The Singles Jukebox
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this week, Wayne Coyne rises up with fists, Rascal Flatts get a bit mopey, Paul Wall will probably regret those teeth when he's older, Norwegians be eating pizza, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers... just... no. First off, though: last week, Stylus celebrated the work of Jam & Lewis. This week, we get to witness the German act Karmah offering their own tribute to “Just Be Good to Me.” Ours is better, because we didn't decide to compose a rap featuring the lines: "People always talking about reputation / Trying to handle this situation / I get a little nervous / Yes indeed / Don't you know you're the one I need."


Karmah - Just Be Good to Me
[2.60]

Martin Skidmore: Bloody hell, it's "Every Breath You Take" again, but with added Eurorapping of a spectacularly dreadful variety. It's by far the worst rapping I've heard since TV adverts first caught on that hip-hop was big, and imagined that it was like singing but easier. It also has a standard issue high-pitched R&Bish female singer doing the title song when the rapper pisses off, sadly only temporarily. Really terrible.
[0]

Jessica Popper: I'd heard all manner of frightening things about this track before I heard it, so I may be the only one here asking: is it really that bad? I'd certainly rather listen to this than your Chris Jones and Fall Out! At The Disco. I'll take rubbish Euro mash-ups any day—at least these people have the excuse of English not being their first language.
[6]

Joris Gillet: I am not afraid to admit I actually kinda liked Puff Diddley's Police-sampling “I'll Be Missing You,” but this is a step down the musical foodchain too far even for me. It's exactly the same song but with a really crap rapper and some poor girl singing The SOS Band’s “Just Be Good to Me” as a chorus (yup, just like Beats International). It's possible to argue that this is the ultimate post-modern pop song: it recycles two songs famed for the fact that they themselves recycled well known pop-songs making it the mash-up to end all mash ups but in reality this is so cheap and dirty that it makes me want to have a shower after I've heard it.
[1]

Jonathan Bradley: When “I’ll Be Missing You” was released in 1997, “serious” music fans were outraged at Puffy’s sullying of a classic Police track with rapping and hip-hop beats. What they failed to understand, though, was that the Sting sample was the nadir of that Biggie-dedicated schmaltz-fest. It’s fucking Sting! The dude is up there with Robbie Williams in terms of Britain’s greatest crimes against pop music. So, please, don’t be outraged that Karmah is being disrespectful toward “I’ll Be Watching You.” If anything, the sample is improved by slowing it down—it doesn’t save it from the crippling disability of being a Police sample, however. The hook, though, is what really makes this song a bad idea; it boggles the mind as to why anyone would strip “Dub Be Good to Me” of its Clash interpolation and replace it with the Police. Sting is never preferable to Paul Simonon.
[1]


Big Brovaz - Hangin' Around
[3.00]

Steve Mannion: Back from the dumper the now apparently-more-grown-up BBs front a plinky piano plodder seemingly dedicated to scores of disenfranchised youths with nothing to do but loiter with no particular intent. Which is depressing enough coming from Placebo or whoever without this lot throwing their own hat in the ring.
[4]

Mike Barthel: I know we're all about repetition these days, but is anyone really going to want to hang around, Brovaz Big, if you keep playing those three notes over and over again? I used to live next to someone who played the same bass riff nonstop, and I guess he had people hanging around, but then, he was a pot dealer, so it doesn't really count.
[3]

Doug Robertson: If anyone was looking for a phrase to describe Big Brovaz contribution to the music scene, then “Hanging Around” sums it up pretty well. Even their so called ‘drug scandal’ barely managed to muster up much more than a couple of paragraphs of half-hearted outraged spluttering. Here, in a desperate attempt to try and salvage some sort of career out of what remains of the public’s vague disinterest in them, they’ve jettisoned any of the originality they once possessed—Nu Flow did sound fresh when it came out—and opted for a glossy, American style sheen, instantly making them indistinguishable from a million other R&B bands. They might as well have released a box containing a hundred filed down nails, as there really is no point to this whatsoever.
[2]

