s little to write home about. Still, the bassist is quite cute and wears a frayed denim mini rather well, so they can have an extra point for that.
{5}


Natalie Imbruglia - Shiver
[3.7]

Paul Scott: The most “sensitive”, “Serious Musician” ever to be spawned by Neighbours (Australian soap, v. popular in Britain—ed.) returns with a song so compressed and dishwater dull that even Dido would find it a bit too boring.
{1}

Mike Atkinson: Some rubbish singles are such fun to hate that they end up being vaguely enjoyable, in a twisted sort of way. In this respect, Natalie Imbruglia still has some way to go. A clear case of Could Do Worse, then.
{2}

Edward Oculicz: Face it—if Harriet Wheeler had sung it, you'd have a hard-on—both figurative and literal. Completely obvious, but lush and inviting with it.
{10}

Joe Macare: Unbearable tedium. It is literally painful for me to get to the 3 minute mark of this. Expect to find 'Shiver' on the soundtrack to the next crime of 'rom-com' badness committed against celluloid by Richard Curtis—although even he might turn this down for being too bland and limp.
{0}

Peter Parrish: Oh Natalie, please come back to us. Look, even that dastardly Paul Robinson has made a reappearance. All your old friends are there--Harold, Lou, Karl .. err .. some random lads who always seem to inhabit that house with the ridiculous fluffy white dog. Please stop all this inoffensive musical activity. Put away those acoustic strummings and requisite piano tinkles—Delta Goodrem takes care of that now. Ramsey Street needs you back.
{5}


Tom Vek – I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes
[4.8]

Mike Atkinson: As with Bloc Party, there's a strained histrionic stridency to the vocals that will either thrill or grate; and as with Bloc Party, I'm in the latter camp. Like so many of its ilk, this strives to emulate The Cure and the Gang Of Four, but ends up falling somewhere between Modern English, The Comsat Angels, and one of those regional compilation albums that were all the rage in 1980-81. "The Sound Of Rotherham: 20 Urgent Urban Dispatches From The New South Yorkshire Underground." Older readers will know of what I speak.
{5}

Rollie Pemberton: Fucking huge. I’ve been trying to kill dance-punk for the last few weeks and shit like this creeps up and ruins my evil plan. The claps on the chorus are very necessary. This track plays out with big restraint, on some midsummer’s night firestorm business. I hope my fellow Sty riders don’t start throwing out the obvious talk (*whisper* angular *whisper*) but it’s not hard to do with this kind of song. I’d probably hate on a whole album of this variety of funk punch, but you know what? Great single.
{8}

Alex Macpherson: My GOD, what is this shit? Really horrible mess of guitars which actually hurt my ears, and just when you think it can't get any worse this DREADFUL CATERWAULING SINGING comes in and does not let up fo the next three minutes. This song is really actively unpleasant to have to endure.
{0}

Doug Robertson: The verses are reminiscent in some ways of a mix between Franz Ferdinand’s Darts of Pleasure and The Cooper Temple Clause’s Film Maker, while the chorus comes from God knows where, but somehow it all seems to work.
{6}

Fergal O’Reilly: I was never quite sold on the disco-punk thing. That Fucking Drumbeat, One-heavy basslines and not having a particularly good singer seems like a bit of a narrow template. This is OK, bit PiL-y as it goes on, but it just really makes me think of standing in some dingy nightclub at 2am exasperatedly trying to work up the enthusiasm to dance to House of Jealous Lovers for the 857th time. There's something a bit hollow and repetitive, in the not-good way, about it all.
{6}


Mario – Let Me Love You
[4.9]

Fergal O’Reilly: I really like this song. I have no idea what to call that bendy noise, aside from perhaps 'that bendy noise', but it sounds quite marvellous. Ditto Mario's smooth, plaintitive vocal stylings. Lyrics OK, if in a predictable vein, though 'make me your selection' seems a bit forced. The bendy noise gets a bit more warbly at the end, as does Mario, although it remains pleasantly understated all the way through.
{8}

Mike Atkinson: Mid-Eighties Eugene/Luther/Alexander seduction-job corniness, redeemed by a touching hesitancy and vulnerability. Once Mario has set out his pitch (he's a bastard, drop him, I'll treat you right), you're left with a certain ambivalence as to the likely outcome. If he's even addressing her directly in the first place, that is; for it is difficult to say whether this is a public entreaty or a private prayer.
{7}

Paul Scott: Mr. Mario sounds like a pretty sincere kind of fellow, obviously being quite infatuated with the “you” in question, though the nasty outbreak of “ooohing” towards the end suggests it may be more lust than love that is on his mind.
{4}

