The Singles Jukebox
More Ossessione Than Teorema



this week on the Jukebox, Morrissey presents his considered reaction to “I Have Forgiven Jesus” not being Christmas number one, The Pipettes aren't as rubbish as they used to be, Chamillionaire is quite proud of his hubcaps, and one-quarter of Alcazar isn't the Swedish Eurovision entry. Before that, though, The Kooks, whose official press biography describes them as "a scuzzy, fresh-faced group to fully restore your faith in the holy grail of English singer-songwriting." They never stood a chance. Then again, with a voice like their singer's got, they never really deserved one either...


The Kooks - Naive
[3.25]

Alfred Soto: They know that I know and we all know that naiveté's got nothing to do with chicken-scratch guitars and cute accents.
[1]

Hillary Brown: Sweet and jangly. I suppose it sounds like its title and that is the point, but it’s not making it into the realm of “Thirteen” or “I Want You Around” as far as your yearning love songs are concerned. Seems like a grower, though.
[6]

Joris Gillet: Sounds like: a very polite Reef. Or: a lightweight Black Crowes. I wish I could say I really, really hate it, but it’s not even interesting enough to put the energy into doing that.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: Awful band name—very like claiming a wacky, zany sense of humour, always a clear sign of a dull person, so my expectations were low. It's indie with a painfully flat voice, especially on the chorus, plus 1986-ish jangly guitars and about a third of a half-decent song. It would merely be useless and pointless if recorded on another day; could they not have waited until the singer's apparent unpleasant nasal infection had passed? Surely they can't have a singer who always sounds like this, can they? Possibly they could only afford to book that one day, so had to grab their chance no matter how awful he sounded, and deserve our pity rather than contempt...
[1]


Lorie – S.O.S.
[4.00]

Jonathan Bradley: With the same one inch punch production values reserved for late ‘90s boy band anthems, Lorie tries to win us over with sheer exuberance, and in the chorus, certainly, she succeeds; the la-la-la’s are more fun than Eurovision, and sending a French rapper and some sirens into the fray only ups the joy. But—and it seems churlish to mention it—with verses sounding identical to the chorus but not as catchy, I wonder if it’d ruin the party to explain things like dynamics and subtlety to Lorie.
[4]

Hillary Brown: The background sirens make me think of the gangster movies that influenced the New Wave (that is, they have a more genuine sound to them than most sampled sirens do, and if you’re listening to the song on headphones, you might think they’re real for a minute), but they fade a little fast in favor of not very interesting 80s-accented dance-pop. It is okay, but it is not five minutes’ worth of okay.
[4]

Ian Mathers: There is a reason there aren't many great pop songs that are over five minutes long. Actually, there's probably many reasons, but let's stick with the idea that great pop requires a certain level of immediacy that wears off when you just keep singing the same chorus over and over and over. The silly, faux-tough male backing vocals and incessant “na na na”s after the chorus would have been slightly grating even at that length, but by the end you just want it to stop. Rihanna's was better.
[4]

Mike Powell:
Dear Quentis:

We have been caught in this swirling vortex of French dance-pop for nearly six minutes now, and I do fear the crew may perish. At first glance, it seemed we might weather it, but the strain is proving too great. Walter has thrown up everything but his intestines, and Anderson is gripping the sides of the ship with the determination of a doomed man. “SOS,” LOL, for the love of god, with fear and regret—

Uncle Toby
[2]


Morrissey - You Have Killed Me
[4.40]

Martin Skidmore: His voice seems thinner and less rich than in his heyday, shallower perhaps, but it's still appealing. This strikes me as among his better solo songs, especially if you like that ironic pessimism that was so characteristic of much of his best work. I think the instrumentation is kind of anonymous—is it too ludicrous a notion, too much of a step across borders for all concerned, to suggest that Xenomania (think first two Girls Aloud singles) would suit him superbly? I know it's not going to happen, obviously.
[7]

