The Singles Jukebox
Mmm. Music.



this week on the Jukebox: Boys With Guitars. Lots and lots and lots of Boys With Guitars. Some of them are jerky, some of them are awkward, some of them make Turin Brakes sound interesting, but by and large they’re mostly Boys With Guitars. Elsewhere, Fiddy and Game get all mushy, KT Tunstall is the new inevitability, and Juliette Lewis… enh. But first, Serj Tankian has noticed that war is bad.


System Of A Down – B.Y.O.B.
[3.29]


Dom Passantino: Bring your own bottle… TO IRAQ! God, I didn’t see that one coming.
[0]

Paul Scott: Hirsute Armenian metal mentals weld about six different songs together in attempt to bring down the US government and destroy the capitalist system from within. However, not one of the six songs is strong enough to bring down a deck of cards, let alone the global political system. Plan fails miserably.
[3]

Mike Atkinson: Difficult as it is to offer meaningful commentary on a genre from which I feel so culturally and generationally disconnected (are we even supposed to be calling this stuff “nu-metal” these days?), repeated listens find me swiftly progressing from lughole-covering bafflement, to a fond respect which teeters on the brink of outright pleasure. One of the major barriers to be crossed with stuff like this is the need to adjust to an altogether different level of musical/emotional intensity. As with hardcore techno, what initially sounds like an unsustainably full-tilt extreme is in fact the norm. If you relax and accept it as such, and let it welcome rather than intimidate you, then there is plenty to observe, admire and ultimately enjoy. Just don’t make me sit through a whole album of it, that’s all. (I am old. It wouldn’t be right.)
[7]

Doug Robertson: System of a Down have seemingly turned to amphetamines, or just swallowed every grain of sugar the world has ever created. This might be the greatest thing ever, it might be entirely rubbish, it’s hard to tell really. It’s not so much that it doesn’t sound like anyone else, more that it sounds like everyone else, only all being played at once, in different time signatures, and not necessarily wit the same instruments. It’s a glorious mess, but you can’t help but feel sorry for whoever has to clean up afterwards.
[7]


Doves – Snowden
[3.71]


Jessica Popper: The Doves are even less exciting than Turin Brakes, and that's saying something!
[1]

Alex Macpherson: Chord. Drone. Whine. Empathy with the singer in form of lyric "Why should I care?". Bit which will get called 'soaring' only because in comparison to the rest of this monotonous dirge, it is. These people wrote 'Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)': how the mighty are fallen.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: As someone who normally runs a mile from anything so avowedly Big and Important, I am at a loss to articulate exactly why the widescreen, windswept cragginess of the Doves gets through to me, where all the others fall by the wayside. I suppose it must be something to do with their intuitive grasp of dynamics, and the particular ways they find to shape their sound, and I suppose that this might have something to do with their background in studio-based dance music, as opposed to the usual gigging circuit. Whatever it is, this is as gloriously sweeping and epic as ever, with a swooshing synth motif that puts me in mind of late 1970s Genesis. But in a good way.
[8]

Paul Scott: It's hard not to feel a little sorry for Doves. Despite the various plaudits and number one albums, they still seem stuck in a purgatorial state between the V festival and All Tomorrows Parties. Neither sure enough of their more adventurous leanings, nor charismatic enough to pull off the anthemic rock thing, they just plod along, always threatening to soar off into the sun but never mustering the conviction to really take off.
[4]


KT Tunstall – Other Side Of The World
[3.86]


Doug Robertson: KT has discovered that long-distance relationships tend not to work and, rather than consigning this insight into the dustbin of banal observations, she’s decided to write a song about it, just in case there’s anyone out there who might be enlightened by her revelation. Rumours that she plans to follow this up with a single entitled “Hey! Don’t Fiddle Your Fork in the Toaster, You Might Get an Electric Shock” are, as yet, unconfirmed. The single’s pretty much as you’d expect it to be—a less annoying Dido, basically—and she’s destined to be given to a million mums as a slightly disappointing birthday present.
[5]

Jessica Popper: I've heard very good things about her live show and she's always ace on Popworld, but this isn't half as good as her last single, which I loved, although it's growing on me. Her album is pretty boring but she is a talented lady and lots of fun too.
[7]

