Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Singles Bar: 26/03/12

Roll up, roll up! We’ve got debut singles, we’ve got established artists, we’ve got rappers, we’ve got singers, we’ve got major labels, we’ve got indie labels, we’ve got righteous fury, we’ve got cover versions, we’ve got metal, we’ve got rock, we’ve got R&B, we’ve got dance. All this in only ten tracks? A cornucopia of all that makes up popular music today can be found here, at The Singles Bar.

Azealia Banks feat. Lazy Jay – 212

A mere four months too late, 212 is finally getting an official release. It’s difficult to see why, since surely everyone who likes this track will already have it in some capacity. This is possibly the best example yet of why the singles chart should take metrics other than sales into account, since people consume music in so many different ways these days. Anyway, luckily for Polydor, the lag hasn’t done anything to diminish 212’s potency, as it’s still a jaw-droppingly astonishing record. Ridiculously assured for a debut release, 212 is effectively a track in three parts, each one better than the last, which all do a fantastic job of showcasing Banks’ flow. Fun, filthy and flirtatious, it’s not difficult to see why 212 made the world sit up and take notice of Azealia Banks. If the much-anticipated album is even half as good as this, we’re in for a treat. 9/10

Paul McCartney – Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive

I can tell you now, there won’t be too many singles review columns around that go from Azealia Banks to Paul McCartney. In fact, there aren’t many singles review columns at all, but that’s a conversation for another day. McCartney’s version of this much covered song from 1944 is a lovely, jazzy stroll which, sound quality aside, sounds as if it could have been recorded in the year it was composed. The lyrics are a little trite and McCartney now sings a little like someone doing a Paul McCartney impression, but this really isn’t bad at all. Enjoyable stuff, if a little pedestrian but let’s be honest, if you were half of the main songwriting partnership in The Beatles, you’d be allowed to do whatever the hell you wanted, wouldn't you? 6/10

Funeral Suits – All Those Friendly People

The latest single from Dublin natives, Funeral Suits, bounds onto the scene pulling off the clever trick of combining rock and electronica without ever sounding like they’re bandwagon-jumping. There’s a gorgeous, widescreen feel to the production (courtesy of one Stephen Street) and despite the high word count in the verses, there’s still a great, singalong atmosphere throughout. The chorus is perhaps a little lacking considering the relative quality of the preceding verse but this is still a highly impressive track nonetheless. There are also shades of some of the more intelligent moments of Britpop in All Those Friendly People but most of all, it’s the inherent quality of the writing that makes this track shine. The word ‘anthemic’ is heavily over-used in the music press, but Funeral Suits have captured the required magic and may well provide the soundtrack to your summer. 9/10

lostprophets – Bring ‘Em Down

lostprophets are also potentially providing the soundtrack to your summer… provided it’s summer 2004 you’re talking about. Kudos to the Welsh metallers for still being alive and kicking, but they’re still churning out the same crunching riffs and pleading vocals that were their stock in trade when they arrived on the scene a decade or so ago. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of ‘woah’ing and a fairly vague call-to-arms in Bring 'Em Down, but they really have been re-treading the same ground over and over again for far too long now. Chances are they have an incredibly dedicated fanbase who are more than happy to be fed music like this every couple of years but it’s an extremely dated sound. They’ve clearly got pop nous, but it’s all irrelevant really. 3/10

Plan B – iLL Manors

In the aftermath of the London riots last year, I wrote an article bemoaning the lack of articulate protest music arising from the events. I may well have spoken too soon. iLL Manors is Plan B’s look into the social causes and effects of the unrest in Britain, set to a thrilling and oppressive soundtrack. It’s an extraordinarily brave move – he became a household name with his soul alter-ego, selling 1.5 million albums, yet he’s moved back towards his hip-hop roots and tackled a political hot potato to boot. From being spot-on about the voyeurism and demonisation surrounding the inner-city working classes (“Keep on believing what you read in the papers, council house kids – scum of the earth”) to pinpointing some of the root causes of the tension (“Don’t bloody give me that, I’ll lose my temper, who closed down the community centre?”), iLL Manors is the kind of track the country needs. It’s something people can get behind, rally around and call their own. I don’t think anybody necessarily needs a singer to tell them what to do or be a role model, but Plan B may well be speaking for a large group of people who feel their voices aren’t being heard. It’s a little reductive and simplistic in places, but it’s too complex a situation to pin down in under four minutes. With iLL Manors, Plan B may well have created one of the most thrilling and important singles in UK chart history. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Feist – The Bad In Each Other

