The Singles Jukebox
Sepp Blatters Banana Shots



ooh, it's a big week, this one. Four of this year's previous winners go head to head: the panel get to experience what happens when the bloke out of The Research tries his hand at singing; T.I. sees how far a Crystal Waters sample and a slightly limited gift for metaphor can take him; Marit Larsen gets all swoony on yr ass; and having softened us up with 'Promiscuous' last week, Nelly Furtado sends the single she's unleashed on The World Outside America over the top. There's also the new Bob Sinclar single (I'll leave you to imagine the look of unconfined glee on my face), LeToya Luckett is the latest ex-Destiny's Child member to not entirely make Beyonce's dad eat his words, Stylophonic go down to the chocolate factory, Depeche Mode get back in the pulpit, and Ronan Keating takes Kate Rusby under his not-even-vaguely-creepy wing. First, though, The Vines. I'd love it for that to not say it all, but it pretty much does, doesn't it?


The Vines - Anysound
[2.17]

John Cameron: I never understood why the Vines are so maligned. They have hooks, a fairly good grasp of melody, and now because of certain well-publicised constraints they have an improved sense of brevity. And hey, less is more when it comes to the Vines, right?
[6]

Hillary Brown: Brevity is the soul of making me think your song is possibly less shit than it actually is. I still have great desire to punch the singer, but it doesn’t rise to its zenith in the less than 2 minutes of the tune.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Asperger's be buggered, I've often thought Craig Nicholls' facial expressions and appallingly uncommunicative interviews were symptoms of being a coked-up tosser who knows that one day people will realise he actually has no songwriting talent at all. That day simply cannot come quickly enough, because then these hugely repetitive, lifeless pastiches (a bit of 60s pop, a bit of 80s garage) will stop, and there will be much rejoicing. That's before you even get into how horrid his voice is. Shout, drawl, and wail. Repeat constantly. Go away.
[0]

Peter Parrish: Vine Facts, #21.7: Vines will often use rocks or other plants for growth, rather than investing too much energy supporting themselves. This enables the freeloading vine to reach sunlight with a minimum investment of effort.
[1]


Ronan Keating ft. Kate Rusby - All Over Again
[2.71]

Hillary Brown: Isn’t this the crippled Irish tenor? He sounds much more painfully soulful than I would have thought, but luckily, he’s balanced out by Kate Rusby, who has a lovely sweet folky sound to her vocals. As far as music that could score a dancin’ in the barn scene, there is considerably worse available.
[4]

Mike Powell: Love is either like the cosmic and incontrovertible movement of planets or the transformation of rational human beings into seething animals. Love is not a gentle pat on a sweatless thigh and the sweet breath of freshly-laundered linen. No, that is fucking boring.
[2]

Andrew Unterberger: I guess we need songs like this every now and then to remind us how otherwise good we actually have it. This treacly “Whole New World” style of dueting somehow feels even more regressive than Blunt and Powter, and I give thanks to the higher powers of US radio programming that I can’t even remember the last song like this to hit in our country.
[1]

Jessica Popper: This has done surprisingly well, considering even my mum thinks it's boring. The lady singer adds a traditional sound, which must have got all the grannies awwing. He hasn't quite done a Westlife, but his career seems to have been reawoken after the disappointing reception of his last album, his first without the New Radicals bloke. Oh. By the way, if you've spent the last few years wishing someone would cover the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris,” I'm afraid your wish has come true. It's Ronan's next single. He's also just released his own cologne and perfume!
[3]


Tom Snare - Philosophy
[3.50]

Hillary Brown: The question is why Daft Punk can get me excited about this kind of bleepy, thumpy nothing. Because they’re robots? Or more because they have vocals? Set this to a first-person shooter and it’s fine. Make me listen to it in isolation at 9 AM on a Monday morning, and I will feel the need for more coffee.
[3]

John Cameron: LESSON: Pure sax samples are annoying as all hell. Daft Punk mimickry, in this day and age, is equally obnoxious. Young Thomas Snare has committed both indiscretions.
[2]