Alex Macpherson: Seriously, is the growing trend of cultural conservatism just my imagination? This obsession with nice middle-class pop stars who can make nice inoffensive versions of any genre imaginable. In this case, folk (potentially disturbing medieval imagery replaced with platitudes) combined with being a female singer-songwriter (intense angst replaced with vague, non-specific, self-important melancholy; howling, confrontational vocals replaced with a voice you wouldn't be able to pick out of an aural line-up). Broadsheet readers and Parkinson viewers, up your standards: music is there to IMPINGE ON YOU, not to be used as a safely ignorable lifestyle accessory.
[3]

William B. Swygart: Floppy ballad that’s somehow quite bereft of any lightness of touch. Strums are strummed, drums are drummed, crap analogies get craply analogised, and at least one person involved with this record really likes Lamb. KT’s voice sounds like someone doing Emma Pollock on Stars In Their Eyes—crude growling and trilling, like this is somehow meant to convey warmth or empathy or anything at all beyond this being the new singer-songwriter for this fiscal year. Take Beth Orton and go three steps backwards.
[1]


Juliette And The Licks – You’re Speaking My Language
[4.00]


Mike Atkinson: Now listen up, Missy Lewis, and listen good. So we think we’re channelling the spirit of Courtney Love, do we? Extending the franchise and building the brand, are we? Well, I’ve got a little list for you. Bruce Willis. Keanu Reeves. Minnie Driver. Robert Downey Junior. It never works, does it? Never. Not ever. So what makes you think you’re going to buck the trend all of a sudden? You might want to take that thought back to your “people”. Yes, run along now. No, give me the mike. We’ve suffered enough.
[1]

Alex Macpherson: Anyone who saw Juliette Lewis's stunning renditions of two obscure PJ Harvey cuts in apocalyptic thriller Strange Days would have been aware for over a decade that she possessed tremendous latent rock star potential. This is borne out here: though the somewhat generic 'You're Speaking My Language' hasn't got many qualities which elevate it above the rest of the pack, its main point of interest is that - contrary to the expectations of those who snootily dismissed the actress turning singer - Lewis is probably the best thing about it. She understands that theatricality and pretence is better than authenticity, you see. All the world's a stage, and this is merely Juliette's latest role.
[7]

William B. Swygart: Sorry, no. I have absolutely no issue with the ‘authenticity’ or otherwise of this, but it’s just so nothing-y. She yells “You’re speaking my language baby!” lots in her rock growl. That’s it. The Detroit Cobras cover The Vines, but much less so.
[2]

Doug Robertson: Decent enough dirty rock, and Juliette Lewis does have an appealing yelp and growl to her voice, but it’s hard to shake off the feeling that a) If it wasn’t for who she is, no-one would be giving this a second glance and b) convincing though she may be, this is just another acting role for her and, if you dig below the topsoil, all you’re going to hit is cold, grey concrete.
[6]


Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
[4.29]


Dom Passantino: That “What does it take to be a garage em ceeeeee” guy from DJ Pied Piper and the Masters of Ceremonies pesters The Dust Brothers for long enough until they give him a reject acetate from the “Odelay” sessions.
[3]

Jessica Popper: I've always found Gorillaz very annoying in the past, but I do quite like this new one, which could be accredited to the fact that I don't have to put up with 14-year-olds singing the songs badly this time around.
[7]

William B. Swygart: How very nice of Damon to make hipsterdom all accessible for the kids. He mumbles stuff. There’s a bassline (There’s no actual reason for this song to have a bassline other than that, well, some other band, they had a bassline, they were quite good). Mmm. Music.
[2]

Mike Atkinson: Tell me, have you ever met anyone who actually gets the Gorillaz? Who is charmed by the concept, and enthralled by the genre-defying blend of styles, signs and signifiers? Who can barely wait for the new album to drop? No, me neither. I fundamentally do not get them, on any level. One reasonably jolly single a few years ago, that seven-year olds liked to jump and down to, and that was it for me. As for everything else, it just sounds like loads of bits and pieces all shoved together, that were never meant to be shoved together. Like snail porridge. Or bacon and egg ice-cream. (Does this make Damon Albarn the Heston Blumenthal of post-modernist pop?)
[5]


Praise Cats feat. Andrea Love – Shined On Me
[4.71]


Dom Passantino: Piano house! Is back! With gospel vocals! And a feel-good tip! Rozalla’s appearance on Hit Me One More Time shall not go unavenged.
[8]

