The Singles Jukebox
Joss Whedon



hello, and welcome to the fallow period. This week, Amy Lee refuses to change the record, Jibbs auditions for "Pimp My Exit Poll", India.Arie in "hippyish bobbins" shocker, Steve Holy cordially invites everyone to stare at his massive cock, and members of Midtown, The Academy Is, Gym Class Heroes and The Sounds somehow manage to bang their collective skulls together and come up with a decent band name. First, though, Breaking Benjamin, who opened their mouths to scream but could only make a noise that sounded a bit like bleating.


Breaking Benjamin - The Diary of Jane
[Watch the Video]
[3.00]

Barry Schwartz: I have a soft spot for stuff like this: pussy-ass pop songs shrouded in drop-tuned triple rectified guitars and pained vocals. Papa Roach’s “Scars,” for instance, could easily be on the Disney Channel with a little tweaking and maybe Zack or Cody on the vox. Breaking Benjamin do that type of thing better than most; I cannot condone it, but I refuse to condemn it.
[5]

Hillary Brown: The only thing I actively like in this song is the little bitty cymbal that comes in maybe three times total. It’s a hit on what I think is the bulgy part of the cymbal, at the top, so it’s sort of a tiny clang, and it’s a nice tiny clang. The rest of it can go jump in a lake.
[3]

Joseph McCombs: I’ll buy him a bookmark since he lost his place in the diary. Maybe then he’ll shut up.
[3]

Peter Parrish: One of those echoey minor-chord riff starts that says “ooh, it’s a bit spooky,” quickly joined by a fuzzed up friend which says “fear not, the crunchy power chords will be here soon!” Which, indeed, they are. Lead bloke (I’ll assume that’s Benjamin) has a vaguely growly voice that has to be overlaid fifty-seven times in order to gain any sense of authority. He’s labouring under the misapprehension that the way to a girl’s heart is through her diary ... and by yelling curiously porn-centric dialogue. After a couple of direct queries as to whether I “liked that,” I wondered if Benny was going to inquire who my father was. Dear Diary, I hope the creepy guy leaves me alone today.
[1]


The Jet Set - Just Call Me
[Watch the Video]
[3.60]

David Moore: A real howler of a “cautionary tale” that comes out part snuff fantasy and part shaggy dog story, all set to awkward gothic hip-hop. The story: father sells his daughter as a sex slave, she kills a guy to escape, then seduces a bunch of other guys to get home or something (shock, there are plot holes). And finally the idiot narrator claims “it could happen to you.” Fefe Dobson should find these people and kick their asses.
[1]

Rodney J. Greene: The gentleman member of Jet Set's vocals are a bit slight, sounding too uninvested for the song‘s subject matter, but the lady member's singing is anything but, angry at the indignities she's suffered. The canned-drama strings and Germanic choir don't instill quite the sense of importance they try to impart, but the firebrand singer renders such things unimportant.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: I’m not entirely sure what this is, but it seems to have pretensions to seriousness and importance when it in fact is a kind of ludicrously overwrought mess of badly-pastiched R&B subgenres thrown together with a narrative completely let down by the awful lyrics.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: A pretty lame attempt at being outrageous which ends up as misogynist, without the flow or wit of someone like Eminem. I usually moan about records from non-anglophone nations being incomprehensible, but this is in English rather than Polish, and I don't think it benefits much.
[3]


Paul Simon - That's Me
[4.60]

Ian Mathers: The creaky guitar-noise loop that anchors the beginning is the most sympathetic backing Simon's had for years. But then Eno and Simon drop in this portentously AOR acoustic guitar reverie, which would be tolerable. Except that then they never go back to the minimalist putter of the fine beginning, and they fritter away the end of “That's Me” on an ill-fated attempt to kind-of rock.
[5]

Peter Parrish: Not even interesting enough to merit the necessary effort involved in thinking up new metaphors for blandness. I’m sorry, that’s a shamefully lazy cop-out; but then again so is this song.
[2]

Rodney J. Greene: A freeform-structured ballad that never quite moves in the directions you expect. A myriad of clashing guitar parts swirl about and somehow coalesce into a compelling whole. The lyrics are kind of drivel, in the ways you might expect of an aging singer-songwriter, but damn it, this sounds cool.
[7]

Barry Schwartz: Ultimately just masking that he hasn’t written an actual good tune since people besides Paul Simon found Edie Brickell desirable. Yeah, I said that.
[4]


Jibbs - Chain Hang Low
[Watch the Video]
[4.60]

Edward Oculicz: Being outclassed and out-charisma-ed by a bunch of chanting kids is not a particularly good look, to be honest.
[3]