Ian Mathers: Babelfish tells us that “Tom Snare sensitizes the track and attracts a broad female public by the melody richness of these productions,” and who am I to argue? Just because it's a completely anonymous slice of Euro-trance, why hold that against it? I mean, just because “Philosophy” is barely effective as dancefloor fodder and boring as hell at home, why hate? The man sensitized the track!
[2]

Jessica Popper: I was quite excited at the prospect of this song, hoping that it would detail the history of philosophy and be a handy revision aid for my upcoming exams in the subject, but no such luck. The song doesn't even have the word philosophy in it. No philosopher would endorse this—not even the nutty ones.
[2]


Stylophonic – Pure Imagination
[4.29]

Jonathan Bradley Very odd in that it sounds as if absolutely no effort was made to mix the sample in to the rest of the song, with the resulting collision coming across something like the experience of being stuck at a red light between a trance nut and a Willy Wonka fanboy. If I had an option, I’d be listening to the trance guy’s disc, because it has this cheap Mr. Oizo thing going on, whereas the car on the other side is just banging Gene Wilder. If Stylophonic intends this to be a cautionary tale explaining the necessity of a superior car stereo, point taken, but otherwise they need to get their ass back to producer school.
[3]

Hillary Brown: Did we need this? I suppose the point of imagination is not utility, but enough already with the Wonka love. Sort of like that “Singin’ in the Rain” remix minus the cool dancing and plus several cups of gay.
[4]

Jessica Popper: Releasing an old song with strange squelchy noises around it is hardly the most original idea anyone's ever had, but I've heard much worse. It's a bit late to be trying for success off the back of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory though, isn't it?
[5]

Doug Robertson: Even if Roald Dahl himself hated it, the original Willy Wonka film is a joyous film indeed, even if the benefit fraud which is clearly being carried out by Grandpa Joe—apparently bed-ridden but the minute a free trip to a chocolate factory is on offer he’s up and about, not just walking, but singing and dancing as well—leaves a bad taste in the mouth. This re-working of “Pure Imagination” from that film—essentially a song which tells you to eat chocolate to forget all your troubles—also leaves a slightly iffy taste in the mouth. It’s not that it’s bad as such, just kinda pointless. Compared to the joys of eating a Wonka bar, this is more like munching down on a Slugworth special; nowhere near as satisfying.
[5]


Bob Sinclar ft. Steve Edwards - World Hold On (Children of the Sky)
[4.40]

Jessica Popper: Bizarrely, Bob has gone from a slightly obscure DJ my dad likes to the favourite DJ of your average clubbing chav in the space of one single. This is the follow-up and its novelty whistling is sure to cement Mr. Sinclar as the king of chav-dance, at least until the next two-hit wonder comes along.
[6]

Peter Parrish: Let’s open up our hearts, let’s join hands and save the world while we still can, let’s all reflect on a DEEPER LOVE (quick clue—it’s god). Reasonably admirable sentiments in themselves, but badly let down by being shoved over that sub-standard, pulsing beat we’ve all heard several hundred times before. Wait for it ... here comes the completely predictable change in tone! Wuu, now those laudable messages sound like PLUR bollocks! Still, at least they invited someone in to do some brilliantly tuneful whistling.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: I don't know anything about Steve Edwards, but he's a strong and thoughtful vocalist, and he glides sinuously over the lively French house beats here superbly. There's a delightful whistly part over the top, providing the pop hook to add to the danciness and the slightly soulful vocal. I'm not sure it sounds terribly 2006, but it's tremendously enjoyable.
[8]

Doug Robertson: Summer must be here, for not only do we have flowers blooming in the most unlikely of places, but we also have laid back trance anthems popping up here, there, and everywhere, all trying to convince you that you’re lying on an Ibizan beach and not struggling through the boredom of a nine to five existence while the sun beams in through the office windows, adding to the misery of drudgery.
[5]


Marcelo D2 - O Gueto
[5.00]

Edward Oculicz: Fat bass! Crowd noises given a bit of the old-fashioned DJ wicky-wicky action. Some dirty guitars that actually lend a party atmosphere rather than dragging things down. If this had a real vocal hook to go with the beefy backing, which is far too good for the lifeless rap above it, Marcelo would be really on to something here.
[6]

