The Singles Jukebox
The Wheat, Pt. 2



and after all of that bobbins, welcome to the top-of-the-table soundclash. This week, Sébastien Tellier has a lovely piano and a really big nose, Charlotte Church has some Tom Jones stylings and ‘hypnotisingly massive breasts’, and Everybody Loves Tatu, Apart From Possibly John Cameron. Before all that, though, all-new female singer-songwriter Alexis Strum attempts to step out of the shadows of Dido and Katie Melua. The panel aren’t quite so sure…


Alexis Strum – Bad Haircut
[5.71]


Patrick McNally: THIS is what Popjustice have been banging on about? This has lyrics to shame Alanis Morrisette with backing constructed from the floor sweepings left behind after Natalie Imbriglia’s been in the studio. And she fancies Prince Harry.
[2]

Jonathan Bradley: I really tried to avoid comparing Alexis Strum to Dido, but you know what, fuck it, if she can’t be bothered coming up with a simile less ridiculous than “you’re almost like a bad hair cut/ you won’t grow out,” I’m not going to be creative in my criticism. ‘Bad Haircut’ is bland, it’s polite, and I’m sure there are a whole lot of people with record collections packed with Katie Melua and Jamie Cullum that are going to eat it up.
[1]

Edward Oculicz: Listening to this in a certain mood can be nearly as depressing as living it; see someone a few times and take a few months to get over it. Alexis has been to that vision of Hell, and she's dragging you back there with a perfect three-minute pop song. An uncomfortably accurate depiction of such things, from the lyrics that don't quite work to the softness of her voice and some Real Pain (TM) without the need to resort to fake over-emoting.
[10]

Tom Ewing: Using my fantastic Popometer I can locate this at the mind-boggling midpoint exactly between Saint Etienne and Avril Lavigne! Cor! Songs like this make me feel that I've watched a whole series of The OC all at once, except I've never seen the OC and would probably hate it so maybe that isn't the right metaphor but you know what you mean I hope.
[8]

John Cameron: I can't find jokes to make about the songs I don't like this week. It's getting really depressing. I think it's because I've heard so many of these songs before, but not really; all the elements have been used - in this case, coffeeshop break-up poetry mixed with Dido's canned beats and synthesized strings - but they're recontextualized in a way that creates a new, disappointingly familiar song.
[3]

Alex Macpherson: There's something about the way Alexis Strum sustains certain notes for a couple of beats longer than you expect her to, elides lines into each other with pinpoint emotional accuracy, which completely makes this song. On face value she could almost be pitched somewhere between Dido and Natasha Bedingfield - photogenic white girl sings self-penned pop which appeals to fans of chick lit - but unlike either of them she actually sounds totally invested in her material. And unlike them she sings devastating and incisive lyrics with exquisite phrasing and glorious melody: this is not music which could ever be mistaken for lifestyle accessory.
[9]


Missy Elliott ft. Tweet – Teary Eyed
[6.00]


Paul Scott: Someone once said "Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone." This person had obviously never foreseen the funeral of Princess Diana, or Trisha, but in this case it's rather apt. Who in their right mind wants to hear Missy Elliot get emo?
[4]

Jessica Popper: Is Missy actually singing? That's not normal, is it? She's pretty good too, but the song could be more exciting.
[6]

Edward Oculicz: In which our favourite shrinking Virginia lass predicts what the next Lauryn Hill album will sound like. The production which is half tinkling, half accusing stabbing gives this some legs, but I prefer Missy when she's throwing hooks all over the place. Here she makes you wait for the good bits, possibly in some kind of reaching towards real soul or real worth. Not at all bad, but lacking that crucial key that quickens the pulse and touches the heart.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Missy does love that record needle noise, but it’s very comforting. This song is more like Tweet’s last record than the full-bore ear-twisting insanity of “Lose Control,” but who can complain much about a classic-sounding R&B track that’s almost built on a tuba riff?
[7]

Jonathan Bradley: I know it’s a cliché to say that Missy’s worst songs are her ballads, but if she’s going to sing them like she’s on a personal quest to prove that it is possible to be more boring than Ashanti, than I’ll have to keep repeating the cliché. Producer Warryn Campbell delivers a beat that would be a sure-fire hit for any other artist, loaded with horn stabs and tinkling pianos, but it can’t make up for such a dull vocal. Of course, Missy’s triple threat as rapper-singer-producer is weakest in the singing department – her production is smart enough to be worthwhile and her personality makes up for most of her flaws as a rapper – but she sings this so lifelessly that it can be seen only as a waste of a perfectly good beat.
[5]


Charlotte Church – Call My Name
[6.07]