Alex Macpherson: This should be terrific: you've got your looped diva hollering, your occasional whoops, your burbling funkbass, your pumping house beat. Why, then, does it somehow add up to a lot less than the sum of its parts? Possibly something to do with the lack of any attempt to blend them together in a purposeful way.
[4]

Doug Robertson: Nice vocal work, and the hook is catchy enough, but it never actually goes anywhere. The singer, Andrea Love, gets more passionate as the track goes on as she repeats the same lyric over and over, but musically nothing whatsoever actually happens. This is the musical equivalent of using a treadmill; fine if there’s no other alternative, but a jog round the park would prove to be far more satisfying.
[5]

Mike Atkinson: What, this old thing? Really, hasn’t it been out before? I mean, I barely even go out clubbing any more, and even I know this one. And I bet you do too. Yes you do—it’s the happy-clappy gospelly one, with the early 1990s hollering disco diva, which goes “I’ve got peace, deep in my soul, I’ve got lurrrrve, making me whole, since you opened up your heart and shined (sic) on me”, over and over and over again. Yeah, right, that one. I know! Whiskers on it or what! Anyway, it’s a pleasant if slight confection, more of a steady repeated groove than anything else, with no melodic or rhythmic development to speak of, but with some nifty bass runs and jazzy organ licks along the way to stop boredom from setting in. (Is it time for the fluffy bras/silver trousers handbag house revival yet, by the way? Oh come on, why not?)
[6]


The Coral – In The Morning
[4.86]


Dom Passantino: In 1976, Paul Nicholas got to #8 with “Dancing With The Captain”. Here, The Coral dig its corpse up and cover it with some of their trademark shitty faux-psychedelic mithering.
[0]

Jessica Popper: Now I can tell The Coral from The Thrills and The Music, I still can't remember what their previous songs were. It's just one big indie folky mess in my brain. These are the ones from Liverpool, right? Or was that The Music? Or both? Oh dear! The song is quite good anyway, very nice to hear in the morning as I did once and was vaguely excited about how fitting it was, then decided it wasn't really very exciting at all, like the song.
[7]

Paul Scott: Despite only having appeared a few years back The Coral already seem a bit redundant, slightly drab in comparison to the young whippersnappers who have appeared in their absence, so surely returning with a single that seems to nab the organ riff from Toploader's beyond awful local radio stalwart “Dancing in the Moonlight” would be a senseless act of musical hari kari? Yet, almost in spite of themselves, they've fashioned a delightfully effervescent wisp of a song. It hazily evokes the feeling of leaving the house on a fine summer’s morning with nothing more to worry about than whether you'll accidentally bump into that girl / boy (delete as appropriate) you fancy.
[7]

Doug Robertson: This isn’t as teeth-grindingly awful as previous Coral releases. At this rate they might actually release a passable tune by 2015, but I wouldn’t count on it.
[4]


Lemon Jelly – Make Things Right
[4.86]


Jessica Popper: I liked their song about ducks, but this one is not very exciting. Is it off an advert or something? It seems strangely familiar. The only suggestion Google gives me is Weight Watchers...
[4)

Mike Atkinson: This is the aural equivalent of stepping out of a nice warm bath, wrapping yourself in a big white fluffy bath towel (freshly laundered, with proper fabric conditioner and everything, straight from your mother’s airing cupboard), and hugging yourself tightly, while a reassuring voice inside your head tells you that yes, everything really is going to be OK. Except, that is, for an unexpected section towards the end, where all the steadily accumulated, softly undulating layers of bliss drop sharply away, exposing a dark pit of anxiety beneath. The way that you are gently steered away from this pit, and led back into the sunlit uplands above, makes the final restatement of the central melodic motifs all the more life-affirming. (And you thought Lemon Jelly were just a clever-clever chill-out turn for the post-clubbing urban bourgeoisie?)
[9]

William B. Swygart: On an album, you could understand having a big whack o’ nothing for bridging purposes, ‘vibe sustaining’ or what have you, and in that context this would be just dandy. It’s sweet. It’s nice. It’s fluffy. As a single… oh, I don’t mind it, I suppose. It doesn’t feel lazy or anything is the thing, just nice, by nature.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: I've just been slightly traumatised by the sheer horror of the realisation that Lemon Jelly's career will never die, because there will always be students and students will always be idiots, and therefore their noxious brand of soporific 'dance' music for people whose lives involve no actions more strenuous than reaching for another fucking spliff will never die. In exactly the same way, this song involves no actions more strenuous than picking up a fucking acoustic guitar and looping a bar of terrible, strummed non-melody. Stoner students are truly the worst people to exist ever.
[0]


