The Singles Jukebox
Have We Learnt Nothing From Rednex?



with the Radio1 chart in meltdown, Stylus brings back the UK Singles Jukebox with a vengeance. Twelve singles, a plethora of commentators, all of their ratings, a sampling of their comments, and none of the celebrity gossip. Well...maybe some. This week on the jukebox: G4, the Jaxx, Gwen, Jem, Beck, and more.


G4
Bohemian Rhapsody b/w Everybody Hurts
[2.3]


Doug Robertson: When they were on X Factor and up against such personality vacuums as Steve Brookstein, Tabby and Verity, G4 came across as being quite exciting, different and something a bit out of the ordinary. Unfortunately now they’re in the real world and competing against artists who actually possess something in the way of talent they come across sadly lacking and can’t quite get over the Mountain of Novelty into the Valley of Actually Being Half Decent.
[3]

Alex van Vliet: Ten years ago G4 were boys in the church choir who thought they were a bit too cool to be there, i.e., the walking tragic. At one point they might have deserved pity, but television has turned them into smug little novelty nobodies worthy only of contempt. Can we please stop making reality pop an exercise in rewarding special needs children?
[2]

Mike Atkinson: If Frasier and Niles Crane had ever attempted to form a pop group, with Gil Chesterton the restaurant critic and Noel the trekkie dragged in to make up the numbers, then this extravagantly baroque folly is probably what it would have sounded like. ["Ooh! Ooh! I know! Let's replace those vulgar electric guitars with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra!"] With a shining-eyed sincerity of purpose and an innocence of its own ridiculousness which borders on the heroic, what could so easily have been unlistenable dreck is instead elevated to the realms of High Camp.
[8]

Dan Smith: Clever – G4 look a bit gay, so why not have them mince around like offensive stereotypes covering some songs by other acceptably gay people. What’s next on the list? ‘Faith’? ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’? They have their uses, though – they keep the poisonous cretins in charge of pop music such as Fuller, Cowell and the Short-Westlife-Cunt distracted so that Kano and The Mitchell Brothers and Kaiser Chiefs can happen. And, because I also hate Michael Stipe and this will probably piss him off …
[4]

Alex Macpherson: I'm sorry, I can't get past the first ten seconds. I have a very visceral reaction to 'Bohemian Rhapsody' because it is the worst song ever written. I also have a very visceral reaction to classical-lite, which owes its existence as a genre to the fact that record companies think working class people aren't able to appreciate proper classical music. Combine the two and the result is horror. This makes me want to smack people around the head with the complete sheet music to The Ring.
[0]


Beck
E-Pro
[4.00]


Mike Atkinson: Having wasted the opportunity of having a Gary Jules-esque slow-burning crossover cover version "cult" [sic] movie smash with "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime", Beck - always at his least convincing when attempting to Rock Out - instead serves up a tepid, grungey, downright BORING din, of no discernable purpose.
[3]

Joe Macare: I'm finding it very hard to criticise this without saying really terrible things like “it doesn't really go anywhere” - somebody shoot me now, I'm dissing a song for being too repetitive! - or being really horrible and saying I'd probably have danced to it in 1997 but not now. The first 20 seconds of this are a really great riff. Then Beck starts mumbling and on the one hand, I'm relieved that the Beastie Boys' reported involvement in this song hasn't extended to lyrics or vocals as bad as those on To The 5 Boroughs. On the other hand... it all drifts by without offering any real incentive for me to care.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: People are surely not still claiming that Beck is one of the greatest musical innovators around, are they? I do not keep up with that type of person any more, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could find much merit in this song's unremitting averageness, the total refusal to strike out in any interesting direction at any point. Extraordinarily lazy: well done, Beck, you have written two bars worth of melody and gone 'sha-na-na' over the top and, er, that's it.
[2]

Paul Scott: I think the beginning of this is supposed to remind me of Beck's glory days, but as I am unfamiliar with these it reminds me of ‘Filmstar’ by Suede. It's meant to sound half-arsed, right? ‘Cos the “na na na” bits are nothing in comparison to Tony Christies “sha la la”’s, and therein lies a lesson for us all.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: If this hookless, ugly little piece of angular chugging indie is any indication, Beck really hasn't had a good idea this decade.
[2]


The Mars Volta
The Widow
[4.00]


Alex van Vliet: “Is this Muse?”
[4]