Joe Macare: This is brilliant, a brassy, bolshy belter, almost a showtune really, a great showcase for both Church's voice and her attitude. It's like eating a large slice of chocolate cake, drinking a pint of Guiness and smoking several ciggies all at once. If you don't like this, then in all likelihood - wait for it - you hate fun.
[9]

Edward Oculicz: She might sound from this song like she's never actually had good sex in her life, but this is pretty wow-bang great, a chorus the size of her hypnotisingly-massive breasts in the video, some saucy, memorable lyrics and she belts it out in way that indicates she might actually be enjoying this pop music malarkey a bit more when she does huge anthems than when she does dragging ballads. She's got life if she puts out a few more like this.
[9]

Tom Ewing: Like all right-thinking pop nerds I am desperate for Charlotte Church to make incredible records because i) she gave up boring classical music for sexy pop hooray ii) she is a proper pop star with swearing and that. However, I am also desperate for Joss Stone to make no more records AT ALL so Charlotte doing some "smouldering" in that horrible Joss-y Commitments style is an official Bad Move. Also, no amount of nudge-winkery can save you if your song sounds like a Geri cast-off.
[3]

Jessica Popper: Not as fun or as good a song in general as ‘Crazy Chick’. Perhaps that only seemed so good because I had expected her attempt at pop music (and especially a song with that ridiculous title) to be terrible, but ‘Call My Name’ just isn't my kind of pop music.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: I like this a whole lot more than I want to. Miss Church gets down with a whole lot of grinding funk, and I’m sure she thinks that slap bass is real edgy. But at the end of the day, Charlotte Church’s rejection of polite faux-classical amounts to little more than biting Tom Jones – I can seriously see her breaking out “What’s New, Pussycat” in the middle of this – and why should I applaud that when pop music is doing things that are infinitely more interesting? Then again, it does have cowbell…
[6]


Andy Bell - Crazy
[6.15]


Tom Ewing: When I used to read Mojo and the occasional Q it struck me how many people have record contracts as a kind of long-service medal - many dutiful, even marginally enthusiastic, reviews of low-selling solo albums by ex-members of Supertramp, etc. I always thought I had a pretty good idea of what this sort of record would sound - humble good-timey rock with a faint blues influence. But now it turns out that I'm old enough and the biz wide enough for pumping synthpop to come under this umbrella, too.
[4]

Alex Macpherson: Distasteful and slightly unclean in exactly the same way as feeling someone's hand on your arse in a gay club and turning round to find not a buff young 19-year-old but a sweaty, balding fortysomething man with eyes crazed by desperation and a lifetime of too many poppers.
[1]

Jessica Popper: I am crazy in love with this song! It's exciting enough when anyone releases a catchy pop song these days, so when it's an amazingly brilliant one like this it's a very special occasion. Crazy even sounds like Bodies Without Organs in places, and that is a sure sign of greatness! He is a bit ugly and scary but CDs are for listening to, not looking at (although buff hotties and sparkly costumes never go amiss).
[10]

Edward Oculicz: The romance of the dancefloor - three minutes of frenzied longing, and then a tidy resolution as the next song plays and you've moved onto someone else. But what frenzy - sirenic squalls, gigantic disco beats, an astoundingly felt, nuanced vocal and lyrical hooks to stand aside the melodic ones.
[10]

Fergal O’Reilly: I really liked Erasure's single "Don't Say You Love Me" earlier in the year, but a lot of people seemed to find it a bit plodding and unremarkable. This is considerably more pumping and melodramatic but does a similar job of building up to an awesome fever pitch at the end; there are swooping strings and layered backing vocals and Andy selling the "I Am Crazy" theme with some conviction.
[8]

John Cameron: I like Erasure. Yeah, whatever, laugh, they put out a lot of beautiful pop positively drenched in synths. But they're the good kind of synths. If Bell has a solo album coming out that consists mostly of songs like this, well, it's going to consist entirely of the bad kind of synths: the kind that every techno song ever released has used too much of, combined with cheesy, generic electronic beats. I think my soul's died a little.
[2]


Sébastien Tellier – La Ritournelle
[6.38]


Patrick McNally: Who would have thought that a Vincent Gallo looking friend of Air would accidentally make a possible future disco classic with, almost uniquely for a modern record, interesting strings? I know that this is going to be too coffee table for some, but fuck ‘em.
[8]

Dom Passantino: Seemingly never starting piece of jazz-wallpaper, which somehow goes on for nearly eight minutes without ever actually doing anything. Pros: perfect for the PA system of cult eateries in student districts or art villages. Cons: absolutely mind-numbing after 4 minutes and 22 seconds.
[3]

