It Could Happen To YOU!
eek 23 = COMEBACK CITY! McFly! Super Furry Animals! Babyshambles! Iron Maiden! Fischerspooner! Black Rebel Motorcycle Club! They have returned to claim the pyramids! And the panel are… well, a bit underwhelmed, really. Still, the feller from the Darkness has done a cover of Sparks’ biggest hit, that’s bound to put the spring in their step… isn’t it?
British Whale – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us
Cecily Nowell-Smith: I imagine this was considered a good idea because "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" is rather high, and Justin Hawkins is famous for singing falsetto, but, um, no. The thing about "TTABEFTBOU" is that it requires really good breath and note control, a really clipped style, to sing at all effectively, and Hawkins has near to zero technique. Oh, it works with the histrionirock of The Darkness, where you can wail all over the place and since you're singing against yowly guitars it's not that important. It doesn't work when you're swooping between notes and missing half of them, relying on melisma to get you through: all it does is stomp flatfooted over whatever effect the song may have had.
Joe Macare: Just as Electric Six's cover of 'Radio Ga Ga' marked the point at which it became clear that their schtick was no longer funny or fun, this confirms that Justin Hawkins has nothing more to offer in the way of entertainment. It starts off all bouncy and a little bit like a Regency-era 'Girls & Boys', then you start thinking "hmmm, but in what way does this really differ from the original?", and then the pointless and irritating guitars come in. See, The Darkness worked when it seemed like they genuinely loved the stuff they were emulating and didn't care whether other people hated it or thought it was 'ironic' - whereas this, unfortunately, bears the taint of "ha ha, DO YOU SEE?". I'm afraid I don't.
Fergal O’Reilly: Actually goes some way to making the Sparks version seem comparatively restrained, by ramping up the irritating virtuosity of almost every aspect. This results in an excessively wacky mess where the original was just kind of genuinely, compellingly weird - Justin Hawkins' self-satisfied shrieking doesn't really compete with Russ Mael sounding unnervingly like a German woman. The three points are for putting money in the Mael brothers' pockets, which I am broadly in favour of.
Paul Scott: Hawkins manages to totally cut off the ornate strangeness of the original, replacing it with unlovable histrionics unsuited to the song. Bypassing continental weirdness he irons out the jarring melodrama, smirking his way through such wonderfully evocative but completely barmy lines like "The rain is pouring on the foreign town, the bullets cannot cut you down." Poker faced seriousness is needed for music and words this far over the top to work, otherwise the whole edifice crumbles and what more are you left with than a glorified novelty act?
Babyshambles – Fuck Forever
Edward Oculicz: Pete Doherty is a headline with absolutely no charisma; let alone enough to float two projects. This aside, this is a hideous, nauseating mess of a song with meaningless attempted-meaningful poetry even the Manic Street Preachers would snigger at, and a ghastly, charmless delivery of a slurring, dragging melody. As awful as "rock" gets, and seems about twice as long as it is.
Joe Macare: I have solemnly sworn to judge this song on its own merits, In fact, I will go as far to try and imagine that this is the work of an unsigned band of whom nobody has ever heard (ah, what an alternate world that would be). Hmm, well, the music is by-the-numbers shambolic in that sort of "isn't it cute how shambolic we are?" sort of way, but I'm afraid it's not cute at all. The singing, though, that stands out. It stands out as very, very bad. Terrible lyrics - " death or glory... New Labour... blah blah Tory... purgatory" - and they're delivered in a manner that doesn't deserve to be called half-hearted: it's something like 5%-hearted. Why, it's almost as if this singer (of whom I have never heard, remember) was some kind of vapid, smack-adddled...
Cecily Nowell-Smith: Whoever Pete Doherty's new guitarist is - can anyone name the other members of Babyshambles? - he has a nice way with an Interpol-esque intro. Pity it's ruined once the vocals come in, which are the same yowling confessional yammer we've come to expect, except especially tuneless this time around.