Joe Macare: "Hello, gentle readers. My name is Alan Bennett, author, playwright, and national treasure. I'd like to take a moment to tell you all what a wonderful effort I think Stephen has made with this song. The chorus evokes all the sensual passion and cosmopolitan flair of Rome that one might feel while eating a slice of Vienetta. I hope that Stephen won't pay any attention to all those people who would call this lacklustre, or claim that the inevitable result of being so thoroughly resistant to the important musical developments of the past 25 or more years is always going to be boring, redundant music. Ignore their cruel barbs when they quote back the line 'There is no point saying this again' and try to apply it to your career, Stephen! Your friend, Alan."
[3]

Alfred Soto: Adducing Luchino Visconti and Pier Paolo Pasolini sure doesn't dampen the suspicion that Moz's self-pity has swelled to match his paunch, although clearly he wants his fans to savor these directors' taste for rough trade (since most his youngish fans are, what, 20-something Chicanos I doubt it). His voice breathless and strained, he's lucky that Tony Visconti's muscular production compensates, more Ossessione than Teorema.
[6]

Mike Barthel: Morrissey here apparently follows the Belle & Sebastian formula of steadily increasing the chronological origins of his retro fascinations, but unfortunately this time it's landed him in the decade from whence he emerged, and not in a particularly good part of it, either. It makes me visualize grey skies and brick walls and sateen jackets and fluffy hair and bad sunglasses. Quick, Morrissey, zoom away in your tiny car!
[2]


The Streets - When You Wasn't Famous
[4.40]

Mike Barthel: I've always had something of an ambiguous relationship with the Streets. On the one hand, I see my British colleagues complaining about the way Mike Skinner reflects/glorifies/exploits the male culture in their home country, but not having to contend with bloke culture on a daily basis, that seems an irrelevant concern when it comes to my actual listening experience; on the other hand, the distance that allows me to ignore all that produces the patina of exoticism that seem to attract some of my countryfolk to Skinner's music, and that doesn't seem good either. What this averages out to is me not really being able to take Skinner seriously, and thus the particular complaints that have surfaced in reaction to this song—that it's spoiled popstar whining—don't hold much water with me. There's no angst there, and it just comes off like funny drunken bitching, which I'm always down for. Plus, the production seems much more assured and coherent than on the previous two albums. In sum, it doesn't seem to be a particularly memorable song, at least not yet, but it's certainly not a bad one.
[5]

Joe Macare: I confess to not being able to avoid a prurient interest in the subject matter of this song: I can't help wondering: is it true? Did a well-known female popstar really have the misfortune of sexual congress with Mike Skinner? It's hard to believe, because even over a beat that's really quite nice, and even with a hook that's really quite catchy—in total, even in the context of one of The Street's least appalling singles to date—Skinner still comes across as a risible, punchable, irritating fuckwit. So, equally, I know that too much "prang" can mess you up, but can it really cloud your judgement to that extent?
[3]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: I suppose there had to be a point when Mike Skinner's average-bloke, telling-it-like-it-is, we're-all-mates-here schtick would wear thin. Or maybe it's just the rinkydink sing-song mess of the tune, a flat arrhythmic yelp smothering what's actually a really good semi-drumline beat. Anyway: it's not just that this is bad, it's that it's bad in a way that makes you think back to Streets singles you liked and remember all the ways in which they, too, were lamely rhymed and unpleasantly chummy, like a stranger cornering you in a pub to spill his smug wank-fantasies over your evening.
[2]

Koen Sebregts: There's more grammatical English in a tATu song. Art Brut lyrics are more insightful and well-written. Plus they have a better singer. There are Bright Eyes songs that are less whiny, and late '70s-Pink Floyd songs that are less self-absorbed. Makes "Fit but you know it" sound like "La Traviata" in comparison.
[2]


Metric - Poster of a Girl
[4.67]

Ian Mathers: Canada makes its first appearance in the new, amalgamated Singles Jukebox... and the song kind of sucks. Emily Haines can be a fairly amazing singer, but nothing I've heard from Live It Out (including this) indicates that she hasn't fallen off shockingly. Overlong, without a real chorus and instrumentally bland—at least there are some French vocals, for extra Canadian content. Plus a funny slide whistle, if you go for that sort of thing.
[4]

