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Pop Playground
Week Three Sans Swygart

ello! Welcome to Week 3 of William Swygart's Great Month Off. None of the time-telling devices in my house appear to be working, so I missed the first couple of minutes of this three-hour jaunt... and turned on just in time to hear Wes brightly announcing the Libertines' 'Can't Stand Me Now', which is probably the least promising opening to anything, ever. Gah.

Album chart notes: New entries: Darren Hayes #13 (Wes ignores it, unfortunately), Nelly's Sweat #11, The Thrills #9, Nelly's Suit #8 (I am intrigued by the disparity between the people buying Suit and the people buying Sweat, and surprised that Suit won out), Ian Brown #7 (Wes ignores this too, thankfully), and… oh dear god. Brace yourselves. The following line will chill your hearts—and I had to hear Wes say it.

"It's been really close all week, both Embrace and Paul Weller have been selling like hotcakes!"

WHO THE FUCK IS BUYING THIS SHIT? Whoever they are, they fucking owe me for making me sit through Weller murdering 'Wishing On A Star' (#2) and an interminable, abysmal Embrace dirge (#1). These are the two best-selling albums in the UK this week, people. British Public, up your game.

At least this can't get any worse.

New entries outside the Top 20: A busy week, this. Beastie Boys #37 (they're too old, the song is too strident, please fuck off and leave us with our memories of when they were decent), Interpol #36 (this is great, especially the kick of the beats under the chorus! Interpol used to be the aural equivalent of black-suited models gazing blankly out from a stylised, fashionably gothic set (posed angst being a good thing if you can look pretty at the same time); they have a New Dance Direction, which means that they're wearing silver ties now); Thirteen Senses #35 (does anyone know of any good musical thing to come out of Cornwall? The closest I can think of is that Tori Amos now lives there; this shit indie certainly doesn't qualify); The 22-20s #34 (a total mess of a song; can the drummer please make an effort to keep to the motherfucking rhythm? Not that I'm convinced there is a rhythm to stick to in the first place); Dido #29 (all Dido songs are top-notch pop constructions which sink in the foundations of Ms Armstrong's semi-somnolent voice. She should just hire them out to others—Sugababes would do a wicked “White Flag”, while this number (which would be upbeat if Dido understood the concept) needs horns and a big fuck-off beat and a house diva belting out the lyrics like “Lola's Theme”); Annie #25 (more on whom later; Wes proves himself mildly useful for the first time in his life when he reveals that Annie's full name is Annie Lilia Berge Strand); Cassidy ft. Mashonda #24 (very nice, very smooth; the first couple of times I heard this, I was all like "where's the chorus?", but after that I couldn't work out how I'd missed it); Bryan Adams #21 (take the overblown soft rock template we all know and, er, love; remove all vestiges of anthemic tune).

The cumulative effect of Wes's grown-man-with-ADD voice is very trying. So is the constant necessity of changing the volume, as the songs are set to play about 50 decibels below Wes's voice and the multifarious adverts—thus, an enjoyable three minutes of dancing around to Stonebridge at top volume is rudely interrupted by the dread whisper of 'the official! UK! top 40!' blaring into my ear; worse, Wes butts in to “Lola's Theme” to inform us that the lyrics are "I'm a different person". Thanks, Wes! Twat.

Did I hear right, or is Wes seriously giving away a camera which contains people 'snapped' on the toilet at One Big Weekend?


20. GOLDIE LOOKIN' CHAIN: Guns Don't Kill People, Rappers Do

OK, so GLC were funny for about two minutes, two years ago. A good local joke, as anyone who's ever spent time in South Wales will know. Very little, however, is more cringe-worthy than people like Colinandedith trying to get down with localised humour, because it is so glaringly obvious that they DO NOT GET IT. And now laughing at GLC is synonymous with laughing at hip-hop, which is very distressing indeed.