Rollie Pemberton: More of that pseudo-nouveau-Jacko shit and it’s from another Mario! This song is very ‘on the way home from the club’ ambience, sure, but you know, his voice doesn’t do it for me at all. Also, when he says “Baby, good love and protection/ Make me your selection”, I imagine him on a piano in the studio, going like “erection connection inspection direction selection! YAY!” But yeah, the production is the buttersoft sequel and doesn’t have the urgency of that Winans track, making this another footnote in the chapter called Top 40 Softballs.
{3}

Doug Robertson: His MC work with the Ambassadors of Funk on the 1992 hit Supermarioland was far superior to this dross.
{3}


British Sea Power – It Ended On An Oily Stage
[5.0]

Edward Oculicz: I've never really warmed to BSP, but I do like the singer's voice—he gives a sense of otherworldly mystery beyond the songs, which always seem so terrestrial. Pleasant, though.
{6}

Mike Atkinson: John Cleese once observed that the main aim of the English was to successfully conduct themselves from cradle to grave without ever encountering any serious embarrassment along the way. In which case, British Sea Power—whose live show sticks in the memory for having successfully extinguished any emotional response whatsoever, positive or negative—might just be the most quintessentially English band of all time.
{5}

Joe Macare: Talk about having a name that predisposes people to write you off as workmanlike blokes with guitars. That being said, this could be a lot worse. But there's something going wrong when the most memorable thing about a song is the fact that dude can't pronounce the word 'elegiac'... Or is that some kind of joke I'm not getting?
{4}

Fergal O’Reilly: Enh, it's a bit bland, really. That guitar intro just seems like generic Nice Indie that you'd hear from a pub band. When that breathy vocal comes in it immediately starts to sound a bit more poignant and weird, and there's something about the whole delivery of the 'he found God in a Wiltshire field and you did not' line that I find endearing. Still frustratingly pleasant overall, though I suspect it's growing on me.
{6}

Paul Scott: BSP’s debut album was the musical equivalent of standing atop Beachy Head (a rather large cliff near Eastbourne and thus somewhat unsurprisingly England’s No 1 suicide spot) in the driving rain whilst Spitfires and Messerschmits dogfight overhead. This, though, is like the reality of a trip to Beachy Head—it’s a bit blustery and there’s not really that much going on. The most disappointing single so far this year.
{3}


Million Dead – Living The Dream
[5.1]

Edward Oculicz: Funeral For A Friend had three top twenty singles doing this. Funny, isn't it? Mind you, sometimes I quite fancy a bit of vaguely hardcore screeching, so this would be rather welcome. Intense but a bit overlong.
{8}

Fergal O’Reilly: Hehe, I assumed this was another American band trying to sound like the Smiths, for the first 90 seconds. It's quite pretty; intricate chorus-y guitar riffs and a vocalist who actually sounds a bit like Noel Gallagher. Then, utterly inexplicably, come the DISTORTED GUITARS AND EPIC SHOUTING (he even says 'my head' in that funny 'moy heeee-ad' way). The equivalent of a cut n'shut, only it's the front of a Volvo with like, half a minibus attached to it, which I suppose would be initially quite amusing, but I wouldn't actually buy one in case it resulted in the death of my family.
{4}

Mike Atkinson: Now look here, all you retro-rock "proper music" Luddites: for all its admittedly off-putting nu-metal trappings, there's more craftsmanship, dexterity and range in this (not to mention those other dread rockist qualities: sincerity, authenticity and passion) than in all your Razorlights, Kasabians and Killers put together. I'm particularly taken by the way that the full-tilt shoutiness of the chorus is offset by the softly tumbling Johnny Marr-ish guitar runs of the verses, and by the self-questioning "meta" qualities of the lyric.
{8}

Joe Macare: This is like some kind of blueprint for indie band mediocrity. The guitarist is quite good but the singer has (another!) one of those rubbish indie voices and he sings about being scared of the kids who come to the band's shows because of the words they know. A: at least the kids Morrisey was scared of sold drugs! B: no kids really go to Million Dead shows. This song rhymes “under duress” with “unimpressed” and it's like it's about me, man—until I turn it off.
{0}

Cecily Nowell-Smith: It sounds like Lostprophets! Meets Idlewild. Meets, er, screamo. The kind of music makes me wish I was sixteen, when a boy wailing nasally over alternate chimes and blasts of guitar about how he's a bit perturbed by audiences who know the words to his songs—so am I, dude, so am I—meant deep and meaningful things to me. Now it just sounds like... like indie rock, half anthemic, half weedy, all rather average. Oh, Million Dead, it's not you, it's me.
{6}


Erasure – Don’t Say You Love Me
[5.6]

Doug Robertson: “I’m still around”, declares Andy Bell on this track, probably as surprised as anyone else that he’s still allowed to release records after the travesty of their cover of Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), but this is better than it has any right to be. It’s not as good as ‘Stop’ but then, when you get down to it, what is?
{7}