Hillary Brown: If this song would just give in to the harmonies that almost, almost break out fully from time to time (e.g., “when there is no bright side”), it might really capture my affections. The keyboards are fine stuff, but this kind of too-cool-for-you guitar tells me they’re not interested in getting the attention of those of us who get our hair cut at Great Clips.
[5]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: It's a sad life, eh. Bilingual Canadian indie about how tawdry it is to be a hipster with artistic pretensions who fucks other hipsters with artistic pretensions and never manages to develop a real connection, you know? a real rapport. So you go out and you stand with someone and you leave with someone and you cry and you want to die. I'm paraphrasing, here. Mostly what's important is that she's pretty cut up about it, and her voice is kinda wistfully pretty, and those guitars go shimmer jingle and chop shine. Oh poor sad girl, you're left thinking, I bet she's cute.
[7]

Mike Powell: You really had me wait through 90 seconds of faux-sultry self-deprecation and unstimulating tales of casual sex to impersonate Spoon impersonating the Rolling Stones and then impersonate Broadcast? I forgive the French because you’re Canadian, but the rest has been reported to INTERPOL.
[4]


NewS - Sayaendou
[5.40]

Mike Powell: What with Big Shiny Jukebox’s jet-set makeover as haven for international flavour and all, you’d think that we’d absolutely crap ourselves over a J-pop take on glistening latin pop; of course, our potential excitement is predicated on the possibility of someone dropping the ball, missing the translation. NewS is so spot-on in their appropriations that we’re only reminded of the ugly, looming homogeneity of global culture’s inbred children. I mean, at least I am.
[3]

Ian Mathers: As anyone from the Super Furry Animals to the Knife could tell you, steel drums make anything sound better, and NewS take full advantage of that fact. By this point I should be used to the Japanese singles we tackle sounding like they are performed by casts of thousands of cartoon characters, bursting out of the gate and not relenting until, damn you, you dance; but for now it's still a pretty wonderful surprise. Maybe we're just getting the cream of their crop here at the Jukebox, but it's pretty hard not to wish that North American pop had this kind of vibrancy.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: J-Pop of the boy-band stripe. This was a theme to a movie of a pirate anime named "One Piece", based on one of the biggest selling comics in the world (one book collection had the biggest first printing for any book ever, anywhere), so I guess the lyrics are probably pretty important, and I obviously can't understand them at all. The production throws plenty in, references sea shanties and keeps the energy very high, and the boys sing pretty brightly, so it's hard to fault, but I'd have liked a more winning tune.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: Latin party music straight outta Japan? In theory, this should be great. In theory. In theory, communism works. As it is, it’s all very exciting, a lot of fun, and the track certainly benefits from its anything goes approach, but there’s nothing to keep me sticking around. If this was a restaurant, the ambience would be great, but the food only average.
[5]


Diams - La Boulette
[5.50]

Mike Barthel: A fairly unremarkable bit of portentous French hip-hop, but its failures are illustrative: the MC sounds almost like Lady Sov and clearly would have benefited from something to offset her grumpy spiel, and that great little whistly bit, if made the centerpiece of a much more minimal bit of production like "Fireman," could really move the song along. But too few chances are taken, and not much results.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: A young female French rapper of some force of personality, judging from this. The backing is good too, especially the rather monotonous grand piano (which reminds me of some of Adam F's hip hop production, sans orchestra), but it's all just backing for the star: she raps with what mostly sounds close to anger, and while the flow is lacking in complexity or nimbleness, it does have bags of insistence. I find it hard to review hip hop without knowing whether the tone and flow fit the message (though in all honestly given the interest to be had from most lyrics, this is surely not much of a loss), but from what little I can grasp I think there is a tough and defiant street message here, which works.
[7]

