You Can’t Go Fancying Midge Ure’s Daughter
eek 16 sees the return of the slow week, and the panel are kind of pleased with that. More time to site back, relax, and appreciate the music. More time for stuff to grow on you, for you to get a better feeling for its true value.
That’s the theory.
In practice, what we get are Mystery Jets’ horrific attempts at Gregorian chanting, Mario ‘going rock’, and Royksopp getting just that bit closer to the middle of the road, but most of all, we get a spot of history. When the panel gave Michael Buble’s ‘Home’ 1.67, it seemed difficult to imagine things getting much worse than Canada’s Most Anodyne bleating about wanting to go home or never being home or WHATEVERTHEFUCKITWAS with his tepid piano, over-mannered ‘croon’ and bat-crushing insincerity. So dull. So, so dull. It seemed as though he’d be bottom of the heap for a long time to come.
What we didn’t reckon with, however, was this:
Towers Of London – Fuck It Up
Mike Atkinson: Ye gods, is no stone from the early 1980s to be left unturned? Clearly not, as Towers Of London remorselessly exhume the festering corpse of the "Punk's Not Dead movement", with a rudimentary, Gumby-voiced, four-chord clodhopper which leaves you longing for the delicate, nuanced touch of a Chelsea or a Sham 69. Praise the Lord and pass the Boots "Country Born" hair gel! Older readers will know of what I speak.
Edward Oculicz: Well, I'm sure angry teenagers in their low-riding pants love this, but as far as indeterminately-targeted songs about being pissed off go, well, it's hardly Twisted Sister, is it?
Peter Parrish: If you paid a consultancy firm their usual exorbitant fee and asked them to come up with the fundamental parts of a ‘punk’ song, you might find them returning “Fuck It Up” with an incredibly irritating smirk. This track was designed on flip-charts by men in suits who normally worry about risk assessments. Simple riff? Yup. Bit of edgy swearing? Here, sir! Lazy laaaaaandon accent that sounds a bit like The Ruts? Present and correct, guv’ner.
David Jones: The importance of the Sex Pistols, let’s agree, was that they pioneered an unfettered new sound, provided a disarmingly intelligent lyrical critique of seventies’ England and broke taboos left, right and centre. The Towers of London, then, are the polar opposite of the Sex Pistols. They’ve ripped off the Pistols’ sound wholesale, have nothing to say about anything and have sought to be provocative by using an expletive that’s become so commonplace you’re likely to hear it several times during an episode of Bala-fucking-mory.
“Have the Sex Pistols killed.”
Mystery Jets – On My Feet
Dom Passantino: Great parent/child hook-ups in musical history? Well, Lieutenant Pigeon had a mother and son in, and produced the hit #1 smash single “Mouldy Old Dough” back in the 70s. Frank and Nancy hooked up for the incestalicious “Something Stupid” as well. And there was…. Ummm…. “Daddy Sang Bass?” Anyway, Mystery Jets are not going to join this list because they are “challenging”, which is PR speak for “unlistenable unless you think that some kind of Gregorian chant/Lightning Seeds mash-up FOR THE NOUGHTIES is a good idea”.
Edward Oculicz: It just goes on and on and on, and that's just the intro. The bit where the vocals come in sounds like Gomez, but with more pointless wailing. A half-decent riff and beat comes in two minutes in, nothing is done with it and then it goes away as quickly as it came. I'm sure it's very important and significant and people with fashionable shoes are writing large swathes of copy on them, but that doesn't make it any more than utterly appalling.
Fergal O’Reilly: On first listen, an irritatingly waily, sprawling mess; I don't understand how they could either fail to notice how out of tune the harmonies are or think they sound good that way anyway. The first bit of a capella moaning sounds like an inept school talent show band doing the "raaaaaii daaaaooohhh nooh meeahhhhh" bit from "Paranoid Android". Does improve a little bit with repeat listening, running a gamut of different sections and briefly sounding a bit like "Poptones" by PiL before reaching a rousing-ish freakout at the end, though at the moment the general sloppiness is still proving too much of a barrier for me.
Doug Robertson: Hmm. This is either “genre defying” or “a mess”, depending on whether you’re in a bad mood or not when you listen to it. Slight Grumpiness is my mood of choice for the day, so I’m going to tend towards the latter view as it does seem to be trying a little too hard to be left of centre, though overall it does provide an intriguing glimpse of what System of a Down might sound like if someone was to slip some valium into their water supply.
