The Singles Jukebox
Warm Horn Ripples



and so, after a fortnight away, the Jukebox finds itself at the foot of a mountain of hits that need catching upon. It may take a while, but catch up on them we will. We begin the fightback this week with Amy Winehouse not listening to no fancy-pants doctor, Carrie Underwood merrily entering into the world of petty vandalism, Cansei de Ser Sexy saying "bitches", again, and Jay-Z desperately trying to find something to do other than sit around in his underwear watching General Hospital all day. Also, despite what you might think, the video for the Girls Aloud single is in fact only their second worst ever, though you'd be forgiven for forgetting that 'See The Day' ever happened. Anyway, what better way to kick off some of the most action-packed weeks in Jukebox history than with some oiks from Dundee mithering about A&R men? Eh? Eh?


The View - Superstar Tradesman
[Watch the Video]
[4.25]

Jonathan Bradley: Sounding this much like the Libertines barely worked for the Libertines.
[6]

Steve Tremain: Designed to sell in the wake of that Certain Indie Pop Rock band, this is standard crunchy cereal with a Scottish accent (listen to how the singer rolls the r in “bar”). What does this song have to do with tradesmen? Are the tradesmen actually rock stars? And I care why?
[4]

Mallory O’Donnell: This could go places if it ever emerges from the shadow of its' betters.
[4]

Kevin J. Elliott: While it’s catchy enough, a treble kicker complete with handclaps and uniformed “ooohs,” if this is what we have to look forward to in the Post-Monkeys boom, color me underwhelmed.
[6]


Sharam - PATT
[4.57]

Mallory O’Donnell: The only surprising thing about a house version of Eddie Murphy's 80's hit that's not "Put Your Mouth on Me" is that it's taken this long for someone to actually make one. The fact that it's precisely what you would imagine is disappointing, if somewhat expected.
[2]

David Moore: This song satisfies deep needs I was only vaguely, perhaps subconsciously, aware I even had.
[7]

Hillary Brown: Nope, WOT. Waste of time.
[1]

M.H. Lo: Look, enough about her, how do you feel? The original 80s hit detailed the hurt the male narrator felt about his girl being a player (it wasn’t a persona that sat very comfortably on the future Pluto Nash, but still). Deep Dish’s Sharam drops all the verses in favor of just the lyrical hook—as dance updates do—and in the process comes across like a pimp boasting about his ho of a girl. The track is a monstrous stomper to be sure, but when your version of a song ends up having less emotional complexity than Eddie bloody Murphy’s, I would say something’s been lost.
[6]


K-Sis - Beijos, Blues, & Poesia
[Watch the Video]
[5.29]

John M. Cunningham: Ever since Astrud Gilberto purred over languid Jobim melodies in the 1960s, Portuguese has acquired a reputation as one of the world's most beautiful languages. With a slight but palpable debt to the bossa nova, the new single by Brazilian twin act K-Sis does little to alter this impression, as the sisters whisper sweet nothings as if they've just woken up beside you and sunlight's streaming onto the pillow. When their sexy yawn turns into accented English ("Baby, I love you"), it's enough to make you want to stay in bed all day.
[6]

Doug Robertson: Strummed and sung with all the enthusiasm of someone being slapped around the face with a limp wet haddock, this is the sort of song which makes you wonder why they bothered. Lacking any sort of spark or emotion they might as well be singing “Will this do?” over and over again. Given my lack of knowledge of the language, they might well be doing it.
[4]

M.H. Lo:: “Beijos, Blues E Poesia” was a pretty but somewhat inconsequential love ballad to me a few days ago. But after a trip to YouTube to watch a video in which twin sisters Keyla and Kenya channeled Mira Sorvino and looked at me with their dead eyes, and then possibly made like they’re t.A.T.u., I felt oddly skeeved out. On the plus side, the song made me want to go, “M-E-N-I-N-A, menina!”
[3]

Hillary Brown: Heartfelt season finale where some characters go off to college, crucial couples break up, and folks in general realize that mistakes were made.
[6]


Take That - Patience
[Watch the Video]
[5.33]

Steve Tremain: Can a voice sound auto-tuned and organic in the same instant? “Patience” is not so much a Take That comeback as a solo track by the “big-boned” Take Thatter that Robbie wronged (Gary Barlow). It’s catchy in a power ballad kind of way, but sadly makes me wonder how Barlow will one day hit the high chorus notes, at the age of 50, on their umpteenth reunion tour. Missing in action is the croaky-but-clever voice of underrated Mark Owen.
[6]

