The Singles Jukebox
In Search Of the FBI and a Good Pair of Gucci Slacks



in this week’s edition, Leee John gets a highly unexpected resurrection, Carrie Underwood is still chums with The Big Man Upstairs, Liberty X Are Not Gonna Take It, Bodies Without Organs’ textbook pop leads them to release a ballad as the third single off their album, OMG WTF A MUSE SINGLE WITHOUT MATT BELLAMY DOING THAT HORRIBLE “ewwww-eee-yaooow” THING, and Busta Rhymes swears. A lot. First, though, Ian Mathers is ready to be heartbroken.


Blog27 - Wid Out Ya
[3.83]


Ian Mathers: Hey, remember their last single, and how catchy it was? How it was only kept from the top of the Jukebox rankings for the week by one of the best singles of the year (Camera Obscura, if you're curious)? Imagine “Hey Boy” stripped of all fun and bleepy bloopy bits, with added processed guitar roar and lyrics that count as kind of disturbing given that they're coming from 13 year olds. Rarely have Jukebox reviewed follow ups been so very disappointing.
[1]

Iain Forrester: Last time ‘round I gave Blog 27’s Jukebox entry a 10. That still stands, but I didn’t realise that the song was a cover and finding out raises obvious doubts as to whether it was a fluke or not. “Wid Out Ya” doesn’t settle things for sure either way but I’m leaning towards yes. It starts off very promisingly enough with some nice twiddly electronics in the first verses but the angst-rock chorus in particular shows up their thin voices and amateurish sound as weaknesses where “Hey Boy” somehow made them strengths.
[4]

Martin Skidmore: In the balance for a while: the music is almost electronica, heavily processed, at the beginning, and their singer has a quite sweet and strong girlypop voice (though she can't do too much with it), but there was always the feeling that the annoying guitarists there on the first few seconds were lurking around ready to return, and it does get a bit gothy for me. It needs the punch of a Kelly Clarkson to sell me on this kind of thing, and this doesn't quite have it, though I can just about imagine singing along.
[4]

Hillary Brown: So the European version of substituting a d for a th is considerably better enunciated than the American version. That is, it’s quite neatly cropped at the end, as opposed to a floppy thick flap. But none of that is the issue. The issue is that there is no issue, and that this is another pretty cute lil’ Europop song by girls who can’t so much actually sing at all.
[5]


Liberty X - X
[3.88]


Fergal O’Reilly: The X deploy some dirty crunk-like synths and protest their continued relevance/realness/whatever with more than a hint of desperation. The whole thing exemplifies that unpleasant phenomenon of British People Missing The Point And Coming Across A Bit Quaint; I’m not sure if there’s a line in the whole thing that isn’t a total clunker, but “extraordinary, extra naughty baby, got the necessary flow” is the nadir of fist-chewing lameness. Or, perhaps more appropriately, “naffness”. Shudder.
[2]

William B. Swygart: First things first: they do realise that they’re pronouncing “extraordinary” just like Ini Kamoze, yes? With that in mind, do they also realise that rhyming that with “extra naughty, baby” rather than “juice like a strawberry” is just plain unacceptable? Anyway – Song 4 Haterz! For all the people who thought they were going to split up, but now they haven’t split up, and now these self-same haters “like [Liberty X’s] songs!” Cos God knows there’s enough of those little bandwagon-jumping bastards about, eh? Oh, and there’s a rap wherein they brag about owning Gucci slacks, and then asks “Where the feds at?” As in, y’know, the FBI. Can YOU figure out what the FBI might want with Liberty X? Answers in the comments box, please, I’m too busy scratching the bits of my head that I’ve not had to scratch in quite some time.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: I don't know who is producing this, but it has the same crunchy Richard Xish electro production that has made some of their tracks so terrific. It's a self-mythologising song, which is something I've always liked (Mott the Hoople and the KLF were the masters), and it's very hooky too, with plenty of force and energy.
[8]

