The Singles Jukebox
Oh, Undead ODB, You Are A Rascal



the British edition of the Jukebox (overcast, doesn’t understand baseball, excessively fetishised by this deeply annoying guy you knew, like, a couple years back) turns 21. Instead of a wild night out, riddled with cheap lager, cheaper alcopops and slightly rubbish scenes of violence and vomiting, we get Akon grind-eeng, Juliet not being as good as she used to be, Lemar making sure to wash his hands after using the toilet, and Madeleine Peyroux’s one woman crusade to try and make the phrase ‘Radio 2 playlist’ seem a bit less millstone-like. Oh, and Test Icicles. Get it? Oh good.


Test Icicles – Boa vs. Python
[1.67]


Edward Oculicz: A monumentally ugly song whose interest comes from deciding whether the horrible organ or the groaning guitars are uglier, or whether the band name or the song title is worse. There are no winners here. They probably aimed for brattish yet intense, but they ended up with snotty and irritating.
[1]

Doug Robertson: Because The Libertines managed to carve a career out of being a bit ramshackle with a disregard for the notion of staying in tune through the entire song, The Test Icicles believe that they can probably do the same and get away with it. Unfortunately they forget that The Libertines had the knack of coming up with the sort of pop hookage would keep the listener interested even though the song was falling apart around their ears. Oh, and the fact that they’d come round and play a gig in your bathroom if they thought it would persuade you to buy their single probably didn’t hinder matters either. This, however, lacks any sort of memorable quality and simply descends into the sort of embarassing shouty mess that would be knocked up by a group of teenagers before they settled down for the all important task of doing their algebra homework.
[4]

Joe Macare: An object study in atrociousness. These young men seem very angry about something or other. I'm afraid, chaps, that when you call yourself something like Test Icicles, you're really asking for all kinds of bad things to happen to, and you don't got a right to be hostile. Searching the internet has revealed that this band formed "almost as a mistake" - close, very close - and that at least one of them had their lives changed by Slipknot. Laughing at Test Icicles might become my new favourite pasttime, albeit a potentially dangerous one as they stike me as exactly the kind of band who might inspire the kind of fans who send people who write this kind of review hate-filled emails. These emails may even contain viruses created using mad haxx0r skills. Hold me while I weep for the youth of today.
[0]

Peter Parrish: Utter bollocks (oh ho, do you see what I did there?)
[1]

Jessica Popper: 12-year-old boy jokes and 12-year-old boy music. I'm so glad I'm not a 12-year-old boy.
[1]


Lemar – Don’t Give It Up
[3.78]


Cecily Nowell-Smith: If I wanted a song about girls waiting for the right time to lose their virginity, I'd be listening to Avril Lavigne, who for all her faults doesn't sound like a well-meaning but ineffective sociology teacher.
[4]

Paul Scott: Lemar attempts a duet with R2-D2. Despite the errant droid’s incessant chirping in the background, he again illustrates his effortlessly winning way with a tune, even if said tune seems to owe something to Kate Bush.
[6]

Alex Macpherson: The sound of a niche - black man the British public can pretend is white - continuing to be successfully filled. With concrete.
[0]

Dom Passantino: Holy shit, it's Michelle Gayle! Oh, wait, it's a guy singing. Still, it's probably better than Alex Parks' comeback single will be.
[1]

Peter Parrish: Right, this has played through four times now and I’m still to identify any distinguishing features whatsoever. On the other hand, nothing particularly hateful stood out and it HAS passed me by for a fourth time without mercilessly tweaking any rage glands. If Stylus marked things in gladiatorial fashion, my thumb would currently be wobbling around at a 90 degree angle as if repelled back and forth by two invisible magnets. That’s invisible magnets which affect flesh rather than metallic objects, obviously.
[5]


Morning Runner – Gone Up In Flames
[4.00]


Jessica Popper: Apparently Morning Runner are a local band to me. I'm so glad I'm moving!
[1]