Rodney J. Greene: After the initial levity of the nursery rhyme-laden hook, things suddenly turn dark, skittering hats and malevolent bass scaring off anyone who might dare covet his neckpiece. Jibbs isn't as clever as he supposes, dropping clunkers like "Charm so heavy that my neck don't like me," and it keeps him one step short of finding gold.
[7]

Teresa Nieman: A less ominous sounding “Grillz”? Chains have a more timeless appeal than diamond-encrusted teeth, though, and the song is quite catchy. Plus, I hear Jibbs is, like, 15. He could probably kick Chris Brown’s ass (both musically and otherwise). That’s never a bad thing.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: This is Southern rap with a surprisingly plinky backing and a childish lilt in places—even without the kiddie chorus. I almost always like the hip-hop that comes along on the Jukebox, but this is irritating, and without any significant compensating plus points that I can spot.
[2]


Betty Curse - God This Hurts
[4.67]

Ian Mathers: In which Hannah from 28 Days Later (no, seriously) goes goth-punk-pop and reveals that her voice kind of sounds like Manda Rin's. As unexpected career changes go it could be much worse; the band wisely keeps the emphasis on the chorus, where sheer vocal and instrumental force overshadows any deficiencies in Burns' vocal technique, as opposed to the slightly clunky verses.
[6]

David Moore: Betty Curse has a nice teenpop girl-punk snarl, like Hilary Duff throwing a temper tantrum. But she’s undermined by the overkill guitar thrash on the chorus, spread too thick and too evenly. Curse’s bratty whine, as a result, gets lost in the mess.
[6]

Peter Parrish: Betty Curse is the much anticipated future project of teen-drama-with-pop-culture-references japester, Joss Whedon. Our sassy, empowered heroine is an ordinary high schooler with the usual wide range of friends; the geek, the cheerleader, the geeky cheerleader—but she also hides a terrible secret. Yes, Betty was born under a full moon on the site of an Ancient Indian Burial Ground™ while black cats wandered around and her parents tried to shoo them off by smashing mirrors. Everyone she encounters is subsequently doomed to meet with terrible failure. This guitar chugg-o-thon (quiet bits for verses, slightly louder bits for the chorus) will be the theme tune that reflects Betty’s inner angsty turmoil. It is also doomed to meet with terrible failure.
[2]

Teresa Nieman: With a name like Betty Curse, I was expecting either a trashy, bleach-blonde, post-disco diva (nope)—or a rejected Suicide Girl with smudged eyeliner (bingo!). Despite her image, this tune is rather breezy and enjoyable. Not great by any means, but manages to make Amy Lee and her pallbearers look that much lamer.
[7]


India.Arie - There's Hope
[4.80]

Ian Mathers: You're in trouble when the best hook in your new single is the sampled bit of your first hit crammed into the intro.
[4]

David Moore: “Pleasant” and “uplifting.” Or, boring and obnoxious. We learn from India Arie that “it doesn’t cost a thing to smile” and “you don’t have to pay to laugh”…look, I’m not saying there’s nothing to hope for, but next time ditch the empty optimism and provide an actual reason. And “because God said so” doesn’t count.
[4]

Hillary Brown: While she has a tendency to say her own name a bit too often in her songs, it is a mellifluous name and it sounds nice when she sings it. Anyway, I guess I missed India Arie and didn’t realize it. She’s got the soul thing down so well, without coming off preachy (even though her lyrical content clearly is) or boring or even trying too hard.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: I like her laid-back voice, and she has a lot of control of it—there are lots of small moments of real vocal delight here. Unfortunately there is barely a tune to support this—it sounds like the kind of irritaing positivity song you might make up in ten minutes.
[6]


Trentemoller - Rykketid
[4.80]

Edward Oculicz: Bleepy, squelchy duhnce music, sure to please the indie kids, and other people who find something that sounds pretty much the same for its entire running length interesting and exciting for reasons not entirely apparent to me.
[4]

Teresa Nieman: Crunchy, uninspired techno, and beats so repetitive they could easily drive one batty.
[2]

Rodney J. Greene: A beat, some sci-fi noises, what else do you really need? Nothing, if you don't aspire to anything beyond functionality.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: Fairly funky Danish electronica, reminding me of some old trance, from back when that meant hypnotic techno rather than poppy house. It deploys its various effects and variations with great judgment and skill—a fine compelling single.
[8]


Evanescence - Call Me When You're Sober
[Watch the Video]
[4.83]

David Moore: Agony onslaughts are Evanescence’s bread and butter, so this song is lacking; it’s like Amy Lee lightened up a little and forgot to tell the band, confused as to whether or not this is supposed to be an Evanescence song.
[6]