Alex Linsdell: Roxy Roxy, Take Me Out!, yeah. Unusually for such an overlong, multi-segmented bunch of arse the good bits are the tiny snatched transitions between different sections. They use up all their good ideas within the first fifty seconds. The bit between 1:18 and 2:10 is unforgivable unmusic. Certainly there are much worse records than this but Mystery Jets should be heavily penalised for their inability to bin the most hellish chunks of their Art. This is not a single and they have no right to pretend otherwise.
Alkaline Trio – Time To Waste
Joe Macare: "You've found everything you need to make a life complete... Completely revolting!" Ahhhhh! Do you see, readers? Do you see? In case you don't, Alkaline Trio do it again later on in the song: "complete... completely unnatural!" Oh, those clever angsty rock bands with their sophisticated wordplay and their subversive subversion of expectations! Mainstream society must be rocked to its core, its mind deeply messed-with.
Dom Passantino: Reasons to love Alkaline Trio #277: this, the opening track from their new album, starts off with what sounds amazingly like the opening few seconds from “What You Waiting For?” Anyway, yeah, they’re “mature” and “album focused” now which means that they’re not going to make singles as good as “Private Eye” or “We’ve Had Enough” any more, but “Time To Waste” is as good a slice of mall emo/punk as you’re going to hear all year. Admittedly, the bar is somewhat low.
Luke Martin: Modern Poppish-Punk-Rock, for me, is all about being happily young and carefree, celebrating in the joys of youth and summer, so this sort of lite-Goth-Punk-Rock just drains all the fun out of it really. That said, it carries a tune nicely, and is a lot less grating than ‘I Miss You’.
Fergal O’Reilly: Mandatory dose of shouting music for hooded top-wearing door-slammers. The sulky intro sounds like the music from a dungeon level in a Game Boy RPG hastily transferred to a piano, and then of course they're all "AH HA BUT ACTUALLY WE ARE MACHO AFTER ALL HERE ARE THE LOUD GUITARS", and you're all "ah! Mit zis sudden burst of overwrought buzzsaw shredding you are really confounding mein expectations!". It's hard to imagine how people could continue to get excited about various angsty young men making ever so slight variations on the same astonishingly unimaginative record over and over, but I suppose I might as well be criticising a colony of cannibals for their dietary habits, really. Personally I am no longer an angry teenager, or a cannibal, so it's a bit lost on me.
David Jones: Is the Michael Jackson-Peter Pan thing any more perverse than the music industry’s fixation upon perpetual adolescence? Alkaline Trio are fully grown men who join the ranks of balding, ungainly perma-teens like messrs Durst and Westwood. Their shtick is based around two of the most annoying habits of adolescence: skateboarding and Gothicism. Judging by the melodramatic ‘we must use every note on the piano’ opening they hail from the same school as Muse, and their hilariously over-serious lyrics (“you found everything you need/to make a life complete./Completely revolting”) just make me want to scream: “Get a fucking mortgage and put things in perspective, you twats!”
Mario – Here I Go Again
Peter Parrish: Should have used the ‘heeeeere we go!’ sample from Mario Kart--then it would have got 10. (One day I’ll be able to critically assess Mario without making crap Nintendo jokes. Alas, that day is not today).
Alex Macpherson: On which Mario fails to be the exception to the rule that R&B and rock should not be mixed in the name of genre fusion, taking a somewhat decent if unspectacular R&B tune and sending it into the realms of horror with sludgy Kravitz-esque guitar. This has the effect of multiplying the sleaze factor by about a hundred, and the end result is slightly nauseous.
Alex Linsdell: The beat sounds like a stapler and everything else (guitars, swoony middle bit, “ooh ba da pa fa” etc) has just been kind of piled precariously on top of it. Less a monolith, more a poorly organised jumble sale; you might find something nifty and diverting buried in here but you wouldn’t risk making a grab for it, less still paying the 20p. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is pretty obliging of it.