Doug Robertson: There are many things in this world that deep down you know you shouldn’t like but secretly do. Things like Scott Mills, the cockroach-like tenacity of ex-Big Brother stars and Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff. Joining this ever growing list of guilty pleasures is this single, which should be entirely irritating with its Britpop-esque jauntyness and eagerness to please, but instead somehow manages to bypass the “That’s Godawful, Isn’t It?” detector in your brain and root itself firmly into the “You Know What? That’s Not Too Bad At All, Really” section instead. Fair play to them.
[7]

Peter Parrish: Urgh. There’s a word for this kind of abomination and that word is ‘chirpy’. For an ostensibly depressing topic, the emphasis upon face-meltingly enforced gaiety and, god help me, BouNCIneSS, is almost overwhelming. Well I’m taking a stand. I refuse to dance along to this shameful rubbish and you can’t make me. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it sounds like it struggled from the wreckage of a 90’s sub-Britpop massacre. Ritualistic immolation beckons.
[2]

Edward Oculicz: At least texturally, with the energetic chug underlaid by little bits of piano, quiet wailing backing vocals and such, I'm reminded of mid-period Supergrass, albeit somewhat more boring than that would entail. Charming, if inconsequential.
[5]

Paul Scott: The idiot kid brothers of The Seahorses attempt a cover of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Half way through they realise that they don't know enough chords, then as it dawns on them that they really have no idea what they're doing they start bashing the hell out of an organ one of them fished out of a skip. It’s all very trad-Dadrock, but when performed with the kind of gleeful inanity more suited to the Bash Street Kids than the usual fustily reverential purism that need not necessarily be a bad thing.
[6]


Akon – Bananza (Belly Dancer)
[4.50]


Edward Oculicz: An infuriating, ingratiating organ/sample combination mercifully attached to a thorougly dull song with some of the least imaginative rhymes ever heard.
[4]

Doug Robertson: Akon is back, and he’s stopped moping around the house, feeling all sorry for himself and playing old Alvin and the Chipmunks records and has instead decided to go out and find himself a new ladyfriend, presumably because he’s got a better chance of scoring now that he can now say to them “No, Akon, you must have heard of me, I’ve had a number one and everything”. No matter what you said about ‘Lonely’ – and many people had a lot to say about it – it did at least stand out and sound unique. This, unfortunately, falls squarely into the generic category, no matter how much jiggling might be done.
[5]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: It's almost impressive how mediocre Akon is, how forgettable despite the irritant of his nasal voice. At least 'Lonely' had that thousand-times-annoying sample to make it memorable. 'Bananza' (sic. sic sic sic sic sic.) tries to repeat the trick by repeating the chorus over and over, with a hyperactive twiddle of fake-snake-charmer pipe, but when the verses wiggle around all over the place they sound more aimless than enticing. Points, though, for the balls-dropping squeak he makes when he sings "work that ass".
[4]

Dom Passantino: I get it now! Now Nelly just does slow-tempo Spandau-hop, Akon is the new bandwagon jumping mad guy! And it works! He's on the Arabic-sample steez a mere three years after everybody, and he wants you to belly dance. In his Mazzeratti. Akon will possibly not be on the "Star In A Reasonably Priced Car" leaderboard any time soon.
[7]

Joe Macare: It's hard to feel compelled to shake your rear end to something so lacking in low end, and Akon's vocals seem inferior to the form he showed on 'Locked Up'. As with the Juliet single, I'm torn between wanting it on record that I approve of "this sort of thing" in general and feeling that this just isn't cutting it as "this sort of thing" goes.
[5]


Texas - Getaway
[4.89]