Paul Scott: Bounces and burbles along in a pleasant enough way, sort of like The Killers without the rhythm section or the guitars or the vocals, without ever hitting anything resembling the killer chorus that them lovely synth whooshes seem to demand.
{3}

Edward Oculicz: Wonderfully clumsy beat that stumbles along in a very pleasant manner let down by not really having that much in the way of a hook. Impeccably pieced together, mind, such a great synth sound, but ever so slightly wasted.
{5}

Fergal O’Reilly: Slow builder, getting better and better the more it piles on the melodramatic backing vocals and sugary synth chords and blips. Goes on to exhibit that phenomenon where everything falls into place perfectly at the exact moment the final chorus begins to go on for longer than the earlier ones.
{9}

Peter Parrish: Plod, plod, plodding along. More plod than Scotland Yard, in fact. But it doesn’t take a stroke of Columbo-esque investigative genius to connect the generic bass-snare drum machine combo with a terrifying “angel/radio” rhyme and convict on the grounds of terminal tedium. Just one more question please, sir; why?
{4}


Dizzee Rascal – Off To Work
[6.1]

Peter Parrish: A spectre is haunting Europe. The spectre of Dizzee. “Calling all workers!” Could this be a new rallying cry for the disenfranchised and oppressed classes? Probably not, because it all goes rather downhill after this Marx-tastic opening. Quite why I can listen to Mark E Smith rant away like a lunatic over a repetitive beat for hours on end but get tired of this within mere seconds is something of a mystery to me. May I politely request that you bring back Captain Sensible and the scary puppets please, Mr Rascal?
{4}

Cecily Nowell-Smith: So sparse: the first three whistled notes taken up by the bass, a threadbare breakbeat, and this offbeat little parp of synth at the end of each other line. But Dizzee doesn't need anything else, he's off, rhyming his own rhythm over the top - keeping it real, whatever, keeping it interesting. Could only be better if he'd actually sampled Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
{8}.

Mike Atkinson: Happy talk, keep talking happy talk. Here's to you, raise a glass for everyone. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go. The transformation of Dizzee "Proper Bow" Rascal from iconoclastic eminence noir to the Timmy Mallett of grime is now complete. No flow. No show. No go.
{4}

Alex Macpherson: Aw, it's as if Snow White had an eighth dwarf called Dizzee! I love the boy so much, he's clearly a total genius on some other level to the rest of humanity BUT that's not the best thing about him at all: the best thing is that he doesn't seem to have any awareness of this at all, he isn't afraid to do ridiculous, fun, bizarre things like interpolate songs from Disney films over a skittery, falling-over-drunk rhythm. Hi ho! Hi ho!
{9}

Rollie Pemberton: A minimalist, non-album single doesn’t quite make sense to me in the progression of the Dizzee, but I can’t complain too much. The beat is broken in a disjointed, awkward manner, so I’m curious as to how this will make people ‘put their work in on the dancefloor’. His flow is there, but all in all, the song has no arc, no direction and a vaguely formless approach. But then again, an unexpected Dizzee song is still better than the ultraprepared work of others. “Stand Up Tall” : title bout :: “Off 2 Work” : shadowboxing.
{7}


The Faders – No Sleep Tonight
[6.5]

Paul Scott: This is like the summer of 2003 has collapsed and somehow Amy Studt (charmingly rubbish post Avril British pop minx) and Jet (utter toss post Strokes noelrock) have been fused. Not quite the all girl Busted the world is waiting for but any song that combines Can’t Hurry Love drums, handclaps and nudge nudge it’s really about sex lyrics can‘t be anything less than ace.
{7}

Joe Macare: Some bands are just too easy to sum up in journalist speak, and you can do The Faders in just two words: British. Donnas. But even more brilliant than that sounds! They could certainly teach losers like Jet a thing or two about how rip off 'Can't Hurry Love' / 'Lust For Life' and carry it off. “I'll just make this a little more obvious”—I don't think 'No Sleep Tonight' could BE any more obvious, but then aren't all the best come ons? (Anyway, you just know those emo boys do need it spelling it out). Love The Faders like you love early Buffy and The OC: Josie and the Pussycats were never this cool.
{10}

Alex Macpherson: Jesus, how bad do you have to be to fuck up the girls-doing-pop-punk template? It's unbeatable, in that even if the music isn't good per se, the fact that girls are up on that stage having fun and doing it for themselves is itself a beautiful, joyous thing. But The Faders have somehow managed to make it sound like the most boring, derivative, textbook exercise ever. Nicking other people's ideas isn't necessarily bad, but to do it so wholesale and with so little enthusiasm is.
{3}

