The Singles Jukebox
The New Comedy



bank Holiday weekend here in the UK, meaning we all get Monday off, unless we work in a furniture superstore in which case everyone who’s got the day off will be coming to our shop, trying to find somewhere to park, asking us about the precise properties of draylon loose-fit covers and yelling at their kids to STOP BLOODY KICKING YOUR SISTER MUMMY NEEDS TO BUY A SETTEE NOW WILL YOU BLOODY SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP. Actually, I don’t think any of the UK singles jukebox types work in furniture superstores, but that crumb of comfort still isn’t enough to get them to feel much love for Lucie Silvas, Willy Mason, or Faith Evans. Salvation does come eventually, but some of you may be ever so slightly surprised at the form it takes. It’s not singing about its kids, though, which might be where Eminem falls down—though the panellists found a few other explanations too…


Eminem – Mockingbird
[3.73]


Fergal O’Reilly: Nice little moody piano melody, but Em in confessional mode doesn't do much for me. Also his flow's a bit stilted and awkward here and he can't sing for shit, even though it's kind of endearing to hear him try. Until he suddenly goes all profane and black-hearted on the last line, at least. Also the vaguely conciliatory tone he appears to adopt towards Kim rings a bit hollow, in a "crack addiction is God's way of telling mommy she should have been nicer to daddy" way. Maybe he just doesn't actually like the kid very much and he's trying to warp her. Add a point if that's the case.
[5]

Doug Robertson: More emoting from Eminem. Sure, it’s probably very cathartic for him, allows the people who do his publicity to throw in the word “multi-faceted” and gives him something to talk about in interviews, but it’s all incredibly dull for the listener. It’s all very well looking inside yourself for material, but it’s always good to remember that not everyone is interested the finer details of your bellybutton.
[3]

Peter Parrish: Good heavens, this is an exceptionally depressing tale. Minor piano chords! Awful Christmases! The inevitable crushing acceptance of defeat to a never-ending circle of poverty! All this, plus a creepy nursery rhyme chorus. Has Eminem gone socio-goth? I do hope so, he’ll look peachy in eyeliner.
[7]

John Seroff: Em defines FLOW: the elusive ability to ride a beat, regardless of the words. Flow has been white boy's saving grace from jump; son could read the phone book over a clap-track and still impress. Em's flow almost saves the treacly "Mockingbird" but consider the lyrics; this is sub-high-school literary magazine fare detailing Slim's ugly breakup for the nth time. The beat sounds cribbed from a Casio, the piano and string loops are weak outtakes from a fourth-rate new-age bargain bin. One of the weaker songs on a weak album, the shockingly banal and self-centered "Mockingbird" begs the question: what the hell are we to make of a international superstar who releases a single where he apologizes to his kid about how much his fame forces her personal life into the limelight, effectively dragging his child to center stage; where he alternately elevates and slanders his ex-wife; where he beatifies his own efforts as a father and leaks sap all over the track? Em was long ago through the looking-glass; now he's just getting boring.
[4]

Tom Ewing: Mawkish, disingenuous tripe from a talent on a grisly downward spiral. Em is sad that his daughter's growing up in a broken home and that her Mom has gone mental, but he "tried to keep it from her"—well apart from recording ten thousand songs about it. There are dribbles of his storytelling skill but even these are smothered by an unbearably solemn piano-led beat, because, as Celine Dion sez, "This is SEE-REE-US". Nope: this is a man who has lost his touch utterly and can do nothing but release listless re-runs of his better hits. Not that "Cleaning Out My Closet" is a template to be proud of.
[0]


Blaze feat. Barbara Tucker – Most Precious Love
[4.00]


Doug Robertson: Calling yourself “Blaze” makes the listener think that as a band you’re on fire, burning up the charts and setting everything around you aflame with excitement and energy. It means you’re so hot that you can’t be touched, that firefighters need to be on hand to hose the listener down after hearing you and that, quite frankly, asbestos underwear is needed before you even think about putting the CD into the player. Unfortunately a prosecution under the Trade Descriptions Act may well be in order as, while the track undoubtedly smoulders, it never quite ignites into anything more than vaguely pleasant background music.
[5]