Joe Macare: Fast-paced, melodramatic r&b is almost always brilliant. So why isn't this? Well, fundamentally Mario's problem is that he's the kind of guy who makes Usher seem like a charismatic, stylish, daring artist with heaps of flair and panache, as opposed to a guy who lucked out by working with Lil' Jon and Ludacris. Maybe I'm being harsh... 'Here I Go Again' isn't that bad. The chorus is passable, the production is workmanlike, and the middle-eight is frankly dire. But when your competing with Ciara and Amerie and Missy, it's pretty obvious that workmanlike is not going to cut it. C'mon Mario, show me something. SHOW ME SOMETHING.
Jessica Popper: I liked him better when he was a wimp.
Backstreet Boys - Incomplete
Joe Macare: It is a truth universally acknowledged that an ageing boy band, in possession of a ballad like this, must be in want of a decent comeback single.
Dom Passantino: Just like Fidel Castro, history will absolve the Backstreet Boys of all their sins. Or at least recognise that, single for single, they wiped the floor with N’Sync. Anyway, everyone’s forgotten which member of BB it was that tried to have a solo career, so Backstreet is quite literally “back” with a weird Goth-piano ballad number, like maybe what you expect Anastacia throws in three songs into her live shows. I do hope they’re still soulfully pointing and gesturing in the video, though.
Jessica Popper: The Backstreet Boys represent some great memories for me as they were one of my first ever favourite bands, so I'm very pleased to have them back and pleasantly surprised at the quality of their new album. Of course they're not innovative or cool but they are one of the biggest and best pop bands of the past decade and that is not something to be sneered at.
Peter Parrish: Wow, they burnt through those royalty cheques pretty damn fast. Backstreet’s back, and as well as being ALRIGHT they’ve also passed through musical puberty. Which, in this context, means they have to release a deep (turgid) and meaningful (painful) piano (oh god) ballad (mess) to show how SERIOUS (frighteningly rubbish) they are. I can only assume they’re hoping all their previous fans now listen to Keane and want to hear (buy) a Backstreetified version of swooping indie-mope lite.
Alex Linsdell: There is an oboe, which is only barely perceptible right at the very start before being buried under an avalanche of Heavy Piano and a big cascading carcrash of orchestral grinding. It lurches from verse to chorus with zero grace; there are several tremendous teetering-on-brink-oh-THERE-I-go moments; I like the oboe, and the idea of the oboe, so, a winner.
Royksopp – Only This Moment
Peter Parrish: BEEP BOOP BOO BEEP BUU! BEEP BOOP BOO BEEP BUU! Rinse, repeat. Oh christ, is that a vocoder? Arrgh, stop making me hate you! This is all wrong! Well, at least it’ll be easy to convert into a ringtone. Then it can annoy many new and exciting markets on an entirely different level.
David Jones: Is it possible to avoid the common criticism that music writing is too caught up with fashion to ever be truly objective? If I’d been played this blind I’d have chalked it up as yet another interminable euro-house number, given it about a four and forgotten about it. But I know Royksopp, I know they have a bone fide classic album under their belts and I know everything that’s come out of Bergen, Norway over the last few years has been touched by an icy brilliance. So I listened to it a few more times, and it really is great. Or is it?
Mike Atkinson: Oh, is that Erlend Oye sharing the vocals with the breathy chick? (Sorry, can't be arsed to Google. It's the heat.) As far as I know, this is the first time Royksopp have ever put out a fully fledged Song, with, like verses and stuff. Well, I say "fully fledged", but this actually comes over as half-assed, underworked, and... sorry to say it... generically Habitat coffee-table. Which, for all their warm, accessibly melodic user-friendliness, is a trap which Royksopp have always narrowly avoided falling into. Until now. In a word: drippy.
Alex Macpherson: This sounds like a slowed-down version of that Judge Jules trance bobbins from last week. Like that, it's not hateful but inconsequential - but in the unnecessary sense rather than the charming one.
Joe Macare: Dancing and crying like an abandoned baby are not activities that usually go together. But Royksopp might be able to produce exactly that mix of reactions with 'Only This Moment'. It's as slick and shiny as anything by DJ Sammy, but with an underlying sense of fragility - the idea that the moment in question might be snatched away wihout warning. You know that feeling of loss you sometimes get before something's even over, just because you know at some point, inevitably, it will be over? That's the feeling they're going for, and achieve... Although thinking about it, I reckon DJ Sammy has achieved that once or twice as well.