I have a confession to make. I spent about ten minutes reviewing this track, writing about what a beautifully understated and regal piece of work it was and how Feist was one of the finest songwriters working in music today, until I realised I’d listened to the wrong song. Instead of The Bad In Each Other, I’d listened to Graveyard, the following song from last year’s Metals LP. So, ahem, onto the actual track. There’s a more bassy, bombastic feel to the production on The Bad In Each Other than you’d normally expect from Feist’s work. However, Feist can’t quite do bombast, and her fragile, expressive voice is more suited to the more delicate end of the spectrum. The Bad In Each Other is an enjoyable, affecting track, but it’s no Graveyard – I recommend you go and listen to that instead. 7/10

All The Young – The Horizon

All The Young have clearly set their arena-rock phasers to stun for The Horizon. It’s the kind of song bands make when they’ve released five albums, been on a seemingly never-ending world tour and are so detached from everyday life that they think this kind of nothingness is aurally appealing. There’s a strong feel of latter-day U2 to The Horizon (including vague-yet-sort-of-profound-sounding title). Also, despite being from Stoke-on-Trent, they constantly sound like they’re trying to ape the huge sound of American stadium-rock and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they recorded a music video on Route 66 some day soon. Insipid, pointless music which incorporates every negative element and hackneyed cliché of rock music in the last two decades. 1/10

volcano! – Piñata

There’s one thing you can’t accuse volcano! of being, and that’s dull. Piñata has discordant keyboard stabs, disorienting effects and drums that occasionally sound like someone being thrown down the stairs. Despite this, at some point, a pop song somehow manages to get out and, set aside from all the self-conscious quirkiness, a mighty fine one it is too. It’d be interesting to attempt to dance to Piñata, principally because its spasmodic, jerky beats would probably make you look like you were having a seizure. An exciting, inventive track that could have come out like an utterly horrendous mess but somehow seems to hang together wonderfully despite itself. volcano! certainly aren’t short of ideas or inspiration; a curio to invest in and treasure. 7/10

Jessie Ware – Running

Jessie Ware has one of those voices that’s extremely familiar-sounding, yet you can’t quite place it. Its closest musical cousin is probably a more restrained soul voice of the mid-90s; it’s as if one of En Vogue has gone solo. However, Running is a million miles from Whatta Man, as it’s dark, addictive and atmospheric dance. It builds fantastically throughout and is as sleek and stylish as modern pop music gets. Running has some similarities to the more sedate moments of the Katy B album, but Jessie Ware has an identity all of her own. This is music it’s difficult to pin down or claim as part of any scene, so hopefully it doesn’t fall between the cracks. Running proves that dance music can have a heart and have soul; Jessie Ware is going places. 9/10

Chris Brown – Turn Up The Music

If I were to reveal the full extent of my feelings about Chris Brown and Rihanna working together again, we’d be here all day and I’d end up with a world record reading for high blood pressure, so that’s probably best avoided. Turn Up The Music is the worst kind of say-nothing, do-nothing song, made by idiots, for idiots. Thumping dance beats, lyrics that have been recycled from countless other tracks and a general, pervading feel of the moronic. It’s been a decent Singles Bar this week, but this is life-sapping dross of the highest order. Why won’t Chris Brown just please, please go away? Look, if we all put some money together, we can achieve this. Someone set up a fund-raising site, I’ll help, I’ll run ten miles in a deep-sea diving suit if it gets sponsors. Just anything to make this violent, cowardly misogynist stop releasing records, please. 0/10

The Belbury Tales

Belbury Poly - The Belbury Tales
released 24 February 2012 on Ghost Box

In the days and weeks following his death, there were a substantial number of column inches and hours of television devoted to the work of animator and writer Oliver Postgate. Talking heads and cultural commentators were summoned, and those of a certain age were quick to acknowledge their gratitude to Postgate for shaping parts of their childhood with his creations. Even for someone not of the appropriate vintage to have grown up with Bagpuss, Noggin the Nog, The Clangers and more besides, just small snatches of film are sufficient to grasp the Postgate aesthetic. Here was a man who wished to create his own universe and invite you, the viewer, to share in all the wonder it had to offer. There was a charming, slightly amateurish – yet utterly distinctive – feel to the animation, warmth and a sense of mischief through the narratives, and a real sense of care in the development of the characters. As is often the case with such things, it’s only when given a moment to reflect that the true scale of what has been lost can be appreciated.