19. MOUSSE T ft. EMMA LANFORD: Is It Cos I'm Cool?

Wow—I'd not heard this before, and it's a lot better than I was expecting. 'A lot better' in that it sounds like a Girls Aloud b-side, and would be much better if its singer actually sounded convinced of their own coolness.


This sounds like the least vice-y song ever. What vice could possibly committed to this boring, anonymous guitar wankery? Sado-masochism involving the use of the stereo, possibly. I gather that Razorlight are yet another of these bands which the NME claims will save rock'n'roll, yes? Jesus, indie kids are so easy to market to.

17. HOUSTON ft. CHINGY, NATE DOGG and I-20: I Like That

I like that too, Mr Houston! I especially like the zippy synth line which sounds like the accordion melody from some Eastern European folk dance, as well as the bassline which buzzes so insistently that I have no choice but to turn my room into the world's smallest hip-hop joint for three minutes and shake it like that. Chingy is so cute!


I can't work out if the way it reminds me of a mid-90s MOR minor hit is because it is a cover of one or because The Corrs just haven't made it to 2004 yet. In lieu of further commentary, let us give respect to the new US Open women's champion, Miss Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, who this week has been crowned Wismilak International champion in Bali as well. She's got cornrows!

15. THE 411: Dumb

I threw such a hissy fit when I saw The 411 promoted in Q, I think, as 'the girl band it's OK to like'. What, because it wasn't OK to like The Supremes or En Vogue? Nonetheless, this is smooth and flowing like Bailey's—and indeed the whole stumbling-over-the-lyrics thing in the chorus is totally reminiscent of a tipsy girl who's tempted by the stud in front of her but repeats the mantra 'it'd be dumb, dumb, dumb' to herself over and over again, keeping that one thought in her head. Got me dancing around the room again, too.

14. STATUS QUO: You'll Come 'Round (NEW ENTRY)

What in the fuck? Now, when I bought the Annie single earlier this week, I had to really hunt around the HMV shelves for it. This meant that I saw pretty much every single of note released this week. This—this I did not see. I had no inkling that it existed. I wish I could return to that state of innocence, because this is just beyond shite.

13. THE PIRATES ft. ENYA, SHOLA AMA, NAILA BOSS and ISHANI: You Should Really Know

God, I know that answer records are totally played out now but this is just heart-breaking and gorgeous. Shola sings her heart out but she knows it's in vain, so even as she sings of how she wants to reach out to her boy—even as she pleads with him to listen to her—she knows it'll fall on deaf ears (because he doesn't wanna know, remember?). And so she retreats into the sumptuous, layered music, her voice literally muffled by the added opera samples and stumbling beats. It's a self-fulfilling stance; because she's so fatalistic, she won't convince him. Because she won't convince him, she's fatalistic. They're singing the same tune, but they're not listening to each other.

12. MAROON 5: She Will Be Loved

Annie, then. “Chewing Gum” is magnificent: Richard X hits that magic electro-spot once again (more than one person has enquired of me whether it's Rachel Stevens' follow-up to “Some Girls”), Annie has a girly night in with herself ("Hey Annie, girl look at you—is that a new boy stuck on your shoe?" "I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna get done—I'm just a girl that's only chewing for fun!"), all above a monster tune that sticks in your head like, well, like chewing gum sticks to your shoe. Extra-super-fantastic bits: the insanely cute backing squeaks in the middle eight ("I don't wanna settle down (eee)! I just wanna chew gum (eee)!"), the way the bass crunches like ice, the "oh NO!" hook, the perfect, perfect lyrics… it's a fucking travesty that this didn't go top ten AT LEAST, not least because we're going to have to wait until next year for the album now. I don't hold out much hope for a successful reissue, either; like Mania's “Looking For A Place”, this is one of the Great Lost Pop Singles of 2004, but Annie could never be a contender for No 1 in much the same way as Goldfrapp couldn't: their sound is right for the top of the charts, but they aren't. Too clever, too knowing, too real… they're not blank slates like Rachel Stevens, you can't project anything on to them. Oh well! At least I don't have to write about Maroon 5 now.