Mike Powell: I am fairly convinced that Brazil makes consistently higher-quality music than anywhere else in the world. I choose to tell you this now because when we get non-English hip-hop up in this piece, it’s usually garbage. I promise. And I’m a tolerant man. So here’s a Brazilian one, and it’s really pretty durn good; it’s got a dusty garage-funk beat, great horn breaks, group vocals, and a good enough aesthetic compass to cut the presumably obese guy with the really hoarse voice down to four lonely bars at the very end.
[7]

Peter Parrish: I think I recognise that crowd noise sample from an early version of Sensible Soccer. This is clearly primed to be an exciting backing track for a shameful World Cup cash-in advert (complete with whistles and LATIN RHYTHMS). You know the sort of thing; it starts with lots of rapid camerawork and the dribbling of multiple footballs down tiny corridors for no reason. Then Ronaldinho curls a banana shot off Sepp Blatters face into some precariously placed industrial machinery which, in turn, tragically crushes a number of corporate sponsors and anyone who ever stuck an England flag on their car without knowing where or what a “Paraguay” might be. Maybe.
[3]

Martin Skidmore: Rapped Portugese vocals over a mostly rocky backing (plus a strong hint of Latin jazz stylings). I hate trying to assess hip-hop without being able to understand the words, but this sounds brash and lively, and the music is pretty funky.
[6]


The Streets – Never Went to Church
[5.00]

Jonathan Bradley After three Streets records, the character of Mike Skinner is pretty much established; like the charismatic friend of a friend, he’s somebody who can spin a witty tale out of anything and, though he may be a bit of a tosser, he’s one who can pull off his dumb-clever jokes with enough charm to avoid being too much of a pain in the ass. He’s in fine form here, drawing enough sentiment out of his grief to allow the too tidy conclusion to work, and playing his one-liners well enough to make them seem funnier than they actually are. And, of course, any change to “Let It Be” is an improvement.
[8]

Andrew Unterberger: I actually don’t mind the Beatles borrowing as much as I mind the unnecessary choir-like singing on the chorus and Skinner’s bizarrely inappropriate spoken comments at the beginning and end of the song (“Two great European narcotics / Alcohol and Christianity”—how Marxian). “Dry Your Eyes” worked because it felt personal and heartfelt, this just feels like Mike creating a ballad to serve as his new album’s second single. Don’t be surprised if this one falls short of the top spot.
[4]

Joe Macare: I like to think that in days to come, the early critical fawning over The Streets—and the increasingly unconvincing attempts to pretend that Mike Skinner is still some kind of talented auteur—is going to look as embarrassing as all the praise that was lavished upon Oasis, and the equally desperate "no, really, Be Here Now is a solid album!" stuff. But even by Skinner's standards "Never Went to Church" is a new low: I genuinely had to grit my teeth to get through the full three and a half minutes of this mawkish attempt at profundity.
[0]

Peter Parrish: Curses, I really wanted to hate this—just as I have loathed the rest of Skinner’s irritating oeuvre. A deeply unhilarious slant on the classic Marxist “opium of the masses” line briefly raised my hopes, but it quickly became clear that Mike was singing about the rather weighty matter of losing his dad. He’s managed not to do it too mawkishly either, damn him. I’m not buying the nonsensical implication that “ooh, maybe we all need a bit of religion sometimes eh?” though. Crap jokes, annoying subtext, but overall ... gah ... quite affecting and thoughtful, really.
[6]


Sel - Parasyk Man Laiska Is Paryziaus
[5.17]

Ian Mathers: According to the only English-language site with a story about Sel I could find, he's actually singer-songwriter Egidijus Dragunas and is “Lithuania's dance music sensation” (thanks, LALithuanians.com!). The acoustic guitar as an element of this kind of light dance pop is woefully underused, but once the actual beat kicks in this is very nice, and Dragunas shows admirable verbal dexterity especially over what barely qualifies as a chorus. In feel this actually isn't miles away from the Marisa Monte single we covered a few weeks ago, albeit with even faster paced vocals.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: Glitchy Lithuanian indie. It sounds kind of interesting, but the cold and graceless vocals in a language I don't know (I think they mention Claudia Schiffer at one point, but this doesn't help much) do little for me.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: One of my favourite euro-hop/pop fusions of the year so far, this has a monstrous prowling bass, a little guitar bit that reminds me of Liberty X's "Just A Little" and delightfully unintelligible but euphonious Lithuanian half-rapped over it. But oh, beyond that—the female backing vocals just under the surface, the double-tracked pre-chorus part, the way it moves so smoothly between verse and chorus without pausing for breath. Smooth, the whole thing. And politely funky, too.
[10]