Paul Scott: Rumbling away like some shambling C-86 band cooped up in the echo chamber Dog Man Star-era Suede lost their minds in, this superficially seems to be the final death rattle that the myth makers need to give their hackneyed narrative a musical finale. Doherty sounds lost, snatching at shards of melody, the band half-heartedly trying to stitch together some kind of tune. The underwritten lyrics seem to disappear into his own mythology yet at the same time the "Fuck Forever" refrain suggests a desire to escape the tragic hero part he has been cast. If this is what he wants then he may yet succeed; the easiest way to get rid of a fanatical following is to give the impression you really don't give a fuck about them.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Ain’t No Easy Way
Paul Scott: The Grid’s ‘Swamp Thing’ as performed by luddites on some serious downers.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: The best bit in this is when the two singers overlap their parts at the end. It only goes on for ten seconds, tops, and as far as I'm concerned it could go on for minutes, could build up and up into this wild circling prairie noise. The whole song's just dirging over and over, the same chord repeated, the same lines repeated, the indie-blues drone you didn't know you needed, and then the drum hits just there and it should be something huge and strange, yowling to itself and going nowhere, and instead it stops.
Edward Oculicz: Harmonicas and sliding guitars should not have their good name (well, I like them) tarnished by association with such a lifeless exercise. At least somewhat different in tempo and texture from the usual tripe peddled by this lot, but who really spends a lot of time extolling the virtues of different colours and consistencies of dog shit? Kind of goes on and on forever, repeating the same horrible bit over and over again.
Joe Macare: I was prepared to hate this because Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have the most laughable names of any band ever, but it's surprised me by sounding a bit like the theme music from Firefly (what can I say, that song has grown on me...). Which is to say, it sounds like music from a Western, which is kind of appropriate because I get the sense that BRMC are all about buying into highly-mediated, historically inaccurate myths of rebellious masculinity.
Super Furry Animals – Lazer Beam
Dom Passantino: A Pink Floyd tribute band cover the Futurama theme tune during sound-check. Didn't SFA used to be able to make, you know, singles?
Paul Scott: At some point in the early nineties The Fall went “dance”. Obviously Mark E Smith’s lot didn’t really go for the loved up vibe, but ‘Free Range’ managed to gatecrash the top 40 and sounded like The Lightning Seeds having seven shades knocked out of them. Excitingly, for the first forty five seconds Lazer Beam sounds almost exactly the same before settling into a rather uninspired bout of squeaky easy listening pastiche. This is the Furries at their most irritating - unlike The Fall, not using their “eclectic” influences as fuel to power their music. Superficially intriguing ideas are simply just thrown together in the same jarring way that an office japester might select clothing, forced quirkiness failing to disguise a fundamental lack of inspiration.
Edward Oculicz: Never before have so many dense, interesting and exciting sounds combined to make something so boring. The individual touches - the string flights, the cheesy guitars, the silly chorus, are fantastic. But it doesn't hold together, it just flits around without any of it sticking. Please go back to sounding like you did on "Guerrilla", guys.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: Dudes seriously need to lay off the pot; did we need that incomprehensible spoken-word intro? Or the arpeggio "space chariots..." wibble in the middle? We didn't; but we need the crazy choral blast, the hyperactive strings, the dopey squiggle of theremins or oscillators or whatever it is makes such a stupid-good-feeling of a sound. I didn't know I'd missed the SFA until now.
Snoop Dogg – Ups & Downs
Edward Oculicz: Snoop seems to have become some kind of sacred cow, and everything he does is gone over with a fine tooth comb to find SOMETHING to recommend it for, because, dudes, it's Snoop, and he doesn't do bad tracks. Well, yes he does, here's your proof.
Dom Passantino: When he's on, he's on. When he's not, by God does Snoop Dogg release some shit. Bee Gees sample, verses so phoned in he's using up all his free minutes, some dude talking over the end of it, like they used to do in the mid 1990s, production by the guy that brought you Shanice. Woeful.
Joe Macare: There have been many sides to Snoop Dogg over the years: the young g-funk gangbanger, the No Limit soldier, the benign party-loving stoner, the immaculately dressed pimp with a nasty streak... But this one seems new: a soulful, introspective, almost philosophical - nay, even spiritual! - side. The overall effect is like being at a church service where Snoop is delivering the sermon, and the Bee Gees (sampled here) are the choir. That's better than tambourines, men in bad jumpers trying to be trendy, and a guitar with a rainbow strap, which is what church was like when I was a lad.
Paul Scott: Perhaps it wasn't Snoop at all. Maybe his presence on ‘Drop It Like It's Hot’ and ‘Signs’ was nothing but a fluke. This exercise in water treading would unfortunately seem to bear out this hypothesis; Snoop was lucky. Thing is, despite the general laziness that surrounds him here, his natural charm and dexterous flow win through. Even when he isn’t really trying Snoop towers above most of his peers, with a flash of lazy grin and a few sly syllables he really can get away with murder.
