The Singles Jukebox
Stethoscope Against A Whiskey Barrel

so yes, after a slight hiatus due to FILTHY BRUMMIE PROG, the Jukebox returns. We’ll put last week’s results up on the blog later today (featuring the lowest scoring single in Jukebox history), but for now Saint Etienne are the ginger ale of the pop world, Richard Hawley is popular with your parents, and sweet Jesus that Pharrell and Gwen Stefani song is bobbins. But before all that: remember Stylus’ love affair with Darren Hayes? Might be a bit over now.


Darren Hayes – So Beautiful
[2.80]


Patrick McNally: One of the things I like about writing these entries is deleting the ones I don't like after I've written about them, watching the list dwindle to the two I'll typically keep to listen to again. This song is so bland that it's impossible for me to write about it, but it's a pleasure to delete none the less.
[1]

John Cameron: Oh, go home, you condescending twit. Your pop-rock is bland and irritating, and your lyrics are embarrassing - embarrassing, dammit. Calling the world "cynical" doesn't make you an outsider and awesome, it just makes us look at you as a bit of a joke. And quit with the falsetto.
[2]

Hillary Brown: A mere hair’s breadth from James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful,” and yet manages to be less interesting. Even the falsetto feels by the numbers. Gay it up, already!
[2]

Edward Oculicz: Aside from his tendency to overuse particular lyrical devices and constructions, this is a bit more substantial than any of Savage Garden's dreadful ballads. But, with the mushy subject matter, comes a pretty awful sonic collage - the drum and piano combination to lend an air of contemplative beauty actually makes it sound dull. And I loved his last album to death, because it sounded alien and paranoid and fucked-up inside even when the songs were about love. This is a Valentine's card sent out of obligation rather than feeling.
[4]

Doug Robertson: Is it the early nineties again already? Blimey, where has all the time gone? Though perhaps it’s no surprise that Darren is looking backwards for inspiration given that Pop!ular, his vaguely futuristic and definitely excellent previous single, failed to make much of an impression on the plasticine like consciousness of the general public. Alas, this isn’t likely to do much to make their eyes snap open in excitement, being an OK-ish ballad with all the lasting memories of brushing your teeth. Oh well.
[5]


Pharrell ft. Gwen Stefani – Can I Have It Like That
[3.40]


Patrick McNally: Skatebored P's smugness surrounds this record like a forcefield preventing me from getting close enough it to work out whether it's any good or not.
[5]

John Cameron: Oh God. You can't declare that you have the record of the year when you refer to Nelly Furtado and also have a terribly annoying chorus. That's not funny or witty or relevant or anything, it's just lame. Sometimes the track pulls out some surprises, like right after the first chorus, but it gets wrecked by the Transformers reference and the horns which are in an entirely different and grating key. "You can do better" seems to be some kind of running theme this week.
[2]

Hillary Brown: Oh my god. Please sit back down. This is so much worse than it should be. The rap is corny and trips over itself. Gwen is completely unnecessary. The music sounds like Digable Planets crossed with California Rush. Not the worst ever when you take a step back, but still pretty impressively the suck.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Contains an intro. Pharrell doesn't deserve an intro because he has no charisma, no flow and seemingly, nowhere near as much production nous as is often assumed. Much of his recent work has involved confusing "minimalist" with "menacing" and "good", of which this is neither. Awful rapping, awful rhyming, dreadful chorus, Gwen doesn't have a chance to unleash her mega-cute charm on such a thin, dull track that has the worst shout-outs (Nelly Furtado?) and the worst nomenclature (Skateboard P, oh please) of any song this year, certainly of any record that is as smugly sure of itself ("record of the year") despite absolutely no reason for such smugness. This is absolutely nadiral as far as pop goes. Hookless rubbish; you can't dance to it, it doesn't make you feel like a bad-ass, it doesn't make you want to flow along, it just goes on and on without a point of interest, and if it were released by anyone else, nobody would care. Why is Pharrell treated like someone who deserves some kind of extra-Neptunes career - the Neptunes' hit to miss ratio isn't even that good, but it's at least better than anything he's done solo which has been uniformly awful.
[0]