The Tears - Lovers
Fergal O’Reilly: I keep listening to this and thinking it's a bit autopilot and uninspired, and then gradually getting sucked into it by the end. Between this and British Sea Power's recent efforts I'm beginning to wonder if ostensibly unremarkable twiddly indieriffage has some potent hidden power I'm underestimating. The Suede-y chord changes of the chorus still only hint at breaking out into what I really want it to sound like, though.
Edward Oculicz: Brett Anderson's lyrics are, if possible, getting even worse, quite an achievement if you listened to the last two Suede albums, but the delivery of his nonsensical, rubbish rhymes has always been at the mercy of the backing, and fortunately Bernard Butler never really stopped being good.
Mike Atkinson: If this had come out in 1993, when Suede were my favourite band, then I'd have given it 9, easy. However, all the admittedly fantastic guitar work in the world still can't disguise the fact that The Tears are, essentially, a grudging marriage of convenience betweem two slightly desperate thirtysomethings, faking it for the early nostalgia market. Nevertheless, Anderson and Butler do carry this one off with a reasonable degree of verve and panache - and if nothing else, it has to be a distinct improvement on the curdling non-event that was "Refugees".
Joe Macare: I feel much less ambiguous about The Tears now, having come to terms with the fact that memory will always play a part in my appreciation of them. What the hell-it's not like I believed in the pure motive anyway, right? It helps that 'Lovers' is the strongest song on The Tears' album. I maintain that Anderson and Butler were always at their best when writing short, snappy pop songs, and their post-reconciliation output is no different. The former's lyrical ticks are at the most affecting and least ridiculous: so no nuclear urban youth pigs, but an obsession with the details of place? Present and correct, and of course the specific place is London, as mythologised as ever. The line "we're different colours, but we stand up as one" will make some people roll their eyes (especially the new breed of pro-separatism, anti-miscenegation academic music critics). Call me a fluffy liberal but I'll take Anderson's good intentions over the alternative. And when it's followed up by Butler throwing in a guitar part that's custom made to complement his voice, I'm tempted to give this one anthem status.
Alex Linsdell: Several light years more McAlmont & Butler than Suede, except with David “Sky” “Scrape” “Ing” McAlmont replaced by Brett and his undoubted, um, limitations. Which probably isn’t a terribly good idea, but there’s a pretty nice lift on the second line of the chorus that they manage to nudge to slightly more ecstatic heights each time, and the intro and middle-eight are so massive and booming/squalling that it actually hurts to listen to them. Bernie loves his reverb and this record is so utterly saturated with the stuff that it sounds bizarrely avant-garde. The best parts are the minus-Brett ones, but he is not unwelcome here, and the Sonic Difficulty Endurance Test aspect gives your ears something to cling to. Insane and a tiny bit treasureable.
The Faders - Jump
Dom Passantino: It’s great to be part of history. Great to be making history. Gives you a sense of pride. And here, the Stylus Jukebox is at the writing of the textbooks, as we’re here to witness the final single The Faders will get to release before they’re dropped from their record label for uninspiring sales figures. But, man, what a ride it’s been. There was the first time you saw the video to “No Sleep Tonight”. Then there was the time a week later when you found out that despite the vocals and fact it was set in an American school that they were actually English. Then the time a week later than that when you discovered that you couldn’t fancy the lead singer because she was Midge Ure’s daughter. And called “Toy”. The first time you realised that the band looked like the cast of hit CITV issues drama Girls In Love. The irony that the ginger one from Girls In Love later went on to be in Sugar Rush, where she masturbated with a tooth brush to “No Sleep Tonight”. And then there was the time where Stylus writer William B. Swygart cleared a dancefloor by playing “No Sleep Tonight”. Great memories, great times. “Jump” is their second single. It’s OK, I suppose.
Doug Robertson: It’s an established pop fact that songs that contain the word ‘Jump’ are generally pretty damned good, see Van Halen’s ‘Jump’, B*Witched’s ‘Jump Down’ and, err, Sultan of Ping FC’s ‘Where’s Me Jumper?’ for details. This takes its cue from the former, though it could really do with having a similarly killer synth riff somewhere in the mix. Despite this lack, the three poshest girls in pop have still managed to come up with – well, they were probably in the same room when the demo was played – another fine piece of guitar laden femme pop. All hail the 21st century’s 21st Century Girls.