Jessica Popper: This dance song has more "oh"s and "woah"s than is advisable, but Barbara is a pretty good singer, although she wouldn't be out of place on a Shapeshifters single. It's also approximately 7 minutes too long.
[4]

Paul Scott: Ooh, it's like the early nineties never ended round here. I suppose if guitar bands get away with plundering the past to no discernible effect then vaguely dancey, vaguely soulful type combos should be allowed to as well. Even if they sound a bit close to The M People for comfort.
[4]

Tom Ewing: Seven minutes of sophisticated house that reminds me of the sort of meeting where I grow very conscious of wearing a cheaper shirt than anyone else. The air conditioning needs turning up, the agenda's a bit thin but still awfully long, the client likes the sound of their own voice—have to admit though, lovely biscuits.
[4]

Peter Parrish: Ok look, I know saying something ‘goes nowhere’ is really shit criticism. I know that. But where can I go here? There’s no room for manoeuvre. I’m listening to this track RIGHT NOW and it is WANDERING ALONG MOST TEDIOUSLY. Several hours of my life are passing by while someone goes “precious, precious love” over some soft piano and bongos in a seemingly never ending thrill-vacuum. Re-record with Gollum on lead vocals please.
[2]


Lucie Silvas – The Game Is Won
[4.00]


Jessica Popper: I really liked Lucie's first single. It was a soppy ballad, but a nice one. It worked. So, when she released her debut album I decided to take a chance on her, and I still have no idea why I did. She never promised to be anything other than completely uninspired MOR pop and aside from my occasional appreciation of Delta Goodrem (her first album was good!), we all know that should be avoided and left for mums and grans. The album isn't at all unlistenable, but that's precisely the point. It's just nothing. Although I would have picked almost any song off it as a better single than this one.
[3]

John Seroff: Vastly overblown arena rock/country and western fans rejoice! The Game Is Won and you can ride your mystical unicorns over that misty mountain top to the golden land of wonder and fuzzy kittens and unfattening ice cream and simultaneous orgasm! Hosanna! Hosanna! No, wait. This is just over-orchestrated, hyperproduced, melismatic drool reheated and dished up lukewarm to a soul-deprived Future Housewives Association for the zillionth time. My mistake.
[3]

Mike Atkinson: Regardless of which reality TV pop contest is commissioned next, one thing is certain. At some point during one of the early audition shows, Ant or Dec will introduce a cleverly spliced VT montage, in which a whole sequence of female contestants will be shown remorselessly belting out strained, over-cooked, nearly identical versions of “The Game Is Won”. There will be cuts to shots of Simon Cowell burying his head in his hands, or of Pete Waterman groaning “God, not this one AGAIN.” Because not only is this one of those songs which are all about striving, and being poised on the brink of a breakthrough, and struggling against self-doubt, and believing in your dream and stuff, it is also performed in that particular style—heavy on technique, crammed with ornate embellishments—which so many reality TV hopefuls try so very hard to emulate. Taken on its own terms, this more than adequately fulfils its brief. Taken on the terms which you or I might prefer to employ, it’s little more than a tolerable irrelevance.
[5]

Peter Parrish: Time for a stirring empowerment ballad—hooray! Slow build to corpulent chord-ey goodness, and then bring on the warblings about SELF BELIEF and being able to MAKE IT. If Roy Castle is listening from above, he may wish to note the record note-hitting attempt taking place. Oh hello, here come the choir and various stringed instruments. Things are being done by the book, ladies and gentlemen! No nonsense.
[6]

Tom Ewing: Get up your lighters and wait for further instructions! Primeval megaballad tramples the charts beneath its perfectly manicured claws. It's like "Beautiful", only even better, except, except, except, Lucie, you just don't have the lungs for it. The body of a brontosaur, the head of a kitten. Back to the labs, but so close.
[8]


Akon – Lonely
[4.09]


Abby McDonald: Repeat after me: “chipmunk vo-coders are a terrible idea under ANY circumstances.”
[0]

