The Singles Jukebox
Unmissable Direct Quotes



this week, Sway still can't get himself arrested, The Futureheads' adventures in sound lead them to The Spoons, Ciara does her part for the rehabilitation of ex-convicts, Lady Sovereign's campaign for world domination gets turned into an Ordinary Boys single, the panel are a bit too nice to Nerina Pallot, and apparently we're all still meant to care about Primal Scream. Hmm. First, though, Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and his mates make a chill-out record. Oh dear.


Breaks Co-Op - The Otherside
[3.20]

Steve Mannion: With a name like that you may be forgiven for expecting a big beat revival. Unfortunately, this is far worse. A tedious strum-athon reminiscent of The Eagles “Take It Easy” and a thousand other American soft rock 70s “classics,” or possibly Lemon Jelly with proper vocals.
[3]

Jonathan Bradley The only time I went to summer camp was when I was 10 years old, and due to an administrative mix-up, rather than arriving at super-cool Oak Bear Sitting Ranch Camp, I accidentally got put on the bus headed for a retreat in Arkansas run by the ultra-religious Deeds of the Nicholatians sect. That summer of spiritual instruction explains why I know so much about the Bible, including that the Book of Revelations mentions that one of the signs of the end times is the Four AOR Singers of the Apocalypse. As prophesised, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, and Hootie Blowfish have ridden to the top of the charts, and if the Breaks Co-Op’s aggressive blandness is adopted by the general public and catapulted into high rotation…
[0]

Martin Skidmore: No breakbeats, unfortunately. It's rather folky, acoustic guitar with high, sweet, thin, soulful vocals, plus the odd old-fashioned Hammond moment. A cross between Ted Hawkins and someone like Paul Johnson, I'd say, on a quite nice relaxed campfire sing-along number. It's very much my kind of thing, though it does sound overly satisfied with itself at times and has a painful spoken episode.
[7]

Ian Mathers: With that name I would have thought these guys would be making something with, you know, breaks, and I guess they used to. But for their second album they now span a range “from conscious folk rock to earthy electronica” and so the first single features a vaguely soulful guy called Andy Lovegrove and music that is probably being played in a coffeeshop amateur night near you as we speak. Dire, but ignorable.
[4]


The Feeling - Fill My Little World
[3.83]

Steve Mannion: I can imagine this band being big with this potential festival anthem. Another plodding pub-rock stomper complete with pianist bashing the same chord eight times per bar. The “I want you” backing vocal in the chorus is one of a few nice touches, but really there’s still work to be done.
[5]

Ian Mathers: You can tell the end of this song is supposed to be rousing, but the problem is that The Feeling have shit lyrics, an annoying singer, no discernible sound of their own and a deeply tedious knack for making bad singles. They came in last the last time they appeared on the Jukebox; I can only hope my colleagues show similar wisdom this time.
[1]

Andrew Unterberger: More white guys with pianos—the intro especially is dangerously close to “Somewhere Only We Know”—but actually this is more in the Britpop mold than the Coldplay one. Which is kind of refreshing—simple pop songs are obviously more in demand at the moment than unnecessarily anthemic ones—but ultimately it’s still pretty disposable stuff, and a good while past its sell date as well.
[5]

Jonathan Bradley I hate seeing jaunty keyboard plunks go to waste. The Feeling bash on that piano with great gusto, but saddled as they are with more whine than the vineyards of southern France and lyrics more tortured than that last pun, it’s all in vain. At least Athlete had the decency to come up with a couple of enjoyable songs before they revealed their lack of talent.
[3]


Primal Scream - Country Girl
[4.17]

Andrew Unterberger: It’s hard at any point to know what’s running through the mind of Bobby Gillespie, but this one is especially confusing. Considering I don’t know a single person who didn’t think the RAWK songs on Evil Heat were the worst on the album, to see them turn in that direction for their next album’s lead single (but bizarrely wussier, and with a godawful Give Out But Don’t Give Up-style lyric) is extremely puzzling. They recovered their career momentum once before, I just hope they can somehow pull it off a second time.
[3]