Paul Scott: Texas return with a breezily insipid number that will be familiar to anyone who has ever heard one of their previous breezily insipid tunes making up the numbers on the radio or as not unpleasant background music in a pub or supermarket. Nothing too unpleasant, apart from the way Sharleen Spiteri is sounding more like Carol Smillie with every release.
[5]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: "I can't live in this house with you no more" - dear Sharleen Spiteri, please to remember that you are from Scotland, which is not in the US, despite your band name, and that the construction you are looking for is "any more". Whenever I hear a Texas single I'm either bored to tears by the smarm or distract myself with bringing to mind the many many songs it's reminiscent of but nowhere near as good as. If you're going to get away from anywhere, how about from this awful rut of schmaltz-voiced ersatz epic bobbins?
[3]

Edward Oculicz: For every dire Texas single, there's always one that's a lot better than you remember. This is definitely one of their quality moments. Roof down, windows open, cruising, perhaps less urgent than would be suggested lyrically and thematically, but with enough hooks to breeze merrily into the land of "quite good".
[8]

Alex Macpherson: Pop without any snap or crackle. 'Getaway' soars, but neither too high or too low; it blusters, tastefully. It's music for people who used to love pop music, but now prioritise the mortgage and the career. But they let themselves feel guilty enough about this to shell out for a CD occasionally, and sadly and inevitably it's bands like Texas - shiny so as not to be scary, but emphatically grown-up, mature - who benefit.
[3]

Doug Robertson: Ah, Texas, how long have we been waiting for you to come up with some new material? Not long e-bloody-nough, frankly, is the answer to that particular question. This, however, isn’t actually as terrible as you might be expecting and, had it been performed by pretty much any other act in the history of popular music, this might actually be a quite good little track. Unfortunately it all comes to the fact that Sharleen Spiteri’s voice has all the character of a bucket of water and is generally as pleasant to listen to as two cats fighting. For the first few lines she almost gets away with it, sounding like Shirley Manson on a slightly off day, but old habits die hard and she swiftly returns to the half-hearted breathyness which she presumably thinks makes her sound sexy, but serves mainly to convince the listener that the recording studio is on the top floor of a block of flats and the only lift is gubbed.
[6]


ODB ft. Black Keith - Thirsty
[5.56]


Paul Scott: It seems really rather curious that this track is credited to ODB when he barely appears on it. One has to wait through 1 minute and 42 seconds of mediocre crooning from Black Keith for the deceased Wu Tang nutter to turn up and do the kind of gruff guest rap he must have made a fortune providing whilst he was breathing. By 2:19 we have pretty much seen the last of ODB, and Black Keith is back in charge for another couple of minutes of monotony padded out with the kind of dodgy speech samples that seemed to have disappeared from mainstream music after the Fun Lovin' Criminals proved how dangerous they can be in the wrong hands. Whether this track was put together before his untimely demise or built round some off cuts found on the studio floor, it's not the most fulsome of tributes.
[4]

Jessica Popper: I spent the first half of this song wondering if I had the right song as I distinctly remembered ODB being a rapper, not a John Legend wannabe. It is slightly more listenable than some of the other things out this week, but that's not really saying much, is it?
[1]

Dom Passantino: He didn't walk, he got carried. He'd fuck yo ass up. And, of course, you couldn't peep his style with a pair of bifocals. And now he's dead. However, in a WG-Grace-advertising-the-Ashes stylee, he's back from beyond the grave, and totally against his will. Here, we get nearly two minutes of r&b crooning from some non-entity called Black Keith, before the producer goes "Oh, wait, I've got an old ODB verse lying about here somewhere, why don't I tack that onto the end of this, that'll sell an extra 40 copies". If this song was any more cynical it'd be me.
[5]

Alex Macpherson: It's like trip-hop never went away: plucked bass; lazy, scratchy beats like fingers unconsciously tapping out a rhythm on your shoulder; plucked bass bringing the menace and sleek string sample bringing the mood. The signifiers are all obvious, especially once you realise the Wu-Tang feel is due to the fact that Rza produced it; what's surprising is how effective they (still) are. They're helped, of course, by the disparate but formidable vocals of Black Keith and the late, great ODB himself: the former sadly seductive (or seductively sad?), the latter at his wits' end and slightly incongruous.
[9]