John Seroff: I'll admit I've come around a bit on this track; my initial take was that "Lonely" was a craven attempt to cash in on the sped-up rnb trend that Kanye has unleashed on Top 10 Radio, that it was without backbone or soul, that Akon's voice was stultifyingly dull. I still hold that all the above is true, what's won me over is "Lonely's" hefty silliness quotient; as disposible pop goes, few songs have the cajones to utterly embrace daftness with such abandon. Standing alone in the field as a prime choice for heartbroken emo-thugs everywhere, "Lonely" offers a softer, gentler counterpart to Eamon's "Fuck You (I Don't Want You Back)". If only Akon (who also produces this track) would've shown his hand a bit more, this would've jumped the tracks entirely; what "Lonely" really needs is an insane breakout hiphop coda. Where's Biz Markie when you need him?
[5]

Tom Ewing: This week's most preposterous record. Akon's switch in one single's distance from jail-ravaged lost soul to Keith Harris and Orville is fairly dizzying, though not as mysterious as how the change has produced a gold-plated great pop song. Akon duets with a sample from his father's father's times, its gentility rendered ridiculous by speed. But ridiculous is how Akon feels, jilted in the middle of the night, wandering through his own memories, his stupid ventriloquist’s dummy at his side. It's sweet like a sad puppy, annoying like a sad person, pathetic yes but pathetic is Akon's 'thing': you never felt he was locked up for being tough, though it takes a lot of balls to sound so castrated.
[9]

Jessica Popper: I don't think I've hated a song so much since "Babycakes". What is wrong with the British public? Why are we so masochistic, forcing this obvious horror on ourselves? I think everyone who buys this should spent 10 years in isolation as punishment, then they'll really know what it's like to be lonely, Mr Looonely.
[0]

Doug Robertson: This should be rubbish. Everything about it is wrong: the chipmunk chorus, the whiney, self-pitying nature of the lyric and the passionless vocal to name but three, but much in the same way that in maths two negatives make a positive, the many, many negatives of this track seem to come together and turn it into something very special indeed. Hopefully in a couple of weeks time I’ll come to my senses and see it for dire mess it undoubtedly is, but right now I’m going to have to apologise to everyone reading this and give it a…
[9]


Willy Mason – So Long
[4.09]


Peter Parrish: Not to be confused with Willie Nelson. Well, you can if you like, if it makes you feel better. Jangle jangle jangle go the guitars. Er ... and that’s it.
[2]

Jessica Popper: I saw the video for his previous single, "Oxygen", for the first time this morning, which led to my conclusion that Willy Mason must be the sweetest boy in America. He just has an aura of loveliness. "So Long" is very jaunty, which I didn't expect, so although the lyrics aren't quite as momentous as "Oxygen"'s, it's just as ace. Hurrah!
[8]

Tom Ewing: Willy's in the basement mixing down his eight-track, I'm in the mezzanine playing with a Bigtrak. Subterranean homesick bargain bins beckon, though if I'm being fair it sounds like Mason has listened to 40 years of new Dylans rather than any amount of the old one. Are we sure that the Pop Playground list this week hasn't been swapped for an UNCUT covermount freebie? Don't need a harmonica to know how much the song blows.
[1]

Abby McDonald: Ah, bless the wee lil’ troubadour with his strum-along melodies and jaunty verse. I can’t listen to the boy without wanting to ruffle his hair and cook him a decent meal, even though this is nowhere near the standards of ‘Oxygen’.
[5]

Doug Robertson: For a man who declares in the chorus that he’s going to be moving on, this track shows an astonishing lack of musical progression being, as it is, firmly rooted in the past. It’s done well, and it’s hard to fault it in comparison to other tracks of the same genre, but there’s so little originality on display here it’s equally hard to work out exactly what the point is.
[5]


Weezer – Beverly Hills
[4.09]


Doug Robertson: Let’s sing along shall we? “Beverly Hills! That’s where I wanna be! Watch me unravel and I’ll soon be naked, lying on floor, I come undone!” Uh, quite. What it lacks in originality, however, it makes up for in being… umm, well, it doesn’t really have any outstanding features. It’s a Weezer song, it sounds like a Weezer song and isn’t going to rock any boats, though it will probably rock the audiences at their gigs, which is all that matters when you get right down to it. And some of their fans got a trip to Hugh Hefner’s mansion out of it, which was nice of them.
[6]

Fergal O’Reilly: I've never really understood Weezer's appeal at the best of times, but this is a miserable hookless dirge.
[2]