This sense of otherness and the creation of something bizarre yet simultaneously entrenched in a view that’s particularly British is something shared by the not-lost-but-very-much-back Belbury Poly. Jim Jupp, the man behind the fictional education establishment, is also co-founder of Ghost Box Records; an organisation with a very clear directive who have admitted in the past that their original idea was to build “not just a record label but an imaginary world”.

Over sixteen LPs and seven 7” singles since 2005, they’ve done just that. Ghost Box release music that has an English pastoral feel, yet is firmly rooted in analogue electronic experimentation of a BBC Radiophonic Workshop persuasion. Their output simultaneously recalls 1970s public information films, B-movie horror, psychedelia and the jingles of long-forgotten regional television idents. Their only real modern-day counterparts are Stereolab, Broadcast (who released a single with Ghost Box’s Focus Group in 2010) and the early work of Saint Etienne.

In adhering to the goals of the label he helped establish, Jim Jupp’s Belbury Poly are the quintessential Ghost Box act. They're named after an institution from a C.S. Lewis work and The Belbury Tales is their fourth full-length album. It doesn’t take too many musical diversions from their previous work, but there remains tangible evidence of progression, and a willingness to draw from other styles. However, this being Belbury Poly, those styles are put through the group’s own filters and come out the other side sounding as if they were always created to be interpreted in such a way.

The Belbury Tales is front-loaded, and the squelchy melody and nightmarish guitars of Cantalus provide a great opener (after the obligatory Belbury Poly “logotone” track) to the album. Next song, Green Grass Grows, has an airy bassline that flits and bounces like a glide hockey puck, which is then teamed with an eerie childlike vocal that sounds as if it could be coming from a small girl warning you of the dangers of driving too quickly on rural roads near schools. The vintage ambience continues throughout the album and you get the feeling of a parallel universe where digital never existed and you could hear the synthesiser valves open and close if only you were to listen close enough.

But, as mentioned, the longer The Belbury Tales goes on, the more the group begin to flex their stylistic muscles. The Geography has Eastern-sounding vocals and what appears to be a gamelan fairly prominent in the mix; Unheimlich is a slow, ponderous waltz replete with crackling, fizzing harpsichord melody that sounds similar to a madrigal; Goat Foot mixes whirls of organ and cheap-sounding keyboard into a jam-band freak-out. You’re not going to get this kind of thing from your average Foo Fighters record.

The only real criticism is that, while each track is underpinned by a hook, the importance of which can’t be underestimated in pieces often without vocals, there’s nothing of absolutely stunning quality, nothing to make you play it again the second it’s finished. The Belbury Tales is a solid record and a fantastic listen but, if you’ve heard previous Belbury Poly work, this album isn’t going to make you jump up and down and pester your as-yet-uncoverted friends of the band’s genius.

However, it’s still likely to charm old and new fans alike. If you’re currently unfamiliar with the work of Belbury Poly (and indeed, the roster of Ghost Box Records), you’re in for a treat. If you already like Belbury Poly then, good news: they’ve released an album that sits comfortably within their already stellar back catalogue.

The Singles Bar: 19/03/12

Introductions? I haven’t got all day, you know. Let’s get straight on with the best this week’s new single releases have to offer.

Coldplay – Charlie Brown

Have to say, it remains a surprise that Coldplay haven’t yet released Princess of China – their Rihanna collaboration – as a single. Surely that’s sales gold? Anyway, after previous singles Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall and Paradise suggested a (very small) departure from their usual sound, we’re back on familiar ground with Charlie Brown. This is one of their mid-tempo, epic tracks that will probably be accompanied with lots of kaleidoscopic lights during live performances. The riff that repeats throughout is exceptionally simple, yet also incredibly liable to get stuck in your head. There’s no denying that Coldplay do this sort of thing better than anyone else. They’re a highly efficient, professional group, but that’s not exactly what gets your pulse racing. 6/10

Blood Red Shoes – Cold

Cold starts with drums… lots and lots of drums, and then the vocals hit. There’s a charming, ramshackle feel to this track. It’s as if someone’s given The Kills a few too many energy drinks and forced them to make their scuzziest ever song. The male vocals unfortunately are full of awkward post-Britpop enunciations, and halfway through, Blood Red Shoes allow the song to lose momentum, at which point the interest starts to wane. This is the trouble with such an audacious beginning; it’s difficult to maintain that level of intensity and Cold doesn’t manage it. Towards the end we’re almost on over-wrought, emo territory. A shame, because there’s some great moments in this song, but it fails to deliver on its initial promise. 5/10