Mike Powell: Nothing says cool like making a bid to become the Lithuanian Ne-Yo and failing in a completely charming way.
[5]


LeToya - Torn
[5.20]

Hillary Brown: LeToya tries to split the difference between Nivea bubble R&B and Blige anger and ends up likeable enough but, in fact, torn. Her emotion isn’t convincing, and it’s a pretty generic song, but it’s also soft and conversational and doesn’t hurt the ears.
[4]

Andrew Unterberger: Oh fucking whatever. Not only is this song not another version of the Natalie Imbruglia classic (how long must we wait??), not only is it more faceless “I love you and want to be with you BUT MAYBE NOT” bullshit, but it samples the same boring, repetitive Stylistics hook that Mary J. Blige already had a boring, repetitive R&B ballad hit with a decade ago. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: R&B with a very '70s sweet soul backing. The multiple vocal tracks fit the mixed-feelings theme of the song superbly, but are a bit disorienting here and there. I like her voice, which has the mechanical emotive style so common in modern R&B (think Beyonce), but the cleverly layered production makes the most of it. If you let yourself plunge into this, it's a very rich and unusual experience.
[8]

Ian Mathers: Ex-Destiny's Child vocalist in boring ballad shockah! Admit it, we were all really, really hoping for a contemporary R&B update of the Natalie Imbruglia chestnut. Nothing on this “Torn” is nearly good enough to erase the pain of finding out that this ain't it.
[4]


The Automatic - Monster
[6.00]

John Cameron: Excellent way to make your full-band shouting parts more awesome: include a girl. Always. Also, make them contrast the spacey delay-guitar verse and freaky electric bridge by being direct, sharp, and aggressive. The lead vocal guy could take some cues from the enthusiasm of his bandmates, but otherwise this is pretty solid.
[7]

Jessica Popper: If only the verses of this song were as good as the chorus it would be the best indie/rock single of the year. As it is, I still can't help singing along to it, especially towards the end where there's one of those clever bits where everything stops and it launches into the chorus full force for the last time. It's really just a novelty song with no more class than a Bob the Builder single, but it's catchier than anything Bob ever came up with.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: The vocals want to be "At Home He's a Tourist," at least rhythmically, but the whole thing is much more lightweight and feeble. Trying to ignore yet another instance of Gang of Four influence, it just sounds like shouty indie rock that lacks the power or purpose to grab my interest.
[2]

Doug Robertson: I had previously dismissed the Automatic as being dull and pointless with all the charisma of dog food on the not entirely unreasonable grounds that, well, they were dull and pointless with all the charisma of dog food. I mean, you did hear "Raoul," didn’t you? Well they’re back, and annoyingly this is really rather good indeed. It’s all angular and spiky, with the sort of excited thrill you get from tumbling down a hill, only to land on a big, bouncy duvet at the bottom.
[7]


The Research - Hard Times
[6.00]

Ian Mathers: Maybe I'm getting jaded, but I didn't exactly expect another “Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same,” because you don't often get lucky enough to have two singles that good in a row. “Hard Times” is luckily enough perfectly servicable, as well as adorably plucky and blessed with a great bussy synth tone, two virtues most of the Research's songs seem to have. It's a pity the guy monopolizes the singing, but any band that can basically be described as a more direct Mates of State is rare and precious.
[8]

Mike Powell: In the first 20 seconds of my first listen to The Research’s “Lonely Hearts Still Beat the Same,” I realized that it would probably be my single of the year. I verified my hunch by listening to it for four hours straight, occasionally crying my goddamn eyes out. In the first 20 seconds of my first listen to “The Hard Times,” I realized that The Research are a mediocre buzzpop band and that “Lonely Hearts” was probably the greatest mistake since Ruth Wakefield invented chocolate chip cookies 75 years ago.
[5]