Peter Parrish: At first I wondered why, if they were so thirsty, they didn’t quench their torment with the languidly dripping tap which is evidently splashing down upon a mountain of filthy pans throughout this track. Then I thought possibly it was because they couldn’t squeeze past the orchestra who’ve taken up temporary residence in the kitchen. Realisation dawned when I discovered this song appears on the Blade: Trinity soundtrack. They didn’t want to risk a violin bow through the heart. Ho ho, they were vampires all along and were merely thirsty for the sweet, life-giving nectar flowing through our unsuspecting veins! Oh, undead ODB, you are a rascal.
[6]


Juliet – Ride The Pain
[5.67]


Peter Parrish: Try as I might, I could not ‘ride the pain into the pleasure’. It’s awfully generous of otherwise emphatically empty tracks to contain instructions for coping with them inside their own lyrics though--like some twisted self-help guide for the terminally irritated. Let’s have some more of that. I’m quietly confident that a danceable chorus of ‘stuff cotton wool inside your ears until your brain is forced down your nostrils like a sieved blancmange’ can crack the charts.
[3]

Jessica Popper: This is one of many great songs from Juliet's album. I don't know if it's a stand out track for me personally but the album is so consistent that it's hard to pick favourites. It's much rockier and more representative of the album than ‘Avalon’, but just as good.
[8]

Joe Macare: The strange connections between electropop and goth - best summarised by imagining a spikey-haired person in red rubber dancing to Felix The Housecat, and the fittingness thereof - are further cemented here by Juliet. While the production is impeccable, and the sentiments expressed are suitably decadent, the problem is that I am not 100% convinced. "I haven't seen or heard enough 'til I've looked under every rock." It's a bit like listening to someone banging on endlessly about how liberated and daring and polymorphously perverse they are. All well and good, but don't you just want a nice cup of tea and a biscuit now and again? Somebody give this woman a livejournal, I hear users/miss_kittin_klone is free. (Still, a cloned Kittin is better than none at all...)
[6]

Dom Passantino: Edwards is a chain bar with over 20 establishments nationwide. This song is currently playing in all of them. Archers' Aqua: 3 for £5.
[3]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Trapped uncomfortably between really good and embarassingly tryhard, so that when Juliet sings "riiide the pain into the pleasure" it sounds more like she's yelling about steeplechasing than sex. Jacques Lu Cont produced this; you'd expect better, really.
[6]


The Game - Dreams
[5.78]


Edward Oculicz: A completely flat, lifeless track. It doesn't thrill you with danceability, chill you with bleakness or pensiveness, it seemingly mentions everyone The Game has met over a sample that probably seemed like a good idea but falls some way short of even providing a point of interest.
[2]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: So, according to The Hardest Man Who Looks Like A Teddybear In The World, MLK had a dream, Aaliyah had a dream, Left Eye had a dream, and now they're dead; which The Game is not, because his dream is Kanye West (cos I looove you!). That's it, right? If you took the namechecks out of this song, there wouldn't be anything left to it but a rather nifty instrumental. You wouldn't want to take them out, though. Not when they bring you the line "then my world turned black, like I was staring out of Stevie Wonder's glasses". Staring out of Stevie Wonder's glasses!
[7]

Jessica Popper: Another Game single? He seems to have a new one every other week, alternating with 50 Cent. Not that you would notice, considering they all sound identical.
[2]

Dom Passantino: Admit it, you're surprised. You're surprised that The Game has a personality. You were just sitting around last December thinking "Dre begat Eminem begat Fifty begat G-Unit begat The Game etc etc etc", and confident the laws of diminishing returns were going to continue. And then… "Hate It Or Love It", that was a shock. And then he did "300 Bars And Running", the first ever prog-rap diss track to feature a four year old girl comparing Tony Yayo to Dora the Explorer. He could have been Lloyd Banks 2K5, but instead he's quite happy to go around biting the hand that feeds, and giving off the appearance of someone that really doesn't understand why he's famous. "Don't sleep on me homey/I bring nightmares to reality". Kanye earns his pay for once, Game's on some "we shall overcome" ish, Eazy-E and Huey Newton are placed on the same level… and it just works.
[9]