Doug Robertson: A Nelly Furtado reference? Even she wouldn’t use herself as a reference point these days, but if you’re going to the trouble of mentioning her, then why not get her in for the featuring role instead of Gwen? Given that her contribution consists of nothing more than saying “You got it like that” in the chorus a couple of times, it’s not like it would have made a difference. Hopefully she’s at least slightly ashamed at the high prominence of her name given the complete lack of effort required to put it there. What’s that? The song itself? It’s good stuff, Pharrell back on form, but then, you knew that already, didn’t you?
[7]


Eurythmics – I’ve Got A Life
[4.00]


Patrick McNally:"Quick, run, hide, here comes Dave Stewart" said half Man Half Biscuit and now we've all got the chance to do that again as renaissance man Stewart (he can do everything badly) and the 'soulful' Annie Lennox reform and retread to no good effect. Not that they were ever good. Destined to be honoured by the Brit Awards panel, I'm sure.
[0]

John Cameron: I think when you're Eurythmics, you should be able to afford better than a cheap-ass Casio to make music with. Lennox's voice with the whole "oh, hey, you're awesome" thing seems like a waste; doesn't help that the tacked-on gospel choir thing is a little cliched by now. The moral of the story is "you can do better."
[3]

Hillary Brown: The backing music can’t stand up to the vocals, in that it sounds too dated. Also, Vegasy.
[4]

Edward Oculicz: Straddling a fine line between the glossy, high-impact and dense arrangements of their best 80s work and the toned-down real-worth aspirations of Annie Lennox's late-career stuff, this works pretty gloriously on a musical level when it gets all loopy and grand in the chorus, but the vocal melody sounds too close to a dull Annie Lennox solo number. Thrilling in places, but frustrating.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Thinking about Annie Lennox’s solo career - and, for that matter, recent Eurythmics material – it can be quite hard to remember that the Eurythmics used to a damned fine band, but fortunately this goes a long way to rebuilding their reputation. It does take a while to get going – 1.22 to be exact – but it gives Annie a chance to get her vocal histrionics out of the way before it settles down to the serious business of doing what they used to do best. Now, if we can only keep her away from the piano, perhaps they truly could save the world today.
[7]


Blak Twang – Travellin’
[4.00]


Patrick McNally: Enervated and dessicated UK Hip-hop that sounds disconnected from anything around it, instead striving to live, and it's always the same, in some non-existent golden age.
[3]

John Cameron: There's a such thing as a too-intrusive drumline. I can't tell what he's saying because it sounds like I'm talking to some idiot on the phone and he's breathing right onto the receiver half of the time. It's catchy and all, it's just drowned under this big farting noise. And don't even get me started on the "hilarious" skit at the end of the track. (I hope that isn't part of the single.)
[5]

Hillary Brown: This rating illustrates how little I know about this kind of reggae-accented stuff. I had the impression at one point that it was not terrible. I suppose that still stands.
[4]


Alanis Morissette – Crazy
[4.20]


Patrick McNally: For all her play-acting in song Alanis couldn't get crazy if she tried. But then based on this she's not gonna survive either.
[1]

John Cameron: This didn't strike me as a good idea initially. A singer-songwriter past her prime covering, well, Seal. But when it stays low-key, then it's great, in a hypnotic way. When it tries to soar, it kind of just glides a little shakily over the ground. Too bad it tries that too often to be memorable.
[5]

Hillary Brown: More credit to the song than to Alanis, who still sounds like she could hurt herself singing like that. If she pushed her weird phrasing a little further, she could end up feted like Joanna Newsom, but as is, it just sounds like she’s not speaking English sometimes.
[4]