Steve Mannion: The only thing that has kept Primal Scream interesting and exciting for the last thirteen years has been the production work and willingness to experiment with different styles within a general ‘electro-punk’ aesthetic. This aesthetic seems to have run out of steam and disappeared for their new work but the replacement reversion back to the basic, even more tired rock n’ roll formula is hardly an improvement or progression. Time to retire.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: I'm a long-time fan of Primal Scream, but I haven't been hugely keen on anything from this millennium. This has Bobby very much in his wannabe-Jagger mood, including unmissable direct quotes. The song sounds very much the kind of thing the Stones might have done around 1970 or so, though with more layered and complicated modern production (including what is probably a mandolin, more in the Rod Stewart vein). If you liked them on Give Out But Don't Give Up, you'll like this, and I do.
[7]

Ian Mathers: On the plus side, it's not nearly as horrible as much of Give Out But Don't Give Up. On the minus side, it's the kind of not-horrible that's down to years of experience rather than any actual positive qualities, the kind of time-honed competence that means that although this doesn't induce any winces there's absolutely no reason to listen to it either. I hope all those who ragged on the fine Evil Heat as being somehow disappointing are ashamed of themselves right now.
[3]


Matt Willis - Up All Night
[4.17]

Hillary Brown: Wait, I thought David Lee Roth was in training as an EMT, not still churning out his particular brand of pop-metal (90% pop, 10% metal). There is most certainly a place for this. He just needs to learn to growl a touch more.
[6]

Ian Mathers: After hearing this song a few times and wondering how such a lukewarm slice of digitally assisted pop punk was big enough for us to include, I find that our Matt used to be in Busted. Which explains the exposure and also the crapness of “Up All Night”—I am on record as a fan of songs that sound like they are sung by robots, but this one can't even manage that, it just sounds like a dork with a vocoder. It does boast some absolutely priceless sleeve art, though.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: This goes for a storming power pop arrangement, throwing everything they can find at us. I guess this is to try to overwhelm the tuneless vocals, which are horrible—I always found him unpleasant to listen to in Busted, so having all Matt is far worse.
[2]

Steve Mannion: The ‘Craig’ of Busted has done surprisingly well here in fronting a crunchy, compressed Matrix-esque production straight out of a Ferris Bueller-copycat movie soundtrack. Will he now go on and cover “Footloose” or risk tumbling down the dumper before the summer is out, largely on account of that terrible goatee?
[5]


KT Tunstall - Black Horse and the Cherry Tree
[4.83]

Steve Mannion: Otherwise known in many circles as The Only Bearable Thing She’s Recorded to Date. Tunstall apes a bluesy country rock formula well enough, but the regrettable feeling that one should be sitting in Starbucks reading the latest issue of Mojo upon hearing this song cannot be shaken.
[5]

Hillary Brown: There are two kinds of white girl soul. One is the kind Joss Stone works in, imitating soul from the 60s and 70s. The other is this kind, which draws on later, brassier influences, like, say, Taylor Dayne. Awkward, lame, and punchable.
[2]

Andrew Unterberger: This song has grown on me considerably since VH1 deemed it You Oughta Know-worthy. Apparently it’s grown on the public considerably as well, being used in all sorts of trailers and even sung by Katherine McPhee on American Idol. Maybe in a pop vacuum this song wouldn’t be quite so interesting, but Tunstall’s “folky-blues-girl-stomp” or whatever she likes to call it is so gloriously out of step with everything in music right now that it can’t help but be a little thrilling to hear. Girl knows her way around a vocal hook, too.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: This is quite bouncy and energetic, and I don't mind her voice—there's just enough bluesy grit in it to take her away from Dido territory. I hate the positioning, the sense of her being a worthy adult artist and all that stuff, but trying to set that aside, this just seems pointless but harmless. I don't grasp how anyone can get enthusiastic or passionate about this at all.
[4]


The Futureheads - Skip to the End
[5.00]

