The Singles Jukebox
INDIE?! AND DANCE?! OMG!!!



ooh, well aren’t we covering all bases this week, eh? Bumper set of releases lets us do the whole cherry-picking thing, meaning we espy Brooke Valentine getting all head-stompy, Rachel Stevens falling from such great heights to slightly less great heights, Jessica Popper discovering the delights of Cut Copy, and, er, Fat Joe. Hello Fat Joe. First, though, here’s Dom Passantino with details of this week’s UK Singles Jukebox Appeal…


Beck - Girl
[4.43]


Dom Passantino: Dear Beck,

Please stop.

Yours sincerely, someone who liked you when he was 13.
[0]

Peter Parrish: Guest reviewer Bernard Black says: “I've got to get a girlfriend, just for the summer, until this wears off. She'll be a summery girl. She'll have hair. She'll have summery friends who know how to be outside. She'll play tennis and wear dresses and have bare feet, and in the autumn, I'll ditch her, because she's my summer girl!” Black Books; expressing things better than Beck since .. well, always.
[3]

Barima Nyantekyi: There's a lot of stinking chat about the accessibility of Beck's new single, which sounds exactly like two thousand journalists relieved at not having to mention "eclecticism" in reviews. If Guero had a descriptive subtitle, it would be “Beck: Consolidated” (or, if you're feeling critical, "Sometimes The (Inflatable) Autopilot Takes Over"), and 'Girl' comes closer to this tagline than most. It's very light AM pop that for all the hype is not as sunny as it could and should be (and geez, turn the mix up! It's frigging zephyr-like), though the groove is very straightforward considering the kind of Beck album its parent aims to be, Atari intro aside. Fun, if not quite memorable, but if this is a Dust Brothers production, it will ultimately remind you that they killed this area stone dead when they perfected the white kid Jackson 5 homage with 'MmmBop'.
[7]

Mike Barthel: Now, if only Beck could act like Rachel Stevens and become a singles artist, we'd be fine: the rest of the album sort of spoils the great songs for me, but compiled or in isolation, there's no denying that they're fantastic. Plus, finally, Beck appropriates my culture, which always makes things more enjoyable. (Pop is better when you can feel morally superior to it!) And so: fuck you, Beck! You don't understand 8-bit culture, man! You and your Gen X slacker raiders are coming to take my childhood from me, man, but that's not gonna happen! Shit. Thinks he can throw in a little bit at the beginning as some sort of token and not have it seen as a blatant bid for street cred. You didn't grow up with this, man! You're not down! That's not what 8-bit's about.
[8]

Alex Macpherson: I'm surely not the only one reminded of Ross from Friends and his comedy electronic experiments here, am I?
[2]


Daft Punk - Technologic
[4.69]


Tom Ewing: A watershed of sorts. With every single previous Daft Punk release I'd blamed myself for any displeasure - I wasn't clever or clued-up enough to appreciate their strategies. And in a few plays my world would indeed catch up with theirs. But "Technologic"? It barely works on the album, where the chipmunk workers at least provide a bit of relief after several tracks of brutalist sore-throat synth. On the loose as a single they're infuriating - and trite. It sounds like Daft Punk are on the lookout for an iPod clone advert - they may have sounded daft before, but never naff.
[2]

Joe Macare: Repetition is a funny thing. It's been demonised by many critics despite being one of the fundamental building blocks of virtually every genre of popular music. Still, it all depends on what element you're repeating as to whether the end result is hypnotically brilliant or merely tiresome. Daft Punk's last single, 'Robot Rock', used repetition to devastating effect, but this is much less convincing – essentially it comes across as an anemic version of the Crazy Frog (who I must confess I have recently decided is marvelous, surely the god-child chaos avatar of this dark new eon). I hear good things about the remixes, but in such a strong week for singles, the original version of 'Technologic' can't compete.
[5]