Ajimal – Footnote To Love (Part One)

Footnote To Love (Part One) is the first single to be released on Pop Sex Ltd. – the label run by Frankie & The Heartstrings – which isn’t by F&TH themselves. That said, guitarist Mick Ross is one half of Ajimal. This track is built upon an acoustic tremolo guitar line, very reminiscent of Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition (or Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious, depending on your preference) which wouldn’t be much to write home about in itself, but there are beautiful dream-pop embellishments over the top which really set this off a treat. The vocals are a little too strained, and the track doesn’t particular have hooks or a chorus to get your teeth into, but as a standalone piece, it’s a really gorgeous work. This would soundtrack a bittersweet tale of teenage love in a film perfectly, but it’d be just at home on your stereo. 7/10

Angel feat. Wretch 32 – Go In, Go Hard

Go In, Go Hard, as well as having a terrible title, is a slightly odd mixture of Guetta-esque house-pop, early 21st Century hip-hop and boyband vocals. There’s a really annoying, “ay!” on every second beat which takes attention away from what’s going on elsewhere. In fact, once you’ve noticed it, you can barely escape it. This could be Taio Cruz, Flo Rida, Iyaz or any number of identikit pop rappers. There’s really not much else to say about it: Angel and Wretch 32 go in, they go hard and, um, they’re fairly pleased with that approach. After an eye-catching debut single with Traktor, it sadly looks like Wretch 32 has lost the individuality that looked like it may set him apart. 2/10

Labrinth – Last Time

He’s was already relatively well-known for his association with Tinie Tempah, but his debut solo single, Earthquake, was so huge it properly escalated Labrinth to part of the chart furniture. Oddly, while Earthquake was prepared to take risks production-wise, with skill and dexterity beyond your usual chart fodder, Last Time doesn’t quite give the same giddy thrill rush. The busy strings in the chorus are a nice touch but it seems Earthquake may have been the exception rather than the rule. It’s incredibly slick and genetically engineered to garner huge sales figures, but would you expect anything less from the only recent signing to Simon Cowell’s record label who wasn’t a TV talent show production? 5/10

Summer Camp – Losing My Mind

I found it hard to warm to Summer Camp’s album, Welcome To Condale. I’m as much of a fan of nostalgia as the next person, but the sheen and 80s homage was so blatant, it felt like a complete re-treading of old ground, with the band forgetting to put their own spin on things. Losing My Mind is all lo-fi fuzz, wandering bass and tinny drums. The boy/girl vocals are a nice touch, especially when they trade alternate lines but the voices and the production don’t quite match. There’s a decent song buried in here, but there’s no middle to the sound range and the influences being cherry-picked and appropriated seem a little too considered and studied. In short, Losing My Mind suffers from the same issues that plague Summer Camp as a project, so if you’re able to see past them, you’ll probably find plenty of enjoyment in this. 6/10

Katy Perry – Part Of Me

I may be a cynic, but it seemed to me a little too convenient that as soon as there were tabloid reports of her marriage being in trouble, Cheryl Cole launched her solo career with a track entitled Fight For This Love. In a similar ‘twist’, Katy Perry’s first single post-separation is a thinly-veiled tale of defiance and finding strength following a bad situation. Sample lyric: “this is the part of that you’re never gonna ever take away from me”. There are also references to “sparkling” and not “taking my soul”; basically a load of chick-lit empty platitudes seemingly written by the kind of focus group who think women are one-dimensional creatures who worship chocolate. Musically, it sounds like a hastily-made Katy Perry track, i.e., all of the sledgehammer drums and attention-grabbing, Pro-Tooled noise but without the hooks that make Firework and California Gurls memorable. 2/10

JLS – Proud

Proud is the official single for Sport Relief 2012 so, seeing as it’s for charidee, I should probably be nice about it. It sees them try to recreate the formula of earlier singles Eyes Wide Shut and She Makes Me Wanna and, while it’s not as good as either of those, it’s got a bit more pep to it than their more recent ballad-heavy efforts. It’s a little soulless but sounds like it would provide a good bed for footage of people being generally athletic and energetic, which is probably what it was designed to do. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics are about not giving up, believing in yourself and, yes, making people proud. It’s not the worst charity single by a long shot and, having seen the title before hearing the song, I’m absolutely delighted to report it is in no way a cover of the Heather Small track of the same name. Lucky escape there, I’m sure you’ll agree. 4/10