Peter Parrish: Much like Eminem, Weezer have something to say about upward mobility this week. Rivers wants to live it up in Beverley Hills, but unfortunately he’s a penniless oaf with no style and a shit car. Or something like that. It’s always nice to hear someone pointing out the inherent falsehood behind mythologised concepts about escaping class boundaries through fame. It’s less nice when they’re doing it in rather a dreary, plodding fashion.
[4]

John Seroff: With an "I Love Rock and Roll" guitar chorus and Rick Rubin production, you'd think I could find one good thing to say about this song. You'd be wrong. Vacuous self-importance packaged as "irony" clad in protective quotation marks, "Beverly Hills" is unctuous, smarmy and poorly delivered radio fodder without a trace of emotion or originality. Besides being my least favorite of this batch of singles, this rivals Good Charlotte's "Girls and Boys" (which it resembles in its emotional and intelligent depth) as one of my least favorite songs of all time.
[1]

Jessica Popper: Whatever happened to the cute geeky guys who recreated Happy Days and had the Muppets singing their backing vocals? Now they set their videos in the Playboy mansion and all that remains of the Weezer we once knew are the thick black-rimmed "emo" glasses and the memories of happier days. Try to avoid listening to this if you've ever liked a Weezer song. It's deeply upsetting.
[3]


Faith Evans – Again
[4.18]


Tom Ewing: Kick-me title disguises drably empowering pop.
[5]

Paul Scott: A warm bass line and some lovely Isley Brother's type guitar make up for somewhat vapid lyrics. The media "exaggerate and speculate", do they? Really? I hadn't noticed. Also the lack of pointless intrusive rap cameo is nice. Like many things in life, one can have enough Li'l Jon.
[6]

John Seroff: With Faith's blatant recycle of a bass-heavy Chi-Lites "Oh Girl", she reminds us that:
A) She was married to Biggie. Y'know, Big Poppa? Top five, dead or alive? She hit that.
B) That coke case? Bluster. Media bluster. Honest.
C) It's awful hard being rich and famous, but God loves the rich and famous. And the rest of you too.
D) She's yet to really do much of anything in the field of music, but:
E) Did I mention that her and Frank White, they was like THAT?
That giggle on the tail end of the sample doesn't help matters any. Eminently disposible.
[3]

Jessica Popper: Apparently Scott Mills is a fan of this one. If I remember correctly Scott is also the one to blame for the UK successes of Eamon and the Boy Meets Girl remixes. Let's hope he goes the same way as Wes Butters, who is now presenting podcasts (not Stycasts, that would be moving up in the world!) and being blamed for the Crazy Frog single, as soon as possible. The song itself is so 'nothing special', it's almost special for that very reason. (3)

Doug Robertson: “Again, Again!” cried the Tellytubbies, and they’re certainly something that comes to mind on hearing this. Not because the track imbues you with a childlike enthusiasm and a desperate desire to hit repeat and hear it over and over, but because it’s practically infantile in both its music and lyrical content, and only someone for whom the world of music has so far only included Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star might actually think it was any good. Oh, and because Po is very nearly a good word to describe it.
[4]


Lil Jon feat. Usher & Ludacris – Lovers & Friends
[4.50]


Paul Scott: Ever felt the need to hear Boyz II Men getting crunked? Me neither. What's this? A nice pleasant enough soul ballad. Mmm, nice harmonies lads. Hello there, Li’l Jon. You're going to start shouting, aren't you?
[3]

Tom Ewing: No comment, but I think it's hilarious.
[8]

Doug Robertson: Lil Jon might be at the forefront of the crunk movement, but this track is at the forefront of another sort of movement, the name of which, coincidentally, also begins with ‘cr’. It also features Usher, which may explain its rubbishness; never underestimate his power to bring the world of music down to his level.
[2]

Fergal O’Reilly: Reflective soppy piano ballad; Usher's warbling is predictably Nice Enough, Luda's verse predictably steals the show, and then Lil Jon does his verse in his Crunk Growl, which sounds quite ridiculous when used to deliver such a thoughtful monologue. That said the idea that he talks in that voice all the time is hugely appealing.
[6]