Jonathan Bradley Harmonies and jerky guitars are great, but without a killer hook, this can’t hit it out of the park like the Futureheads’ best moments. The na-na-na-na-nahs stand in place of a real chorus, and they do an admirable job working above their station, but absent a really seductive melody, “Skip to the End” can only stand stationary. Shame, too, because it hints at going in all kinds of exciting directions.
[6]

Steve Mannion: Having kicked off with a late70s style punk pop sound, the Futureheads step into the 80s with echoes of Aztec Camera and Haircut 100 adorning this single (to its considerable advantage).
[9]

Martin Skidmore: Their Kate Bush cover was bad enough, but at least they had a terrific song to work with. I'd thought we'd seen the last of dismal and awkward (indeed, angular) post-punk in the '80s, and I don't understand at all why anyone wanted to revive it. This has all the rhythmic fun and drive of someone typing on an old manual machine.
[1]

Ian Mathers: I reacted very negatively to “Skip to the End” at first, as the Futureheads' debut was the first thing I'd heard in ages that actually surprised me. But you know what? That sound is an awfully satisfying and durable one. It's no “Hounds of Love,” but the relish with which Ross Millard sings “when I cut teeth / I cut to the root” would justify this all by itself and that herky-jerky song structure has grown on me. It's far more laid back than any of their other singles, but it still has that air of tense wariness that makes the Futureheads so perversely lovable.
[7]


Yung Joc - It's Going Down
[5.40]

Jonathan Bradley The one bar synth loop sounds a whole lot better after a few listens. What at first comes off as ridiculously repetitive turns into a creeping army of unstoppable sound. Yung Joc doesn’t deliver the big dumb chorus that snap needs to be really fantastic, and his T.I.-like inflections prompt thoughts of how that rapper would own this beat, but such quibbling matters little. Stand still to question this track too long and the Dalek synth will crush you.
[6]

Hillary Brown: End of song = beginning of song. Repetition can be okay, but I can also entertain myself by spinning around until I’m too dizzy to stand. I don’t need a song to do it for me.
[4]

Joe Macare: "Meet me in the club, it's going down" mutters Yung Joc, and it's unclear whether it's a threat or an offer. The track locates the mood somewhere between menace and promise, and so doesn’t do anything to dispel the ambiguity. But where would be the fun in that?
[8]

Andrew Unterberger: Joc sounds like a competent T.I. clone, and the chorus is memorable enough, but he’s accompanied here by little more a deadening two-note riff—which unlike most recent ATL tracks, at least has enough energy in its rawness to not be totally uninteresting, but still leaves much to be desired. And c’mon, why are we already throwing around references to “I Think They Like Me”? That song sucks.
[5]


The Ordinary Boys vs. Lady Sovereign - Ninetofive
[5.60]

Jonathan Bradley This twenty-seventh generation skank manages to be quite pleasurable by passing the most basic ska test; that is, it does not compel you to start scraping chunks of flesh from your face in horror, but this remix could be a really bad move for Sov. The Ordinary Boys have her sounding less like a legitimate grime presence and more like a bratty high schooler kicking it with her mates before an Arctic Monkeys’ concert. The chaos turns the rap into background noise, sounding like the party conversation in Weezer’s “The Sweater Song,” and although that adds verisimilitude to the aimless, hanging-out vibe that is key to the track’s appeal, Sovereign would surely hope to be a more commanding presence while she’s spitting.
[6]

Joe Macare: The fact that The Ordinary Boys chose to cover this tune was about the only hint that they might be at all interesting. Of course, post-Sleb Brother continuity reshuffle, it's a mutually beneficial deal: fit-but-dim himbo Preston and his hired help give Sov wider exposure, she gives them some semblance of musical “credibility.” While the original's charm lay in its brattish preposterousness, here Preston's bits take on an added poignancy, cuz you can believe that dude really does in all likelihood have some very mixed feelings about his newfound fame. Bless.
[7]