Edward Oculicz: In which some very 2003-sounding dirty synth electro engages in a fight to the death with even more-2003-sounding uh-ohs and some extremely detached self-aggrandisement. The R&B components of this are hugely unconvincing. About one-ninetieth as good as "Just A Little".
[2]


Jamie Foxx ft. Twista - DJ Play A Love Song
[4.00]


Iain Forrester: If you’re going to try to launch a career by sounding like Usher, wouldn’t it be a good idea to sound like some of his good songs?
[2]

Hillary Brown: Ne-Yo. Stat. Also, please, lord, will someone kidnap Twista and wall him up somewhere for a while, at least temporarily? He is adding less and subtracting more by the day.
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: Even if the line “she really needs to hear this freakin’ love song” brings to mind Napoleon Dynamite rather than seductive slow jamz, this is smooth and silky without descending into the soporific territory Foxx’s other singles have occupied. He’ll never be an R. Kelly-level R&B titan, but this, particularly coupled with Twista’s fast paced yet languid guest verse, will likely go down a treat on a hot summer night.
[6]

William B. Swygart: “Don’t gimme that mack shit, please.” Alternatively, could be seen as Foxx’s take on the girl looking for a song to ease her pain with. At least until Twista informs you that he is going to fuck you on the wall.
[3]


Rock Kills Kid - Paralyzed
[4.20]


Jonathan Bradley: Rock Kills Subtlety. Some Californian guy called Jeff Tucker is so desperate to tell us of his paralysis that he wails on and on about it over guitars stolen from Gang of Four after he slammed them into the lockers in the hallway. AllMusic’s description is “emotionally tense,” which I can only assume refers to the state of those being subjected to this shit.
[1]

Edward Oculicz: Sounds a bit like Thom Yorke, he does. And it's lovely to hear that over some proper bass for once. The song itself is pretty good, too, even before it gets to a dinky, yet show-stopping plinky plonk noise. Sure, there's a nice charge and whine to it, but that plinky plonk noise is the standout. More of that would have made it even better.
[7]

Hillary Brown: Meet yr next Fall Out Boy. Or perhaps that is too mean. RKK is less proggy, less prone to the long song, and much less likely to inspire desires to commit violence. And this is a very catchy, soundtracky song that I expect to be hearing much of on the MTV.
[5]

Iain Forrester: Labours away somewhere in the region of The Zutons and The Killers, neither particularly likable nor objectionable. In fact, it eventually starts to seem as if their entire aim was to be absolutely impossible to have a strong opinion about. Surely it isn’t really just three minutes long?
[4]


Busta Rhymes ft. Kelis & will.i.am - I Love My Bitch
[4.50]


Hillary Brown: About the only thing that can detract from this marvelous little ditty is the thought of sorority girls performing it at karaoke within a couple of months. Other than that, it is a giant shock to the system. I had assumed Busta would never again produce anything of value, but the radio friendliness of will.i.am and the sharpness of Kelis set his arrhythmia off like a fine wine enhances cheese.
[8]

Adem Ali: Good to see Rent-A-Guest will.i.am featured on yet another generic number, but oh, Kelis, what are you doing here? Can repeating the words “I love my bitch” for 20 seconds actually fob itself off as a chorus? Terrible.
[0]

Jonathan Bradley: “I Love My Bitch” is fun because it makes no mention of Busta Rhymes’ terminally dull quest to be crowned King of New York. That ambition is not only ridiculous — the few lines Kelis utters in the chorus are more entertaining than an entire Busta verse — but has made for some spectacularly uninteresting music. “I Love My Bitch” is not the wild ride of early hits like “Woo Ha! Got You All In Check!” but this sort of feel-good irreverence is a move in the right direction. If we must bother with silly regional feuds, Busta is more suited to being New York’s Dem Franchize Boyz than the north’s T.I., and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
[5]