Alex Linsdell: It is not a life-changing rainbow of world-class symphonic pop music sautéd in the heartjuices of chromey spangler man-machines the length and breadth of the planet, granted, but instead it might be a nice idea to consider what it IS. And it is the delicious lightheaded euphoria that occurs after having your ears syringed. “Yurr-yuurr, yuh-yurr”; grey and flat and fresh and lovely.
[8]

Jessica Popper: This song was bizarrely picked to soundtrack a 'love scene' in a recent episode of The OC and now I can't listen to it without thinking of that. It really was strange, as is this song, but I still prefer it to ‘Robot Rock’.
[6]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: If it weren't already an iPod advert, Sony would have bought it, eh.
[4]


Fat Joe ft. Nelly – Get It Poppin’
[4.92]


Edward Oculicz: Shut up, just shut up. Fat Joe, you are a charisma vortex, as proved by the fact that when Nelly - NELLY! - comes in, it's blessed relief by comparison.
[3]

Mike Barthel: There's just something that's not very compelling about Joe's voice. It feels too familiar, somehow, like I know him and don't like him. His actual flow and even his words are good, but when he, you know, says them out loud, it's vaguely uncomfortable. I do like that he admits that all he needs someone to do is say his name a lot for him to sleep with them. Hey, me too!
[5]

Joe Macare: In which two men whose output regularly swerves wildly between irresistible party-smashing megahits and dodgy-attitude-revealing dross get together and make one of the former to my delight, relief and at this stage, however unfairly, surprise. Something about this beat is very... 2002? 2003? Whenever it was that Nelly's heyday, anyway. It's breezy, it's poppy, it's the reason the phrase “you gotta love it” was invented. It might also be the reason dancing drunkenly and unselfconsciously with your friends at 2 up in the morning was invented. Note to all DJs: if you see me in the club play this plz ok thanx bye.
[9]

Alex Linsdell: This is a pretty superb battle between gravel and chintz; it’s really just a Jenga-tower of noises
[string flourish UP! string flourish down, some kindly piano, yet more doublesplashed handclaps, possibly a synthesised seagull of some kind] but they are mostly great noises, so it is mostly a great record.
[7]

Tom Ewing: Nelly himself might occasionally hit on a great single but Featuring Nelly tends to set his name to only the most dutiful of jams: pass.
[3]


Mariah Carey – We Belong Together
[5.08]


Alex Van Vliet: Back where she belongs, i.e., comfortingly rubbish.
[4]

Dom Passantino: The BBC’s review of Live 8 lambasts Mariah’s performance
[well, lambasts and then gives a mediocre rating to, a la The Fly], accusing her of having too much ego. Hysterically, it’s situated between a 9/10 for Sting and a 10/10 for Robbie Williams.
[5]

Joe Macare: What an amazing time... What a family! How did the years go by? Now I'm all alone... Yes, what to a smarter, better pop star like Gwen Stefani would be 30-second-parody-skit material is apparently the basis for a whole 'proper' song by Mariah Carey. The only thing that could redeem this song is if she'd called it 'We Should Be Together, Too'.
[1]

Tom Ewing: There's a lovely verse in "We Belong Together" where Mariah is kept awake spinning the radio dial looking for a song that will stop the hurt, but everything just makes it worse. That I can emphathise with, but the rest of this breakup ballad just isn't as gripping. It's the song's fault more than Mariah's - her performance is soulful, full of restrained ache, one to play the next time some doofus goes on about how she oversings everything (and yes reader, once I was that doofus,)
[6]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: So she turns the dial, tryinna catch a break, and who in this digital age has dials on their radios? no-one, that's who, but it's such the classic image, and this is classic Mariah, Mariah how we don't remember her, when it wasn't about the obnoxious melisma and wobbly oversinging, barely any sky high squeaking, in fact it's so disarmingly simple, when she's rolling out her voice over one note, throwing things, crying, trying, when the backing singers breathe, coo, whisper, hum, hush, and she really sounds like it's all lost, like she's too too close to letting a sob out and when that one gets free that's it, she's a wreck, she's nothing, she's got to keep her head up, wait a minute, this is too deep -
[10]