John Seroff: There are degrees of weird: the type of weird that makes you go "hmmm", the type of weird that stops you in your tracks to watch it drive past, the type of weird that causes you to drop your groceries in the street, the type of weird that makes you spontaneously release your bowels; then there is "Lovers and Friends" weird. Lil' Jon's ripoff of a previously unheralded Michael Sterling track is a train wreck of unrivalled magnitude; an invitation to a Ursher, Jon and Luda Manwich ('Ah ah ooo', indeed). If ever a genre DIDN'T need making, "Slow Crunk" would be it, yet I can't look away. Every gory detail stands out in perfect relief; from the infinite pause between Luda's verse of "here's a pillow, bite............THAT", to the East Side Boyz chanting "SHAWTY" over Jon's verse ("Let a nigga know before I pull it out"?), to the chirps of a warbling Usher tensing to jump over the shark. I remain awed by the uncanny power of "Lovers and Friends". Just don't make me listen to it again.
[7]


Raghav – No I
[4.55]


Jessica Popper: I refuse to believe this is really Raghav. It's Craig David, I'm sure of it! Jay Sean is not the Asian Craig David after all, it's Raghav. I wonder how many people have thought this song was called "No 1"? Probably more than know what it's really called.
[3]

Tom Ewing: Raghav has had sixty-seven hits now and I've not worked out yet what kind of music he makes. Testament to versatility or mediocrity? (Or my stupidity?) Hard to say: this is a confident, competent, cold R&B runthrough of the sort Craig David used to make. By the end of it I'm enjoying it without ever wanting a second listen.
[4]

Abby McDonald: Lascivious lothario in smoooooth ballad alert! Ladies, step away from the Bacardi Breezers, because somebody thinks wooing you with vomit-inducing proclamations of their obsession will get them in your pants. Although, if you’re quaffing the Breezers at Bar Med on a Friday night, this is probably just the kind of insipid boredom that will impress.
[0]

John Seroff: Raghav sounds like Timbaland's wet dream: a smooth R+B singer with his feet planted firmly in traditional Indian percussion. Running in a drastically different direction from the grudgingly spare production of the Neptunes, "No I" lavishes layer after layer of snaps, strings, drums and cymbals over Raghav Mathur's honeyed and radio friendly crooning. There's no reason I can see that Raghav shouldn't be the Justin Timberlake for a Hindi & Blues revolution.
[7]

Doug Robertson: Despite having released a couple of cracking singles, Raghav has maintained a public profile which can safely be described as non-existent. Even his Big Brother 4 look-a-like Federico stands more chance of turning up in Heat magazine. Unfortunately he seems to have taken the general belief that he’s pretty inessential to heart by releasing this, an entirely inessential ballad which is unlikely to trouble the chart in any sort of noticeable way. Goodbye Raghav, we hardly knew ye, which was kinda the problem, really.
[4]


The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It
[4.91]


David Jones: So the Killers. Look like Topman models, act like Topman mannequins. Sound great, mean nothing. They’ve used the look and sound of eighties ‘new pop’ as a skin graft but have done so with such clinical precision that they actually outstrip their progenitors. The Killers have succeeded where Duran Duran failed. They are perfect surface, pure image. I refuse to condemn them for that. After all, The Killers write catchier hooks and more arresting melodies than any other ‘singles band’ (for that is what they are) at the moment. Perhaps the sheen is starting to crack, too. Brandon Flowers frets here about his own lack of presence: “someone is playing a game/In the house that I grew up in/And someone will drive her around/Down the same streets that I did”. Hopefully they’ll lose it on album number two, terrorise the streets like Doctor Who villains or fall into a Pinnochio-like reverie. Then, just maybe, they might write music we can love as well as hum.
[8]

Tom Ewing: Slow the tempo down and Mr Killers' voice is seriously exposed—it wavers all over the shop here as if he's performing a karaoke of himself. The band don't sound desperately comfortable with this obligatory ballad either, I'm sure it wasn't in the job description. When age and care have expunged the last sparks of joy and discovery I find in music I will greet this like an old friend but for now, I'd cross the street. Funny vocoder, mind you.
[2]

Fergal O’Reilly: The Killers' main talent seems to be rescuing a relatively mediocre track by having one hook so infuriatingly memorable you're prepared to sit through the rest of it. In this case it's an ooh-eeh-ooooooh noise on that one Blade Runner Saw Wave synth preset they're so enamoured of. This one is admittedly more consistent than their previous singles, being moody neo-postpunk by numbers with hi-hat rattling drums and spindly guitar motifs. OK, and a decent stadium new-wave solo a couple of minutes in. But really: you're waiting for the funny noise.
[7]