John M. Cunningham: The half-year I lived in England was just after Take That's reign, so I'm not really sure whether "Patience" represents a downfall or if it's just the same shit in a new guise: apparently after 15 years, NKOTB-inspired boybands turn to wimpy cappuccino-and-wool-sweaters adult-rock.
[2]

Martin Skidmore: This is as well-crafted as you expect from Gary Barlow (I assume he wrote it: it sounds very much like one of his), though I think his voice is a touch strained here and there, and it's certainly no "Million Love Songs," let alone a masterpiece like "Back for Good."
[7]

M.H. Lo: “I’ll try to be strong,” Gary, who is “still hurting from a love [he’s] lost, whimpers. “I’m trying to move on / It’s complicated, but understand me.” In a perfect world Lulu would show up in the chorus and bellow, “Shit or get off the can, Barlow!” But she doesn’t, and so we are left with this drippy ballad about a sensitive, deep, and not-at-all-clichéd constipation of a man. Will he ever love again? WILL HE?! Or will his complexity prevent it? WILL IT?!
[4]


The Good, The Bad & The Queen - Herculean
[5.43]

Ian Mathers: I guess I should hate Damon Albarn for starting yet another supergroup (the guitarist from the Verve, Fela Kuti's drummer, and oh yeah, Paul fuckin' Simonon), but as with everything the man seems to touch, you can't make out the individual flavors too much. The overwhelming impression “Herculean” makes instead is that of Blur following up on the threads suggested by songs like “Ambulance,” “Caravan” and “He Thought of Cars” —in other words, swirling and atmospheric and generally pretty awesome.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: One of the worst band names of all time, and they make a good stab at living up to it. Extraordinarily clumsy playing, lifeless singing, the occasional aimless electronic chord, and pointless backing vocals of a choral nature. Absolutely dreadful.
[1]

Jonathan Bradley: After transforming Danger Mouse from the indie Just Blaze to the go-to guy for anyone who wants a dusty horn sample, Albarn now appears intent on dragging Paul Simonon down into his mess of mediocrity, too. “Herculean” is the sound of a frontman who desperately needs his old band; the remaining members of Blur are apparently the only people in the world to have worked out how to drag coherency from the guy.
[5]

Erick Bieritz: “Clint Eastwood” got an unintended (and probably unwanted) boost after critics grasped blindly at it as some kind of pop artifact that could soundtrack young people’s response to 9/11. “Herculean” sounds ripe for the same treatment, with important lyrics about Armageddon and the welfare state that sound, at least to American ears, like it’s just a matter of validating them with the right moment. But it’s probably actually about 7/7/05 or NHS reforms or liking a girl; stateside it will just be a pleasant and curious trip-hop-ish song until someone swipes it for their own purposes.
[6]


Superjupiter - You Know
[Watch the Video]
[5.63]

M.H. Lo: If you look at SuperJupiter’s myspace profile—on which they borrow, for example, a Popjustice catchphrase to describe their sound, position themselves (misleadingly) as competitors to Scissors Sisters, and namecheck another electrorock band (Rogue Traders) with whom they are really more comparable—you can tell how much this Norwegian trio feel like they have, or want to have, located the Sound of Now. “You Know” offers similar testimony: muscular electro guitars, big drums, a sneery vocal, a “scandalous” line (let’s just say that the singer’s girlfriend takes a licking and keeps on ticking). The song is therefore quite irresistible—although whether you read the band’s approach as ruthless efficiency, opportunistic hucksterism, or genuinely able to capture the zeitgeist, may affect your level of enjoyment. Me, I’m never cynical.
[8]

Martin Skidmore: Verses that feel like nursery rhymes, and music, of a Scandinavian electro-rock-pop persuasion, that has no greater sophistication. Simple-minded and clodhopping.
[2]

Kevin J. Elliott: Regal synths, falsetto chorus, throbbing bassline, crunchy guitars buried in the mix; Malcolm Mclaren could have a field day with this duo. If you convert space disco into pop artifact, the kids are certain to come running.
[7]

Teresa Nieman: I think this is in English, but I really can’t understand 80% of the vocals. Either way, it’s sort of perversely catchy in that I-know-it’s-not-good-but-I’m-kind-of-digging-it way.
[5]


Fergie ft. will.i.am. - Fergalicious
[Watch the Video]
[5.71]

