Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Singles Bar - 07/11/11

“Is there room for one more at the singles bar?” crooned Tracey Thorn on her 2010 track of the same name. She may well have been talking about this week’s reviews as we have – count ‘em – 14 of the little blighters for your perusal this week. Therefore, don’t waste your time reading this blurb, get on to the meat of the article below!
The Wombats – 1996
The European Football Championships, A Design for Life by Manic Street Preachers and Harry Enfield And Chums on VHS – it’s a well-known fact that 1996 was the best year in human existence. So, kudos to The Wombats for writing a song about it, though the fact it was 15 years ago makes me feel depressingly ancient. Head Wombat Matthew Murphy was born in 1984, and 1996 is a paean to how things were better and simpler in those times. Sadly, it’s fairly musically uninspired and the lyrics are exceptionally clunky at times (“We were cloning sheep in the 90s”). The track features the distorted guitars and synths that now seem to be The Wombats calling card and the whole thing is ultimately forgettable. Murphy also sings he“can’t forget those teenage kicks,” which, given his year of birth, suggests maths may not be his strong point. 4/10
Cage The Elephant – Aberdeen
There’s a challenge to answer here – is this track about the Scottish coastal city, or the constantly disappointing steak restaurant franchise? I don’t know, and I’m not sure I care, as Aberdeen (the song) is the kind of by-numbers alternative rock that you want to ignore. Furthermore, vocalist Matt Shultz has a VERY irritating, whiny voice which means you imagine all the lyrics to be about something he wants but can’t have, so he’ll probably be stomping up to his room to listen to LOUD GUITAR MUSIC because no-one understand him. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s depressingly derivative and a dangerous lesson in what happens when people who shouldn’t make music listen to Nirvana records. 2/10
Dennis Hopper Choppers – Girl Walked Out Of Town
There’s something of the spaghetti Western about Girl Walked Out Of Town, which is surprising when you consider Dennis Hopper Choppers (presumably the name Kathy Bates Roller Skates was taken) hail from the South Coast of England. There’s a real American desert feel to the sound, which is at odds with the rich, smooth vocals, yet the contrast seems to work perfectly despite itself. The organ melodies recall The Doors at their debut-album peak, and there’s an element of sleaze and punk just beneath the surface. Idiosyncratic, interesting music that deserves a wider audience. 8/10
Maverick Sabre – I Need
Maverick Sabre was born in Hackney, where presumably there was a consonant shortage in the early 90s. This is the only possible explanation for his frankly bizarre singing style where every vowel is stretched over several syllables, and the clarity and diction would make an elocution tutor book a one-way flight toDignitasI Need is actually a fairly dull song with an element of the overly tasteful sound that was the result of over-exposure to the Bristol trip-hop scene. However, that voice completely over-powers the track and any hope of rescuing it; it’s actually quite unpleasant to listen to. There’s a smattering of soul starting to creep back into the charts, which can only be a good thing, but you’d be best advised to stay away from Maverick Sabre1/10
The Kooks – Junk Of The Heart
While several years ago the sheer ubiquity of The Kooks made them irritating beyond belief, their contrasting fall from grace now makes you almost pity them. Junk Of The Heart is the kind of soaring, sunshine pop that’s unlikely to make them reconnect with a younger audience, but could perhaps win them a whole, new one. Of course, the vocals are grating and vowel-heavy (what is it with these London singers – weak jaws maybe?), and The Kooks seem to have misplaced the melodic alchemy that made tracks like Naïve and She Moves In Her Own Way such earworms. Not long ago, they seemed like they could have been the biggest band in Britain, now you’d struggle to tell this apart from a bunch of identikit songs by The Wombats, The Hoosiers et al. 4/10
Sunday Girl – Love U More
I wish solo artists wouldn’t have names that make them sound like they’re actually bands – it could confuse a stupid person. Anyway, Jade Williams – AKA Sunday Girl – must be well thought of, she’s worked with Diplo and has deals with both Geffen and Polydor. On the evidence of Love U More, it’s difficult to see why, as it’s the kind of dance track you’ve heard a hundred times before. The Balearic boom may have been a decade ago now, but Love U More aims to rekindle the relationship between slow, faceless vocals and anthemic, keyboard-heavy production. However, I don’t really recall anyone asking for that to come back, so let’s just pretend it didn’t happen, shall we? 2/10
Loick Essien – Me Without You
I’m quite upset to learn that Loick Essien doesn’t appear to be related to Chelsea footballer, Michael. He is, however, an R&B singer who’s worked with Bashy, N-Dubz and Chipmunk, which is the musical equivalent of having a CV that says you’ve worked with Sarah Palin, Kim Jong-Il and Anthea Turner. There’s no edge at all to this syrupy track, which would appear to be targeted towards young ladies (no doubt spelt, “laydeez”) as a romantic ballad. It actually sounds like the thing Simon Cowell might consider giving one of his X Factor protégés to record as a Christmas single and it makes the collected works of Luther Vandross look like the Aphex Twin. Seven songs down and only one that’s any good? I’m losing the will to live here.1/10