Joe Macare: Approaching the shambling charm of Comet Gain, but without the bohemian cool or worldly knowingness, The Research sound like your mate's band—you know, the ones you quite enjoy going to see play live in tiny, squalid venues, but whose records you would never pay money for if you didn't know them. Disclaimer: none of my friend's bands actually sound like this. "I wanna cut you some slack, but it's never gonna be like that" sing The Research—well, I am going to cut them a little bit of slack, and give them:
[7]

Peter Parrish: Squidgy fairground organ sounds abound! They even do a little flourish that sounds a bit like being pushed quite high on a swing when you’re five. This is largely good. Other largely good things are the pleasant “ba ba baaah!” backing which pops in to say hello during the chorus and the ten seconds of trumpet which must have arrived at the studio late, or something. Less good are some slightly-too-knowing lyrics which seem to be aiming in a Pulp-ish area, but fall short due to a chronic lack of Jarvis.
[5]


Marit Larsen – Under the Surface
[6.67]

Jessica Popper: A bit more serious than her last single, but still lovely. Marit has found herself a nice niche with her cutesy Nordic singer-songwriter charms, occupying a space that sort of a mix of Alanis Morissette and Amy Diamond. I still don't think it's as good as ex-bandmate Marion Raven's single “Break You,” but it'll be interesting to see which of them reaches a second album.
[7]

Joe Macare: Wait, this is Marit Larsen? The way she's been talked about I was expecting a very different class of Scandinavian pop. There's a sort of fairytale waltzing innocence to "Under The Surface" which I suppose I can see the appeal of, but it all sort of floats past without making much of an impression, as is the case for me with pretty much all music made by people who identify as "singer-songwriters."
[5]

Edward Oculicz: The strings are like an aural fairytale—strange considering that "Under The Surface" is a tale of love under question and an ex that lingers a little too close. On the first listen, when they sweep and swoon in after each plaintive chorus, it sounds like a poor fit. But further repetitions reveal it as merely sumptuous candy-coating on Marit's perfectly vulnerable delivery—the way she elocutes the word "dance" as if it would snap under any more weight is but one of many examples, and the chorus soars melodically, justifying those strings. A great song even without them, but with them, something just a bit magical.
[10]

Jonathan Bradley The gorgeous orchestral sweeps, twinkling like fairground lights on a cold night, blow Larsen’s lighter-than-cotton-candy vocals away and the track drifts off with them. A singer with more depth would provide a solid counterpoint to the ornate instrumentation—the Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne, for instance, would have been perfect—but Larsen flounders outside the bounds of teen pop. Like an excessively enthusiastic six-year-old indulging at her first carnival, she overdoses on the sugar and suffers as a result.
[5]


Depeche Mode - John the Revelator
[6.83]

Ian Mathers: It's too bad Depeche Mode only borrow a bit of the traditional song of the same title for their new single (for the real fire, get yourself to a good Son House compilation posthaste), and the lyrics are at best muddled, but unsurprisingly the band's appeal again rests on atmosphere and mood and this “John the Revelator” succeeds on those counts. As long as you're not thinking about it too much, it'll probably even make you feel a little bit more badass than normal, and that's far from the worst thing pop music can do for you.
[7]

Martin Skidmore: I didn't much like them in what I guess was their heyday (though there have been a couple of fine remixes of them). This is going for Biblical bombast, but it feels like a gothier version of the same old thing. The only thing I like is a very old school gospel call and response bit, but otherwise I am pretty bored with it, and they seem to have no idea how to end it, so it just fizzles out.
[3]

Peter Parrish: Time to unashamedly gush about one of my favourite tracks from one of the finest albums of last year, then. Showing their usual levels of subtlety and restraint, this is the band laying into those charismatic types who would choose to manipulate the foibles of religion for their own malicious ends. And quite right, too. In the process they’ve rebuilt the Tower of Babel in sheet metal, given Dave Gahan a megaphone, and asked him nicely to only start singing when he’s amongst the clouds—accompanied by an angelic choir of Gore at appropriate moments. Whilst this occurs, specially programmed robots are slowly grinding and twisting the foundations; providing a curiously melodic backing track out of tortured steel. As they work, the robots cheerfully beep and whirr to themselves. It is, needless to say, all quite magnificent.
[9]