Iron Maiden – The Trooper
Alex Macpherson: Har har har let's all laugh at Iron Maiden because they have a wacko fanbase which still keeps turning out in large enough numbers to make their singles top 10. Actually, let's stop laughing because said singles are still fucking dreadful metal monstrosities. They're dinosaurs, but not the kick-ass cool ones with claws bigger than your head; they're the rubbish, lumbering half-wits which were probably the first to die out. So HURRY UP AND DO SO!
Fergal O’Reilly: Spittle-flecked and daft and quite fun. I dunno, it's just hard to imagine these old guys playing that ridiculous twiddly intro without smiling slightly. The shrieked opening line "you take my life but I'll take yours too" compounds this, as does the forty-seven minute guitar solo.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: I say 'dude' a lot; I've always blamed this on watching Bill And Ted and Wayne's World far, far too many times at an impressionable age. And here's another thing to blame on them: the utterly stupid adrenalin rush I get when people do that duelling-guitars Wyld Stallyns squiddly noise, and that DUMdigaDUMdigaDUMdigaDUMdiga lollopy bassline, and that thudthudthud of tom-toms hit at speed. Unfortunately I know something about military tactics in the seventeenth century, and therefore cannot appreciate the lyrics in the spirit intended as they are historically inaccurate. Seriously, by the time the bayonet-wielding infantry got forward the muskets would be long out of use, but-- DUMdigaDUMdigaDUMDUMDUMDUM thudthudthud WYLD STALLYNS!!!!
Joe Macare: This seems so much more appealing now that so many absurd, bad forms of metal - from Christian nu-metal to Mortiis - have followed. It's got a riff as good as the one from Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' or even the one from 'Whisky In The Jar': almost enough to make me dust off my air guitar.
Edward Oculicz: As fanbase-mobilising things go, I'd still rather hear this on the radio than Babyshambles by a long margin. Good at what it does, appreciable if not lovable. An impressive riff that's almost catchy and simply not anything exciting done with it beyond what you see coming. This will chart a lot higher than whatever wins the Jukebox this week. It's not as good as "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter". The end.
McFly – I’ll Be OK
Alex Macpherson: McFly's continued lack of credibility with the male student population of this accursed country - the demographic responsible for bringing us pretty much every terrible boys-wiv-guitars band of the past forever - speaks volumes. Specifically, it reveals that, much as they like to diss girls for not being able to deal with prettier females, there's nothing more petty than a boy confronted with boys hotter than him; the approval is thus transferred away from the fresh-faced, sharp-cheekboned twinks and towards junkie wasters who look like death warmed up. Even though it's the former making the great songs!
Dom Passantino: Didn't they release this song earlier this year? This is just "All About You" with the drummer getting a little more excited. Although it has to be said that the middle eight here apes Sparks far more impressive than Justin Hawkins could ever dream of.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: Remember how "All About You" was abysmal? Really, truly horrid, the kind of song you wanted to scrape out of your memory for its granny-pleasing sappy-stringed unctuousness, and how sad that made you because you really did want McFly to keep making good pop songs as well as being good pop product who knew how to motivate a street team and flirt with Fearne Cotton on Top of The Pops Saturday? I do. And so I'm a thousand times glad that this is so bright and bouncy and charming, lovely summer pop with obvious harmonies designed to be sung along to, no guitar solo, a bit of shimmery organ thieved off those The Who records they've been listening to: everything you could possibly want, and more. Plus, miracle of miracles, Tom Fletcher's voice seems to have become less irritating.
Edward Oculicz: A bad idea in theory who became very good in practice for the three minutes of "Obviously" are showing a strong "Theme from Friends" influence, and their voices have become quite a lot more horrid in the interim.
Fergal O’Reilly: Has an infectious cheeriness that's hard to resist, or at least would be if not for the presence of The Universe's Most Tooth-Grindingly Annoying Singer. If it was anybody else I'd be quite pleased they were OK, but not you, son.
Fischerspooner – Never Win
Edward Oculicz: A spiked, elastic groove. Two bits that sound like choruses. Nicely I-am-rubbish lyrics. All the ingredients are there, and while returns become vastly diminishing with subsequent listens, it's quite remarkable that a pair of hipsters have fashioned a Proper Pop Song that works. Maybe about one-twentieth as good as "Emerge" but good, anyway.