Iain Forrester: “I’m too popular, everybody knows my face!” This is just too easy, really.
[2]


Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Dani California
[3.25]

Martin Skidmore: They were on TOTP last week doing this, and I disliked it then, and got annoyed with the presenters' apparent excitement. The moronic lyrics go "California, rest in peace / Simultaneous release" and there is lots of horrid guitar playing. The tune will be familiar to anyone who has ever listened to any rock. What is the point of this band?
[1]

Jessica Popper: Embarrassing confession time: I really like the chorus of this song! The rest of it is just typical RHCP stuff but for some reason completely unknown reason I cannot help liking the chorus, although his pronunciation of "simultaneous" is unpleasant.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: George W. Bush visited California last week and received a somewhat reserved reception from Governor Schwarzenegger; seems Arnie didn’t want someone with an even lower approval rating than his own stinking up his re-election chances. What the press failed to report is that during the left coast visit, Bush, in turn, snubbed the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band being the only thing in the entire state whose fortunes had fallen even harder than Bush. Word is, the President loaded “Dani California,” on to his Presidential iPod and gave it a listen during the Air Force One flight. “This is horrible!” he is reported to have said. “It’s about as funky as Dick Cheney, and that mess of a guitar solo at the end is even more poorly planned than a Donald Rumsfeld war. From now on, my Presidential modern rock requirements shall be filled exclusively by My Chemical Romance.”
[3]

Hillary Brown: What I like is when the Chili Peppers do that thing where they steal all the best bits from the Minutemen and make me rock out against my will. They must’ve lent their copy of Double Nickels on the Dime to a pal, though, as they’re instead stuck with some Jamiroquai this time around.
[3]


Savage ft. Aaradhna - They Don't Know
[3.40]

Steve Mannion: Teary-eyed high-school romance played out by a Ja Rule soundalike and a sweet and lowdown female chorus that risks worming its way deep into the head after just a couple of plays—if only it wasn’t so derivative. Cute strings, though.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: Coming on like a Kiwi Fat Joe, Savage does the thug love thing, with Arahdna playing the role of Ashanti/Jennifer Lopez/generic R&B chick. It takes a good rapper to make this lightweight lover rap compelling, and although Savage has a cocksure confidence in his gravely voice, he has nothing interesting to say and the sickly sweet production is far too generic to carry the track. His previous single, with Akon, suggested that Savage could be worth listening to if he hooks up with the right people, but in these vapid surroundings, he’s just an Antipodean substitute for an unexceptional style already done better in the U.S.
[3]

Mike Barthel: At this point, I'm starting to regard the filter-cut trick deployed at the start of this song as less an annoying cliché and more a dangerous cheat. Sure, it lets the big bottom end thump through all the clearer, and it clears out midrange space for the female vocals, but it means you can put anything you want in the higher frequencies. Strings are the go-to, but you could sample like “Love is All” or some other indie band that mashes everything together and it'd have the same effect. Needless to say, this is not good.
[2]

Joris Gillet: This starts out really cute and sweet: some lovely delicate soul strings with a small dose of vinyl crackling for added realness. Then a female singer—that'll be Aradhna, I guess—does her bit, which is nice and dreamy. But things go downhill rather fast when Savage enters the stage. He's got a horrible gravely voice and raps like some random angry sitcom character. To make it all worse there are some other male voices in the second half of the track: slick and romantic, sounding vaguely like a New Zealandic Bone Thugs'n'Harmony and that really works well in this context. Sadly, we aren't allowed to enjoy it for long 'cause there is Savage again, effectively ruining the mood as soon as he opens his mouth.
[3]


Dirty Pretty Things - Bang Bang You're Dead
[3.75]

Steve Mannion: More bashy pub-rock from Barat and company, stepping only sideways from the Libertines template as they are. As jaunty and romantic as Franz Ferdinand but less dynamic somehow. Is it a London (rock) thing?
[5]

Martin Skidmore: There are a bunch of rock bands around at present which I find hard to distinguish. They'd all love to think they sound like a cross between punk and classic '60s UK rock, but what they actually sound like is the Strokes without the songwriting talent. This suffers by the comparison the title evokes with B.A. Robertson, which has to be a danger sign.
[3]

