Radio Ga Ga
n this edition of the UK Singles Jukebox: Brian McFadden, Shystie, REM, Fatboy Slim and 3 of a Kind rankle our five loyal reviewers.
Real To Me
Peter Parrish: Showbiz world in being hollow, empty and fake shocker! Good job Brian was there with his arpeggios to let me know the truth before I embarked upon my star-studded trip to the top. Now I know to choose one of the oh-so-many vocations where money and power happily share prominence with basic levels of morality. Bless you Mr. McFadden, bless you.
Dave McGonigle: Gasp! A pop star who ‘tells it like it is’, letting us know that his life of champagne and airports is actually not all that, and instead an afternoon of watching ‘his babies run’ and ‘football on TV’ is actually preferable. I hope this indicates that this will be the last single from our Brian, and I will never have to listen to his offensively self-pitying mewling ever again.
Dom Passantino: In tribute to the late Brian Clough, one can only say to McFadden "You won't get into my charts without a shave". Worst number one single of the year yet. Can everyone except Courtney please stop doing meta-pop singles? Didn't pop stars used to be happy? That H looked like a cheerful chap, what's he up to nowadays?
Barima Nyantekyi: Purportedly a different sound from Westlife (Brian's own words), this is little more than “Hey Whatever” part 2, but with the "indie realness" factors of Brian's personal life laid bare for all to be bored, his new dirty blond locks and facial hair (icky) and his weight loss (there go my Meatloaf accusations). He ends up sounding utterly unconvincing in carrying off this turtle-slow (and that's not fair on them) guitar dirge and the interest in your personal life, Bri? That only happens when you split with the missus—oh wait. Is there something karmic in the promotion of this reality-TV-as-song crap costing Brian his marriage? I dunno, but keep on enjoying the English tea, dude.
Colin Cooper: “I grew a beard because that makes me a rock star.”
“I play guitar because that makes me a musician.”
“I sing in a husky voice because that makes me Bryan Adams.”
Authenticity, thy name is Brian McFadden.
3 of a Kind
Peter Parrish: Always good to see home economics back on the musical agenda. I refuse to call it ‘food technology’ unless there are robotic space-menaces crudely constructed from whisks and knives involved. Mix 200g of annoying wank with 150g of self-harm inducing awfulness, bake for about three minutes longer than you should and voila!
Dave McGonigle: A strange beast, this one; a gaunt garage track that wears its emaciation proudly, a product of the bedroom, rather than the dancefloor. On the surface it’s throwaway bubblegum 2-step, yet underneath the jolly rhythms and giggling intro I sense a current of unease that acts to undermine the simple lyrics. And they knocked Busted off the top of the charts, too, so society owes them a great debt.
Dom Passantino: Deliberately retro style recordings whilst the genre you're tributing hasn't totally died out yet? 2-step is the new grunge. This makes 3 Of A Kind the British Puddle of Mudd.
Barima Nyantekyi: It's sad that the commercial prospects of two-step dwindled so quickly so as to have it return to the top of the pops in cheesy kidlike form, and this is no “Sweet Like Chocolate” to boot. It does have its own merits, riding on a crest of subdued bounce, muted music box melodies and vocal restraint—in other words, a tune aiming to be less annoying than its basic description would suggest.
Colin Cooper: The X Files. Those toy guns that make funny noises. Some really cool, skeletal beats, human beat-boxing. “Babycakes” starts off UK garage, and as such isn’t all that appealing/relevant, and is impossible to hear without that video coming to mind. In the lyrics, we hear the first signs of relationship dissatisfaction in the drink-your-weight-in-WKD set. You know, the ones who spend every Thursday and Saturday at your local Superclub getting all wankered, like. “Babycakes” is the musical equivalent of disposing of used contraception.
Slash Dot Dash
Peter Parrish: -.- .. -. -.. .-.. -.-- / ..-. ..- -.-. -.- / --- ..-. ..-. / -. --- .-- --..-- / - .- .-.-.-
Dave McGonigle: He’s come a long way, Baby—but this is hardly a rebirth. Sounding worryingly like a misspent afternoon recording session borne of ProTools n’ Cider, this is a regression of the most terrifying form; like watching someone you love slowly slip into the cloying grasp of senile dementia, forgetting their greatness to live in ill-remembered pockets of the past.
Dom Passantino: www.sshhh.com. I think Austin Powers references kind of fit in with Fatboy's frame of reference. I hear his next single features Billie Myers and Pierluigi Casaraghi.
Barima Nyantekyi: Doing what he's relied on to do, as ever. Like a more manically intense “Weapon Of Choice”, his last big single (and video), “Slash-Dot-Dash” is like an exercise in sonic gibberish, with stop-starts, a monomaniacal vocalist and sampled bridges that have nothing to do with the rest of the song, though nice diversions nonetheless. It's all very instant and danceable, and Norm is content not to push things forward. But in a way, his music never ages anyway due to his mandate to bring on the fun/shake your ass. There's an undeniable suspicion here that he can't keep that up forever though—“Slash Dot Dash” will wear out its welcome sooner or later, but for now, there's nothing wrong with losing yourself in it for a while.