Modestep – Show Me A Sign

As I’m not entirely au fait with all this young person’s electronic music, I often get confused between Modestep and Modeselektor (mind you, I also get confused between The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays, so what do I know?). Anyway, Modestep are a dubstep duo (I think… yep, that’s right) who seem to specialise in the atmospheric, radio-friendly tracks that Chase & Status and Nero appear to be able to make in their sleep. In fact, this is so similar to Chase & Status that if you were told it was them, you’d probably believe it. There are the obligatory dubstep wobbles, squeals, sirens and huge drums – sounds that were thrilling and exciting not long ago but have already fallen into the pit of cliché. It also shows all the lightness of touch and subtlety of a Skrillex track and – advance warning: this is going to make me sound a lot older than I actually am – it’s just a load of horrid old noise, really. 1/10

Rihanna feat. Jay-Z – Talk That Talk

Unbelievably, this Rihanna track actually sounds restrained and almost quiet after the Modestep endurance test. Yes, you’ve probably heard this song by now but the thing is, Rihanna is getting so good at putting out instant classic singles, you start to take it for granted. This hits all the spots her rivals can’t – it all seems so effortless and laid-back, but it’s just got so much to keep you coming back for more. Ok, lyrically, it’s the usual, tired Rihanna come-ons, but it, yet again, cements her place as the undisputed leader of modern-day pop. Synths fizz and aren’t too heavy-handed and although it doesn’t ever reach top gear, it got just the right amount of pace and bounce to stick in your head all day long. 8/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

The Singles Bar: 12/03/12

News reaches us here that, in the UK, Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye has become the first track to shift 500,000 copies in the year of 2012. If that doesn’t hasten the need for new, fresh, exciting music to descend on the singles charts, I don’t know what does. Luckily, there are a smorgasbord of tracks ready for you below, so pull up a chair and tuck in.

M.I.A. – Bad Girls

It’s difficult for M.I.A. She’s on the verge of mainstream success but to achieve it, she risks losing what made her distinctive in the first place. In fact, I’m about to stake claim to the headline, “How do you solve a problem like M.I.A.?” so you need to talk to me first if you want to write that article. You get the feeling there will be mis-steps along the way but on Bad Girls, M.I.A. judges things perfectly. She manages to combine catchy rhymes with a commercial sensibility, hip-hop beats and the kind of Middle Eastern hook that 99% of pop stars wouldn’t go near. It’s done with aplomb, and while it lacks the punch of some of her earlier work, it could well be the catalyst to full crossover commercial success. 8/10

Alexandra  Burke – Elephant feat. Erick Morillo

As far as I can tell, Alexandra Burke won X Factor due to her ballad-friendly voice but, cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah aside, she’s concentrated primarily on club-friendly R&B instead since that victory. That powerful voice which caused so many to pick up the phone back in 2008 has been stripped of all semblance of character and auto-tuned to death on Elephant, with the consequence that this track could be by pretty much anyone. It’s yet more chart-friendly faceless Ibiza-influenced pop and, even for that most unlovable of genres, this is a poor and forgettable effort. Also, while this elephant in question may be the “elephant in the room” of a failing relationship, we’ve certainly learned that ‘elephant’ is not a word that goes particularly well with huge dance anthems. 1/10

Katzenjammer – I Will Dance (When I Walk Away)

As well as being the surname of Tamsin Greig’s brilliant Fran in Black Books, ‘katzenjammer’ is also German for ‘hangover’. See, you like this band already, don’t you? IWD(WIWA) is a chirpy piece of indiepop full of glockenspiel and melodica, that also has a slightly traditional Irish folk dance feel to it. There are some great singalong vocals though, and a sense that you’ve stumbled across an exquisitely hewn pop gem that’s going to get stuck in your head for a good few days. It’s also absolutely perfect for radio, which makes you wonder why it’s not completely unavoidable and why Katzenjammer aren’t the must-see band of the festival season. Listen to IWD(WIWA) and you’ll smile, you’ll dance, you’ll play it again as soon as it’s finished, and you’ll really feel that summer is just around the corner. 9/10

Michael Kiwanuka – I’m Getting Ready

The retro-soul sound of singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka has already won him the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll, as well as plenty of plaudits elsewhere. He almost seems like a man from another era, and in an age of bountiful musical excitement, it seems a little sad that a hotly-tipped artist has to look backwards in time so obviously for inspiration. That said, Kiwanuka’s velvety croon is simply gorgeous, and the backing vocals in I’m Getting Ready complement his tones perfectly. It’s an immersive track, with the feel and structure of an old gospel song. It’s so easy and free, that’s it’s a lovely experience just to let the soothing sounds wash over you. Of course, it would be nice if the sound of today didn’t sound so indebted to the past but when a song’s this good, it’s hard to care too much. 8/10