Jessica Popper: How many spin-offs does one crap band need anyway? For a while (due to having to listen to all the songs that came out this week in order to review them for this feature), I gained the ability to distinguish the indie bands of the moment from one another, but it seems I have lost it again—I still think this is the Kooks song every time it comes on Radio 1.
[3]

Doug Robertson: I had the good fortune to catch The Libertines live at the peak of their career—a period which lasted for almost a whole week in 2002—but ever since then it’s been pretty much a downhill slide of wasted talent and missed opportunities. This is little more than a Libertine’s B-side, so unless you’re desperately interested in the twisted soap opera that is Pete and Carl’s relationship, there really isn’t much on offer here.
[4]


Paul Wall – Girl
[4.00]

Ian Mathers: So either they Alvined Eugene Record's wrenching performance of the original “Oh Girl,” or they just brought in a shittier singer. Either way, I have this strong desire to start listening to the Chi-Lites right now, and I've had it confirmed for me again that Paul Wall works best as a verse, not a song.
[5]

Hillary Brown: Peppy sample points up Wall’s weaknesses. Dude. You need to bury that shit in some brass, not strip its mascara off like a mug shot.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: The Girl is being told by her friends that Paul “I treat these boppers like my music, all I want is the screw” Wall isn’t the dreamboat she originally thought he was. Maybe they’ve been listening to his lyrics? Paul “I’m on the hunt for one night love” Wall is outraged that her friends are questioning his commitment. The Girl thinks Paul “I’m a playa, ain’t no doubt” Wall is cheating on her. Paul “I’m on a mission for dime pieces and sexy ladies” Wall claims he’s chasing dollars, not women. Let’s be clear though: by quoting lyrics from the People’s Champ’s sleazier tracks, I’m not trying to PMRC him, nor do I mean to be cynical about his previously hidden romantic side. I’m simply reminding how much more entertaining Wall’s sticky drawl is when he’s talking about cars, sizzurp, and/or his grill.
[5]

Mike Barthel: Looks like the Kanye style has reached its "The City is Mine" moment. On the bright side, if you follow the historical analogy, the Houston scene's "Hard Knock Life" is next. Unless, of course, this is their "Hard Knock Life." Yikes.
[2]


Ne-Yo - When You're Mad
[4.60]

Martin Skidmore: I like Ne-Yo, though he's a touch nasal for me to really love him. This is as smooth as usual, and it's very likeable until you pay attention to the 'you're cute when you're angry' lyrics, a hugely patronising and insulting sexist attitude, one that I haven't heard in ages, which puts me completely off this.
[3]

Mike Barthel: Once I spent the better part of an afternoon listening to a classical station through a tiny transistor radio that distorted if you turned the volume past two. It turned even the most delicate passage into a torrent of overdriven noise, and quite frankly, it was fantastic. This is what it would take for me to enjoy this Ne-Yo song, but it would actually make sense: for a song about someone being mad, there doesn't seem to be much anger, and the only way lines like "Makes me want to take off all your clothes and sex you all over the place" could sound anything but ludicrous is through a generous haze of static. Alternately, a drill 'n' bass remix or punk cover will do nicely.
[2]

Iain Forrester: When Ne-Yo’s girl gets angry, he isn’t really listening because it makes him want to take off all her clothes and sex her all over the place. Which makes him a bit of a jerk but also makes for a much better song than the cloying “So Sick.”
[6]

John Seroff: Cookiecutter R&B heartthrobs have an increasingly short shelf life these days; forget Sisqo and Usher, have you even seen Mario lately? One reasonable gambit to forestall obsolescence is to go R. Kelly's route and be "outrageously real." Too bad Ne-Yo didn't take it a little further than just being silly; “When You're Mad” is too bland to inspire and isn't quite ridiculous enough to take seriously.
[4]


Snow Patrol - You're All I Have
[4.80]