Mike Atkinson: Not unless you sing it like you mean it, mate. We’re into umpteenth-single-off-the-album diminishing-returns territory here, aren’t we? Difficult to imagine Killers fans going “OH MY GOD IT’S THIS ONE!” at gigs, and punching their fists in the air in recognition, and doing whatever else it is that Killers fans do in such situations (as you can probably tell, I’m having difficulty entering the mindset). It’s too much of a droopy plodder, cautious and conservative in construction, hemmed in by self-imposed limitations, and with a slight but telling weariness in its overly brief chorus, which falls a few steps short of the poignancy that the song half-heartedly seeks to evoke.
[4]

Jessica Popper: I quite like the Killers—their album has plenty of electro sounds and catchy tunes, and Brandon Flowers is at times quite a hotty, although he does have the appearance of a lifelong hangover. However, I have recently been put right off him by his slagging of the Bravery. The Bravery aren't that great apart from a couple of ace songs, and I usually love pop star wars (my all-time favourite being Daphne & Celeste vs. the entire pop world) but all this bitching is making Mr Flowers look very unattractive indeed.
[6]


Maximo Park – Graffiti
[5.27]


Peter Parrish: M-m-m-m-maaaaaaximo Park! Is that somewhere for superheroes to chill out and feed the ducks? Apparently not, because it’s infested with graffiti artists being sung to in French. Not massively excitingly, as it turns out.
[5]

Abby McDonald: Too messy and slow-moving for my taste, but I suppose they tried. But really, do they sound AT ALL unlike any of the dozen other ‘rough-around-the-edges British rock’ acts out there right now? Why can’t everyone just decide to form their own uber-energetic girl rock bands, or send a dozen Kylie-esque pop perfections out into the ether? Blah blah, market forces, blah blah popular choice. As if the opinion of the British public is any indication of sense.
[1]

Fergal O’Reilly: I'm not really sure if this reminds me of the Futureheads or not. Certainly it's a bit more sweeping and slick than the Futureheads choppy XTCisms (there's an organ), and the vocalist has a really good swoopy croon that breaks out into a Ferry-like warble at points. Once it gets past the build and release pattern of the verses there's not really that much to it (well, the chorus is crap, basically), but y'know, it's nice enough and I'm sure the current musical climate will allow it to reach number 14 or something. And that opening flurry can really get lodged in your head.
[6]

David Jones: I’d already marked these guys down as would-be Futureheads, limpid post-punkers who’d missed the arse end of a bandwagon that was mostly arse anyway. I was a twat. This is a wurlitzing, sixties-tinged call to arms that confirms their claim to write “pop songs about real life”. Presumably a defiant throwing-in a relationship number, this’ll be another strike for resurgent grass-roots indie. Warp Records, mind, should hand them over to Domino and crack on with sorting out the current malaise in electronic music.
[8]

Tom Ewing: This is the kind of record the Festive Fifty was made to feature, and since it probably won't anymore I'm happy to hear it this way. What makes this enjoyable is its mess of irreconcilable impulses—making a racket, singing gauche lyrics, crushing new-learned notes and sounds together because these three minutes really might be the only ones they get. It makes me think that bands crashing through the gap Franz have opened up will be a deal more delightful than their rather studied inspirers-in-chief.
[7]


The Dears – 22: The Death Of All The Romance
[5.40]


Tom Ewing: String sections and trebly indie guitar occupy—am I getting too technical here?—roughly the same kind of 'earspace' on headphones. This means songs that feature both tend to sound a bit cramped and rubbish. Throw in a fashionably bored lady singer and a straining gerbil gent and something that sounds like a bloody KAZOO and you have one of the most ghastly records I've heard this year. And it lasts six minutes—two minutes MORE than nuclear armageddon! No more of this lot ever, please.
[0]

Mike Atkinson: A well orchestrated dramatic duet between two unhappy lovers—desperately clinging onto the wreckage of their relationship, fatally locked into a kind of shared conspiracy of denial—the likes of which (in stylistic terms at least) haven’t been heard in the charts since “The Ballad Of Tom Jones”. Although both singers stretch themselves slightly beyond their natural limits, this has the effect of lending a roughly hewn authenticity to the performance, which only serves to increase its power.
[9]