Tinchy Stryder – Off The Record
This has been remarked upon before, but Tinchy Stryder – along with Dizzee Rascal – heralds a generation of British grime MCs with names that sound like scruffy, lovable urchins from Victorian novels. Anyway, as our roguish hero strides tinchily through life, he’s sadly lost inspiration, as Off The Record lacks any of the zip and energy that made previous tracks hits. He appears to also just be rapping whatever comes into his head first, which is never good. The backing is the work of producer of the moment, Calvis Harris, but curiously, this sounds like people making a bad version of what a Calvin Harris and Tinchy Stryder record should sound like. Lawks, cor blimey, guv’nor etc. Not either gentleman’s finest work. 4/10
Chris Brown – She Ain’t You
The people who scheduled this week’s single releases clearly weren’t aware that I’m a man of finite patience. So, down to work then. She Ain’t You is the new single by violent misogynist Chris Brown and borrows heavily from Michael Jackson’s Human Nature and SWV’s Right Here. It’s also immeasurably worse than both those tracks. It sounds wan and weak, and Brown’s vocals have been auto-tuned a little too harshly. I’ve just found a review for this track’s video on the website of radio station 92.3Now FM, that suggests, “She Ain’t You is definitely a song for the ladies… maybe even for pop star Rihanna,” which is probably one of the most dispiriting and insensitive things I’ve ever read. So, before I go into a rant about celebrity “news” “journalists”, I’ll just list the redeeming features of this track instead: …oh. 0/10
JLS – Take A Chance On Me
They may be a boyband and X Factor alumni, but I’ll go out on a limb and say JLS have had a handful of cracking singles (Beat AgainEyes Wide Shut). However, this isn’t one of their better efforts. It’s a piano-led ballad; a bit of a downer really, as it’s the kind of style they’ve tended to avoid in the past. However, it’s harmless enough and – given the standard of what’s gone before it in this review – pretty listenable. It’s a little on the slick side and unlikely to progress their career too much further but there are worse crimes in this world, like for example, celebrity journalists who [That’s enough; let it GO! – Ed.]5/10
Manic Street Preachers – This Is The Day
Ah, we can always rely on The Manics, can’t we? Er, can’t we?! The initial signs aren’t good, with drum machine and over-elaborate piano fills, but soon the guitars come in and it’s unmistakeable MSP. However, the Manics haven’t really been at the peak of their powers, single-wise, for a while now, and This Is The Day sounds like they’re trying a bit too hard. In fact, it’s a little wet and lacking in substance. This track is the last song on their new, chronologically-ordered singles collection, and if you compare it to Slash N’ BurnLittle Baby Nothing and Faster amongst others, the prognosis is not good at all. However, it’s not terrible, even if it does seem to represent the MSP turning into the stadium indie band they swore they’d never become two decades ago. 6/10
Kele – What Did I Do?
In the rather pathetic fall-out around the reunion (or non-reunion) of Bloc Party, it’s kind of been forgotten that Kele’s been branching out in an entirely different direction, and making a pretty decent go of it, truth be told. What Did I Do? starts by sounding like it could be straight from the Katy B album, then a female vocal actually takes the lead. It’s rare someone can be so adept at two musical styles which are so contrasting. There’s some fairly heavy dubstep gubbins going on around the edges too, and Kele’s actual involvement seems to be fairly restricted. However, this doesn’t stop What Did I Do? being a pretty damn fine effort. It forms part of an EP called The Hunter, which on this evidence, is well worth investigation. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK
Pixie Lott – What Do You Take Me For?
It’s a little-known fact that Pixie Lott has it written into her recording contract that at least 90% of each of her legs must be visible at any one time. Other interesting Pixie Lott facts include her not really being a pixie and… um, her love of mustard sandwiches (that one may be made up… and the first one as well).What Do You Take Me For? is the sound of Pixie Lott moving away from the sugary pop that’s served her well and into more urban territory. The production isn’t too bad at all; horns and descending bass give it a sensual, Latino feel, but Pixie Lott’s honking all over the top of it doesn’t really do it justice. I’d guess she’s trying to be sexy, but it comes off more desperate than anything. 4/10
Jessie J – Who You Are
Jessie J’s surname is actually Cornish, which means she should be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act immediately. Who You Are is the title track from her inexplicably popular album and is – joy of joys – a self-empowerment ballad. It starts off inoffensively enough, but, that voice – what in the name of Godley and Creme is it?! Jessie J is at the forefront of a breed of singer who believes that power and melisma trump melody and control, and the result is truly ugly songs like this. In fact, of all the weeks of doing the Singles Bar, this is the first track I didn’t even make it to the end of. So, if the final two minutes ofWho You Are are a challenging look into the human psyche where Jessie J invents an entirely new, never-before-seen genre of music known as nu-post-oompah-gaze, then I apologise. However, I’m going to stick with my prejudices and assume it’s yet more drivel that would make even the deaf wince. 0/10

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