Hillary Brown: The high-pitched male voices singing “la la”s are pleasingly novelty song-like (cf. “Star Trekkin’” by The Firm), but I don’t think that’s what they’re shooting for exactly. If you did not know the original, you might find this more than passable, but as is, I keep waiting for Sov to come back and lend some energy to the proceedings.
[4]

Steve Mannion: I wasn’t quite convinced before that Preston and his cronies really sounded like Madness, but here the similarity is deliberate and bordering on the ridiculous. Still this actually seems to improve the track a notch as Lady Sovereign is far better suited to faster, grimier material anyway—thus there’s a mildly pleasant sense of things coming to order as she relinquishes the song into their sweaty palms, hopefully to go and record something far better on her own.
[7]


Lil Jon ft. E40 & Sean Paul - Snap Yo Fingers
[6.00]

Joe Macare: I don't actually believe for a moment that crunk has lost its momentum, or even that Lil' Jon has lost his, but that's certainly the impression you could get from this track. "Snap Yo Fingers" seems forced, somehow. It's like the difference between someone shouting encouragement when you're already having a good time, and someone shouting at you in an attempt to bludgeon you into having a good time when you're really not in the mood. This is the latter.
[6]

Hillary Brown: It might be retarded, but the chorus is a bit like the utterly idiotic things you will forgive in your drunken friends; in anyone else, it would be unacceptable, but because you sort of know what’s coming, you think it’s funny. Also, prejudiced against people who cannot snap their fingers by themselves.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: You can hardly go wrong with a team like this, of course. Actually, Lil Jon hasn't put a foot wrong in ages, and this has all his hallmarks in production and yelling, and I'm an admirer of E40. I'm a Sean Paul fan too, but to be honest if he wasn't namechecked in the track I wouldn't have known he was on it—I guess that counts as seamless adaptation to crunk, but it also means he doesn't make a mark as Sean Paul. It's another strong Lil Jon number, but not a classic.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley Lil Jon fell off so fast it was unbelievable. One minute he held an indomitable stranglehold on the charts, irresistibly combining endless permutations of his fundamental components—808s, whistling synths and brilliantly dumb ad-libs, and then, almost overnight, it was like he’d never existed. The disappointing thing about his return to the public consciousness—his role on the fantastic “Tell Me When to Go,” was very behind the scenes—is how average it sounds. When Lil Jon was at his peak, even when he was repeating himself, it felt fresh. Now when he repeats himself, he just sounds like he is repeating himself. For what it’s worth, Sean Paul is the best over the snaps, with Lil Jon overdoing the shouty thing, and E40 sounding lost, even if he does stay on beat more than usual.
[5]


The Spinto Band - Did I Tell You
[6.00]

Jonathan Bradley Ah, there were some Americans listening to Britpop. “Did I Tell You” is all sugar rush keyboards with Supergrass bounce and a Jarvis Cocker-tinged London-via-Delaware vocalist. Their record is titled “Nice and Nicely Done,” and you can’t argue with a description like that.
[8]

Hillary Brown: In which a cute little band discovers that, unlike Barry Manilow, there is not much life after “Mandy.” This is a capable song, but it is lacking near everything that made the previous single irresistible.
[5]

Martin Skidmore: This has loads of things in it, and I don't think they're terribly well joined together. Most of the things are indie, so it shouldn't be this incoherent - maybe they need a producer who can slap them regularly. I can't even hold it in my brain to make sense of it, but I know I didn't like it.
[2]

Ian Mathers: The Spinto Band's best songs have tapped into the kind of emotional lethargy Pavement so memorably made (half of) a career out of, but “Did I Tell You” is a lot more upbeat. That means it's a lot more immediately appealing than “Late” or “Atari” but there also seems to be less beneath the surface. It's a fun single, and certainly better than most of their competition, but it would actually be better if it wasn't so obviously a single, so the band's subtler charms could shine through.
[7]


Nerina Pallot - Everybody's Gone to War
[6.00]