Fergal O’Reilly: Unengaging for the most part, just sort of chugging along, with the disinterested drone of the vocal not helping the situation. At one point there's a synth break that sounds a bit like a Game Boy, where it suddenly starts to resemble Styrofoam and becomes immensely more interesting. But then it goes back to being Fischerspooner on autopilot, which is, y'know, not so much.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: Could have been taken straight from the last LCD Soundsystem album - and that's not a compliment. It takes a lot to make disco double-handclaps boring, but this song can do it, a lumpen plod that's more dull indie than shiny robot electro.
Joe Macare:'Never Win' does something which would be unthinkable if Scissor Sisters hadn't done it already: take Pink Floyd (in this case, a large chunk of 'Another Brick In The Wall'), and make it good. Well actually, as far as I'm concerned Fischerspooner make it exceptional, probably the best thing they've done that I've heard. In part this is just 'cos it's fantastic electronic pop, but what's more unusual is how accurately Casey Spooner skewers the inevitable tensions and irreconcilable contradictions of dysfunctional co-dependence. Specifically in this case it's a creative partnership, but it could just as easily be a friendship or a love affair. It's a confessional, really - "If I was not me, I would hate me too - just like you do", sings Spooner, and you get the feeling he knows that he's the reason this relationship is dysfunctional. A confessional song isn't always a good thing, but it is when you can both relate to it, and dance to it.
Sons & Daughters – Taste The Last Girl
Paul Scott: ‘What Difference Does It Make’ as it would have been had Johnny Marr used a vibrator instead of a pick and Morrissey had been an unhinged Glaswegian dominatrix.
Fergal O’Reilly: Decent approximation of the Smiths' jauntier moments, complete with yodelling Morrissey-like backing vocals that aren't quite as intrusive as they were on "Dance Me In". Veers perilously towards feeble tuneless guitar scraping a couple of minutes in - no, no, come back away from the light - but rediscovers its rousing shouting formula mercifully quickly.
Dom Passantino: An indie Stars On 45, delighting the world with their "Smiths Melody" track. And, just like Stars on 45, it's kinda cute to hear great bits of great songs done slightly shabbily by some chancers, but at the end there's a massive feeling of "What's the point?" Extra points are gained for the overly Goth lyrics though.
Edward Oculicz: If "The Rat" by The Walkmen were a bit less paranoid and alone and a LOT more jaunty. Still frantic and chugging and charging but with a kind of attractive uneasiness to it. Quite great, anyway.
Xavier – Give Me The Night
Dom Passantino: A Panamanian performs electroclash as reinvented by Stock Aitken and Waterman. He then goes on to sing "Into The Grove" in the middle of it for no particular reason. I believe the term is "fabulous".
Fergal O’Reilly: Mega-slick synthdisco cover of some George Benson song I've never actually knowingly heard but now feel compelled to investigate. There are tons of carefully deployed Cool Noises And Shit going off all through it, which is fast becoming my benchmark of quality for this sort of thing, and Xavier's "whoah, that's a dude?" vocal is near-perfect.
Joe Macare: The world's most powerful mutant telepath has shut down his school for gifted youngsters and embarked on a career in disco, with devastating effects! Um... I would like to immediately retract that joke and specify that in no way is the name "Xavier" linked to comic books for me, I spend all my time in nightclubs dancing to unstoppably funky Italo-house like this, in fact the Xavier who made 'Give Me The Night' is the only Xavier I have ever heard of. And I know all the proper terms like "Italo-house" and would never employ them incorrectly. Honest, guv.
Cecily Nowell-Smith: Perfectly competent pop-house, but it doesn't really know what it's doing. There's both too much and too little going on - about four different verses, and none of them particularly memorable, and the accompaniment does nothing, bumbles along without buildup or breakdown. Criminal, too, to nick a bit of "Into The Groove" and not make it the "only when I'm dancing can I feel this free" line.
Edward Oculicz: The gayest song I have ever heard in my entire life, and yet, not actually fast enough to dance in a profoundly gay fashion to it. But, but, but, hilarious SAW-esque cover version, interpolates Madonna (with gender-specific pronouns intact, LISTEN AND LEARN TYLER JAMES) and does pretty much everything expected with riotous glee and sparkles and glitter and a cheesy grin. Be happy, very happy.
Do you like music? Are you any good at writing about it? Are you vaguely British or willing to put up with not being? If so, why not apply to write for the UK Singles Jukebox? Drop an email along to email@example.com along with a few sample singles reviews – fairly brief, and covering a decent range of stuff that you do and don’t like. You too can be just like Dom Passantino, but apart from that it’s quite good fun, really.
By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-08-15