Peter Parrish: Pleasantly surprising, as The Mars Volta appear to have an internet following at least as ferocious as that of, oh I don’t know, let’s say Tool or Radiohead. So naturally I expected this to be pish. But it manages not to be--hurrah! A lethargic thread of guitar just about avoids tying itself up whilst some harmless bibble about “clothes splintered shards” and whatnot takes place in earnest. In fact, that’s what the whole thing is--extremely earnest. It earnestly takes off [ie; gets louder] and then earnestly turns into fret-widdling for the last minute or so. I earnestly appreciate it.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: Oh, this was going so well until the chorus, which failed to get the memo that pained histrionics are not in and of themselves grand things, but rise or fall on the content. The bombast is a bit sub-Muse [and I actually LIKE Muse], but the verses are pretty brilliant.
[6]

Doug Robertson: So intense that you can practically see the anguished face of the singer as he emotes all over what nearly amounts to a chorus. This writer’s face made a similar expression as a twiddly guitar bit came in and the shadow of Prog loomed heavy over the track.
[4]

Joe Macare: I suspect The Mars Volta release singles only grudgingly, because they are serious prog-rock beardies whose preferred format is the awfully-named concept album with appalling sleeve art. ‘The Widow’ sounds a lot more like ‘Bring Me To Life’ by Evanescence than I expected, and therefore slightly better than I expected [blame some of their fans, but I do hate the Mars Volta a LOT]. However, it still sounds an awful lot like Muse – rubbish quavering vocals, naff guitar solo, general air of pomposity - and is therefore not anywhere near 'good' or even 'acceptable'.
[3]


Shapeshifters
Back To Basics
[4.22]


Mike Atkinson: In which the Shapeshifters resort to the time-honoured ploy of following up a major dance crossover hit by jiggling its constituent parts around a bit, putting them back together again in a diferent order, and attempting to pass them off as a brand new song. Such timidity inevitably leads to diminishing returns. Have we learnt nothing from Rednex?
[6]

Joe Macare: The title says it all! Then again, I'm not sure this kind of chart-friendly funky house ever went away – it's proved to be one of the most resilient musical forms of the past couple of decades. For that reason, there's not a lot to be said about it – whether it works for you will depend on much as mood and time and place as who you are. But in terms of doing what it's designed to, sure, it hits the target.
[8]

Alex Macpherson: No, Shapeshifters, this is not how it is supposed to go. You were meant to release one of the most joyous, euphoric, brilliant singles ever and then disappear. Do not sully our memory of 'Lola's Theme' with tossed-off crap like this. No, those zig-zagging strings won't help.
[5]

Doug Robertson: Or Lola’s Theme Part 2 which to all intents and purposes it is. As a summery, uplifting dance tune it works, but it’s hard to get too excited about it when not only have we heard it all before but it’s also only just turned Spring and it’s bloody freezing outside.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: An unnecessary footnote to one of the most uplifting dance singles of the decade. This takes me nowhere - it turns no world around.
[0]


Tony Christie
Amarillo
[4.90]


Paul Scott: The funniest bit of Comic Relief this year was Ronnie Corbett falling over during Peter Kay’s rendition of this song. We are supposed to be super-evolved hyper-aware post-whatever types, but there is not much that’s naturally funnier than someone falling over. There may be a bit of irony involved somewhere but this is just so pure and natural, the way the horns pop and the sha la la’s bounce about is simply magic.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: A long, long time ago, I found something powerfully sexy about this, particularly the almighty pelvic thrust of the bridge section: "Sha la la, la la, la la la, THWACK! BOOSH!" [Hey, I was too young for Elvis.] However, any residual erotic charge has now been thoroughly defused by Peter Kay’s Comic Relief video: admittedly delightful, but distinctly detumescent. I hope all of this makes Christie a bob or two, though; he deserves to be remembered as more than a chicken-in-a-basket Tom Jones.
[10]

Peter Parrish: TV funnyman Peter Kay mugs around the special Comic Relief video in chaaaarideee mode and tries to remind us of better days. Before ‘Max & Paddy’s Road To Nowhere’ ever existed, for example. Still, we can’t blame his shameful vanity projects on innocent Mr Christie. This is pretty much a sharp spike of joy brutally forced through the cranium. He’s singing “sha-la-la-la”! Dance! DANCE, PEASANTS! Alas, such an overtly coerced high can only result in the inevitable crashing low of an excruciatingly persistent sense of irritation. Like a beautiful musical verruca.
[7]

Alex van Vliet: It says something about this era of pop star compassion one-upmanship that this isn’t even the worst charity record released so far this year [that honour going to the Atomic Kitten reformation, obviously]. Something to do with Comic Relief and Peter Kay, this song is part of that whole mass-produced, invented nostalgia bullshit that makes Kay’s “gentle humour” so unbearable. Haven’t they suffered enough? Haven’t we?
[3]