Edward Oculicz: The way the production on this manages to mimic the brilliance of the original, transferring early-90s electro-cool into a rock song is incredibly impressive. But Alanis Morissette is not the right vocalist to put on top of it and it's a shame it was her idea, as the execution aside from her unsuited singing is brilliant. She sounds strangulated and uncomfortable where Seal was smooth and confident.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Having run out of original ideas to the extent that she’s flogging acoustic copies of her debut album through coffee shops, here she decides to take on the lazy artist’s favourite task and knocks out a quick cover in the hope of making a fast buck. It’s not an overly bad cover, in an adding nothing new whatsoever to the track kinda way, unless you count “pretending to be a lesbian in the video” as something new, something which she probably genuinely believes is a good example of craziness. But then, she thought that rubbish weather when you’re getting married was a genuine example of irony, so you’re probably better off not trusting her opinions, really.
[5]


The Rakes – 22 Grand Job
[4.20]


Patrick McNally: Like a spoof of Brit-pop from the Fast Show. No, make that Not the 9 O'clock News. No, lets settle on Hale and Pace. Yes, Hale and Pace bcz it's about as good as "The Stonk" was.
[1]

John Cameron: Sometimes the accent works. Sometimes the tuneless wailing, yeah, it works. But not here. There's a goddamn chase scene happening in the background, and the Rakes decided to let the most tuneless of the lot holler over top. It's such a shame, because the chase scene sounds like it'd be awesome.
[4]

Hillary Brown: Short, punky, energetic. So why am I not feeling it at all? Maybe it reminds me too much of my own underemployed circumstances?
[3]

Edward Oculicz: A nice, buzzing riff on this, definitely, and nicely augmented with some nicely thundering bass and yet everything placed on top of it is annoying in the extreme.
[5]

Doug Robertson: Smacking you on the nose with the same force as standing on one, The Rakes come up trumps here, even understanding the need to have a key-change at the end of the song. A raucus cacophony, the sort normally caused by throwing a guitar down a set of carefully positioned and tuned stairs, this is great, and if you disagree, you’re wrong. Fact.
[8]


Kray Twinz ft. Twista, Lethal Bizzle etc. – What We Do
[4.60]


Patrick McNally: Although this track is ostensibly by the production team behind Panjabi MC's "Mundian to Bach Ke" they apparently paid grime producer Low Deep for the beat and for the right to say that they wrote it. Certainly Low Deep's version, "Str8 Flush" was around almost a year before this was. Whatever the story, this is an addictive spatter of squeaky pitched-up vocals, non-Indo strings and dumb rapping. And Twista doesn't go double time. And they love their mum.
[7]

John Cameron: Featuring what has to be the worst abuse of the chipmunk filter in history. This is the chipmunk filter nadir, in fact; as fantastic and agile as the raps are, they're ruined forever by that fucking squealing which attacks your ears. Goddamn, if chipmunk filters were animals then the Kray Twins would be looking at some seriously huge fines. What's embarrassing is that the last five seconds of the song reveal what might have been if they had gone with strings instead of, you know, the howls of the dead.
[1]

Hillary Brown: I stand corrected. The presence of Twista and a chipmunked sample does not automatically make for a good song. You have to put some slight effort into it. It ain’t minimalist, it ain’t melodic, and it ain’t much of anything.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Ordinarily this kind of self-descriptive UK-rap stuff ("what we do" is this track, surely) is unlistenable tosh, but this actually works because the string sample is fantastic, the chipmunk dub-sped-up vocals and the beat are nimble which give you cause to appreciate it on a sonic level, making its insubstantialness something of a virtue rather than a limitation.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Hmm, isn’t naming yourself after a pair of gangsters the sort of territory normally reserved for Marilyn Manson types labouring under the delusion that it’s the sort of behaviour which will strike fear into the hearts of god fearing folk all round the country and carries with it the very real possibility of bringing society to its knees, when in reality it’s as shocking as stabbing a knife into a plastic toaster while wearing rubber shoes. The track itself is better than their name might suggest – though a recording of an egg whisk would be slightly better than their name suggests – bouncing along with an angry energy and generally making it’s presence known to anyone in the vicinity.
[6]