Kanye West – Diamonds From Sierra Leone
[5.79]


Peter Parrish: Political statement ahoy! Stop buying diamonds. They are coated with the blood of exploited workers, and, hey, they look a bit tacky anyway. I can get behind that sentiment. Screw the pointless diamond--put down a deposit on somewhere to live instead. At least ... I think that’s what this track is about. It could just be a sneaky way to crowbar in a Bond sample.
[6]

Dom Passantino: You’d have thought Kanye couldn’t come up with anything more horrific than hooking up a perennially looped vocal sample of nearly dead second division Welsh Diva Shirley Bassey until the instrumental of this joint sounds like the “star” act having a mental breakdown at cabaret night in a 2 star hotel in Thanet, but then he says “Forevereverevereverevereverevereverever” for what I calculate to be roughly 27 minutes and 9 seconds. Although we’re sure that Vince McMahon will be happy to hear that “The Rock is still alive”.
[0]

Alex Macpherson: In which Kanye discovers the joys of maximalism. 'Diamonds' takes the aesthetic of last year's stunning 'Jesus Walks' and sends it reeling into another dimension, one where Shirley Bassey samples and OutKast shout-outs get dressed up with so much glittering ornamentation that the dazzle is blinding. Shimmering high-end, twinkling cascades of sounds like coins falling, electro-buzz bass: these are Kanye's diamonds, a boy's best friends, and they look simply fabulous.
[10]

Tom Ewing: This song goes to enormous effort to sound momentous - great sample, naturally, but can Kanye ride it? "Big K pickin up where Hove left off" - this is the crux, surely. Even if the song ended up dreck you can imagine Jay-Z dominating, taming and earning this sample: Kanye, more of a persuader, never sounds like he's mastered it. Which makes the whole single sound queasy, no matter how many good lines or peaks make up the mismatched whole.
[5]

Mike Barthel: What I like about this song is how Kanye seems to have said, OK, I have one fantastic, mind-blowing verse. But instead of padding the other verses out with filler, I'm going to make them actively suck. They're just going to be the worst, most mindlessly materialistic crap I can think of. I don't mean this as some sort of sarcastic criticism--it's a genuinely brilliant move. Partially it's just that he can do it because the beat's so great (those fucking zingtastic low-cut organ notes in the third bar of the verse loop!), but lyrical excellence is sometimes like dynamics: the quieter you get, the louder the loud sounds (c.f. Shellac's "Mama Gina"), and in this case, throwing in what sounds like straight-facedly boneheaded posturing makes the critique all the more pointed. This isn't subversive, but it is an argument, and by musical standards, it's a pretty good one.
[8]


Tiefschwarz ft. Chikinki – Wait and See
[5.92]


Alex Van Vliet: INDIE?! AND DANCE?! OMG!!!
[5]

Paul Scott: Featuring Chikinki!!! Chikinki for god’s sakes!! The poor man’s Cooper Temple Clause!!! Even with this major handicap, it’s not bad in a bleepier Duran Duran sort of way.
[5]

Barima Nyantekyi: Recently, people have been shooting criticisms about the new Tiefschwarz album material. Some of it trivial, some of it bad, the rest not quite sticking. And really, what sort of criticism is "they tried to write proper songs" supposed to be, if not one that isn't worth the breath involved? So, it is a joy to report that 'Wait And See' is a little foot-tapper of pleasure. Truth be told, it does sound like Numan doing 'Love Shack' by a group auditioning for Rachel S' next album only be told Duran are where it's at, and it doesn't possess the full bodied abandon, pop sensibility and greater-distance-from-Bodyrockers-vocals of Cagedbaby's '16 Lovers', but Ali, Basti and The Other One have just as good a handle on the dancefloors of tight-trousered peacocks as savvy, bombast-loving ravers. I don't condone the Scwarz team toning down the sound palette for the pop market necessarily, but there is nothing wrong with this and sometimes, growth and swagger can see you through.
[7]