Ian Mathers: All my mind recalls from hearing this track is a numbing series of “I love my bitch” “I love you nigga” calls-and-responses from a never-lazier Busta and a should-know-better Kelis. Presumably will.i.am is lurking somewhere in the background although I think I repressed him. Guys, I'm totally convinced of your mutual love if you'll just SHUT UP for a minute and let me think.
[2]


Dero ft. Leee John - Dero's Illusion
[4.50]


Jessica Popper: OMG! Leee John, possibly the most stupidly named man of all time, is still working as a singer. I am shocked! He was so useless on Reborn In The USA (yes, I did watch that show - someone had to) that he should have been escorted off planet pop immediately, yet he seems somehow to have crept back in, at least in France. Suffice to say, it's rubbish.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: A Eurodance take on Imagination's late-disco "Just An Illusion", and it's an odd one. It starts as fairly funky European house with virtually no reference to Imagination (bar the occasional one sampled word, "illusion"); then that pretty much stops and we get a chunk of the original, only slightly moderned-up if at all; then back to the Eurodance. Very strange, and not very coherent, though its parts are fine.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: Thuddingly pointless bleeping intro that gives away to a surprisingly palatable slowed-down version of itself, at which point it becomes quite good fun. The hooh-hooh-hooh aah backing vocals are incredibly catchy and the production is simple but slick at the same time. The tragedy is after just one verse and chorus it speeds up again and then finishes, as if they'd only written half a fantastic song and thought the best thing to do would be to put a novelty speed-up section as bookends to get the attention. A waste.
[6]

Adem Ali: It starts off so promising and then dives. “Just An Illusion” was never a brilliant song to begin with, so why on earth would anyone bother covering it? The vocals are all a bit sloppy and all over the place as well, and the abrupt rave-influenced ending is somewhat tedious to sit through.
[1]


Lostprophets - Rooftops
[4.60]


Ian Mathers: Now this, I think, is the sort of thing I wanted from that last Taking Back Sunday single. Still angst-ridden, yes, still aggressive, but with a much better chorus. The kind of chorus you can imagine a club full of kids wailing along to. The rest of the song is bunk, but for five or ten seconds at a time they really make you believe.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: A throwback to when modern rock meant pop grunge like Fuel and 3 Doors Down, Lostprophets make a genre that was once excruciatingly ubiquitous almost charming by virtue of nostalgia and a nearly-catchy hook. It is by no means a compelling argument to revive turn-of-the-century alternative radio, but taken on its own, there are far worse things that could occupy the airwaves.
[5]

Hillary Brown: Perhaps all the soap opera associated with the band and its rep (thank you, wikipedia) has something to do with the fact that there’s not much there otherwise.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: As far as Lostprophets singles go, this one seems ever so slightly more constipated than usual. I seem to recall that Thursday used to sound a bit like this, except they had silly shouty blokes over it, and this is just one-note sludge.
[3]


Carrie Underwood - Don't Forget To Remember Me
[5.00]


Hillary Brown: I had thought this particular brand of session-flavored syrup was no longer available. Nuts to me, apparently.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: She won American Idol, and I can hear why - she has a lovely voice, warm and rich and strong. This is nu-country with only a small dash of AOR and some very nice plucking, and is pretty and immensely likeable. I guess most will find it rather bland, lacking in character, force, or wit, and that's fair comment, but it's a very good start, at least.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: It’s certainly sappy enough; Underwood wrings the little-girl-in-the-big-city sentiment for all it’s worth, but, somewhat surprisingly, the saccharine manages to be endearing rather than cloying. Harder to swallow are the cynical religious references, from the Bible Underwood’s mom gives her daughter as she leaves home to the bedtime prayers accompanying Carrie’s homesickness. The Christianity feels shoehorned in, as if Karl Rove’s less subtle younger brother was behind the mixing board.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: She can bloody sing. I'm not entirely convinced that she's completely down with what she's singing. I don't hear investment, which is weird, as she completely sold "Jesus, Take The Wheel" and the weeping violins and tinkling piano give this a lush foundation. It's not quite as strong a song as some others off her album; a great turn of phrase, but little else.
[5]