Hall & Oates – I’ll Be Around
[5.00]


Doug Robertson: No, I can’t go for that, it being the sort of dull white soul you’d expect from them, taking absolutely nothing from the success of the Uniting Nations single which has presumably led to this release.
[3]

Jessica Popper: I wondered what these two were doing on American Idol the other week—I guess they were promoting this. Perhaps this is a re-release but if not they don't seem to have moved on since the olden days one single bit. It's not horrible, as their songs never are, but they need an injection of excitingness if they want my appreciation.
[4]

Dom Passantino: Hall and Oates are at their best when they’re angry (“Family Man”), or bitterly sarcastic (“Rich Girl”). This is Daz and Jonny at their most Radio 2 friendly, however, and as such it won’t be subject to a critical reappraisal in 20 years time
[7]

Mike Atkinson: Critical objectivity be damned: the long dormant flick-wedge white-socks-n-loafers soul boy within me is fucking digging on this, mate. Taken from a covers album of mainly early 1970s soul classics which is supposed to “shed light on their formative influences” (if you say so, boys), this beautifully sung, sumptuously constructed, painstakingly respectful re-working of the old Detroit Spinners hit adds/subtracts precisely zero to/from our appreciation of the original, and could therefore easily be dismissed as high-class cabaret, but, you know, so bloody what? It entertains me, and even moves me a little, and sometimes that’s all you need.
[8]


Kelly Osbourne – One Word
[5.29]


Paul Scott: Having compiled a lifetime’s worth of research on being rich and bored Kelly O has all the experience to pull off the required levels of icy detachment that would kick the Ladytron-esque backing into realms of synth pop perfection. Unfortunately, instead of the hoped for glamorous ennui she merely sounds a bit fed up.
[5]

Mike Atkinson: An almost note-for-note rewrite of Visage’s “Fade To Grey”—complete with an impenetrably po-faced new lyric, and lashings of suitably “arty” (if equally incomprehensible) mutterings in yer actual French—which, rather like pouty-faced strop-pot Miss Osbourne herself, manages to be both utterly preposterous and strangely captivating at the same time. But Kelly, all those synths! And not a guitar in sight! We thought you wuz a Rebel Rockah! Are you trying to break your poor father’s heart?
[7]

William B. Swygart: Nicks all the bits off “Fade To Grey” except the bits Kelly can’t sing, i.e. the chorus, while sporting the kind of lyrics that you write as a fevered teenager at midnight before waking up the following morning and thinking to yourself, “Hang on a second. This is shit.”
[3]

Doug Robertson: Kelly, who, of course, just makes the sort of music she wants to make and definitely doesn’t jump from bandwagon to bandwagon like a fame crazed parasite, has actually come up trumps with this. It’s an electro-pop masterpiece and the sort of track that Fischerspooner always threatened to make, yet never quite achieved. If she can keep the quality this high, and actually focus on this as the genre she wants to work in, rather than flitting between whichever sort of music she last saw on MTV, she might even be forgiven for the godawful Changes.
[10]


The Game feat. Fifty Cent – Hate It Or Love It
[6.00]


Dom Passantino: “It Was A Good Day” with the narrative stretched to last 24 years rather than 24 hours, and yet retaining the amount of poignancy and soul. Not even that superfluous “G-G-G-Geeeeeeyoooooonittttt” that sounds like an anti-piracy measure can ruin this.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: Oh Gawd, don’t tell me I’ve got to unravel another of those Big Hip Hop Feud back-stories, before I can begin to form a proper appreciation of the track? Because my head’s still hurting from having to deconstruct “Like Toy Soldiers”, and I just can’t go through all of that again. It just sounds like routine biggin-up-me-dick braggadocio, set over a rather fetching Stax-style sample whose easy melodicism sits rather at odds with all the wearisome aggression on display.
[5]

Doug Robertson: Having sorted out their totally genuine and in no contrived feud, 50 and The Game team up together to see who can provide the worst performance in this single. 50 walks it, sleepwalking his way through his sections, while The Game spits out his rhymes and manages to convince the listener that he does at least pretend to give a shit.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: A bunch of associations which I should find intensely annoying: the conservatism which pervades every line of this song (those family values make me shudder), the stench of the American Dream, the way "I'm rap's MVP" is maybe the lamest line ever. But then, hope is important, and so are horn samples, and both Fiddy and The Game have just enough naïve faith in their words to render them slightly less disagreeable.
[7]