Andrew Unterberger: Wow, is this a genuine anti-war song? For a war as unpopular as the one we’re currently going through, there’s been a surprising lack of protest songs to accompany it (besides Neil Young, but who actually pays attention to him anymore?) The lyrics aren’t terribly insightful (“Don’t tell me it’s a worthy cause / No cause could be so worthy”), but the song is fairly well-crafted and produced, and it’s rather nice to see some real anti-war sentiment being purveyed in a non-Rock Against Bush fashion. Unless it’s actually all a metaphor for a relationship or something.
[6]

Joe Macare: “If love is a drug, I guess we're all sober”—yes, and if bad lyrical analogies were pies, then you would be feeling a little bit porky having just eaten them all, young lady. It seems churlish to be mean about a song with such good intentions, and yet I find myself having to do it so, so often. This isn't without its charms, it's a decent enough melody, but it's not just the lyrics that seem vague and somewhat lacking in conviction.
[5]

Hillary Brown: Who says you can’t combine protest music with the sweetest little pop tune possible? Jammed with handclaps and adorableness, this song defines spoonful of sugar and slips anger and frustration with the state of things down your throat when you’re not looking. Tween girls can now be counted as officially antiwar.
[8]

Ian Mathers: With a title like that you'd expect lyrics as blunt and graceless as you get, but while that's a little distracting it also lets Pallot get right to the point of the matter: “I don't want to die.” Luckily the other noticeable thing about that line is how good her voice sounds singing it, and “Everybody's Gone to War” works phenomenally well as a piece of MOR pop/rock. It's catchy, it's got a strong lead performance, and it's got a couple of lines that feel pithy as long as you're singing along. Usually the Jukebox throws up songs I dread coming to local radio, but I wouldn't mind this being inescapable for a little while.
[8]


Sway - Products
[6.60]

Steve Mannion: Sway seems to take care to tailor each single with a memorable vocal quirk. This time it’s the ever-reliable stutter that lifts this otherwise rather dull track out of the mire. This could easily have been a Ty track from five years ago and probably was, but Sway still cements his reputation as the UK’s new rap king with some entertaining delivery.
[6]

Joe Macare: How does he make it seem so easy? One of the many highlights from This Is My Demo, "Products" packs more good things into a three and a half minute, easy-on-the-ears, potential radio hit than you find on many overlong, overwrought, underground albums. It's as happy and carefree as a stroll in the sun, and as gloomy and sad as getting pissed on by rain. Sway's got all manner of nice little vocal tricks in his flow, an irresistible hook for the chorus, and deceptively simple production which stands up to an infinity of repeated listens. London, England, UK, planet: this ought to be the soundtrack for your summer.
[10]

Ian Mathers: Sway is very obviously insanely talented and always a joy to listen to, but what's with the smooth R'n'B production and Streets-quality hook singer on this single? This is just crying out for a decent mash-up, something to free Sway's characteristically fine performance from the drudgery of the rest of “Products.”
[5]

Martin Skidmore: I found the high notes on his last one irritating, but I knew I'd like him generally, and I do. This has his nimble and highly entertaining flow (imagine a cross between Dizzee and Masta Ace, say) over a gentle and rather slick backing, and it's full of delights, lyrical and musical, especially on late quieter parts, even if the odd R&B bits sound a bit second division. I think he's set to be a real star, but I have a lousy track record with such predictions.
[8]


Missy Elliott - We Run This
[7.00]

Steve Mannion: “Apache” will probably always make a big impact on the dancefloor, so you almost can’t blame the producer for borrowing it once again. But this is otherwise fairly unremarkable party fare with Missy on comfortable auto-pilot again.
[6]

Joe Macare: It's an oddly late single release, one year on from The Cookbook, but whose complaining? This is the one which turns into "Apache" as played by a marching band, the one that's like a funkier, messier, dirtier "Hollaback Girl." It's the kind of music perfect for the point at which you've lost the ability to care whether you look good or not while dancing: so you do stoopid, crazy, all-over-the-place dancing, you yell along to the chorus, and you don't care who notices. It doesn't just bump or bang: it BOOMS.
[10]