Rollie Pemberton: This song is catered to my demographic, but doesn’t make it all the way for me. I love the panning at the beginning and although homegirl can’t quite sing, the whole ethos behind this song’s little Joan Jett throwback vibe is intriguing. Bridge is cool, but this song enters Planet Overproduced with the flanging. This would probably bother me after hearing a million times, but for the time being it’s a relatively pleasant diversion.
{6}

Mike Atkinson: This all pivots around one glorious focal point: the thousand-yard-deep double-thumping head-rush which launches its chorus. "You can't stop this DOOMPH DOOMPH fee-ling..." WA-HEY! WALLOP! God hits world! World hits back! Entire solar system shudders from the aftershock! That aside, "No Sleep Tonight" is a worthy addition to the Quatro-Nena-Republica-Portobella canon of plastic trashbeat teenpop. Recreation is indeed its destination. So don't wait up.
{9}


Fischerspooner – Just Let Go
[6.5]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Oh, this is lovely. No huge leap away from "Emerge"—the same gloomy fashioncore electro pound, the same disenchanted robot bleat, stretching on for a glorious eternity. Something explodes in the background; the drum machine has a minor fit; a snatch of goth guitar saws its way in and falls again out. Like watching people dance under strobe lights in a dank warehouse, stop-motion slow and dark.
{9}

Rollie Pemberton: Fuck the haters. While I may prefer the Tommy Sunshine mix to the original (by almost a million), this is a stellar return to form for the folks that invented the term hypermediocrity. “Just Let Go” is a little more aggro-beat than singles past, with their trademark crawling intro and dance-punk drum line and while some people despise their admittedly pretentious lyricism, the kids have an intriguing balance of rock influence and melody that lends itself well. Hopefully, people remember that they used to hype these dudes up like they were A.R.E Weapons, that way they’ll hear it, right?
{7}

Peter Parrish: You might think that a Kraftwerk-inspired version of The Sisters of Mercy with Gary Numan overtones played through the dodgy tape-deck of a crashing 48K Spectrum would be a great idea. Or you might not. Did you set your stall out with the ‘not’ camp? Congratulations! You’ve won the lack of desire to ever hear this again. And a copy of Manic Miner.
{2}

Alex Macpherson: Bubbly-light and addictively frothy: like getting hooked on strawberry smoothies. So much fun that there's no time to even think about posing: the way the buzzing synths peak and dip is so exquisitely spot on. This makes me want to head out to Cargo or Plastic People or 333 right fucking now and dance to this for the next ten hours.
{8}

Doug Robertson: Well, it’s nicely produced, isn’t it?
{5}


Roots Manuva – Too Cold
[7.4]

Mike Atkinson: Humility? Self-doubt? A questioning attitude to materialism? Oh my dears, how frightfully un-hip-hop! Throw him to the Guardian readers!
{8}

Rollie Pemberton: I’ve never cared for Roots Manuva. Most fringe listeners of hip-hop try to sell him on me as the next fucking wave, along with other Scion hop vanguards like the Living Legends, but I don’t buy it. The self-deprecating chorus and repetition style makes me think US commercial rap in 1998, not 2005’s British youth beat. I don’t understand why an artist who appears to have borrowed his motivation from the bling ricochet of late 90’s underground would go so Clear Channel on us. It’s good to see heads have a K-Os to avoid over there though.
{5}

Joe Macare: What with grime getting so much (richly deserved) attention, it's easy to forget that there are other forms of British hip hop that have their moments—Blak Twang's new album sounds interesting, and this is not bad at all, actually. There's a certain kind of particularly British melancholy and self-loathing that Roots Manuva captures very well on this song. The weather, you see, it seeps deep into our souls.
{7}

Alex Macpherson: Roots Manuva really reminds me of Tricky circa 1995, these days: like most of his new album, "Too Cold" possesses the focus of the insomniac, the fierce lucidity of the visionary, the paranoia of someone who's smoked too much weed in their time. Gorgeous, loping bass; a Greek chorus standing in the shadows; a swooping flute line almost buried in the fug. This song feels like respite.
{9}

Paul Scott: This sounds impossibly old, not old skool or anything but somehow Victorian. Overbearing, insistent, almost mocking, the track surrounds our protagonist like some 19th century vision of Soho whilst he weighs up the dilemmas of a mercenary cutthroat world where the there is always someone younger and more ruthless snapping at your heels. It might just be about the music business but when paranoia is this fantastically panoramic it’s foolish to resist.
{9}

Editor’s Note: Each panelist submits a score and accompanying comment for each single. The editor then selects five comments to publish for each single, but calculates the average score from the scores submitted by all the panellists, not just the scores of the published comments. If you see what the editor means.


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-03-21
Comments (3)
 

 
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