John M. Cunningham: Although I was in the camp that considered "London Bridge" a half-assed Missy Elliott retread, I find "Fergalicious" strangely entrancing. Which is not to say that the song isn't similarly derivative: it steals the "ooh-whee!" from Jazze Pha's intro to "1, 2 Step," and Fergie reprises her own "check it out!" soundbite from "My Humps." But the way it zig-zags from its Spanglish count-off to minimal sing-song to lickety-split rap, while various synths buzz and wander underneath, makes for a delightfully vertiginous listen.
[7]

Mallory O’Donnell: Fergie needs to get a song that's not about her (somewhat dubious to these eyes) sexual appeal. As it is, "Fergilicious" sets the feminist cause back another ten years. The only way this song could get any worse would be for Will.i.Am to show up. Oh, shit...
[2]

David Moore: From hater to apologist in one single flat. The structure here is deceptively complex, building upon and then stripping down (what I’ve been told is) a sample of JJ Fad’s “Supersonic.” But any given hook could get stuck in your head/craw just as easily as “London Bridge.” Plus there are several indisputable moments of brilliance: “delicious/vicious/fitness/witness,” “T-A-S-T-E-Y,” a perfectly placed “My Humps” wink. The fact that these could also be considered egregious faults only attests to their greatness.
[8]

Kevin J. Elliott: I hope JJ Fad got their royalty check.
[1]


The Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control
[Watch the Video]
[5.71]

Doug Robertson: Employing the sort of repetitive drum tattoo that briefly makes us think our computer has broken, The Gossip—who everyone is talking about. Arf.—make a sound like a big box of instruments falling down the stairs which, as we all should know, is a very good thing indeed. There’s a hint of menace and danger lurking in this track, all imposing bass and yelped lyrics, and we can only conclude that standing in their way simply isn’t a smart option, not unless being trampled underfoot is something you really enjoy.
[8]

Jonathan Bradley: Sometimes it’s just a matter of degrees. The Gossip don’t do anything wrong. They have a funky bassline, some screaming, some stomping drums—all very good things—but together it feels far too contained.
[4]

John M. Cunningham: For a band that's sometimes slapped with the dance-punk tag, the Gossip's latest effort has less in common with the stylish detachment of !!! than it does the muscular disco-rock of Franz Ferdinand or the bluesy swagger of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You." I tend to prefer the sleeker stuff, and so Beth Ditto's soulful in-your-face yowl is sometimes a liability, but I can't deny its stripped-down fury is done well.
[6]

Mallory O’Donnell: The poor woman's Le Tigre hit you with their best Pat Benatar shot. Not bad, but the dance remixes have all isolated the two really good parts of the song—the bassline and the break—and recycled them in a far more fit and pleasing fashion.
[5]


Jay-Z - Show Me What You Got
[Watch the Video]
[5.71]

Jonathan Bradley: Like Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” this is a single more appreciable as an event than a piece of music. Not that it is bad, by any means; like the Timberlake song, there’s a lot to like about it—the warm ripples of horns and rolling percussion assembled by Just Blaze, or Jay-Z’s neat run of lines based on giving (what Jay does) and taking (everyone else), if you want examples. It’s also equally true, though, that this is Hov at his laziest, with even the most thrilling rhymes sounding like they were thrown together during the limo rides between Def Jam board meetings and Nets games. But with Jay having engraved phrases like “Best rapper alive,” and “The game needs me” into the popular consciousness, the track needs only to be good, not a mind-blowing showcase of skill. The message alone, “Hov is back,” is worth a [10], even if the song isn’t.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: That is the sound of Sean Carter falling from a crumbling tower of ego. He hasn't gotten it into his head that if he still wants to be regarded as the best, he has to prove it to us again, rather than simply telling us. While President Carter comes out of resignation resigned, Just Blaze is trying too damn hard, marring his production with tourettic spasms of drums and pin-the-sample-on-the-donkey Flavor Flav interjections. The Mike Jordan of recordin' might be back, but it's not yet clear if this is the beginning of the reign of Bulls, part deux, or if he's skipped straight to his embarrassing stint in a Wizards uniform.
[4]

Hillary Brown: So, is NASCAR actually the perfect video accompaniment to this song? It goes real fast and real hard but essentially doesn’t go anywhere other than in a kind of loop, over and over. Yes, we have missed you, but that doesn’t mean you can come in, put your feet up on the coffee table without wiping ‘em, and be a lazy MF.
[4]

Kevin J. Elliott: Though I’m partial to the couplet, “Shots of Padron/ Now she in a zone,” this is proof that even for Jay-Z, getting back on the bike ain’t so easy.
[5]