Fergal O’Reilly: Throbbing bassline, strangled synth lines, loads of weird noises, general relentless repetition - this is pushing all of my typical You Should Dance To This Now buttons, but my ears keep reminding me how annoying the vocals are, and they're running all through the goddamn thing.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: Oh dear me, the brothers Schwarz appear to have used up all their ideas on their mind-blowing remixes. Their reworkings of Spektrum, Lopazz and Kelis were to music what Roger Federer is to tennis - beautiful and brutal in their mix of nuance and power. 'Wait And See' is, then, Andy Roddick, attempting to bludgeon the listener into submission with alarmingly unsubtle mediocre electro and ugly indie vocals, and coming off as distinctly second best.
[6]


Cut Copy - Future
[6.50]


Jessica Popper: Being highly uncool (and proud of it!), I've never heard of Cut Copy before, but this is pretty good. The singer could put a bit more enthusiasm in, but the music itself is quite great.
[7]

Barima Nyantekyi: While his Avalanches-versus-Mantronix-versus-Etienne DeCrecy-&-Alan Braxe roots are never too far in the mix, Dan Whitford's pop sensibilities have translated very well to singing his own songs. Not even the best of the "12 digital love letters" from Bright Like Neon Love, 'Future' comes on like 3 or so bands at the same time via his love of switching movements in-song (keeps 'em on their toes), the melodic sweeps and misty-eyed robot disco perfectly capturing the narrator's uncertainty about what lies next in store for the serendipitous couple in question. Make no mistake, CC are perfectly pitched in-between that space where one tries to hold on to their detachment or risk losing their composure and emotions so completely. Anyone who still expects their smirk to last all the way through the android surf song chorus in the middle has no heart.
[9]

Tom Ewing: Mournful and pointlessly cryptic synthpop which comes to life just before the chorus, deciding it wants to be the Human League and making a fair fist of it too. Until that self-regarding vocalist comes back in like cold tea down your back. (Later on they have a stab at New Order too but you'll have switched off by then. Surely.)
[5]

Mike Barthel: I dunno, I just feel like if you're an electronic group and you name a song "Future," it better be the best thing ever, like if you're a rock band and name your song "Drinking" or "Fucking" or "Well I Guess I'm 40 Now." This isn't really the best thing ever, but it's nice, and I shouldn't fault it for not living up to my warped rubrick of particularity.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly: I wish more 80s-fixated types would be like this. I mean, fair enough he's enamoured of his Human League-ish synth blips, but he puts them to fairly inventive use, and he also manages to make it simultaneously quite danceable and also sad and wistful; I find the marriage of the spaced out, moody synth sound and the droney vocal delivering its detached narrative rather compelling.
[8]


Brooke Valentine ft. Li’l Jon & Big Boi - Girlfight
[7.23]


Tom Ewing: Oh no oh no I have woken up transformed into one of those people who thinks all Lil Jon productions sound the same and hate his ugly shouting. I can appreciate the miasmic guitar quicksand anchoring this but it's all just a bit too rock for me. Speaking of which Big Boi's turn sounds as appropriate as a Bowie guest-slot on a Sabbath record.
[4]

Dom Passantino: OK, if this was the States, we’d have severe crunk fatigue by now, but as it is The Kids are buying more copies of the new Finch album than “Crunk Juice”, so this ish is still kinda refreshing to us. Big Boi recycles the same verse he kicked on “A.D.I.D.A.S.” two years ago, but then again Brooke is a much more visually appealing proposition than Killer Mike was. Killer Mike did have bigger tits though. Hmmm.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Entirely the best part of this is random-interjection-guy (otherwise known as ‘feat.’). He is performing the most crucial of all fight-scene duties--holding the coats--whilst also comfortably handling the duties of ‘egger on’. “Girlfight!”, he yells; a heady mixture of trepidation, delight and broadcast in his tone. Meanwhile, Ms.Valentine dons her boots and stamps on a human face. Forever.
[2]