Fergal O’Reilly: Demented big-nosed Frenchman releases sulky seven-minute orchestral piece as single; fails to trouble UK charts. It's great though, really. Incredibly moody and atmospheric and all that business, and the vocals unexpectedly arrive after about four minutes, which always tickles me for some reason, epecially given that they then disappear back into the gloom after about eight seconds.
[9]

Paul Scott: This is heartfelt, literate and sumptuously beautiful is it? No it isn't. Unless of course Keane at 33 rpm is your definition of heartfelt, literate and sumptuously beautiful.
[3]

Alex Macpherson: Mmm, this is gorgeous, as if your favourite lounge bar was suddenly transported to a verdant, lush, piano-dappled landscape where strings don't so much swoop as blossom. And then Tellier's vocals suddenly entering, taking the song on to a higher level of bliss with no warning whatsoever, a transport of delight where the transport in question is a rollercoaster. No wonder Kompakt love this song recently.
[8]


Sugababes – Push The Button
[6.71]


Patrick McNally: Whereon the Sugababes lose their nerve, get a Yank producer in, try to act sexy and release their first lame non-ballad.
[2]

Hillary Brown: Reworking of “My Doorbell” but minus the urgency of that tune. I have pushed the button, but you’re taking too long to answer the door.
[5]

Joe Macare: A candy-coated confection that's all the sexier for how light and airy it seems. If this song was a colour it would be something pale and bright and summery, probably a pastel. But it's sharp, too: at least, it has claws, and once it's got its claws in you, once that chorus is stuck in your head, it just won't let go.
[10]

Tom Ewing: In a way it's a step back to "Overload", whose low-impact diffidence was such a shock in an eager-to-please popworld. Or maybe that's a polite way of saying 'underwhelming' - as a pop single "Push The Button" is pretty but it doesn't land the killer blow, its rhythm content to chug instead of drive. But as a summoning of a situation, a particular poised mood, it's perfect - the song's reserve reflecting its will-he won't-he tension.
[8]

John Cameron: Why are the most inane, tepid-sounding moments of the mid-80's coming back to haunt us with better production? Why? It's not fair, man. We lived through them once already.
[2]

Alex Macpherson: Like 'Hole In The Head', 'Push The Button' is on first listen slightly underwhelming: catchy and fun, but hardly a Pop Single As Momentous World-Changing Event à la 'Freak Like Me'. But like 'Hole In The Head', this first listen is designed to lull you into a false sense of security, because that's all it takes for the tune to take up permanent residence in your head, and getting it to leave is about as easy as convincing landlords to return deposits. Not that you'd want to, because like all the best pop it simultaneously sounds like about ten other songs at once - the froth off the top of 'Milkshake', the DJ Koze remix of 'Hot Love', 'Last Christmas' - and nothing else ever recorded before.
[9]


LCD Soundsystem - Tribulations
[7.36]


Dom Passantino: When it comes to pure rofflez on Stylus, that guy from DFA coming on here and castigating us for not thinking that the LCD Soundsystem album is the finest artistic achievement of the past 25 years is right up there with Ed Ockuclicz implying that Jay-Z jumps puddles. Irate label workers with steam coming out of their ears are the only real entertainment you can get out of LCD Soundsystem though, because their music is, let's be honest here, the rubbish.
[2]

Joe Macare: Somewhere - possibly Berlin - there's a club where 'Tribulations' has been playing non-stop for the past two years. What self-respecting patron could possibly complain? This is LCD Soundsystem's finest and most immediate song to date, a 'Blue Monday' for my generation, unless 'Blue Monday' was actually for my generation and I was just less cool than all the other five year olds.
[10]

Hillary Brown: The ticky part (i.e., percussive, but not low) is actually inside my brain, I think, and it sort of hurts that it’s there, in an invasive pop-rocks-type way, but the continuing thump of the rest of the song compensates for the pain.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: I downloaded this about two years ago, so I have no idea why it’s being released as a single now. But on rediscovering it after having it sit in limbo on my hard drive for so long, I was stunned to find how great it really is. We’re so familiar with the DFA playbook that it can’t shock with its novelty, but even without the rush of the new, this is still awe-inspiring. James Murphy’s vocals are incredible, and the way his synths double as extra elements of the rhythm make this a party track that just doesn’t get old.
[9]

Fergal O’Reilly: It always occurs to me that a lot of the constituent parts of this song aren't that great; it's a bit long, the vocal line's not especially inspiring, and the guitars sound like cheap scrapy shit (and I say this as a fairly committed acolyte of The Skronk). This is of course all completely moot while listening to the actual song, because it already wins the universe by having The Best Wobbly Octave Bassline Ever; it is invincible and makes you feel invincible too.
[9]