BWO - We Could Be Heroes
[5.17]


Martin Skidmore: I thought this might be the dreadful cover of Bowie's "Heroes" that makes ITV's World Cup coverage even worse, and had a moment of relief that it wasn't. I then realised I hated this even more. It's a drearily aspirational lite-rock ballad, with doomed attempts at big vocal notes that made me cringe, and lyrics of "wind beneath my wings" punchability. It sounds like a last throw of the dice by a band that made it to the last five on X-Factor, before they give up and tour the clubs. Awful.
[0]

Adem Ali: The thing that I love most about BWO is their ability to turn even the most surly of moods right around with pulsating basslines and catchy choruses. I’ve never been a fan of their ballads, though, and this is a fine example of why they just shouldn’t do them. It doesn’t really go anywhere, which is sad, because there are a good five songs from their new album Halcyon Days that would have made a much better choice for second single.
[4]

Ian Mathers: Oh, BWO. Did you have to do a ballad? It's not bad at all, by the standards of the form. But my love of BWO is based on, firstly, the kind of insane glee they have brought to every song I have heard by them thus far, and secondly on the way they've always felt fresh despite drawing on a massive, impressive pop lineage. Martin is certainly fully committed to “We Could Be Heroes,” but it feels a bit too predictable to really satisfy the way “Voodoo Magic” and others have. Plus, not even a little nod to Bowie?
[5]

William B. Swygart: Those criticisms of BWO as being bloodless pop perfectionists seem a lot more plausible after this. It’s a ballad that seems to almost revel in its more plodding features, feeling as though it’s taking the genre tropes and doing nothing with them: that pause before the final flourish requires an excruciating leap of faith that the rest of the song just doesn’t feel like it merits. Martin Rolinski sounds like someone’s told him how to sing ballads, rather than following any kind of instinct. Somehow, though, “We could be heroes; we could be lovers, you and I” is just enough of a hook line to get this one through, and over time its appeal does start to grow more and more, the arch of its eyebrow softens a bit, and you could almost learn to love it. Maybe.
[7]


Tomohisa Yamashita - Daite Senorita
[5.60]


Ian Mathers: The debut single from an ex-member of NewS and a TV theme song? Oh, if only my pulse could slow down, not that Tomohisa is going to let it; he's too busy chanting the title with extra backing vocals and synthesized bursts for emphasis. Screw Bon Jovi – this is a guy who is clearly focused on seeing a thousand faces and rocking them all.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: The start is terrific, like an exciting new take on old crime movie soundtracks from around 1960, but it then goes into standard-issue male J-pop vocals and I have no idea what he is singing – something about a woman is my guess. The music stays very punchy and dramatic throughout. I think I'd rather have an instrumental version, but it's still strong stuff.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: The use of sensory overload as production aesthetic, beloved by the Japanese artists who make it on to the Jukebox, often has fairly entertaining results, but the approach fails when the dominant element is the collected works of Ricky Martin. The bits without singing, however, seem oriented more along the lines of providing a soundtrack to packages of sporting highlights — that is, if the packages were assembled by, for and featuring maniacal robots.
[3]

Fergal O’Reilly: Epic Japanese synth-rock of the type commonly heard in video games and that Ninja episode of South Park with the “LET’S FIGHTING LOVE” theme tune. It even does that thing where the music all drops out for the final line of the chorus, and although I have no idea what it says it’s too gleefully, absurdly melodramatic to not make you feel slightly better about the world.
[7]


Remy Ma ft. Ne-Yo - Feels So Good
[6.40]


Hillary Brown: Caret in an “almost” anywhere in the title and you got it. I’m not complaining about the listening experience (except that the instrumentation is pitched a little high), I’m just having standards. I can do that sometimes.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: For a song called "Feels So Good", it's a bit.. well, hardly bursting with happiness, is it? Okay, it's smooth enough, but surely smoothness and glee can mix a bit more harmoniously than this. And the excitement, or at least vague tension hinted at by that ascending intro is completely unfulfilled; it runs out of steam very quickly. Having heard the first 40 seconds, you've heard the whole thing.
[3]