Koen Sebregts: I'm tempted to say, 'radio-friendly rap with kids in the video? Yes, we have plenty of that at home (in the Netherlands), thanks.' But I'm not in a cynical mood. It's spring, and besides, this isn't too bad. Not that I have much to say about it, apart from 'radio-friendly rap with kids in the video', mind. Oh, it's in French. It has strings and piano and whistling. Oh, and 'boulette' means 'little ball', and also 'cock-up'.
[7]

Joris Gillet: The Dr. Dre-like piano, the angry rhyming, the strings; I get the impression that this tries to be a French, and female, Eminem. Sadly the bass is too funky and the whistling too happy to be anywhere near convincing.
[5]


Magnus Carllson - Lev Livet
[5.60]

Mike Barthel: On the evidence on this song, seems like the perfect witty heckle at a Magnus Carlsson show would be to get two friends to chant "E! L! O!" with you. It doesn't have the immediacy of former partner Marit Larsen's "Don't Save Me" but it certainly has enough interesting bits to merit further investigation, even if it does ride the chorus about 50% too hard. It does succeed in making explicit the Lynnian ambitions of Nordic pop, tying together as it does a number of disparate styles, but, unlike J-pop, under a single unifying sound, albeit a different one for different artists/producers. What's ironic is that this would sound glossy thirty years ago, but in comparison to, say, Scott Storch's super-shiny R&B productions, it sounds positively organic, and that's a big part of its charm: the disco bounce has been turned slightly (gulp!) indie to blend in with the sing-along female vocals, and there's at least been an effort to make the strings sound live. It's unclear if this is what the world needs now, but I'll take it.
[7]

Koen Sebregts: It's spring, which means the Eurovision Song Contest will soon be upon us. Grrreat. This isn't very good, though. It took part in Melodifestivalen, the Swedish national final. Bloke used to be in Alcazar, but this couldn't be further removed from "Crying at the Discotheque": it joylessly pushes all the ESC buttons, from the vaguely eastern strings in the verses to the '70s TV-game-show-disco of the chorus, but fails to cause any of the excitement that it clearly intends to.
[4]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: You kind of get the sense—and I say this not having heard any other Melodifestivalen entries—that Sweden decided not to have this represent them at Eurovision just because they could. Hah, get us, the Swedes are saying, we have so much amazing pop we are throwing the stuff away! Free to good home, one big camp pop banger: comes with own backing choir and scene-stealing disco strings. Explosive chorus and massive key change as standard.
[8]

Joris Gillet: Not to be confused with Magnus Carlson-with-one-s, singer of Swedish croonrockers the Weeping Willows. He released a solo album a couple of years ago with a storming, translated version of the Four Seasons’ Begging as one of the high points. This, on the other hand, is standard Eurovision-fodder: an up-tempo disco-y thing full of strings, very inelegantly pounding drums, vapid lyrics about living every minute of your life and a singer with a personality-free voice.
[4]


Oomph! - Gott Ist Ein Popstar
[5.67]

Joris Gillet: Oh, those wacky Germans. Remember Rammstein’s shouty gothrockindustrial rubbish last week? This is exactly the same shouty gothrockindustrial rubbish but with a grunted Lord’s Prayer instead of pseudo-homoerotic lyrics.
[5]

Joe Macare: I was totally expecting this to be a piece of euphoric Eurobosh. Instead, this is what Rammstein would be like if they were any good at all. It is quite boshing, but it is also portentous heavy rock—it is what ver Goths call EBM! I was inclined to give this [10], but then I made the mistake of doing some research, and learnt that "Gott Ist Ein Popstar" is apparently partly a critique of pop reality TV shows, which enable people who haven't written their own songs to win the acclaim of the sheeplike masses yada yada yada change the fucking record. This made me want to give the single [0]. Finally, I discovered that the names of two of the members of Oomph! are Crap and Flux. Well, in that case...
[7]

Mike Barthel: Unfortunately, it turns out they did not choose Oomph! as a name to evoke the gleeful impact of listening to the music, but instead wanted to make sure you thought of a thug punching someone in the stomach while listening to it. It should maybe be more Ooooommmph... to suggest the slow crumpling to the ground that extended exposure to this music would probably cause, along with the stomach-punch thing. I'm also guessing when they say "God is a popstar" they don't mean this as a positive thing, which is really too bad.
[1]