Alex Macpherson: This song is spectacular! Brooke's the first crunk'n'b singer to really take on the unbridled aggression of crunk proper. Whereas Ciara defuses the latent testosterone neatly and Nivea pretty much ignores it entirely, Brooke's as up for a spot of the old ultra-violence as her boys. Recognising this, Lil Jon has thoughtfully upped the aggro level by a thousand: crunching, twisted metal guitars and gothic chorales back up those familiar and still-irresistible sharp beats and shrieking rave sounds, and over it all Brooke threatens you with elbows in your brain. The video is equally superb, too: Mean Girls getting totally crunk.
[10]

Alex Linsdell: This is brilliant because of the screeches and the splashes and the swagger, it is luscious without being wet and jagged without being abrasive. Everyone involved in the creation of this record has stood on a drawing pin and they are embracing the resulting sensations, and using the energy, to godlike effect. Not pain; just, y’know, a different way of feeling, and something to revel in. The exhilaration of strenuous exercise is here, the joys of acupuncture even. A massive, glorious tangle of sound, but each individual element crisp and needle-sharp; all angles and triangles and zigzags and a total refusal to back down from ANYTHING.
[9]


Rachel Stevens – So Good
[7.50]


Paul Scott: It’s a hell of a long way to fall from the dizzying joy of ‘Some Girls’ to such an intensely mediocre slice of faux disco pop in the space of 12 months. Oozing dead eyed smugness and completely lacking any of the wit and sprightly invention that made her previous singles so appealing, the lyrics are a string of vacant self help platitudes of the sort usually found on the kind of 4/4 house junk that makes Dave Pearce pull on his trance trousers. The pneumatically pumping production just passes by in a barely perfunctory manner, not even making an attempt at a decent hook. It seem lazily designed to curry favour with the Popjustice crowd but it’s a hell of a lot more Danii Minouge than Kylie. Really, if the rather wonderful Negotiate With Love only just scraped the top 10 then the question has to be asked: can this even be described as pop? (If we are to take pop as to mean simply popular that is, if we are to take it as an aesthetic genre definition then… blah blah etc)
[3]

Fergal O’Reilly: Like its predecessor, basically a stream of bits that would be the sole highlight in most other songs. In lieu of a more insightful analysis, here is a joyfully idiot-grinned partial list: Goldfrapp-like "you, you, you"s, Madonna-like "so good, so good, so good" harmonies, the line "I'd like to watch you suffer ever so slightly", the mad detuned squiggle solo that ushers in the final chorus, the sheer sweeping electropop majesty of the thing, and the way it causes you to keep going "have you heard the new Rachel Steeevens single? Ah, it's so good", before realising what you've just done and collapsing in a heap at the hilarity of it all.
[10]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: The problem is - knowing how good Rachel Stevens singles can be, and how horrendously bad, how are you supposed to react to a decent but rather boring one? There's the usual Goldfrapp-lite tinny dark electro bass, the odd line that plays to her icy-blank delivery ("I'd like to watch you suffer ever so slightly"), but that's it. Nothing that grabs, nothing that lures, nothing that hooks, nothing.
[6]

Alex Linsdell: It is stunning and treasureable and yet it doesn’t seem to do anything especially noteworthy, gasp-glide-whoosh as you would expect from the streamlined Rachelexpress but unwilling to rock the boat with audiokinks, playing it pretty safe. “Negotiate With Love” had nifty sections and they were all neatly bolted together and you could coo at them in happy chronological order. This, on the other hand, is a blank-eyed test-tube baby with genetically-encoded Special Features that are somewhat lost under the glossy sheen at first; several plays later you enter listener-puberty and the surly stomach-churning stamp-crack aspects unexpectedly splurge out through teeth and eyeballs and fingertips, and lo! she is the robots. A record that is so obsessed with sounding effortless that it almost backfires, you almost believe it. A galaxy of sound ruthlessly condensed into aerodynamic pellet form and nearly lost forever. But not quite.
[9]