The Go! Team – Bottle Rocket
[7.38]


Alex Macpherson: Everything this band does gives me a fucking headache. Take some of the goddamn stupid sounds OUT!
[5]

Dom Passantino: Because, you know, restraint sucks doesn't it? Can you imagine anyone in 2005 actually turning around and saying "You know what? Considering how well the recording history of the Avalanches has held up, wouldn't it just be the "bomb diggity" if there was an indie band version of them?". Like one of those pizzas at the bottom of the takeaway leaflet that just appear to be the chef clearing out his cupboards of all his unwanted ingredients.
[3]

Jessica Popper: Seeing the Go! Team's performance on the Mercury Awards recently made me desperate to see them live. I like their songs enough on record but they work so much better on stage.
[7]

Tom Ewing: I first heard this song at top London niteclub Poptimism last year when someone pressed a burned CD into my hand and told me to "Play Bottle Rocket!". I did and it was FANTASTIC – who, I wondered, were these strange conjurors of ramshackle fizz and offhand joy? It sounded like all the good bits of an indie disco compressed into three extraordinary minutes. It also sounded a bit like Junior Senior. The magic lasted at least until they played it seven times at Glastonbury but between you and me I'm a tiny bit tired of it now. If you've never heard it before it gets a ten, though.
[8]

John Cameron: It's funky and it's bouncy and it's clattering and it's head-bobbing and it jumps off the walls and it's hip-hop and it's danceable and it's indie and it has harmonica and it makes me feel like a little kid again. It's everything that I love rolled up into a crazy, impossibly fun party song.
[10]

Paul Scott: The Go! Team leap upon each song with a sense of gleeful abandon, spraying samples, live instruments and chants all over the place, hyped up with the liberating discovery that they can throw anything into their musical brew. It almost gets too much, an overload of sound and colour, but the curiously innocent joyful force of nature that bursts through it is undeniable, overwhelming and, more than anything else, fun. Like washing down a mouthful of popping candy with a whole bottle of blue flavoured Panda Pops on a trampoline. In theory, at least.
[9]


Tatu – All About Us
[8.07]


Patrick McNally: When you’re a kid you know that orange cordial is nice and so want to drink the syrup without added water. The concentrated hit has to be better. Eventually when you get old enough to do stuff behind your mum’s back you try it and it’s foul. This distillation of everything that was great about the first Tatu LP is like trying it and finding that it’s even more delicious.
[8]

Alex Macpherson: Back from the dead, and stronger than ever before: whereas tATu '03 traded on desperation, paranoia and shame, tATu '05 are bold, brash and unstoppable. If 'All The Things She Said' and 'Not Gonna Get Us' saw them running away from a cruel world to preserve their love, 'All About Us' sees them returning to storm the gates and usher in their new world order. You can imagine those pounding war drums soundtracking the Bolshevik revolution - there's certainly a similar sense of collective running through the lyrics, drawing strength from standing shoulder to shoulder with fellow revolutionaries. "If. They. Hurt. You. They. Hurt. ME. TOO.": spine-tinglingly magnificent pop moment of the year.
[10]

John Cameron: "We us me you us we us me you us you me us," okay, we fucking get it.
[0]

Jonathan Bradley: I have some trouble rationalising to myself why I like the hyper-emotional irrationality of Tatu and not the hyper-emotional irrationality of, say, Linkin Park. Both groups revel in taking their melodramatic teenage angst to an extreme. Both posit a cruel world that either refuses to or is unable to understand the emotional needs of the respective protagonists. So why do I find the Russian faux lesbians so enchanting and the American geeks so painful? Perhaps it's that Tatu find refuge from an uncaring world in each other’s love rather than their own narcissism, or maybe the post-communist grit of the music gives their desperation a far more believable context than the pampered art-school backgrounds of their whining nu-metal counterparts. Then again, it could just be that strings and rushing dance beats provide a far more palatable bedrock for modern-day Holden Caulfields than turgid metal guitar.
[9]

Tom Ewing: It made their people a whole lot of money but the lesbian stuff was never what made this band great. Tatu are high-octane pulp hyperfiction for hormonal outsiders, and the girl-girl action is no more the point of them than superpowers are the point of the X-Men. It was a means to an end - establishing the girls as inseparable in a world that fears them - and "All About Us" takes that theme and works it even harder, even better. Trevor Horn's production is as widescreen as ever and the hooks are instant but this is all about the pose, the passion and the paranoia. "If. They. Hurt. You. They. Hurt. Me. Too." - every word raising the stakes and amping the drama to absurd, beautiful levels. There is honestly nothing else in pop like them.
[10]


By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-09-27
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