(“Kiss Me”, the b-side to “Chewing Gum”, is excellent too; six minutes of tentative, staccato strings which sound like they could be an instrumental by Wiley, vocals siftly gathering like frost on windows; it's like a love scene in the middle of Arctic wind.)


I still don't really understand why so many people like this. Personally, I love it—it's not as good as “Single” but it's very charming, endearingly ramshackle. But really, it's a total mess! The beat clunks, the vocal line and bassline and synths are totally out of sync with each other, and Natasha doesn't tone down her stridency in the right places, or indeed at all. None of this bothers me particularly, but I'd've thought it'd bother other people. Yet it got to No 1! Odd. She's gorgeous though, in a toothy kinda way.

Let us not speak of the Download Chart.

10. MCFLY: That Girl

God. McFly seem to bring out Wes's most excruciating side (like he has any other sides) in his 'interviews' with them, possibly because they humour him instead of telling him to fuck off. Deeply unfunny jokes about Wes being the eponymous girl of the song's title ensue. The song is another disappointment—I had such high hopes for McFly after “5 Colours In Her Hair”, but this just reminds me of Britpop. Remember when retro nostalgia in music seemed to be progressing through the decades at warp speed? And everyone* was like, what's going to happen when we get to mid-90s retro, because that was just 60s retro itself? Answer: McFly.

*OK, not everyone, just the kids at school who thought they were more clever than they actually were.


This sounds like baby Anastacia! That's not entirely a bad thing (even if it is a slightly odd direction to go in). It's a storming tune, and our Joss handles the “I'm Outta Love”-esque chorus with aplomb… but for the rest of it, her voice and the song don't quite gel. She sings like a 40-year-old soul diva because that's the only way she knows how, but the song demands a lighter, subtler touch. And while Joss can do romance and longing to perfection, she can't do sexy at all (even though she's, like, the most gorgeous girl ever). The last time I said that in public, it led directly to some rather disturbing speculation about Joss's virginity (not on my part! Well, not initially), so that train of thought stops right here.


Ah, bliss. I've got to get the Twista album; this is the worst song by him that I've heard (even if half of what I have heard are just guest spots), and it's still fantastic. He sounds like he's enjoying himself a lot, which is always good to hear. Best Twista guest spot: on Lil' Kim's "Thug Luv". They're the Duke and the Duchess, leaving haters 'buked and on crutches!

"I've got something to reveal here which is major, really major—right after this," declares Wes breathlessly. Goodness. Whatever can it be? Dare I hope that he is intending to announce his pending resignation live on air?

7. 3 OF A KIND: Baby Cakes

I'm not quite as obsessed with this as I was the other week, but it's still, y'know, one of the best things to happen to the charts this year. Those giggles which open and close it are brilliant. In talking to various people about it (most of whom seem to hate it), I've noticed a disturbing recurring trope… dismissing it as 'chav music', indie snobbery blending seamlessly into straight-up social snobbery. I have written more on this, but I can't be arsed to find it now and anyway, I'm behind with all of this and Wes is steaming ahead without me.


Wes's MAJOR, REALLY MAJOR announcement turned out to be that Brian McFadden is no longer No 1. Gutted. This is the first time that I've listened to this all the way through. It's actually a song about being a fucking boring sod! With terrible, terrible lyrics, I hadn't realised just how terrible until today. I'm having a lot of trouble reconciling this Brian McFadden to the one who is credited with writing “Girls Allowed”, the stand-out track off Sound Of The Underground. I mean, they can't be the same, surely? Surely? If this McFadden could write a song as stellar as that, wouldn't he keep it for himself. Oh God. I've just imagined McFadden singing “Girls Allowed”. Why does my brain do this to me?

