Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Singles Bar - 09/01/2012

Now everyone’s back at work and we’re in the second week of January, you’d think we’d be in full swing down here at the Singles Bar. However, the tumbleweed of the Christmas chart battle blows past, the glowing cigarette ends of 2011 still smoulder in the pop ashtray and the lorry delivering a fresh of batch of tunes for 2012 seems to have been held up in roadworks somewhere on the outskirts of Droitwich. Before I stretch this Singles-Bar-being-an-actual-bar metaphor to breaking point, it’s probably best for everyone if I just get on with it. So…

The Carpels – Bears

And we kick off this week with an intricate afrobeat riff. Until the vocals come in, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is the return of Foals, though Foals would never sing about “hoodies on the loose”. Actually it would have been better if the vocals hadn’t come in at all, because while the overlapping riffs and taut drumming of Bears is great post-punk fun, the post-Doherty, half-growled, half-lolling singing is irritating, and relegates The Carpels a rung or two on the band ladder. So, instead of being an idiosyncratic, interesting next-big-thing group, they’re a run-of-the-mill, indistinguishable indie band with some above-average riffing. 6/10

FOE – Cold Hard Rock

So, will FOE be friend or… well, you know (Editor’s note: needs work). Listening to Cold Hard Rock, it sounds as if FOE are the house band for the inside of Tim Burton’s head. There’s a fuzzy, foreboding synth line and spooky bells repeatedly playing a slightly discordant motif. It’s trashy, gothic and intriguing, even if the big, anthemic chorus is a little reminiscent of Evanescence and Paramore. Cold Hard Rock is a little like metal kindergarten; if the kids lap up this unthreatening yet slightly spooky slice of grinding pop, they might progress onto the harder stuff at a later age. Despite the fact I’ve just likened FOE to a gateway drug, this isn’t a bad effort at all. 7/10

Black Veil Brides – Fallen Angels

Taking of “woo, spooky” music, this must be the most gothic artist/track title combination I’ve seen in many a (full) moon. There’s something very Def Leppard about Black Veil Brides, though they’re a lot more “metal” than Sheffield’s finest, with crunching riffs and widdly-widdly, fretboard-mangling, look-at-me solos a-go-go. There’s a half-decent melody or two trying to get out of this song, but they're buried in a sludgy, glam-rock mix; you can practically see the teenagers making the devil’s horn hand sign as this song plays. It’s not offensively bad – actually, it’s better than you’d expect from a band whose guitarist goes by the nom de rock of Jinxx – but it’s still the overblown, KISS-aping nonsense most boys (and it’s pretty much only boys who’ll like this) have grown out of by the age of twelve. 3/10

Gabrielle Aplin – Home

Thanks, John Lewis. No, really, thanks a bunch. Ever since Ellie Goulding’s devoid-of-personality cover of Elton John’s Your Song appeared on their Christmas 2010 advertising campaign, there’s been a spate of whey-faced, over-earnest, singing teenage girls who dress like they’ve escaped from a Victorian costume drama. So, following the aforementioned Goulding, we’ve had Birdy, Slow Moving Millie, Charlene Soraia and now Gabrielle Aplin, whose new single is bland, insipid, and several other words that mean bland and insipid. Oh, of course, there’s nothing wrong with it per se, it’s just that the slightly whispered vocals, finger-picked accompaniment and string-laden crescendo have been done to death a million times, and we’re left with the female Matt Cardle – great. 2/10

Air – Seven Stars

I don’t know, you wait ages for an Air song, and then two come along at once. Well, if you count “three weeks apart” as “at once”. Like previous single, Parade, it might come as something of a shock for those who still see Air as the band who do Moon Safari; it’s got a tubthumping bass drum line, slightly woozy, harmonious vocals and the kind of space-age noises that used to crop up in Dubstar singles from the late 90s. Actually, it’s so space-age that about halfway through, the track almost comes to a halt and a mission control countdown begins. There are shades of Sigur Rós in the way Seven Stars carefully builds into a controlled climax, and the overall effect is lovely, if not overly arresting. The upcoming Air album, Le Voyage Dans Le Lune, will certainly be one to watch out for in 2012. 7/10

AU – Solid Gold

They’re called AU, their track’s called Solid Gold… chemistry pun alert! Anyway, there’s something very odd at work here - in fact, the vocals and instrumentation appear to be from two completely different songs. Despite all this, it just about hangs together and kind of works. There’s some experimental, Sleigh Bells stuff happening here, a little Architecture In Helsinki there, a very incongruous, skronky sax solo in the middle. In fact, I’ve not the faintest idea what’s going on– is it indie pop? Is it free jazz? Is it oompah? In reality, it could be all three. I pride myself on being able to write about music, what it sounds like and how it makes us feel, but this one’s got me completely stumped. It’s damn good though. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Tribes – When We Were Children

Do you find Kasabian a bit too musically progressive? Are you baffled as to why One Night Only haven’t been as commercially successful as predicted? Do you miss King Adora, even though you were repulsed by their suggestions of androgyny, because rock music’s for PROPER BLOKES, right? Is your idea of a good night out drinking copious amounts of European lager and leering at women? Do you think Nuts Magazine is “well funny”? Do you use the word “gay” as an insult? Do you think that Fearne Cotton is a brilliant DJ (even though she’s a BIRD, yeah)? Do you think Andy Gray and Richard Keys were hard done by? Do you use the word “banter” unironically? Do you think feminists are “probably lesbians anyway”? Do you think Tim Lovejoy is “a ledge”? Do you think jokes about rape are humourous? Is your idea of cool, rock n’ roll rebellion wearing a leather jacket? Do you think that “Dave Cameron’s got some pretty decent ideas, really”? Are you instantly suspicious of anyone with a university degree or who doesn’t come from your hometown? Do you not really see the point of foreign travel? Do you not see the point of books? Do you communicate with your friends in text speak? Have you ever joined a Facebook group entitled “Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister”? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to over half of the above, then congratulations! Your new favourite band has arrived! Now, step away from the computer and promise me you’ll never procreate. 0/10

Nicola Roberts – Yo-Yo

Now, regular readers of The Singles Bar (yes, both of them) will know of my fondness for the music of Ms. Roberts and my continued surprise at her lack of chart success. Obviously, Yo-Yo is precisely amazing and should be number 1 in the charts for a month at least, but it’s probably not the best choice for third single from a struggling album. It’s a mid-tempo, electro-charged track that’s clever and catchy, but if you weren’t won over by the first two singles (Beat Of My Drum and Lucky Day, as if you needed reminding) then Yo-Yo is unlikely to change your mind. If I were choosing Nicola Roberts’ next single (which would require a fairly unlikely sequence of events), I’d stop picking this kind of track and choose something unexpected. So either head-turning, confessional ballad, Sticks + Stones, or jaw-dropping, profanity-laden club banger, Gladiator. Nicola Roberts, you are right and it’s everyone else who is wrong, but you’ve got to change your tack to make them realise. 7/10

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