Cliff Richard – What Car?
[6.33]


Doug Robertson: Blimey! Uh, this is actually quite good. A country rock number in a good way, Cliff sings a tale of teenage trouble, of ‘borrowing’ his dad’s car to go see a girl, crashing it, then trying to stop said father from finding out about what he’d done. Of course, we all know that when Cliff was 16 the worst thing he got up to was going out wearing scuffed shoes and, had anything of the sort actually occurred, the first thing he would have done would have been to run to a different sort of Father to confess, but he somehow makes it all sound convincing, despite being old enough to be the protagonist’s grandfather. The best thing he’s done since “Wired for Sound”.
[7]

Alex Macpherson: Haha. If you like The Thrills, or any nondescript indie-schmindie band around who sound like The Thrills but whose name I forget due to their utter dullness, you're a hypocrite if you claim not to like this. Me, I hate it all and am waving my hands in front of me and contemplating homicide.
[1]

Paul Scott: Here, despite being at least 30 years older than most of his rivals, Cliff is simply towering. Bizarrely hijacking elements of both “(Don't Fear) The Reaper” and “(I Would Walk) 500 Miles”, this tale of teenage hijinks bounces along with a rueful vitality sourced directly from the birth of the Pop age.
[9]

Mike Atkinson: Suffering Stratocasters, what fresh folly is this? Recorded in Nashville for added “authenticity”, this bizarre country-rockin’ attempt to connect with the Uncut-reading Sounds Of The New West constituency has cheeky Sir Cliff regaling us with a story (dragged out to the point of tedium) of “borrowing” his Daddy’s car behind his back in order to impress a girl, wrecking the car by crashing it into a tree, absconding from the scene of the accident, and then cheerfully denying all knowledge of it—all delivered with an extended “haven’t I been a naughty boy?” wink to the audience. But oh, Cliff! What kind of example are you setting today’s impressionable Saga generation? Stealing? From your own dear, sweet silver-haired father? Showing off, presumably for nefarious purposes? Driving without due care and attention? Being the cause of a serious road incident, and failing to report it to the proper authorities? Then, worst of all, lying about it? And getting away with it? And then boasting to us about it? Whatever happened to “Honour thy Father and Mother”, Cliff? If we can’t look to you for moral guidance any more, then truly we are lost as a nation. Repent! Repent!
[4]


The Futureheads – Decent Days & Nights
[6.71]


Jessica Popper: This song is ideal for marvelling at cute Northern accents in that patronising way that only a girl who's never been further North than Liverpool can. It is a very good song, but not quite the extreme excellence of "the hounds of loov ah callin'"!
[8]

Alex Macpherson: Boys With Guitars. I am loath to make sweeping statements, but it has to be pointed out that if I were to make one along the lines of "Boys With Guitars have absolutely zero to offer to popular music any more", there would be ample evidence to support it in the form of, oh, every single Boys With Guitars band on the entire fucking planet right now.
[1]

Paul Scott: The Futureheads are a little odd; just to look at them they look slightly too normal, as if they have untold manias hiding beneath their outwardly average facades. Squeezed into ill fitting suits they look like a bunch of geeky local lads working low paid office jobs, but the music explodes like the petty stresses and frustrations of a working week distilled into two and a half minutes. It's the way the riff jerks around as if it too is not quite sure exactly what it is that it's supposed to be doing. It's the way the vocal lines dart over each other like fragments of conversations echoing between office cubicles. But most of all it's the blunt abandon of the Sunderland accents unglamorously admitting their own bewilderment yet somehow liberated as all their pent up irritations and frustrations ricochet out.
[8]

Mike Atkinson: Having originally found their debut album a little hard to take in one sitting, I’m now loving The Futureheads as a singles act. Separated from its slightly too samey surroundings, this takes on a whole new potency, making me wish that I’d come to all of the band’s material in the same way. Best of all—and just when you thought that the mathematical combinations had all been exhausted for good—there’s the return of our old friend, the Two Chord Killer Riff. Add this to an naggingly catchy tune and some fetching call-and-response harmonies, and you have yourself a dinky little slice of skinny-tied, knotty-browed, twitchy-kneed, punky-pop perfection.
[9]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-05-09
Comments (7)
 

 
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