William B. Swygart: OK, I think I might be on the Ne-Yo wagon now. His voice just has that kind of feel for a song, one that doesn’t have to take notes or play to the crowd – intuition, you could call it, and that makes it a really lovely thing to listen to. There’s a wonderful glee when he says that he wants to “do it again and again and again,” and when he says that he doesn’t want let her leave he makes it sound like an act of romance (imagine Ronan Keating singing that bit – hell, imagine R Kelly… actually, maybe not), and Inskeep’s got a point, innee? Remy plays the part of the girl whose heart gets a bit melted beautifully too, gradually warming to the feller, and it just leaves you feeling very happy for the pair of them.
[9]

Martin Skidmore: This is the first time I've heard her as the headliner, though to be honest there seems to be more Ne-Yo than Remy here. It's a rather slow and laid-back choice, surprisingly, given how tough and aggressive she has seemed on her high-profile guest verses. She still sounds very strong and sharp, and Ne-Yo is at his very best and smoothest here, but there's not enough of Remy, and I'd rather hear her on harder numbers.
[8]


MIA - Tanz Der Moleküle
[6.50]


Iain Forrester: Another chance to do approximate and possibly inaccurate German translations! “Dance Of The Molecule”, ja? Which rather predisposes me towards liking the song, but it turns out to be eminently likable anyway: laidback dance-pop which makes up for being slightly dated sounding with some lovely vocals and a wonderful brassy finish.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: I rather like this – microhousey, with odd bits of strummed acoustic guitar and some fine double-tracked female vocals. It's very controlled and attractive, and much of it sounds as if it is played on a glockenspiel. There is the language barrier, which is an important loss for me, but it's still among my favourites of the week.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: Stranger crazes have taken off, but I can’t see chemistry lab notes inspiring the next club hit. Especially when the track espousing this new move allows its shiny synths and plinky xylophones to fizzle out before the track has a chance to climax. If a slick club beat could substitute for dynamics, this would be a slinky electro-pop earworm; as it is, it’s little more than a waste of a couple interesting noises.
[4]

Ian Mathers: I've never heard a MIA track this poppy, or this song-y; her more abstract dancefloor origins can certainly be heard in the bassline and beat, but the guitar and xylophone flourishes divert the listener's attention away from the inexorability of the former, and the vocals make the result even more catchy. The end result is the kind of hybrid you don't think of as such, since the blend is so seamless and seemingly effortless.
[7]


Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Turn Into
[6.75]


Martin Skidmore: I really like Karen O's sharp and sexy voice, and the more old-fashioned garage/punk/rock'n'roll style of the music is much more up my street than 95% of rock made in recent years, though this is a slow-to-medium pacer. This has some tremendous screechy noises too, and a proper song with real force to it, and it strikes me as one of the best five new rock singles I've heard in the last five years or so.
[9]

Iain Forrester: I’ve never really got Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Even “Maps”. “Turn Into You” flirts with being an attempt at the same song, but fortunately isn’t. It still somehow doesn’t convince though, as despite some fantastic wailing guitar (or whatever that thing is) the build doesn’t feel impressive enough to justify the repetition. The acoustic ending is totally lame, too.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: Odd choice for a single. Outside the context of the brittle, emotionally drained second half of “Show Your Bones,” the track sounds lighter and poppier, not as subsumed into the mood of the album. The guitar strums are brighter and the synth line closing the song sounds optimistic; without the preceding ten tracks, it is less a denouement and more a diversion, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, if this single had been “Cheating Hearts” or “Dudley,” there would be a [10] below this blurb.
[7]