Jay-Z & Kanye West – Niggas In Paris

It seems odd that a collaboration between arguably the two biggest stars in rap hasn’t set the world alight. Sure, there’s been plenty of attention on Watch The Throne, but nothing like you’d expect from the combined pulling power of Jay and Kanye. On Niggas In Paris, the two seem so wrapped up in their own rhymes and style, they’ve neglected to give too much attention to what’s going on outside of the vocals. This is ill-advised because, while no-one can deny they’re mega-stars, Jay-Z and Kanye West aren’t huge purely for their technical ability. In fact, on this tired effort, Kanye’s annoying drawling is turned up to eleven and there’s not much to latch onto. Really, it’s just the sound of a pair of gazillionaires boasting about how great they are – why wouldn’t you like it? 5/10

Rufus Wainwright – Out Of The Game

The lesser-talented Wainwright sibling (opinion: reviewer’s own) returns with a typically understated effort… or not. Of course, Wainwright’s voice is like incredibly rich food; wonderful to begin with but utterly insufferable if you’ve had too much. ‘Too much’ in this case relates to around 90 seconds or so, and the female backing vocals are just as overpowering. In fairness, Rufus has turned down the melodrama on this Out Of The Game – there’s not a symphony orchestra in sight – and it’s a fairly straightforward, guitar-led track. Yes, there’s the odd flourish and an attempt at a big climax (this is Rufus Wainwright after all) but this could be an appropriate entry point for any Rufus non-believers. Overall, it’s not too much to get excited about, whether you’re a fan or not. 4/10

Tango In The Attic – Paw Prints

The new single by Scots Tango In The Attic starts with a statement of intent: huge drums and intense riffing (which sounds awesome on headphones, by the way) that just seem to build and build. By the time the first section is over, we’ve got swirly, shoegazey guitars and unusual time signatures for company too. It’s a full two minutes before the bass comes in though, and Paw Prints is really missing it until its arrival. Blasts of visceral noise and an intricate structure elevate this above the average and push it in the direction of math-rock, but it can come across as an attempt to mask a lack of quality in the songwriting itself. That said, Paw Prints is certainly worth a listen and will blow the cobwebs away any day of the week. 6/10

Paul Weller – That Dangerous Age

Despite having spent the last decade or more releasing poor facsimiles of former glories, Paul Weller continues to be feted by an ever-fawning music press. Perhaps he’s especially nice to journalists, I don’t know. Anyway, Weller usually seems to be oblivious to the passage of time (and not just in his attitudes to haircuts) but on That Dangerous Age, he addresses his advancing years directly. Much of his latter-day work has been stodgy and bereft of inspiration, but here, there are handclaps, cowbells and a fuzzy bassline you could have a stab at busting a groove to. A welcome change in musical outlook from the man we’re contractually obliged to refer to as The Modfather, yet still anything but a classic. That said, not bad for a man on the verge of releasing his eleventh solo studio record. 6/10

Saint Etienne – Tonight

It’s unlikely I’ll ever be a member of royalty but if the unthinkable does happen, one of my first acts will be to award the members of Saint Etienne a collective knighthood. For over twenty years they’ve provided the world with dance music with substance, marvellously bonkers cut and paste albums and a general sense of musical joie de vivre. Tonight harks back to the classic three-minute instant pop of their 90s singles and is impossible to not get caught up in. Gloriously, it’s actually about going to a gig, getting caught up in the anticipation and then the “surrender to the sound” that comes with the best music. A little meta, perhaps, but a hook-filled wonder that never outstays its welcome and leaves you wanting more. Exceptional. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Future Of The Left – Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman

We don’t have ‘Song Title of the Week’ here at The Singles Bar but if we did, this would win by some distance. Either way, it’s nice that Sheena is making a living and her days of punk rockerdom didn’t leave her entirely employable. SIATS is a breakneck thrash ride that races along without leaving room for you to breathe. There’s a hint of a band who are far too pleased with themselves though, and really, attention-grabbing titles aside, this is in no way enjoyable to listen to. Living under a (mainly) Conservative government, I can’t help but hope the future of the left is a whole lot brighter than this. 2/10