Doug Robertson: Is Bobby Gillepsie writing songs for Depeche Mode? This is exactly what Primal Scream would sound like if they had more of an electronic influence on their sound. And were, y’know, good.
[7]


T.I. – Why You Wanna
[7.00]

Andrew Unterberger: T.I. follows up the biggest hit of his career with this Crystal Waters-sampling come on. The King of the South still makes for a better tough guy than a loverman, so aside from a few semi-clever couplets all this song really has going for it is the uh, non-traditional sample choice, which does give the song a nice, lush feel. I feel it’s sort of a wasted opportunity, though—wouldn’t it have been better served by a sort of 21st century “Gypsy Woman” update? Crystal could even have shown up to sing the hook. C’mon people, let’s think outside the box a little.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley It’s a testament to T.I.’s skill that he can make something this fleeting work, but it is hardly surprising, considering that a good part of his career has been built on tipping his lazy drawl over welterweight productions for heavyweight results. “Why You Wanna,” must have seemed like a walk in the park for the King of the South, and just as this track says to the woman of his affections, there’s no rational reason to want him to deny him.
[8]

Joe Macare: While The Neptunes are busy being mostly rubbish, it falls to one Kevin "Khao" Cates to make a beat breezy and catchy enough to become this year's "Change Clothes And Go." I know that factoid because I read it in the sleevenotes of the T.I. album King, which you should all go out and buy like Tim Westwood tells you to on the telly. Such is T.I.'s charisma that he can even make you forgive the resemblance between the lyrics to this song and the chat-up technique of Sezer from Big Brother.
[8]

Mike Powell: T.I. proves the sheer weight of his balls by following “What You Know”—one of the toughest-ass singles of the year—with a Crystal Waters keyboard sample over a mid-tempo loverman rap in which he promises to “compliment you on ya intellect.” It’s like he brushes his teeth with sandpaper but his breath still smells like clean babies and lemon zest.
[7]


Nelly Furtado - Maneater
[9.00]

Hillary Brown: Brattier than “Promiscuous Girl,” but powered by a good chunk of a marching band with beautiful tone on their drums, “Maneater” seems suited for walking straight ahead for a long distance, with an occasional dance break (perhaps when waiting for the light to change). It sticks in one’s head far more easily than the other single. Is it better? It’s irrelevant. Your little sister will be singing both for the rest of the year.
[7]

Doug Robertson: In the big long list of Things You’d Expect Nelly Furtado to Do, a list I’m sure we’ve all compiled at some point in our lives, near the top is probably something like “Continuing on in a downward spiral, never doing anything as good as ‘I’m Like a Bird’ or ‘Turn Off the Light’ ever again,” or “Doing some shopping, desperately remembering the days when she used to ‘be’ someone,” so it’s come as quite a surprise to realise that the phrase “Doing something as effortlessly amazing as ‘Maneater’ and suddenly seeming like the most vital and relevant artist around today” should perhaps have been in there at some point. The list is currently being drastically revised.
[9]

Martin Skidmore: I was a bit tepid about last week's Timbaland collaboration, but this is stylistically more at the rock/pop end of R&B rather than the hip-hop end, and plays much more to her strengths, I think. It's a tremendously powerful and chunky pop song, with production to match, and her performance is beautifully pitched. This is among my favourite singles of the year so far.
[9]

Andrew Unterberger: Man, do I hope we get this in the States after “Promiscuous Girl.” It’s twice as catchy, fascinating, and bizarre as “PG,” and without that stupid chorus or Timbo’s self-serving muttering. I could go pages listing things I love from this song—the way the beat keeps flipping, the backing vocals on the chorus, the “OH” shouts during the verses, the synth spangles towards the end, and mostly the FACT THAT THIS SONG IS CALLED “MANEATER” AND I DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT HALL & OATES ONCE WHILE I’M LISTENING TO IT. Single of the year so far.
[10]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-06-06
Comments (2)
 

 
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