Ian Mathers: Yes, this definitely isn't the sound of “Art Star” and “Date With the Night;” in fact, it sounds more than a little like the Walkmen in their ramshackle recent efforts, only Brian Chase's drums are far more sharply defined. But there's something episodic to “Turn Into,” the way the piano comes in and then goes, followed by that great squealing sound. The beat and Zinner's suspended guitar keep the whole thing relatively steady but this is really missing something to tie it all together, which might just be related to the fact that this is the least present Karen O has ever sounded on one of their singles.
[6]


Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
[6.83]


Adem Ali: It sounds like quite the homage to Britney Spears’ “Do Something”, doesn’t it? I’ve always found Muse a delight to listen to, so it’s nice to see they’ve made a pop record this time round, but still indie enough to keep their fan base happy. Supermassive? Absolutely.
[9]

Fergal O’Reilly: Matt Bellamy’s supposed to be one of those guys who can hit notes so high they burst your spleen at forty paces, but now he’s trying to do some Sexy Disco Falsetto shit he sounds utterly unconvincing. As does the rest of the song, a sort of half-arsed tinny attempt at being all modern and electronic but hampered with the usual crap fuzz guitars and “weird stuff is kewl” cosmic lyrical preoccupations. Will eventually find a home soundtracking some Carling/Virgin/Ginster’s Pasties sponsored bullshit trying to convince you that you should be out with The Kids supporting Loive Music 24 hours of the fucking day.
[3]

Hillary Brown: I’m not sure why it’s so hard to believe this song was created by a real band rather than a collection of animatronic musicians stiffly rocking out. That doesn’t, however, detract from its tuneful value. It’s motorcycle video game music, and its cold, revving ridiculousness gives it quite an appeal.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: Muse go synth-pop, everyone says. What they probably haven't mentioned is how incredibly tight and funky this is as a single. I mean, bugger Radiohead comparisons, this could almost be bloody Prince (or at least the Scissor Sisters covering Prince) - thick, incredibly dense bass giving it a taut groove, ridiculous falsetto all the way through, glorious multi-tracked chorus and menace, glorious menace smeared thickly all over it.
[9]


Lupe Fiasco - Kick Push
[7.50]


Hillary Brown: This is the rice cakes of summer jams. Thing is, I kind of like rice cakes, especially the ones that are merely lightly salted as opposed to coated with some kind of flavoring powder that leaves one’s fingers dyed and dried out. Sometimes all you want is something simplified about down to its essence. This might be forever long and also nonsensical, but it’s got both salty and sweet in it, and it holds about half my attention.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: It's smooth, likeable and even rather lush, but it's not really my favoured kind of hip hop. He flows well, making it sound easy and natural, but it doesn't excite me at all.
[5]

Ian Mathers: Over the course of one listen I went from being annoyed at “Kick Push” to admiring the way Lupe rides (and stays out of the way of) that luscious strings and horns sample – honestly, I have no idea what he's rapping about and I could care less, I just want more horn swell and the bone simple beat. And yet the texture of Lupe's voice fits so well I don't think I want this as an instrumental, the whole winds up being more than the sum of its parts and a beautifully laid back summery jam.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: Hip-hop that embraces non-standard themes falls into the realm of the righteous backpacker with disappointing regularity, so it is wonderful to hear Lupe Fiasco narrate a skateboarding story that works as a compelling rap track, especially since it remains interesting to those of us who couldn’t care less about skating. Lupe’s everyman charm belies significant rap talent, both as a wordsmith and a storyteller. He negotiates his rhymes with dexterity, riding the syllables like his skateboard; for instance, rolling out, “branded, since the first kick flip he landed/ labelled a misfit, a bandit,” before dropping a line like “the freedom was better than breathing” with so much gusto that you get carried away with him. His characters, too, are vividly real — when the skater meets a girl who can match his prowess, Lupe, with a few lines of conversation, illustrates the couple and their relationship so acutely that he could base an entire novel around them. It is rap-nerd music that everyone can love, skateboard geek music that non-skaters can get excited about, and all round one of the finest tracks you’ll hear this year.
[10]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-06-20
Comments (2)
 

 
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