Iain Forrester: A mystifying choice of first single as Eyes Open has so much better to offer. This is a monotonous mid-pace chug, which seems all glossy major-label sheen and not much heart, which can’t even be rescued by its pleasingly catchy chorus.
[4]

Ian Mathers: I'm torn; I don't like the way Gary Lightbody's voice is here (he seems almost to be straining to be more anonymous), and the lyrics retreat from the interesting semi-complexity of most of their Final Straw material. But at the same time, their shift away from the standard guitars into something a little more Radio Dept.-like is something I enthusiastically endorse, and I wind up singing along to the chorus despite the fact this mostly feels like Snow Patrol are dumbing down for the masses. Still better than most of the other rock singles on the radio.
[7]

Mike Barthel: I was going to make a bunch of jokes about "You Are My Joy" and Reindeer Section and Elf Power, but my co-worker heard this and stuck her head over the partition and said "Where'd you get that I want it I want it" and I can't argue with that sort of excitement, even if it still didn't make me like the song. (Actually, it mainly made me feel a bit overwhelmed.)
[3]

Martin Skidmore: The opening with its jingly bells sounds Christmassy, oddly, but it's all downhill from there. I half-like the harmonies, which they do quite well, but there's this numbing sense of trying to do classic rock songwriting and failing to come up with anything memorable.
[3]


The Boy Least Likely To - Be Gentle with Me
[5.00]

John Seroff: Sub-Volkswagen ad soundtrack fodder, “Be Gentle With Me” is the latest xeroxed entry in the Polyphonic Sufjan Milk Hotel tweestakes; are they growing these kids in vats now? For cryin' out loud, I like songs that feature toy piano and banjo, but this is too precious even for me.
[3]

Doug Robertson: The Boy Least Likely To he may be, but he’s defintely the boy most likely to go onto Stars in their Eyes and say “Tonight, Cat, I’m going to be Badly Drawn Boy.” Thankfully though, while Damon Gough is clearly an influence here, he’s managed to avoid taking on the irritable smugness which pervades most of the be-hatted one’s work and has instead crafted a gorgeous little music box-esque ditty which only someone with the stone heart of a statue would fail to love.
[7]

Hillary Brown: Illustrates where theory and reality diverge for me. Cute little tinkly sounds, a decent steady beat, chord progression that should melt my heart, and waa waa keyboard noises for backing vocals lead to more tolerance than love. Perhaps it’s the way the name of the band and the name of the song when put together create something completely different than when viewed separately. Or maybe I grow tired of glockenspiel in my old age.
[5]

Iain Forrester: Banjo, glockenspiel, suitably gentle bounce, sensitive lyrics and all-round prettiness all present and correct—something so undeniably cute normally ought to turn me into a gooey mess. Somehow this doesn’t quite work though, perhaps by trying a little bit too hard, and by the time it’s reached the burbling noises near the end I’m totally lost. Still, “If I wasn’t so happy, I wouldn’t be so scared of dying”? Awww!
[6]


The Raconteurs - Steady as She Goes
[5.20]

Ian Mathers: Wait, so now Jack White has not one but two outlets from which to make our airwaves more boring? Purely predictable retro thrash, but where the Stripes might occasionally imitate someone like Zeppelin, this is pure 90s alt-rock third tier stuff. Brendan Benson, you are (almost by definition) better than this.
[3]

Hillary Brown: Damn, that drum is crisp like fresh celery, something we’re not entirely used to with Mr. White’s other project. Starts out Joe Jackson; slowly melts through white album Beatles into Three Doors Down and from there into a puddle of goodness. If not for Benson’s relatively normal vocals, it might be a little more interesting.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: The clumsiest, most leaden drum intro I've ever heard leads into a blustering US rock number, which sometimes strips the sound to a choppy enough rock backing, then tries to thunder—it is kind of like the White Stripes, unsurprisingly. I have half a notion that better production could make it rock where it wants to, but as it stands it's too muddy for that.
[4]