Jessica Popper: I really like this one. They do the girl/boy duet better than The Kills and The Subways, although I'm not sure they're quite up there with Kylie and Jason. Let's not go overboard!
[6]

John Seroff: This bears a striking resemblance to what I imagine an Andrew Lloyd Webber/Zappa/Merritt collabo would sound like; whether that repels or attracts you should determine your love for this cut. In my case, it's like eating a pizza with avocado and black jellybeans: just a bit too much.
[4]

Doug Robertson: There’s always a certain disregard given towards duets, most probably because there’s generally a certain tendency towards cheesyness. It’s a shame really, as when it’s done right, a boy/girl vocal performance can be fantastic and add depth and colour to a lyric that might otherwise be a bit banal. This is definitely in the ace camp when it comes to this sort of thing, a sleazy, smokey affair, suitable for hearing in a disreputable bar, sometime after it was supposed to have legally closed. It’s the sort of thing that Lodger tried to do but couldn’t quite achieve—although with recent revelations about Pearl and Danny’s private life you’d have thought they’d have been able to get the sleazyness aspect right. There’s not a single wasted second, note, word or beat on this track. Truly excellent.
[9]


Hood – The Negatives
[5.73]


Jessica Popper: Hood's official site is very misleading. There I was expecting another piece of indie sameness, wondering what on Earth I could write about this one, and the music turns out to be some rubbish rap. But then I listen to the single and they turn out to be samey indie after all! I'm so confused.
[3]

Doug Robertson: This is quite Patrick Wolf-esque, although that might only be down to the fact that the singer bloke has a similar, ahem, ‘interestingly’ accented singing voice. It’s not as good as the Wolf, but it’s still pretty decent, string laden in a subtle way, with a nicely dark backing to the whole thing.
[7]

Abby McDonald: Shame the vaguely interesting melody and use of strings is sucked devoid of all life force by these pretentiously pseudo-whispered lyrics. It’s not atmospheric, it’s just boring.
[3]

Peter Parrish: Brilliance. Half-whispered, sing-song tidings of gloom and disenchantment meshed with a stuttering beat and the drone of a summer bumble bee. Akin to committing emotionless atrocities in a field of gorgeous daisies.
[8]

David Jones: To point out that this is easily my favourite single of this year so far is to point out that I’m not really a consumer of singles anymore. Because this is in no way designed to fulfil the same function as those self-contained, playlistable verse-chorus-verse entities. Hood are in themselves an inconsistent bunch who have produced a lot of very worthy but hardly engaging music, on an ever-sliding scale between glitch and postrock. A couple of years ago however they defied all expectations with a mercurial shanty called ‘They Removed All Trace That Anything Ever Happened Here’. It included a lot of chanting in tongues and was utterly beautiful.

Lightning has struck twice. ‘The Negatives’ apparently chronicles lonely wanderings in a desolate rustic landscape. It uses some combination of strings, bass, looping electronics and impressionistic “words volatile”. It just, er, pitter-patters. Like raindrops on a barn roof. For me, this is like ‘How Soon Is Now’ or ‘Fool’s Gold’, in that when you first hear it you’re not struck by it being particularly avant-garde yet when you try to compare it to something else there really isn’t anything. I give up, I’m going to bed. Just go and fucking listen to it.
[10]


The House Of Love – Gotta Be That Way
[5.82]


Abby McDonald: Mournful and understated, this; kind of a Saturday afternoon Radio 2 sort of song, what with the slight twang to the guitars and sense of trying to that Eagles mid-Western road-trip melancholy. But, you know, far too dull to actually achieve it.
[3]

Doug Robertson: This isn’t a dance track as we’d anticipated on seeing the name of the band, but is instead an acoustic number of the sort that I’d thought had vanished shortly after the NME lost interest in the whole New Acoustic Movement and decided to come up with The Strokes instead. Still, if you like your music inoffensive and safe, you’ll like this, but if that’s the case you should probably download it, as the trip down to the record shop to buy a copy might prove to be a bit too exciting for you.
[5]