Andrew Unterberger: Sorry, but do we really need another “Apache”-based rap track? Missy is old school, yes, wonderful, but the attitude is a poor excuse for her surprisingly lackluster rapping, and the use of the increasingly overused (and inaccurate) “it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” maxim isn’t doing the song any favors. Not to mention the millions of previews for Stick It.
[4]

Martin Skidmore: It's not just the "Apache" riff that makes this sound old school—there is plenty of backing rapping that reminds one of the Sugarhill Gang, though the production sound is a more modern party style, not much like Sylvia Robinson's vintage work. Missy raps as well as she ever has on this, with huge enthusiasm. I guess it won't rank with her four or five greatest, but I love her unreservedly, and this isn't at all far from her best work.
[9]


Field Mob ft. Ciara - So What
[7.20]

Joe Macare: It's as if Ciara had been told to deliberately turn in a less-stellar-than-usual peformance, in the hope that nobody might notice how much better she is then Field Mob. It doesn’t work: it’s not going to prevent me from writing the next sentence. While we wait for some new Ciara material proper, this will have to suffice.
[7]

Ian Mathers: I prefer my rapper/Ciara balance to be at about “Oh” levels, and this is nowhere near that modern classic, but once again Jazze Pha has managed to craft a compellingly sympathetic production for her beautifully blank voice. And Field Mob acquit themselves well too, but given the choice of listening to semi-generic Southern rappers or Ciara, I know where my ears are focused.
[6]

Martin Skidmore: This is wonderful. I loved Ciara since I heard "Goodies," and she sounds terrific on this, smooth and bright. Field Mob are a Dirty South duo, and they are tremendous rappers, their rhymes are inventive and their flow original and very nimble. A real joy throughout. This sounds like a big hit to me, something like a cross between Nelly & Kelly and the old girl group “my boy's a rebel” meme. Lovely.
[9]

Andrew Unterberger: Oh, now this is nice. Following up on last year’s “1, 2 Step,” the electro-inflected production, combined with the song’s lovely hook (provided by Ciara, who makes a welcome return to the limelight after about a year off) ends up sounding enticingly close to an old Ghost Town DJs or INOJ record from the late-90s. There’s some good rapping on it courtesy of the Field Mob, maybe, but this is more of a dance record than a hip-hop one. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
[8]


Mary J Blige - Enough Cryin'
[7.60]

Jonathan Bradley The best thing about this track, straight-off, is that it doesn’t have a “feat. Ying Yang Twins” in the Artist tag. No disrespect to Kaine and D-Roc, but nothing would stink up Mary J’s stab at minimalist futurism than a couple of guys whispering about their genitals halfway through. For such a sparse sounding track, though, this beat is surprisingly complex, with all kinds of faint bleeps and trills fading before the ear can properly grab hold of them. Blige delivers handsomely, too, her vocal nimbly negotiating the vast gaps of sound that a less interesting singer would get lost in, and ensuring the only rapper remains fully audible.
[7]

Hillary Brown: The full album might be far too long, but when you narrow it down to a single at a time, you can see how much better Blige’s stuff is than average. I still think Keyshia Cole’s surpassed her in fierceness, but this is a lovely mix of girl power and fine production (odd squeaks, perfectly timed strings), and it should deservedly ride the charts for a while.
[6]

Joe Macare: This is great in the way that all Mary J Blige songs that aren't overblown covers of obvious 'standards' are great. The well-established Mary J themes are all present and correct: there was a man, he did her wrong, she’s had enough of his shit, and she’s not going to have anything to do with him any more. Let’s hope she’s talking about Bono.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: Lots of crunky production this week, this time on an R&B number, especially its opening. The sound is terrific, with important and original touches of piano and later strings enriching the strong beats, but the rather tight and disciplined rhythmic qualities give very little opportunity for Mary's exceptional voice to stretch out. I like this hugely, mostly for its exceptional production, but I'm not sure it's a direction that allows Blige to really stand out, if repeated.
[9]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-05-24
Comments (3)
 

 
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