Dan Smith: Message to Peter Kay: You. Aren’t. Funny. Anymore. Wobbling around on a video to an ironic re-release is just making yourself into Lenny Henry i.e, an unfunny self-obsessed twat. Fuck off back on tour making equally fat, middle-aged women chortle at your “witty insights”. This would have been an 8 originally, but thanks to your ‘special touch’:
[0]


John Legend
Used To Love U
[5.11]


Cecily Nowell-Smith: When did laid-back summery soul become the in thing? There's this languid leading bass, simple meandering chink of piano that tangles around itself after a while, the occasional parp of horn or background tannoy voice, and after the breakdown come the chattering handclaps, so natural and perfect. “Maybe, it’s me, maybe I bore you”, Legend sings – maybe he's a lover not a gangsta, but he really doesn't sound all that fussed.
[7]

Alex Macpherson: Oh this man's voice is pure sex on some higher spiritual plane: it's the way he seduces you with creamy, silky smooth phrasing then suddenly breaks out the gospel shit. I can't get enough of the way he floats his voice so effortlessly into that falsetto! The beats roll around like fingers on the back of your neck and the sparse piano line, which almost sounds parachuted into the song from elsewhere, is deeply satisfying.
[8]

Doug Robertson: Can we please stop this lounge jazz influence that seems to be seeping into the pop charts? This sounds like a more boring Maroon 5, if you can imagine such a thing to be possible. Profiting from this sort of nonsense should be a crime.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Sounds unfinished - lovely tinkling backing but a big, ugly hole in the material where there was supposed to be a song on top. It's a shame because the little touches are just so - the backing vocals in the middle-section in particular.
[5]

Joe Macare: Wholesome, organic, real soul music. Jamie Oliver should be going round schools making the kids listen to this instead of evil shiny sexpop, at the same time as he forcefeeds them brocolli instead of turkey twizzlers. Okay, it's not quite that bad, but it does sound as if it's supposed to be good for you, rather than just being good. Jools Holland would love it.
[5]


Queens Of The Stone Age
Little Sister
[5.56]


Joe Macare: Wait, this starts off sounding exactly like a song by The Distillers! I totally get the appeal of the Queens Of The Stone Age in general and Josh Homme in particular, but with the exception of ‘...Millionaire’, their music tends to disappoint me. ‘Little Sister’ only just manages to pull itself up above the level of the Foo Fighters, and that's not quite “saviours of heavy rock” territory in my book, y'know? Brody really should get with Greg Dulli instead.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: The guitar riff sounds totally like a Casio keyboard synth on my shitty computer speakers. I really like a lot of QOTSA's work, but this is a bit boring: it doesn't have those maximalist layers of pummelling sound which I usually love about them, and Josh Homme sounds as if he can't wait to get back to a good book.
[7]

Paul Scott: ‘Metronomic’ is the short hand, isn’t it? Yes, this is as menacing and repetitive and dull as QOTSA always seem to be, but – aha! – the gimmick this time is keyboard guitars and, as anyone who's heard The Cars knows, keyboard guitars will improve anything.
[5]

Peter Parrish: Christopher Walken has been demanding more cowbell again, it seems. Arrgh, I can’t focus on anything else! This track is dead to me! They may as well just do a ‘World’s Most Irritating Clock Noises’ concept album and play it at 4am. No, seriously, I can only hear cowbell. Are those some flat, layerless guitars off in the distance? Across the meadows of this bracing Swiss hillside? Who cares, I’m being crushed by bovines.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Maybe the best thing they've done - reminds me a bit of "Message In A Bottle" of all things. Still, music for intimidating record store clerks and as such unlovable.
[5]


Gwen Stefani ft. Eve
Rich Girl
[6.75]


Dan Smith: Gwen Stefani is an enigma: She manages to look impossibly sexy clad in what looks like the last scrapings of Vivienne Westwood’s faded, coke-addled mind, has flicked from making delectable chunks of ska-pop-punk to making delectable chunks of pure-pop without any perceivable effort, but when she’s talking - Oh. My. God. Has anyone ever sounded so empty? How can someone so vapid be so great? Rich Girl is riding the borderline between innovative-but-fun and aural-mess. And despite lacking the full Stefani Growl, it’s infectious like chlamydia. But why does she find Harajuku girls so worthy of mention? Maybe because bleating about them in this song, the last one and a tenuous link in the album name has secured a bit of hired help for her and Rossdale, courtesy of Polydor. Does Love do the washing up whilst Angel and Music iron?
[8]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Stefani's got that magpie sense for pop, practically genius. The Fiddler On The Roof steal, the cutesy little-girl vocals on the bridge, nodding back to her album, to the previous Eve collaboration, to her clothing line, the “hoods of Japan” lyric... insane, and catchy as hell. And the video is set on a PIRATE SHIP! What's not to love?
[8]