Hillary Brown: Dangerous pop metal like the Germans are absolute kings of and that makes you want to a) blow your ears out by turning it all the way up, b) dress in leather with an abundance of buckles, c) shoot people’s faces off in a video game, and d) act extremely serious about having fun. The fuzz is gorgeous.
[8]


Guillemots - We're Here
[5.67]

Mike Powell: Were you finding the current crop of American indie bands just a little too hard, a little too edgy? Want the brazen, romantic energy of the Arcade Fire with moisturized testicles and gently experimental tendencies? Do you miss Travis as much as I do? Jeff Buckley is sort of alive, and he’s suffocating under a pile of DM add9 chords.
[7]

Joris Gillet: Anyone remember Clearlake or Mull Historical Society? Guillemots do the same big, rural Britpop-thing. Nothing wrong with that. When it’s done well, of course. And I’m thinking of “I Want To Live In A Dream” or “Animal Cannibus” or even Guillemots own “Trains To Brazil” here. This is not on the same quality level. It’s not unpleasant, but not immediate enough to entertain me any longer than the track plays.
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: The night I met Guillemots was dark and foggy, like the set of a bad film noir flick. As I headed to the docks, where I was told the band and its apparently killer dream pop would appear I rubbed my hands together, partially from anticipation and partially from the cold. I wish I’d worn gloves. I’m always forgetting my gloves. Before long, however, some dark shapes coming toward me through the haze distracted me from the plight of my frozen extremities. I squinted, trying to find Guillemots within the mist. It was tough, but finally I did it. “We’re here,” they said. My disappointment was palpable. The haze was more alluring.
[6]

Alfred Soto: Theremins, swooping backup vocals, string sections, and Laid-era James—these young aesthetes are more ambitious than Keane and Travis. Transcending their influences shouldn't be too difficult. Unless they start to believe their own press.
[6]


Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone - Ridin' Dirty
[6.25]

Jonathan Bradley: Chamillionaire is one of the best rappers out of Houston, and his goal to extend himself beyond the, in his words, “chopped and screwed candy paint sound,” is certainly laudable. It’s disappointing, then, that as far as singles from The Sound of Revenge go, he’s done a club track and a drugs-and-cars-and-hating-cops track over anonymous beats that are neither as interesting as the Texas productions he once rapped over, nor good enough to justify the change in direction. On “Ridin’,” Cham’s flow is, as usual, nothing short of stunning, but with such generic synth stabs and bass thumps underneath him, it all ends up a bit of a yawn. That this almost shares a title with a Paul Wall track (“Ridin’ Dirty”) and yet Chamillionaire’s superior talent can’t create a better single, suggests that the Color Changing Lizard, as he’s known, doth protest too much about the Houston scene.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: I love this from the first seconds. Hip-hop of a Dirty South style, with a powerfully moody atmosphere and dark rapping of an exceptionally strong and stylish kind - this is flow of the highest calibre, strong and fast (when it wants to be), nimble and very controlled, despite the annoying censorship-gaps on the version at hand. There's a very good sing-along hook too (cruising in your low-rider style, which may not be of use to many of our readers), and I think this is among the best couple of new singles I've heard this year, and I don't mean only within hip hop. We may have someone great on our hands here.
[10]

Mike Powell: I had a brief fascination with how utterly laid-back the whole Houston scene seemed to be—videos with hundreds of people coincidentally joined in a parking lot, looking vaguely blasé and enviably comfortable in enormous t-shirts. But by now it’s getting sort of boring, really. I live in New York, so the “cars cars cars” culture might as well be about saddled unicorns or Native American Dog Riding, and I do not think it’s awesome that all Cham seems to be able to brag about is the potential onset of hearing loss at the hands of his pricey woofers.
[4]

Joe Macare: Yeah, I'm counting the days until Outkast come back as well. In the meantime, this is what we have to make do with. Meh.
[6]