The Kills – No Wow
[5.00]


Patrick McNally: When I saw this lot early on, pre-first LP, they were such Royal Trux biters that it was unbelievable. Unbelievably bad. This sounds more like a poppy Melvins track but is still horrible in its belief that it's out there when it's barely out of short trousers.
[3]

John Cameron: I think the term for their drum machine would be "persistent;" it's not hella intrusive, but it propels the song well. VV's bluesy moan over the menacing, rolling backing track enhances the kickass lyrics, and the slow percussive vocal build up to a spare but powerful explosion is what would be described nine or ten years ago as "radical." When the song goes for your jugular, it's still quieter than one would think, but it goes anyways, and it hits fairly well.
[8]

Hillary Brown: Builds to something kind of like X, but I never seem to remember what happened at the beginning of the song by the time I get to the end. The boy-girl repetitive punk duet stuff is good, but it’s mostly, um, no wow.
[4]

Doug Robertson: There’s a dark, dirty, sleazy quality to this track, but as that’s essentially what characterises most Kills tracks, you might as well point out that there’s a bluey, greeny, water-and-land-y quality to the Earth for all the insight that offers. Unfortunately while that might be quite a predictable observation, it fits this track as it too is quite predictable, offering nothing we haven’t already heard from the duo and as they don’t exactly sound like they can be bothered to care, I’m not convinced we should either.
[5]


Giant Drag – Kevin Is Gay
[5.00]


Patrick McNally: A timewarp back to the days when Veruca Salt were tipped to be huge.
[2]

John Cameron: I wonder why nobody's thought of "Dinosaur Jr. with a girl" before. It's a damn good idea. They've made a hell of a pop song here, too; sloppy and haphazard, but it's better that way.
[9]

Hillary Brown: Aggravatingly amateurish, but then not so in the guitar work. It’s wrong of me to be annoyed that the title of the song relates to nothing, but I am nonetheless.
[3]

Edward Oculicz: Strangely woozy and tuneless, but the meowing over the end is fantastic, kind of like a throwaway joke at the end that supersedes the whole thing and makes it memorable. An endearing shambles.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Muddy guitars, girlishy cute vocals which get lost in the mix more often than not, and an attitude to lyric writing which results in filling up the last verse by making cat noises which, if anything, is a damn sight better than the more traditional “la-la-la” construct. There’s a lot to like here, but equally there’s a lot to dislike as well, so ultimately it falls between two stools, and that’s not a very nice - or fragrant – place to be.
[5]


Keren Ann – Chelsea Burns
[5.50]


Patrick McNally: Coffee table Cat Power meets third LP Velvet Underground. Fingering music for thirty-somethings.
[3]

John Cameron: Again, sublime; not as beautiful as Hawley, maybe, but nice nonehteless. Also, I am of the opinion that harmonica automatically makes songs awesome.
[7]

Hillary Brown: Shooting for Nico, ending up closer to Norah Jones. Breathy and sweet, but harmonica is frequently a bad idea, as it tends to give a track some Blueshammer.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: Lazy strumming with harmonica and sleepy vocals, any more sedentary and it'd be dead. Does conjure up a not-altogether-pleasant but rather vivid image of being in a smoky bar out in the middle of nowhere drinking awful beer and contemplating running away somewhere, possibly abandoning your trucking job to elope with the hazy-eyed lady singing in the corner.
[7]


Saint Etienne – A Good Thing
[7.00]


Hillary Brown: Ginger ale-flavored dance music, or possibly some kind of exciting yet not frightening European soda. At least as good as what’s Madonna’s doing right now.
[5]