Joe Macare: Not quite the best choice of second single from Love Angel Music Baby – she really needs to put ‘Serious’ or ‘Danger Zone’ out, ASAP – and not on a patch on 'What You Waiting For?'. But still crazy, sexy, cool. The beat sounds casual-as-fuck, quintessientally Dr Dre and very pop, and Eve shows up for about 15 seconds to tell us “I rock the fetish people” - it's true, you know, they go mental for a bit of Eve down at Torture Garden. The video for this song has a pirate theme. That's worth an extra point.
[9]

Alex Macpherson: Gwen's very own 'Material Girl': a greedy, grabbing monster of a song which doesn't just swipe its hook brazenly from Fiddler On The Roof, but also the way in which it's used directly from Lady Saw's 'If I Were A Rich Girl'. The chorus claims that all the riches, baby, don't mean anything, but baby, just listen to what Gwen is most enthusiastic about in this song! It's not your love, oh no: it's her Harajuku girls, Galliano gown and fancy house in London town. Her cartoon avariciousness is spectacularly enjoyable, and Eve's cameo frankly stunning: listen to this while jumping around your room and getting ready to go out, or when fantasising about how one day everything in the world will be ALL YOURS MUAHAHAHAHAHA.
[9]

Mike Atkinson: The namechecks for haute couture designers. The wholesale vampiric appropriation of a semi-digested sub-cultural youth phemomenon type thingy, but hey, it's JAPANESE! and hence unimpeachable mm-KAY? Big wigs, big gowns, fit dancers, The Gays All ADORE ME You Know. Little smidge of a Jew-cool sensibility tossed into the Pan-Eurasian stew. Big fuckoff production job, to mask that tinny little Minnie Mouse helium squeak of yours. All lingering memories of those naff old AOR power ballads firmly snuffed out, because now you're so achingly Zeitgeist that it HURTS, missy. Gwen Stefani is the continuation of Madonna by other means. Discuss.
[5]


Jem
They
[6.78]


Alex van Vliet: They’re all calling her the new Dido, which is a bit like saying she’s the new anthrax. Luckily, as Jem helpfully points out in this song, They don’t always know what they’re talking about.
[7]

Paul Scott: Starts off like The Nightmare Before Christmas at a disco then turns into Royksopp, which is a major disappointment.
[4]

Peter Parrish: Fascinatingly addictive chorus bit that sounds like it was nicked from a dirgy midnight mass hymn, but sped up and treated with upmost pop care until it was ready to blossom forth and appear in this track. Sing it with me now! Nuuh nuuh NUUH, [and now lower] nuuh nuuh nuh. Yeah, that doesn’t really convey it at all. Amazingly, it transcends textualisation. The social alienation lyrics are purely a bonus.
[8]

Alex Macpherson: Ooh, nice opening choral action plus an almost two-step beat! The first twenty seconds of this are brilliant. Then Jem starts singing and she’s rather terrible, mumbly wallpaper timbre and ghastly lyrics. She’s being sold as the Welsh Dido. Why would adding ‘Welsh’ to Dido make her ANY more of an attractive proposition?
[5]

Doug Robertson: Superb. Slinking softly along like a sultry snake that sends certain scribes into sentences saturated with, umm, appalling alliteration, this sounds utterly fresh and exciting, despite being based around a sample from an old Bach piece. Moody pop is undoubtedly the way forward.
[9]


T.I.
Bring ‘Em Out
[6.89]


Joe Macare: The chorus is a sample of Jay-Z quoting Biggie, the basis for the Swizz Beats production is naggingly familiar – it all really annoyed me on a first listen, but it's growing on me very, very quickly. Maybe that's because I've started shooting the video in my head, but I've started making stupid little jerky arm and neck movements while I sit typing this. I think that means it has to be categorised as a ‘banger’.
[8]

Edward Oculicz: Makes me think of what that horrible Ja Rule song ‘Livin' It Up’ would have been if it weren't actually horrible.
[7]

Alex van Vliet: Like N.O.R.E.’s ‘Put ‘Em Up’, except years later and not as good.
[6]

Doug Robertson: What the Wacky Races theme tune would sound like if there were more of a hip-hop influence to the cartoon. Oh, and had more of a laissez faire attitude towards the use of expletives.
[7]