The Pipettes – Your Kisses are Wasted on Me
[6.67]

Joe Macare: The Pipettes are starting to live up to their hype. "Dirty Mind" was—wait for it—wasted on me, but this time I think they've got it right. They're starting to actually accomplish all those things they've clearly set out to do, bringing to light the neglected strands of pop history (the stuff you can't believe anyone every forgot, like how did anyone ever stop thinking doo wop harmonies were the be-all and end-all of popular music?), rewriting what it might mean to be a post-riot grrl punk rock girl group. There's a whole counter-theory that says that there are people doing exactly the same thing in mainstream pop already, but I'm not going to hold that against them. The more the merrier.
[8]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: In theory, I like the Pipettes. I like sixties girl-group pop, after all, and I like concept bands, and indie that operates under the mistaken belief that it's pop, and girl singers with matching dresses and synchronised dance moves, and practically everything about them. The problem is, though, that the more you hear about what a genius Spector was, and what incredible songs the girl-group tune factories produced, the clearer it becomes that this song isn't so much "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" as "The Monster Mash."
[4]

Hillary Brown: It’s a teeny bit thin vocally (and even in the drums) to make the Phil Spector illusion perfect, more like the 5678’s than the Ronettes, but despite the lack of steroids in the sound, it’s mad cute.
[7]

Koen Sebregts: Girl group pop is the ideal left turn for indie-poppers. Slightly out-of-key singing and upside-down production values are acceptable only in these two genres. And what an adorable example of both are The Pipettes. Their best offering after "It Hurts 2 CU Dance So Well," a 64-second perfect pop blast that came out, what, 18 months ago now? This may be twice as long, but it doesn't outstay its welcome. In fact, I keep on playing it incessantly at increasingly higher volume. My heart opens and the sun comes out everytime during the stop-start sequence over which the title is sung, and once the strings come in on the "and you might try to hold my hand again" part, I'm crying tears of pure joy. It's spring, the Pipettes provide the soundtrack.
[9]


Kumbia Kings - Pachuco
[6.83]

Ian Mathers: Oh wow, yet another act melding a traditional music genre with R&B! This kind of hybrid is actually surprisingly hard to pull off; most attempts leave you either wishing for good rapping or actual (in this case) cumbia. But “Pachuco” succeeds, because (a) the beat and horns are fantastic and (b) the vocalists are pretty much totally ignorable. I'm reminded a bit of Pitbull's better singles (since I imagine they're drawing on similar sources), but this has more emphasis on the music and less on the (silly, forgettable) rapping.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: The Japanese guys did this sort of thing better.
[4]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: There's no way of effectively conveying rhythm in text without unconvincing onomatopoeia, and probably getting it wrong anyway, and that makes explaining how this is so good basically impossible. But—there is this horn break, you see, two notes and a rhythm so simple it's not even syncopated, and it comes round and blasts good times at you, GOOD TIMES!!, it says, and you go 'good times, yes!' and dance in your seat, and kind of wish you had one of those cocktails with fruit in it or some other awful club-tropicana cliché because right now you feel like you could almost pull it off.
[9]

Koen Sebregts: Haha! Did I mention it's Spring? (Sorry Antipodeans.) This has a certain menacing aggression, apart from being a great dance/party track. "You shall dance until we tell you to stop!"
[8]


Massive Attack – Live With Me
[7.60]

Jonathan Bradley: Every time I hear a chill out compilation or a latter day Massive Attack record, I start wondering if we were all duped by the ‘90s trip hop explosion. Was there ever really anything there, or is the dullness of contemporary Tricky or Beth Gibbons indicative of a sound that never had anything more to it than media hype and the ability to deliver urban beats in a form palatable to tech-boom yuppies? “Live With Me” goes some way to restoring faith in Massive Attack’s value as music beyond coffee shop backdrop, even though a cursory listen would suggest otherwise. This is deceptively interesting; beneath the dreary soundtrack-y quality that’s come to distinguish their recent hits, there’s a genuine emotional tug to the vocal turn in the hook, and the way the guitar bursts lock in step with the rhythm suggests that the hope of a Massive Attack ever producing another “Teardrop” or “Unfinished Sympathy” is not so slight as it once was.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Still pining for that halcyon moment when Jennifer Lynch had a film career, these men craft yet another peerlessly arranged and engineered bit of love-grunt vacuity. That their new singer sounds like Mark Antony only humidifies the air of drippy melancholia.
[5]