Doug Robertson: Of course, the thing about anything ‘super’—indie groups or otherwise—is that it tends to imply the people involved have received a large dose of radiation at some point in their lives. Or it does if my understanding of comic book literature has anything to do with it. The downside is that with such exposure, as well as gaining such abilities as increased strength, x-ray vision, ability to extend a drum solo way beyond that which would be tolerated by normal mortals, etc., there’s also a very good chance of developing leukemia and/or radiation sickness. Jack’s supergroup, alas, falls into the later camp, with its catchy chorus failing to make up for the leaden stomp of the verses. Oh well.
[5]


Rascal Flatts - What Hurts the Most
[5.40]

John Seroff: With minimal mainstream hype and maximum red state support, Rascal Flatts have sold over a million copies of their new album in the past two weeks alone; many of these found their way out the door on the strength of the disc's first single. “What Hurts the Most” is an excellently crafted country-pop lament that's simultaneously corny and endearing. Arena rock guitar and a persistent banjo hold up the bottom end nicely, but it's the clever hook of ascending vocal triplets and the bittersweet fiddle that keep it on replay. It's an excellent bubblegum romance that probably won't last longer for me than another few days, but it was awful sweet while it lasted.
[8]

Iain Forrester: I was kind of relying on the comedic value of this having the same name as the last single by S Club’s Jo O’Meara, but then it turned out to be the exact same hackneyed power-ballad, just played in a pop-country style, complete with a horrific key-change and a painful level of overbearing sincerity added to the vocals. Really lovely pedal steel though.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: I guess this is more or less country, but not the trad stuff I love, more the kind of thing someone might do on a TV talent show, with just that hint of steel guitar hinting at Nashville. Having said that, the singing is rather good, though we get the odd moment of whoa-oh-oh rock styling.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley: Rascal Flatts hit all the Nashville touchstones: slide guitar, mournful singing and fiddle, but the beat and vocal phrasing sounds almost R&B, which is an interesting twist on the country ballad. If they had played that up a bit, this could have been an enjoyable crossover, giving the pop charts another “Over and Over” style country/urban hybrid. As it is, this is mainstream country being unremarkable yet agreeably satisfying, a perfunctory amount of grit helping the smooth sadness along.
[6]


Grandiosa - Respekt for Grandiosa
[5.50]

Ian Mathers: This is one of those songs that really needs its video for full effectiveness; it's vaguely hilarious for the English speaker to hear “beef,” “dressing,” and “pizza” in the midst of those very Norwegian spoken-world vocals, but once you see the video and realize this is a (rather brilliant) jingle for an actual pizza it becomes incredible. Especially since it works perfectly well as a little oddball slice of modern dance pop.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: Aimless electro with lots of voices to add to the annoyance, the most prominent being someone with a deep, sharp voice talking loudly over a lot of it. I've no idea what it's all about, but it's irritating, though thankfully very short.
[3]

Doug Robertson: You know how in every single Sugarcubes song, Einar would come in and ruin it with his somewhat unique approach to the concept of rapping? Well this is a bit like that, as it’s all rather ace in a laid back, high-energy style (even if that’s something of a contradiction in terms), but someone keeps talking over the top of it in a style reminiscent of movie trailers—I can’t work out whether that’s a good thing or not. Perhaps in a few weeks time it’ll become as irritating as Einar’s contributions were, but for now it can have both the benefit of the doubt and an…
[8]

Joris Gillet: This sounds like the song from a TV advert. Apparently it is the song from a TV advert. Can't imagine why this was released as a single: it's short and repetitive, the melody is annoyingly catchy, and the singer sounds like someone who earns a living doing voice-overs for TV adverts. In fact, the only thing I can make out is that they want us to eat pizza on Saturday.
[3]


The Flaming Lips - Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
[5.60]

Ian Mathers: I haven't checked in with the Lips since the slightly disappointing The Soft Bulletin, and this just confirms the extent of their downward slide—when it first came up I didn't even recognize Wayne Coyne. Half-baked social commentary, annoyingly cheery refrain, nondescript rock shuffle; this is nearly as twee as Boy Least Likely To, only much more annoying. I pine mightily for the days when these guys actually sounded interesting.
[5]