Mike Atkinson: There's a fantastic sense of momentum to this big dumb booty-shaking bits-wiggling beer-blasting juggernaut of a monster monster party tune. Is this what the youngsters are calling ‘crunk’, or does this bear as much resemblance to the genre as the Boomtown Rats did to punk? Rather than risk betraying my ignorance, I'll simply dub this a ‘Jump Around’ for the 2000s, and move swiftly on.
[9]


Lady Sovereign
Random
[7.60]


Joe Macare: Oh, turn this UP. It's not quite as ace and inventive as 'A Little Bit Of... Ssshh', and some of the Eminem-isms are a little too obvious [although no less charming for that - “oops, I mean chair”, indeed]. But this is still the best thing out this week, from my new favourite popstar. Sov is a great touchstone artist in the sense that although it must be thereotically possible to dislike her music without either wittering on about “pikeys”, being a snooze-inducing grime purist, or just hating fun [oh yes], I've not seen it done.
[9]

Edward Oculicz: One really great nagging hook has always been necessary for good pop - this one's so great it’s actually sufficient. Spells the death of ‘random’ as a word you can actually use, but it’s about time.
[8]

Alex van Vliet: This is difficult. Although ‘Random’ is exciting, funny and essential - confirming Sov as being firmly in the London sound’s new A-List - it doesn’t feel quite as exciting, funny or essential as last year’s ‘Ch-Ching’ and ‘Shhh!’. This is a more commercial sound, with strong echoes of Missy’s ‘Pass That Dutch’, but it’s at the sacrifice of what made her so distinctly, gloriously grimey.
[7]

Alex Macpherson: So fucking excited about grime going mainstream: this had better be top 10 or else! Even though it's not, y'know, grime at all - but instead a hilarious, radio-friendly, irresistibly catchy introduction to the SOV, whose disregard for keeping it real is utterly brilliant. “J-Lo's got a batty, well you can't see mine ‘cos I wear my trousers baggy”, she declaims, before going on to take the piss out of J-Kwon, Chingy, and British MCs who “say ‘cookies’ instead of ‘biscuits’” over a twanging elastic band of a beat. Fuck the purists: when a Ja-fake-an accent, shiny pop-grime synths and potential novelty factor are as fun as this, authenticity can go jump off a cliff for all I care.
[9]

Paul Scott: One of the most meaningless words in English finds its way into the mainstream surprisingly painlessly. This is the music the girls at the telesales place I used to work at would have made; observation about J-Lo's arse, calling people gypsies and generally saying ‘random’ too much. It is therefore brilliant.
[8]


Basement Jaxx
Oh My Gosh
[7.63]


Edward Oculicz: As much as I liked their last album, they really are incredibly overrated. The backlash starts here - this is boring. Why would one bother when you could be listening to, say, ‘Right Here's The Spot’?
[3]

Alex Macpherson: The production shows that the Jaxx are still kind of godlike even when they're not being maximalist monster machines, but it's vocalist Vula Malinga who owns ‘Oh My Gosh’ totally: the balance she strikes between insouciance, self-possession and knee-weakening is like the best articulation of the feeling which hits when you first realise that someone's eyeing you up! She starts off dismissive and playful – “he said he liked the way I put my lipstick - on!”, all exquisite Lady Sovereign-esque glottal stops - but the wavering backing vocal
[totally Jacko] is the perfect link into the chorus, when the bass hits and her legs give way beneath her, senses all fusing to such an extent that she can't even swear properly and instead resorts to the very British exclamation of “oh my gosh!”
[10]

Mike Atkinson: “Based on Wordy Rappinghood”, they told me. Damned if I can hear it, though. Which is no great loss, considering that ‘Oh My Gosh’ is my favourite single of 2005 thus far. Like all the best Jaxx singles, this feels like it's sitting right at the centre of something, with 50 different ideas all going on at once; so much so, that it's almost impossible to cram them onto one track, but - like 50 rag week students squeezing themselves into a phone box - they somehow manage to pull it off.
[10]

Alex van Vliet: The forthcoming best of is pretty much certain to be soundtracking every party worth attending for the rest of 2005, and this single easily measures up to the rest of Felix and Simon’s output. A maximalist attitude to samples, blips and animal noises held together by an awesomely charismatic vocal overflowing with splendid chat-up lines to try at home.
[9]

Peter Parrish: I am absolutely thrilled to see mild cursing return to the world of music. Following on from the success of ‘Tsk, You Rotter’ and ‘Whizzo You Piffling Chaps!’, this is another victory for understated yet meaningful emotion over empty, grandiose insults. Citizens; applaud this.
[6]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-03-14
Comments (5)
 

 
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