Alex Macpherson: Rachel Stevens and Richard X together again, this time coming on like latter-day Kylie Minogue doing prime Duran Duran. Doesn't that sound like the best pop song in the history of the world? Almost like it was focus grouped especially for you. And it's strong enough: disco whooshes, itchy-scratchy bleeps, a terrific descending "you you you" line. But it's also somehow underwhelming; predictable, from the word go. Like watching a film when someone's told you the ending, you can appreciate the craft but really miss the thrill.
[7]


Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
[8.50]


Joe Macare: Here's the thing: due in part to transatlantic release date differences, this song has established itself as such a mainstay of my life and such a touchstone for so many people, that it already feels daunting trying to write about it. Let me put it this way: you could lock a thousand critically acceptable bands in a thousand recording studios for a thousand years, and they would never come up with anything that spoke to and of the human condition with such perspicacity, emotionally depth, and life-affirming vim and vigour. Oh, they say, but what does it actually sound like? It sounds like the next step in guitar pop evolution. It sounds quiet, loud, angry, joyful, it sounds like someone who regrets everything and nothing. And it has the greatest “yeahs!” of the 21st century.
[10]

Peter Parrish: You dumped me ... but it turns out I’m pleased! Oh ho, surprise plot twist in a song--most impressive. But just because Kelly Clarkson has designs on being The Usual Suspects of pop, it doesn’t give her an automatic pass to the lounge of genius. I don’t care if she *is* my father, I want more excitement than ‘gets louder for the chorus’. Oh hey, someone left their origami unicorn behind.
[4]

Alex Linsdell: I really hope she IS “so moving on”; who’s she trying to convince here? I don’t believe her, frankly, which is why this is such an roaringly perfect record; she knows that she’s kidding no one and is sufficiently gifted as a vocalist
[/actress?] that she could pretend otherwise if she wanted to. She doesn’t. The lyrics are saying one thing and the vocal another; conflict and agony stretch between them in tripwire-stylee, and you are floored by it.
[9]

Jessica Popper: I now can't watch this video without wishing it was the far superior Kidz Bop version. I'm not a big fan of Kelly Clarkson (well to be more precise I can't stand her) but this is a great song - it just deserves a better singer. Am I the only one to notice her stubborn avoidance of the tune? However, those foghorn noises she calls singing actually work rather well with this angry song, for which shouting is more appropriate and no-one is better at shouting than Kelly Clarkson.
[8]

Alex Macpherson: Such a tough song to write about, always a sign of something special. You can chat about the way Kelly jacks droning Interpol riffs and Yeah Yeah Yeahs feedback note-for-note and buffs them up into perfect polished pop. Or maybe her own exquisite vocal performance, switching from raging majesty to, like, totally rad high school affectation to sudden plaintiveness at the flick of a switch. But somehow that's not enough, it doesn't capture the sense of liberation at the heart of 'Since U Been Gone': the way it makes you bounce and jump and scream along (of course, this is the other reason it's hard to write about: you can't type when you're in mid-air!). The way it's not merely about being totally over some cunt, but in fact is the process of washing that man right out of my hair.
[10]

Mike Barthel: What I used to do was this: start the song playing just as the train pulled out of the last stop in Brooklyn, let it roar as the train hit maximum speed through the tunnel under the river, and it would end, right on cue, just as the doors opened at the first stop in Manhattan, the gradual winding-down of the dymanics perfectly mirroring the train's braking. This is a song that walks along with you, that becomes part of your life, but grabs you at certain key moments (those four muted guitar hits before the first chorus mirroring "Creep," but instead of signaling an operatic emotional catharsis, they marked an ecstatic announcement of liberty: someone propelled upwards by the force of the instruments placed around her in a circle). This song is love because it interjects itself into your life at inopportune times but always makes itself welcome, and you have a fully-formed memory of it, maybe not an accurate one, but even when it's not there, you can bring it out of your thoughts and live with it a little. Anyone that's ever written a song with a guitar should be a little bit ashamed. I know I am. Song of last year, song of this year, song of every year to come, at least until it stops playing.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-07-04
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