Iain Forrester: A glorious one-off in which Wayne Coyne takes his robot symphony, forces them to make up with Yoshimi, and leads them all into overpowering pop perfection before retiring, exhausted, to a lifetime of prog wankery. At least ten times better than “Do You Realize??.”
[9]

Mike Barthel: I don't know what it is about the Lips—a few years ago, their optimism and showmanship was really refreshing and inspiring, but now their continued cheeriness and odd sonic resemblance to Kevin Rowland makes me hope Wayne Coyne is permanently blinded by the body of a dead puppy someone's flung from the window of a truck on the interstate or something. That part where it gets all loud is pretty cool for about fifteen seconds, though.
[4]

Hillary Brown: Fuck me. I certainly didn’t expect this to be any good. Here I was, cruising along, thinking the Flaming Lips were the reinvention of Wilco (everyone has the one album and ignores the rest; a few hardcore fans hang on to keep concert tickets expensive), and this is a mite too long, but it’s a) new b) full of hand claps and c) bridges neo-hippieism and mid-60s tribute. Huh.
[7]


Coldcut ft. Roots Manuva - True Skool
[6.25]

Steve Mannion: As ‘dated’ as the Indian vibes may be and as ‘over’ as Roots Manuva may seem, Coldcut’s attempt to return to their pop roots fares better than it ought to in a week this poor. Pleasant playground head-nodding stuff, puffing and flowing along in fine style—at least it was until Mr. Smith started ‘singing’ along with the backing sample towards the end.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: Two old favourites of mine, and they seem to work together rather well. Coldcut are among the most creative producers the UK has ever produced, and Roots Manuva is the best rapper we've had. I'm not sure the end result is quite as good as the sum of the exceptional parts, but the music bounces along with real party energy in a dancehall style, the rapping adds extra drive and weight, and it got me wiggling like little else has this year.
[9]

John Seroff: Indian percussion and choral flourishes, castanets, string samples, and Roots' dancehall-lite raps prove to be more than the sum of their parts in this club banger. “True Skool” is all bounce and juice; it splashes whenever it lands.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Don’t you hate it when the best bit of a track is over in the first five seconds? Nice horns, guys. The rest is all rather pointless, one of those annoying songs where a bunch of busy sounds melt together into an aural porridge that oozes for three and a half minutes before, thankfully, dissolving into silence.
[3]


Infernal - From Paris to Berlin
[6.50]

Doug Robertson: “From Paris to Berlin, in every disco I get in,” she sings, failing to make it across the Channel with her all access club pass. Presumably the British bouncers are a bit stricter and less likely to let her in—not in those trainers, at any rate. But whether or not their doors are open to her, yours certainly should be as this is dance pop as it should be done: edgy, sassy, and with more kick than a drunken mule. If there’s any justice in the world—and it’s patently obvious that there’s not—this will be soundtracking the summer, autumn, winter, and spring of the year to come in Paris, Berlin, and even your favourite local sticky floored sweat pit where there’s always a faint smell of vomit hanging in the air.
[8]

Steve Mannion: The title suggests a lack of ambition and, production-wise, this is fairly unremarkable electro-handbag, but it still packs enough energy wrapped up in a thoroughly modern sequinned pop-shaped box. Please cover Modern Talking’s “Brother Louis” next time, though. Cheers.
[5]

Ian Mathers: An open letter to William B. Swygart: Will, I realize we're trying to cover as much of the full scope of global pop, and I realize this kind of pop-trance bullshit is still popular among great swathes of Europe, but we all know the panel is going to have our predictable mostly-dismissive response to “From Paris To Berlin,” mainly because it is anonymous, assembly-line crap. So could we just skip this sort of thing for the next couple of weeks?
[4]

Jessica Popper: Infernal are one of the most fabulous Europop acts of the past few years, so I am exceedingly pleased that they are becoming quite successful with the release of this song in the UK. Of course I am hoping this could lead to more top Euro acts being launched here, which it probably will, but whether they will get anywhere is debatable—this could just be a fluke success. However, I plan to make the most of this surprise dance-pop revival while it lasts.
[10]


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


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-04-25
Comments (3)
 

 
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