Teresa Nieman: Evanescence—who happily seem to have abandoned the angry male rapping—may be the only artists that can make a song titled “Call Me When You’re Sober,” without a tinge of humor. Not even the unintentional kind.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Rooted in the reality of a kind of soured love story, the grandiose, enormous drama Amy Lee wrings out of “Call Me When You're Sober” doesn’t have that much impact. It’s still brooding, intense, and enjoyable, even if there’s a bit in the middle that is straight out of their mega-hit with miminal alteration. Also, needs a shouty man.
[7]

Barry Schwartz: As someone who has been intoxicated pretty much since Memorial Day I can’t help but feel Lee is singing directly to me. Bonus points.
[3]


Gogol Bordello - Not a Crime
[Watch the Video]
[4.83]

Peter Parrish: “In the old times / It was not a crime,” slurs the boozy sing-a-long-around-the-campfire chorus (which, in fact, is most of the song); presumably referring to the gratuitous use of accordion—still punishable by death as recently as 1964. This most ridiculous of instrumental sounds is employed in such a way that it is impossible to think of anything except inebriated Eastern Europeans furiously bending their knees and clashing bottles of dubious grog. Stereotypical in the extreme, and probably intentionally so.
[5]

David Moore: I listen to this and I can see the cabaret dancers and the big drum and the moustache and the shaving cream and Eugene Hutz crowd-surfing and pounding his drumsticks perilously close to the sprinkler system and other assorted indicators of pandemonium. The recorded version of “Not a Crime” isn’t perfect—it lulls a little in the middle instead of plowing through. But it’s loosely performed and unobtrusively mixed, and it really captures Gogol’s stage energy, even if it doesn’t really work as a single.
[7]

Ian Mathers: When Eugene Hutz and his band of idiots keep yelling “in the old time, it was not a crime!” and “drop the charges!” it makes me want to criminalize whatever it is they're doing immediately. As for what it is that's not a crime, the song makes think it's sheep shagging or something equally moronically depraved, but the crappy-cod Rasta interjections suggest it's probably smoking pot, or at least on that level of banality. One point for the passable dub interlude.
[1]

Edward Oculicz: As partial as I am to silly accents, this is a bridge too far. Which is a pity because this kind of gypsy-esque rock has a rather appealing intensity to it. At least for part of it, because it does go on and on rather a lot.
[4]


Cobra Starship - Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)
[Watch the Video]
[5.00]

Ian Mathers: Much like the movie, banal, loud, appealing to the lowest common denominator as much as possible (the rap verse = the Sony product placements), and somehow slightly wonderful.
[7]

Teresa Nieman: A parody band for one of the most hyped movies in years might look good on paper, but this is more Simple Plan than Spinal Tap. The rap verse is mildly fun—but I’d rather just hear more Sam Jackson expletives.
[2]

David Moore: Not great, but it makes me want to go see this motherfucker.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Oh good, the viral marketing triumph. Thanks, everyone on every internet forum ever; you’ve ensured that cinematic promotional teams will never have to work again—they’ll just toss out “ironically” “hilarious” “names” and let you do all the running for their one-joke celluloid fantasies. Even writing about this makes me die a little bit inside. Some of those Photoshop gags were quite funny though. Funnier than, say, “pop-punk supergroup” Cobra Starship. Given the chance to cheekily mock the (urgh) phenomena, or at least acquiesce with an entertaining mash-up of “Trust in Me” and some passenger safety announcements, they’ve shed their skin only to reveal a rather boring, straight-ahead rock number. It’s not a parody, it’s not much fun, it’s just sort of ... there. Yes, I hate puppies too.
[4]


The Automatic - Recover
[Watch the Video]
[5.17]

Rodney J. Greene: I can deal with the third-tier garage-rock revivalisms, but the willfully off-key vocalist has me reaching for the stop button.
[2]

Ian Mathers: I hadn't expected to see The Automatic again after their last Jukebox appearance, but “Recover” isn't as bad as I'd feared; there's a very good moment near the end where they throw an unexpected stoppage into the middle of the chorus that should be standard but somehow is both surprising and satisfying. Other than that, “Recover” mostly continues the mainstreaming of a kind of adulterated dance-punk, but as radio fodder goes, it's pretty satisfying. I could live without them sneaking in lines like “let's dance your soul robotic!” ever again, though.
[6]

Teresa Nieman: As far as leftover Gen-X-ish pop rock goes, this is surprisingly tasty. It wisely sticks to the golden rule of having a decent hook that people will be humming for at least a few hours after hearing it. Not bad, not bad at all.
[8]

Joseph McCombs: Is that the opening from “Jungle Love”? What an ignominious way to begin. Fortunately this one gets better as it goes: spastic vocals atop a bassline that’s only a note or two short of Billy Squier’s “Everybody Wants You,” everyone excited about everything and nothing at once.
[6]


Steve Holy - Brand New Girlfriend
[Watch the Video]
[5.80]