Ian Mathers: “Live With Me” is bizarre for a number of reasons; it's the new track on a greatest-hits collection that actually legitimately stands with (and eclipses some of) its more acclaimed peers; it is as close to perfect an integration of the feel of Blue Lines with the lush sonics of 100th Window as you could reasonably expect, as well as utilizing a new vocalist to maximum effect; and it is as devastating emotionally as Richard Hawley's “The Ocean” while somehow having almost precisely the opposite tone (anguish where that was acceptance).
[10]

Koen Sebregts: It sounds like swimming in a cool lake, in the middle of a warm, clear night. In the spring, yes, in the spring. Gorgeous.
[8]


Prince - Black Sweat
[8.25]

Martin Skidmore: It's a very long time since I cared about a Prince record, but I guess he's continued to be someone who seems to be maybe in reach of another winner. This is his best in a while, I think, one of his taut and restrained funky grooves, closer to Kiss or Cream than some of his more rocking big hits, with added electronic tones rather like a lot of crunk—he's always been great at absorbing the sounds of the moment into his own style. I like it a lot, but it is short one irresistible hook of being a full return to form. You can sing along with the chorus if you want to, but you don't have to, you know?
[8]

Joe Macare: A parable: once upon a time there was a Prince, who sat on a throne of gold in his purple robe, surrounded by beautiful Slaves. After a while, the Prince fell sick, and became unfit to rule. He abdicated, and distributed some of his riches amongst younger courtiers. For a while, these young noblemen did very well, they did a very good job of looking after the kingdom. Then one day, the Prince came back, and fucking PWNED everyone all over again, with a song called "Black Sweat," so tightly coiled and heavily-oiled it makes every other song of 2006 so far sound like they were written and record by eunuchs. His name is Prince.
[10]

Alfred Soto: Now that it's supercool to admit to buying his new records, what does the little guy do? Layer his matchless falsetto over a backing track Eddie Murphy would have jump, jived, and wailed on in a 1982 episode of "Saturday Night Live."
[5]

Mike Barthel: This is one of those songs where I'm not sure if I should like it as much as I do, but the simple fact is, I took a little outing one recent Saturday to Battery Park, just to wander around a bit, and when this came on my MP3 player, it went straight to my brain and I began concocting elaborate dance routines I could perform in a subway car. And then after it came "If I Was Your Girlfriend," and at first I honestly thought it was an extended coda. There was no temporal distance between the two, and what this suggested was that Prince's sound, while seeming so relentlessly and even stubbornly dated (those Linndrums! That chorus on the guitar!), was, in fact, timeless—it was just the first big coming of something that's probably going to recur for the rest of pop's history, and that's why Prince seems so amazing. I was put off Prince for a long while because the superficial impression is that few of those noises could really escape the 80s, but they're as present as ever, in hip-hop both as a model for skeletal productions carried on their rhythm and strong, textured vocals, and as an inspiration for successful hip-hop producers to branch out. But it's also there in rock, with the entrée of that stadium-rock guitar that morphs through Hendrix into Nile Rogers, plus the absence of the bass, and shows how energy can be achieved without volume, an increasingly useful lesson in an era where volume has gone about as far as it can go technologically. "Black Sweat" serves to remind us that you can still make a masterpiece of electrifying, skeletal electro-funk—doing so much with so little being arguably the pinnacle achievement in pop—in the present tense. That Prince made it is even better, but what's better than best is the song itself, a hell of a thing, even if I might be embarrassed to think so in a month. But until then:
[10]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-03-28
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October 31st, 2007
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