Colin Cooper: /.-./.-./.-./.com /.-./.-./.-./.com.com.com….com /.-./.-./.-./.com /.-./.-.com.com.com /.-./.-./.-./.com /.-./.-.com.com….com - then really funky, punchy guitars, reminiscent of the Franz Ferdinand singles on heavy rotation alongside Norman’s latest offering. More interweb gibberish, more of those staccato guitar rhythms, then what sounds like the backing vocal lines from some old Northern Soul record or other, then round again. This is fantastic fun, something that 3 Of A Kind aren’t quite so convincing with, and something that everybody else seems to have forgotten ever existed. Did I mention this is really funky? I did? Good.
Leaving New York
Peter Parrish: Frustratingly, I can’t dredge up precisely which previous REM song this reminds me of. Possibly just some kind of freakish, boggle-eyed amalgamation of everything on Automatic For The People. More disturbingly, Stipeypoos has finally reduced his level of unintelligibly nonsensical/clever lyrics to zero; perhaps as part of some kind of mysterious Weight Watchers plan, but for enigmatic songwriters. There’s an entertaining doubled-up vocal section, but otherwise it’s sedate, piano-tickled averageness.
Dave McGonigle: I’m in two minds about this single. On one hand, it offers absolutely nothing new from the middle-age threesome, feeling almost like the kind of caricature that a talented satirist like Chris Morris might create in his spare time (who could forget his fake REM whaling song) On the other hand, it offers absolutely nothing new from the group. We’ll see how the new album sounds; hopefully, less like the sound of treading water than this track.
Dom Passantino: I thought "Bad Day" signified a return to form? Like watching a boxer that's had one fight too many. REM Jones Jr?
Barima Nyantekyi: REM trademarked their own brand of introspective downbeat balladeering time ago. “Leaving New York” earns the adjective "pleasant" at least five times over, as well as the sobriquet "Sting". It's also the sort of song Smallville and The O.C. would be only too happy to use the next time Clark and Lana/Ryan and Marissa have one of their funny little turns. It has the right intentions, but the end result is too pedestrian, too studied. The emotional core is either missing or greatly suppressed and Sti(ng)pe sounds a little too detached to keep things convincingly weary. They're still excellent players for what it's worth—the piano and guitar are wonderful; the brief middle-8 is classy—and the "I love you forever"s are ten times more resonant than a certain Bedingfield's, but otherwise, all I really hear is Jerry Maguire begging the band to "play from the heart".
Colin Cooper: R.E.M. have found a new, passive audience in 40-somethings who hum their tunes on the way to work without actually knowing they recorded one of the most acclaimed albums ever. It seems the band are once again playing to that crowd with “Laving New York”, although in many ways, the band perfected this formula on Reveal. I wouldn’t really mind, ‘cos the harmonies are great and the melody nice enough, but where exactly does this fit into their much-touted “angry” “political” songwriting stance? Has simply name-checking New York become sufficient controversial currency post-9/11?
Make It Easy
Peter Parrish: Modern day Shakespearean tragedy. He was a bookworm student studying for his masters! She was some kind of nutzoid gangsteress! She wanted more than friendship! He didn’t ... but then ... he did! She said he’s blown his chance and should get back to studying! All it’s missing is identical twins dressed up as their opposite gender.
Dave McGonigle: Music to make you believe that heartfelt romanticism isn’t dead. Look beyond the mockernee lyrics, the teenage gaucheness, and this state-of-the-art example of London life will catch your throat with its honesty. If “Dry Your Eyes” stopped trying and just was, it would be this song. I quite like it, by the way.
Dom Passantino: We have Est'elle now, and she actually sells records. Please go away.
Barima Nyantekyi: Sooner or later, it seems like every rapper uncovers their easy listening side, and Shystie certainly gives it some here. She's all out to let a persistent guy know it ain't gonna happen—but in a nice way, of course ("You're just dazed and confused"). Of course, she won't actually let on the real reasons why she won't get with him; there are countless men over the centuries, who've been rejected with reasons like "It wouldn't work", "I ain't right for you" and "Your true soulmate is just round the corner", but I guess every romantic cliche gets incorporated into rhyme as days go by. The backing holds no surprises, being a bed for Shystie's rapping, but it's less schmaltzy than the idea implies, though the backing singers have a touch of mild beery embarassment about them.
Colin Cooper: Yeah, sample “Make It Easy On Yourself” for a really bad song—that’s original. Hilariously, the chorus features those kids you hear at school who think they can sing because they waver between every couple of notes during every syllable and weld “yeah” on to every line. Shystie seems to be riding on the particularly repugnant wave of council-estate-chic here in the UK, and this is the second single of hers’ we’ve reviewed on Singles Jukebox. Definitely the first time I felt that Stylus Magazine might actually be trying to raise my blood pressure.
By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2004-09-29