Hillary Brown: Cute country pop that almost captures the feeling of new infatuation as well as Art Brut. Not quite, though.
[6]

Joseph McCombs: You’ll have to forgive my incredulity at the premise: We begin with the guy wanting to settle down and the girl having commitment issues? Holy has a grand, playful time once this kicks in, but no listener deserves to be subjected to his cornpone “kissy kissy smoochy smoochy.”
[4]

Edward Oculicz: Yes! A silly, throw-away and genuinely enjoyable country ditty, half novelty, half bona-fide cuite pop song. The execution here is fantastic—piano runs and fiddles, a deceptive opening, kind of like a weepie at a line-dance class, before it becomes upbeat and silly. The conceit, the rubbing-the-nose-in-it, and the ridiculous glee here is in fact a major turn-on.
[8]

David Moore: I miss Trace Adkins. “Swing” is the story about a pathetic loser who, at the end of the night, receives the pity of the last remaining barfly and then lies about it to his friends afterwards. This pathetic loser gets himself a brand new girlfriend and goes kissy kissy smoochy smoochy and talks mushy mushy and feels like a puppy dog. Trace never gets to see them naked twice, but at least he has some dignity.
[4]


Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill
[Watch the Video]
[5.83]

Ian Mathers: If “We think the same things at the same time / We just can't do anything about it” isn't the most perfect requiem for progressives everywhere right now, please tell me what is.
[9]

Rodney J. Greene: I've never heard Radiohead. Well, actually, I have. A friend played me "Creep" once after being astonished by this fact, but the point is that I'm coming into this completely blind. Yorke cautiously winds his way through a cheerless, serpentine melody over twitchy electronic percussion, the verses separated by atmospheric interludes. This is more or less what I'd imagined Radiohead (or in this case, not-Radiohead) as sounding like, and I can see what the fuss is about.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: Desperately serious miserabilism. The music is electronica, but is just a subdued, awkward backing for his voice, which I never cared for at all. It's vaguely interesting on a musical level, but I found it hard to pay attention.
[2]

Barry Schwartz: The Eraser may be the first Radiohead-related release that sounds exactly as one expects it to, but that doesn’t make it, “Harrowdown Hill” in particular, any less remarkable.
[8]


Klee - Die Stadt
[Watch the Video]
[6.60]

Edward Oculicz: Sounding more like some dodgy indie pop group going a bit electro, this is in fact a more organic direction for Klee, who make wonderfully cool electro with the warmest sounding German vocals in pop. This has a wonderfully soothing melody alongside the slightly off-kilter, swaying washes of electronica over the gentle strum.
[9]

Ian Mathers: The lovely refrain translates to “The city today is like a song and I am full of memories,” and Klee perfectly summon up that feeling of restful/restive remembrance, the wistful combination of being surrounded by people who, you are sure, have no idea why you can only half-smile today.
[8]

Peter Parrish: Even if a softer mood is being aimed for, a slightly crazed outburst over the intro doesn’t really let it settle. In fact, it’s rather like drifting into slumber as someone plays subliminal tapes detailing just how much they hate you.
[7]

Teresa Nieman: I don’t know what’s being yelled in the opening line, but everything sounds angrier in German, and I’m pretty sure it’s not “Let’s get this party started!” Sadly, things get far less aggressive, and while I did listen to it many times, I can’t promise I didn’t ever fall asleep. As lullabies go, however, “Die Stadt” is adequately soothing.
[5]


DMX - Lord Give Me a Sign
[Watch the Video]
[7.40]

Rodney J. Greene: DMX has finally taken the step from praying at the end of his records to making full-blown Christ-hop. As with everything Earl Simmons does, this is a passionate affair. The arrangement is appropriately melodramatic, and during the bridge, when he leads the choir in song, he can't help taking the listener higher.
[9]

Joseph McCombs: X is at his most melodic here, but the only thing scarier than a crackhead is a crackhead who’s found Jesus. Little scares me more than the violently faithful, and if X ever hears James Brown and the First Family’s “Control (People Go Where We Send You),” it’s going to end ugly.
[6]

Barry Schwartz: Simultaneously uplifting, deeply introspective and violently passionate, DMX’s revuenated bark is responsible for the first Gospel song that can pump you up enough to kill somebody.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: Hardcore rap with his usual gruff and tough delivery, which suits the preaching trope invoked by the lyrics. The backing is mostly surprisingly demure, but that lets DMX star, and he can carry that off superbly, sounding tormented and angry. The only weakness is the sung part of the chorus—it’s not nearly forceful enough to match the rap. Nonetheless, one of my favorite hip-hop singles of the year.
[9]


Check out the Singles Jukebox podcast to hear some of the tracks talked about here.


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-08-23
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