Joe Macare: Maybe it's 'cos originally I was under the impression that The Game was implying that all the people he names in this song had exactly the same dream, but this took a while to grow on me. Or maybe it was the way the video makes every element of the song a bit Do You See: little cartoons or lookalikes for every person Game names in the lyrics to give historical weight, and a range of old men with well-worn faces emoting the sample, so that you get hit over the head with how troubled and soulful it's meant to sound. On its own, 'Dreams' does all that just fine, rather than labouring the point. Sure, Kanye is still saving all the best beats for himself, but this one serves perfectly well as a backdrop for some reflective verses that are so conscious and positive that they must surely endear Game to backpackers... Oh, wait, there's that bit where he talks about fancying Mya, isn't there. Ah well.
[8]


Madeleine Peyroux – You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
[6.33]


Edward Oculicz: Madeleine's voice works better on a brisk song like this than it does on her slower songs, and she imbues this Dylan track with a humanity and humility well above the original. This is what your Dido-buying older relatives should listen to instead.
[8]

Doug Robertson: Listening to this is like being in a smoky jazz club without the risk of lung cancer, which is grand if you’re the sort of person who loves smoky jazz clubs and hates lung cancer. I’m not, although lung cancer doesn’t rate too highly on my big list of fantastic things. In fact, pretty much anything that doesn’t involve being in a smoky jazz club, not matter how unpleasant that thing may be, is likely to rate higher on the enjoyment scale. Despite this, there’s still something vaguely pleasant about this track which keeps it from being entirely hateful. Maybe it’s the alluring vocals, perhaps it’s the enjoyable sparseness of the piano, who knows? One thing’s for sure, it’s certainly not the brush based drumming which irritates exactly as much as taking one of those brushes and forcing it through your aural canal, past your eardrum and into your brain.
[4]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Sounds rather like it should be have been released a while back - fifty years ago, seventy maybe – with a Billie Holliday-ish croon and the plinking accompaniment. And so I feel like I should hate it, on principle and by taste, for how smug-thirtysomething its intended audience must be, for being so very coffee table, for the affectation of aping a long-gone style. Yet she does have such a wonderful honey-and-gravel voice, dropping gently on the notes, sailing smoothly, effortlessly, through. Taking such a scrappy-feeling song and turning it tender, still so bittersweet: must be the best Dylan cover I've heard.
[7]

Alex Macpherson: Sparseness isn't a virtue when the what's left is so tentative and unresolved that you spend the entire song in a state of expectancy which is never fulfilled: surely the intro riff will change now, surely the big key change will happen in the next bar, surely there's going to be some sort of chorus soon...oh wait, the song's ended. It makes for a nice enough demo, but frankly in the big old world of Proper Songs it doesn't cut it.
[5]

Peter Parrish: A casual saunter through a Dylan number with butterscotch vocals. And yet ... and YET, also a cheeky subversion of the original. Amidst the glass-is-half-empty-and-poisoned pessimism of Blood on the Tracks it comes off as yet another tale of inevitable relationship disappointment (however promising the initial signs may be). In this guise, it’s something else entirely. The leaving is still inevitable, but it can surely only be temporary--the lonesome feeling merely one of adoring sighs and excitable expectation, filling in the time before your current flame will comes waltzing back through the door. Sweet and syrupy as honey-swathed toast on a decadent morning off.
[8]


Joy Zipper - 1
[6.67]


Jessica Popper: For some bizarre reason, the only time I ever hear or see this band is in Top Shop, on their big music video-playing screens. They do have great videos and great songs, although the idea of them being the musical equivalent of Top Shop is a bit worrying (they do sell nice jewellery though!).
[8]