Edward Oculicz: It's Sarah's first A-side without the other two writing since "Hug My Soul", let's be nice about it, even though it's clearly the wrong single choice. And yet, it's a glorious, frothy, uncomplicated not-quite-dance-pop single with a nice hook and Crackers never sounds better than when she's trying to dance and being a bit stilted and rubbish at the same time.
[9]

Doug Robertson: Ah, Saint Etienne, you’re always there in the background, ignored by much of the public but offering genuine pop thrills for those who put the effort in to find you. This is a Saint Etienne song, nothing more, nothing less, but if you’re that way inclined then it’ll make you put on your happy, though vaguely maudlin, face and walk down the street in an understated, winsome manner, which can only be a good thing.
[7]


Richard Hawley – Coles Corner
[7.00]


Patrick McNally: If only me gran were still alive, she'd like this I'm sure.
[3]

John Cameron: Last time Hawley came through, the only thing stopping his entry from being a killer was its ungainly running time. "Coles Corner," at a comparatively economical four and a half minutes, proves he can reduce the length of his sublime, beautifully understated songs without reducing their impact; with another melancholy, orchestral tune, Hawley waltzes through, slowly and legitimately, honestly prettily.
[8]

Hillary Brown: A little long, but it’s got a melancholy coziness that’s oddly Christmassy, as though one’s wandering around, looking at Xmas displays in golden windows, feeling connected to the crowd and separated from it at the same time.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: Swoonsome, gorgeous, pensive, meditative, longing and haunting. A soundtrack to optimistic loneliness and a paean to the escape amidst music and anonymous faces and what a bloody tune.You know how young-earth creationists reckon the world is 6000 years old but God made fossils "seem" millions of years old? This is new, but it sounds 50 years old, like a radio classic from another era, fully born into the world as an AM radio staple in a better, alternative universe. Absolutely makes me well up, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
[10]

Doug Robertson: This is what you’d hear if you placed a stethoscope against a barrel of heavily aged, oak smoked whisky. You can imagine the roar of an open fire crackling in the background as you listen, quite possibly with chestnuts roasting upon it, but certainly with the very real danger of Jack Frost nibbling at your nose. In fact, it’s somewhat disappointing to realise that this isn’t actually a Christmas song , but simply a beautiful, elegiac track that will steal your heart away before you even realise it’s even been touchng you. If this was Christmas Eve, then it’d be getting a 9, but as it’s only November, it’ll have to get an…
[8]


Goldfrapp – Number One
[7.25]


John Cameron: A slow, electric buildup of a song; I don't mean that it's slow and undanceable, I mean that the entire song is in wait of a payoff which, wisely, never shows up and leaves you craving more. The lyrical conceit of "you're my number one" seems a little unfortunately middle-schoolish, but what can you do.
[7]

Hillary Brown: It sounds insulting to say that something sounds watery, as if by that one necessarily means “watered-down,” but this sounds fluid and wavy and slightly glittery. It sounds like you’ve got a bit of water in your ears, muting the sounds and mixing them with your heartbeat. It’s very nice.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: The album is very split; half of it is amazing, the other half is rote, by-the-numbers dullness. Fortunately, this is one of the good ones. Everyone knows it sounds like "77 Sunset Strip" by Alpinestars, and it does, but submissive Alison Goldfrapp works a lot better than her overplayed sex kitten schtick which only works when she remembers to put in, oh, I don't know, an actual song rather than repeating the most boring bit over and over again. Which she's done on this one, marvellously.
[9]

Doug Robertson: Goldfrapp are a band who seem to be so much better in principle than in practice, failing to hit the pop heights which their press releases seem to indicate they should be hitting. Here, however, they come tantalisingly close to reaching the peak of the electro-Everest, but run out of oxygen just before they reach the summit.
[7]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-11-04
Comments (7)
 

 
Today on Stylus
Reviews
October 31st, 2007
Features
October 31st, 2007
Recently on Stylus
Reviews
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Features
October 30th, 2007
October 29th, 2007
Recent Music Reviews
Recent Movie Reviews