Pascal Obispo ft. Melissa Mars - 1980
[Watch the Video]
[5.86]

Doug Robertson: A quick glance through the Guinness Book of Hit Singles reveals that 1980 was a not exactly unimpressive year for music, with Blondie, Abba and Kelly Marie all scoring number ones. This, alas, doesn’t quite reach such giddy heights, meandering along in a vague electro style without trying too hard to grab your attention, or any other part of your anatomy for that matter.
[4]

Steve Tremain: An instant, wicked tune built for driving very fast. I'm not French, so ask someone else what they are singing, but everything sounds better en francais. Shimmery and contemporary, this is a song that makes me feel cool, as the best pop should. The belchy synth in the final third is a chic touch, especially mixed with a choppy sax that recalls the era of the song title. A good song for crossing and uncrossing one's legs. J'adore.
[9]

Teresa Nieman: I suppose this sounds pretty close to a song that could have been made in 1980. Is that the whole point? I don’t know, maybe I should learn French.
[5]

M.H. Lo: With its thundering drums, new wave keyboard textures, and wailing sax, this sounds like Corey Hart, Desireless’ “Voyage Voyage,” or one of those tracks that Glenn Frey and Don Henley, unmoored after The Eagles, both decided would represent a good direction for them circa 1985. Which—given that this song is titled “1980,” and its lyric all about “une génération qui n’attendais rien”—is, I’m guessing, part of the point. It goes on a bit, but, for long stretches, it’s inexplicably hypnotic.
[7]


Girls Aloud - Something Kinda Ooooh
[Watch the Video]
[6.43]

Erick Bieritz: All the pieces sound great, stomping on trash cans, laser-flutters, the meaty guitar shredding. But a chorus that prods more listeners more than it hooks them falls closer to “You Freak Me Out” than “Love Machine” and so it’s not a standout, by any means. The larger problem is the sneaking suspicion that the seemingly inexhaustible formula (“see, girl pop can be big and heavy and jumble genres too”) might eventually wear thin.
[6]

Jonathan Bradley: I’m going to ignore all the counter-arguments and make a wild, sweeping statement: If a pop act is huge in the UK and unknown in the US, you can bet they’re going to be shite. See Robbie Williams, Crazy Frog, Busted, Kasabian Chiefs and oh yes, Girls Aloud. What’s this song like? Well, it’s a Girls Aloud track, which means it is blaring sugar-pop entirely lacking in nuance or variation or subtlety of any sort. The beat is pounding, not grooving; the melody is grating, not catchy; and their singing, as utterly charmless as it is tuneless, is only worth praising on the grounds that it is superior to “Biology.”
[2]

Doug Robertson: Can Girls Aloud ever put a foot wrong? Well they do on a regular basis every time they turn their attention towards the pop ballad, but this, thankfully, is not one of those. Sounding exactly like you’d want a single called “Something Kinda Ooooh” to sound while simultaneously sounding nothing like how you’d expect it to, the Girls have managed to turn the normally swiftly knocked out contractually obliged extra track for the Greatest Hits into yet another classic to add to their already overflowing armory of pop hits.
[10]

Teresa Nieman: The Girls are clearly making the most of their large budget, but lose a great deal of their personality and charm amidst the unflattering, overproduced musical density. “Something Kinda Ooh” just feels like a rejected track from the similarly disappointing Crazy Itch Radio.
[4]


Amy Winehouse - Rehab
[Watch the Video]
[6.71]

Jonathan Bradley: Amy Winehouse commits the most common and most severe neo-soul sin: she sings as if she deserves admiration simply for choosing a genre this sophisticated. It isn’t quite as dully respectably as Corinne Bailey-Rae’s most recent releases, but Winehouse nevertheless hams up a performance bland enough to suit perfectly the Motown clichés Mark Ronson has stapled together as accompaniment.
[4]

Steve Tremain: Top-heavy Christina Aguilera will finally tip over when she hears this song; listen close and you might hear Xtina’s cries buried deep in the mix. Where Xtina is blond polish, Winehouse is black-haired drunken stupor. This horn-laden soul joint is a collaboration with the suddenly ubiquitous Mark Ronson. Insanely catchy, the song’s “No No No’s!” are to the hungover set what Kylie's “la la la’s” were to toddlers everywhere: a mantra meaning nothing so much as "Damn, I love that song!" Euphoric.
[10]