Joe Macare: I'm reliably informed they're really great people, but Joy Zipper aren't living up to the critical accolades which have been thrown their way, not for the duration of '1', anyway. It's pretty clear the effect they're going for: very summery, very American, sounds kinda like the wind in your long curly hair and the sun on your aviators as you drive through California, but with a dark undercurrent, yeah? The problem with aiming for "light and breezy on the surface, with a dark undercurrent" is that it's really easy to misjudge it and just create a sort of grey, middling mulch. With an incessantly droning chorus.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: Amiably jaunty if repetitive to such a degree that it's only just forgivable, and the first bit of the verses is completely ripped off a song from the 60s or maybe 70s that I can't quite place. All the ingredients are quite palatable but there's no progression, no real spark of interest to drag it above "average", even though tune-wise it's a cut above most its peers.
[5]

Paul Scott: This is so perfect a deployment of American alt rock tropes that it's hard not to just sit here listing all the bands whose influence is hidden within: The Pixies, Pavement, The Breeders, Archers Of Loaf… all these and more slink somewhere just beneath the surface. The chugging rhythms, guitars that teeter between lazy strum and all out amp attack yet would never be so crass as to do so, the lead male vocal that radiates the kind of laid back slacker charm that seemed to have been absent from rock since Stephen Malkmus decided being endearing didn't suit him, the sun blushed female backing vocals. Then the two voices become so perfectly intertwined, their repetition of “the one” takes on an almost mantric quality and our suburban romantic and the deified object of his affections, "the sun was in her hands" apparently, spiral off above the streets and Joy Zipper too spiral away, off and above, transcending their influences and sounding like no one but themselves.
[10]

Doug Robertson: Sounding like all your favourite songs – well, all the ones from before the eighties, anyway – mixed together in a blender to form something very beautiful and special indeed. Despite its clear quality, I still can’t see it doing any better than the top 30. Buy a copy and prove me wrong. Please.
[8]


Ciara ft. Ludacris - Oh
[6.78]


Peter Parrish:‘Oh’ can be such a wonderfully loaded word. The slightest difference in vocal intonation can whisk it along the emotional spectrum, landing it almost anywhere between bored and aroused. From ‘your dog’s dead’ ( ... oh) to ‘so I bought you this new puppy’ (oh!). With that in mind, this particular “Oh” charts around the level of a response to ‘hey, we’ve run out of milk’.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: For mixing the dirty/sleazy with the brilliantly danceable, Ciara is something of an unstoppable force. Luda's not even trying anymore, though, but this song drips with enough bad-girl cool to render that meaningless.
[9]

Cecily Nowell-Smith: Oh, so good: molasses-slow, almost ghostly, a huge echoing space haunted by the distant boom of menacing synth. Ciara coos, softly, delicately, to the phantom responses of her own voice; Luda struts double-time, preens himself and bows out. If something can be both listless and menacing, that's this, lazy like a trickle of sweat down your spine.
[10]

Dom Passantino: Because everybody's favourite thing about Aaliyah was her repeatedly skipped-over album tracks, wasn't it? Ludacris then pops up and kicks eight-bars in a voice so bored one can only assume that he's just watched a 10 episode marathon of Sugar Rush (zing!)
[3]

Alex Macpherson: Crunk slowed down to a 70bpm crawl round the club punctuated by whiplash beats and slo-mo stabbing synths. Ciara herself is even more exquisite than usual: restrained and unruffled in the face of synths so cavernous they could swallow her whole, constantly flirting with subsuming herself in them but always pulling back and rising back through again. She rides the beat like she's taming a wild animal: "we keep it gutter you should know / gettin' crunk up in the club, we gets low" delivered slow and with a vice-like control; you can virtually hear that Ciara has time to wet her lips between each line. This song is quite staggering, and the more I listen to it the more I'm convinced that it is a genius pinnacle of human achievement.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-08-01
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