Tom Ewing: Doesn't anyone ever actually split up any more? Singer and guitarist is to the late 20th century what prefect and fag was to the early: the most important relationship a generation of pale and serious young men will ever know, and a deuced hard bond to break. The love that can but strum its name brings Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers back together to sing more gloomy songs about women (ahem) and it's like they've never been away. Which is unfortunate, as simple economics dictates a second-hand old album with 12 songs like this on is better value than a 4-track new single. No doubt it pays the therapist bills.
[4]

Fergal O’Reilly: Initially a bit like the strange offspring of "Slide Away" by Oasis and "Europe After The Rain" by John Foxx, but ends up a bit more frenetic than both and develops into a collossal monument to abject wistfulness, complete with droning, otherworldly harmonies and some stunning little guitar lines. Would probably make a very good soundtrack for staring moodily at rain out of a car window.
[9]

Peter Parrish: “Christine”. “Shine On”. “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”. Three songs which are better than this one. An unfair test of course, as those three songs are better than most things. Guy Chadwick was rarely the most energetic lyricist, and he’s putting in a magnificently fuzzyheaded delivery here. This seems to be slightly infectious, because whilst the Bickers guitar sound still soars toward the upper atmosphere, it does so in a more restrained fashion—as if on an invisible leash, ready to be yanked back down to Earth. And yet ... it’s bloody good to have them back.
[7]


Art Brut – Emily Kane
[7.56]


Tom Ewing: I'm fond of Art Brut because their previous single inspired a friend of mine to primitive spitting rage and he declared them the worst band of all time. The faux-naif approach that so apoplexed him is back but this time applied to lost first love: more appropriate and more endearing but less individual.
[5]

Doug Robertson: In the nineties, when there was a lot of rubbish music around and people like The Dandys, Northern Uproar and Kula Shaker could get record deals, people started searching around for some sort of replacement and soon anything that was even slightly popular was being hailed as the “New Rock & Roll”, including cookery, daytime television and comedy. The culmination of the latter was when Newman & Baddiel played Wembley, before promptly splitting up on the not unreasonable grounds that they hated each others guts, which did, to be fair, lend credence to the idea of it as the new rock & roll. Anyway, the point, and I do have one, is that Art Brut have taken this idea and have turned it on its head and seem to be basing their career on the theory that rock & roll is, in fact, the new comedy. Not because the track’s laughable—it’s not, it’s excellent—but because it, along with their previous releases, are genuinely funny without sacrificing the all important tune element of the song. The bastard sons of Half Man Half Biscuit, perhaps.
[9]

Peter Parrish: The introspective alternative to “Gordon is a Moron”, with bitterness removed and heartfelt longing injected by the bucketload. Subsequently, it is fantastic. Unrequited love from your childhood getting you down? Of course it is. You’re wondering just what she’s doing right now, while some guy counts off the time since he’s seen his own schoolyard crush with a ... err.. ‘basic’ vocal style. And guitars. It would never work, of course—and she’s probably got kids. Still; fantastic.
[8]

John Seroff: Definitely my favorite track of the week, "Emily Kane" is an amelodic and convincing cartoon emo-punk ballad with a soupçon of R+B intervention; a "Say Anything" style anthem for an aging generation of blue-haired blue-hairs. "I hope this song / Finds you fame / I want schoolkids on buses / Singing your name" is now one of the all-time 'AWWWW' moments in rock; Eddie Argos' monotone chanting is strangely endearing. This has international crossover appeal like crazy; I hope to see Emily in the states soon.
[9]

Fergal O’Reilly: Argh! I honestly can't tell whether this is some kind of genius or the most retarded thing ever recorded. On one hand, it's agreeably spiky lovelorn guitar pop, on the other, and I fear I'm going to look like a predictable soulless grinch type for focusing on this, WHAT THE FUCK IS THE SINGER DOING? I firmly believe that the vocals on a pop record should never resemble Chris Morris' Inane DJ Twat persona Wayne Carr this closely. And, and yet, when things go all minor chord and melancholy on the stompy chorus, in spite of its utter, manifest ridiculousness, maybe because of it, it's actually really poignant. If this is shit it's the most fascinatingly shit song I've heard in ages. Ah, fuck it.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-05-02
Comments (5)
 

 
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