5. JOJO: Leave (Get Out)

Wes interviews JoJo, who is in Miami. JoJo leaps in without really paying attention to him, claiming that she really wishes she could be with "you guys" in England. Shyeah right. Wes asks her if she has a boyfriend. Ewwww. She says something about how she's "young, successful and hot" in reply. Ewwww. To be perfectly honest, JoJo, you're not hot enough. In terms of paedo-pop, you've got nothin' on Alizée or tATu (clearly us Euros are too depraved to even pretend that our popstresses are anything other than rampant Lolitas). And your song can't decide whether it wants to be Avril or Britney, either; the verses wimp out of full-blown angst with that crappy acoustic guitar, and the chorus almost sounds ashamed of being so catchy. Loosen up, girl!

4. NELLY: My Place/Flap Ya Wings

I like both of these a trillion times more than I did two weeks ago; the way they've grown on me reminds me of how I was all like “meh” about “Hot In Herre” when I first heard it. I think a lot of that has to do with the way Nelly raps as if the song's on the brink of a huge sonic pay-off—he just builds the choruses up too much when their catchiness is insidious rather than immediate. Catchy they are, though, and "drop down and get your eagle on girl" is a superb lyrical hook. Next time I hear this in a club I wanna see all the girls pretend to be eagles! (Also—it is slightly bemusing that Suit charted higher in the album chart than Sweat when “Flap Ya Wings” is so much better than “My Place”.)

3. GREEN DAY: American Idiot (NEW ENTRY)

Lord. I hate skaters, I hate skater music, I hate wilful stupidity, I hate bands who think that 'going political' is enough without realising that they then have to make an effort to say something which actually needs to be said, and I fucking hate Green Day. All the really boring boys at school liked them. Anyway, they have selected Dubya as the target of their political ire, in a great display of imagination, and appear to think they're doing something important and courageous. It'd be a more dangerous career move for them to make a record in support of Bush.

2. GIRLS ALOUD: Love Machine (NEW ENTRY)

Yes! They may not have got to No 1, but I get to hear this NOW! "Love Machine" is the Girls' most playful single to date; indeed, the adjective 'rambunctious' is eminently suitable to describe it, which is a good thing in itself. What we got here: maniacally chunky guitar, a 50s skiffle beat, lyrics which are both utter nonsense, completely bonkers, and sheer pop perfection. A Frankie Goes To Hollywood reference in the second line! "We're gift-wrapped kitty-cats!" "Let's go, Eskimo!" "Loving me is as easy as pie!" (That one's from Nicola, brilliantly.) All of that even before we've hit the first chorus, which babbles insanely about fantasies and negligées as the tempo is upped even further. In the second verse, they order "Mr Prehistoric" to "make his wheel". Er, right.

The chorus is only repeated twice, though the extended outro which replaces the usual repeat-chorus-to-fade ("Oh! A little education! Oh! To give you motivation!") is a thing of wonder indeed; this leaves you unsated, though to be honest you could play “Love Machine” on loop thirty times in a row and you still wouldn't have got enough of it.

It's also the only single I have ever bought just because of the cover. And the b-side—which I think is also going to be on their album (tentatively titled What Will The Neighbours Say?, apparently)—is fantastic too! It's called "Androgynous Girls" and is like a little baby Blondie.


Throughout the entire show, Wes has been reiterating that Eric Prydz's name is pronounced 'pridds', not 'prides'. Just recalling that made my teeth grind against each other. The song may possibly be forever tarnished to my ears because of that connection, but to be honest it's not all that; it starts off really promisingly, deep-fried synths and beats as good as anything from the heyday of French house, but then… no payoff, no release, no climax, no imagination, nothing. Which is very annoying the first time, but after that it's possible to listen to the entire thing and not even realise it's on.

By: Alex Macpherson

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Posted 09/20/2004 - 04:50:43 AM by Monkian:
 Ten Embrace 'dirges' at number one in the album chart. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Macpherson, you no mark loser!! I am one of the many buying 'this shit' (not the Weller, which I agree is sonic turdflakes). Try taking a 'proper' listen before you issue your dissage, 'Ashes' is no dirge my man.
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