Mallory O’Donnell: For those who found Winehouse's Sade-esque first record disingenuous, it's doubtful they'll warm any to this gospel-tinged 60's R&B-sounding ode to Just Saying Yes. Too bad—this sound suits her as well as those gin-and-tonics seem to.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Whoa! With all the rediscovery and adaptation of this and that from music’s past, why hadn’t anyone dug into the dirty quick soul exemplified by Martha and the Vandellas before this? Winehouse has the bigness of voice required to balance low-end brass and the ability to make one feel the hip twisting with her come-on phrasing. The melody’s so forceful you almost don’t even catch the message for some time.
[8]


Carrie Underwood - Before He Cheats
[Watch the Video]
[6.83]

Steve Tremain: I wanted to hate this, especially for the lack of irony about “a white trash version of Shania singing karaoke” that sounds like Underwood herself. Sure, it’s canned country-pop, but the voice has more grit than expected and the lyrics are as venomous in their description of the Other Women as they are toward the cheatin’ man.
[7]

Erick Bieritz: If it’s not nearly as great as Shania’s similarly conceived “I Ain’t No Quitter” from last year, it’s just because it’s weighed down by the amount of excess drama that comes part in parcel with modern female rock.
[6]

Hillary Brown: Not many people should get all growly in the middle of a song, even if it’s about a woman scorned, but white girls who won “American Idol” for country tunes really, really shouldn’t. It’s not an awful song, and we all know “AI” can produce some kids who want to push boundaries, but Underwood just doesn’t sound mad enough or empowered enough or ready to beat someone’s car enough to pull it off.
[4]

Martin Skidmore: Blends the cheating song and defiant woman tropes, which emerges most fully formed on the terrific chorus. "I dug my key into the side / Of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive" is certainly among the best couplets of the year.
[9]


Cansei de ser Sexy - Alala
[Watch the Video]
[7.00]

Teresa Nieman: Cansei de Ser Sexy, the current posterchildren for deliciously unclean pop-rock-trash, have been getting massive play in mi casa as of late. “Alala” may not have the mainstream appeal of “Let’s Make Love…” or “Off the Hook,” but it seems truer to their…spirit.
[8]

Rodney J. Greene: Lovefoxxx, with fuzzbox buzz in tow, begs someone (girl? guy?) to be their friend and comes off as a more endearing version of that annoying chick that calls you every day despite the fact you aren't really that interested in her. More endearing because that annoying chick doesn't have a jumped up dance-rock beat or, redeemer of many sins, a SYN-SCREECH SOLO.
[8]

Erick Bieritz: The band’s shtick may be obnoxious live, but recorded, its lithely fluid music is endlessly useful in its absence.
[8]

David Moore: Still don’t really know what to do with this band, I love their first single and hear some of what makes that song so great—for one thing, Lovefoxxx can do a deadpan delivery and still make it sound like people should be having fun, even though the music makes it hard to actually have fun.
[6]


Basement Jaxx - Take Me Back to Your House
[Watch the Video]
[7.14]

John M. Cunningham: The second single from Crazy Itch Radio isn't as deliriously busy as "Hush Boy," but there's a hint of melancholy here, mostly located in Martina Bang's desperately pretty vocals, that strikes a welcome note within the song's otherwise manic, frivolous air. Plus, the band once again proves expert at grafting new sounds onto their dance-pop template: the briskly plucked banjo sort of reminds me of BJ Cole's lively fiddle and pedal-steel on his collaboration with Luke Vibert, but I'm fairly sure this brand of bluegrass has few other antecedents.
[8]

Mallory O’Donnell: I've tried time and time again, but I really can't get behind the Basement Jaxx. I support their all-encompassing pop alchemy in theory, but the results always add up to so much muddy water to me. This is typical—Balearic jugband skiffle-house with a bad R&B vocal. Yawn.
[3]

Rodney J. Greene: The Jaxx find ways to simultaneously toy with the listener's expectations and heighten the emotion, suspending choruses with pounding-heart kick drums and plummeting straight from an ascendant bridge into the unsettling coda.
[10]

Ian Mathers: Ah yes, the Jaxx's country song. I guess given that its only claim to the genre is the deployment of certain signifiers it's no less “country” than half of what gets played on CMT these days; but while that tends to be anodyne pop, this is a gracefully joyous swing through several discrete hooks that continues the duo's reputation as makers of songs that, if they're not the future, should be.
[7]


Check out the Singles Jukebox podcast to hear some of the tracks talked about here.


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-10-31
Comments (2)
 

 
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