Alex Macpherson: Last time round I was unnecessarily harsh on The Faders, they're definitely A Good Thing all round. For some reason their songs just aren't stirring me the way they ought to, though: 'Jump' is bouncy and fun, and has a terrific shotgun effect in the second verse, but there's a sense that The Faders are still not so much The Faders as the Female Busted, or British Donnas, or Girls Aloud With Guitars, or So When Is 'Since U Been Gone' Released Then?
Joe Macare: I really hate it when people can't be bothered to think of a new name for a song and instead plump for one that's already the title of a well-known existing song. Or two. In this case my annoyance is worsened by the fact that I can't help think that The Faders would do great covers of both 'Jump (For My Love)' and Van Halen's 'Jump'. Either would be preferable to this, which is a big step down from 'No Sleep Tonight'. It does have this completely incongruous gun-loading-and-firing sound inserted at one point - that reggaeton influence is spreading far and wide! Unfortunately I suspect this was added in an attempt to compensate for the song's lack of anything else remarkable. It picks up a little near the end, but otherwise... Toothless.
Alex Linsdell: The Faders soundtrack their abyss-glaring with gunshots and explosions and “Magic Moments” and it is convincing. They seem to be suggesting to an errant ex that really he should top himself because Without Her/Them He’s Nothing; there are scorching FM thunderings and white-hot backing echoes here that make this a pretty persuasive argument. World class drums-dropping-out bits abound, and handclaps, obviously, and it is more than a little bit sublime. I am surprised and delighted that suddenly I don’t not want The Faders in my life.
Charlotte Church – Crazy Chick
Alex Macpherson: I was blown away by this on first listen, but after some time I'm prepared to concede that much of that was probably due to the OMGWTF factor. This is admittedly massive - erstwhile child star, formerly best known for precocious soprano and religious material and now for life as professional boozehound, a) kicks off pop career with a song which sounds like Christina Aguilera doing 'Love Machine', b) pulls it off and c) appears to have completely changed her voice in the process. The voice, of course, is what sells this rambunctious slice of retro-pop: now in full on R&B diva mode, C-Lo has the confidence of someone who knows she can sing this material in her sleep (or more pertinently without giving up booze or fags), but also the nous of someone who knows about the dangers of over-singing. But, well, but - the song's fun enough, but there needs to be at least one more big key change. The way it flops limply into the rather dull chorus (especially after the fantastic verses!) is terribly disappointing.
Edward Oculicz: Liam Gallagher is kind of right for once, you know. She really has it. And this is an awfully good debut single - not quite earth-changing but as far as midpoints that enable you to change her in your mind from that sweet-voiced lass who acted like a brattish pop diva to the actual pop diva she was surely destined to be, this works a treat. Brassy and jazzy, but still fabulous pop.
Mike Atkinson: Considering what a big deal has been made of Charlotte Church's desire to be seen as a contemporary young miss, with her finger on the pulse of today's pacey teen scene, it comes as quite a surprise to find her paddling in such explicitly Shania Twain-esque waters with this, her debut solo single. It's a jolly enough little tune, with its nifty horn stabs and its knowingly tongue-in-cheek self-references, but it all sounds determinedly pitched at the mums and dads. In this respect, maybe the erstwhile "voice of an angel" hasn't changed her spots as much as we might have expected.
David Jones: Not so much a song as a conduit for an unstoppable and self-absorbed personality (was there a pissed-up Welsh girl archetype that British pop culture needed to fill after the demise of Cerys from Catatonia?). It’s wryly amusing that the erstwhile Voice of an Angel’s “contemporary” update has proved to be a late sixties Tom Jones ‘n Shirley Bassey pastiche but, hey, it’s spirited and – unlike the fucking Alkaline Trio – demonstrates somebody growing up unconventionally.
Alex Linsdell: This is breathtakingly clunky and plonked, initially it seems to be the most ‘obvious’ single ever – “I am this thing” pop music writ massive, beautiful immaculate synchronicity between public persona and record, no dark corners for any real magic to hide in. But it is also instant sunshine, thunk-clap-stomp-clap, elevated into glorious midsummer skies of cheerfulness by the stroke of genius that is the squiggly-syn-horns. Brassy, even. So many genius pop records these days are preoccupied with sinuous silvery slithers of understatement; it’s almost disconcerting to hear something as stampy and happy as this. Every decade needs its own “Wake Up Boo!”, possibly.
By: UK Stylus Staff
Published on: 2005-06-27