Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Singles Bar: 06/08/12

As if the feats of the Olympians weren’t making you feel inadequate enough already, a cursory browse through Wikipedia revealed that your humble author was born on the exact same day as one Usain St. Leo Bolt. Not only that, he lives in Kingston and I live in (well, quite near) Kingston (upon Thames) too! But of course, there is one crucial difference – Usain Bolt can’t write singles reviews for toffee. Onwards!

Slow Club – Beginners

And so we start with the sublime Slow Club and their new single, Beginners. While a decent enough track in isolation, the most notable thing about this song is the video, which stars big Slow Club fan and boy-wizard, Daniel Radcliffe. Anyone who thinks Slow Club are still a cutesy twee duo would be well advised to listen to Beginners with its bassy tom-toms and urgent vocals. OK, the guitar riff seems to be echoed by a recorder but it’s a well-crafted, mature song where Rebecca’s yearning vocals contrast against Charles’ lower tones. As far as tracks from parent album Paradise go, Beginners doesn’t exactly scream ‘single’, and it’s perhaps a bizarre choice to glean more sales from an album that’s now almost a year old. Still, it’s Slow Club, and as we all know, Slow Club are brilliant. 8/10

P!nk – Blow Me (One Last Kiss)

For over a dozen years now, P!nk has infected our lives with her comfortable, pre-packaged brand of faux-rebellion for solipsistic, first-world-problem teens. Blow Me (One Last Kiss) (see what she did with that title there, the rogue) picks up exactly where her career left off, with a load of moaning, lyrics about how everything is someone else’s fault and about as much pathos and insight as a tea cosy. There are some decent melodies in here, but they’re overshadowed by P!nk’s bellowing and horribly compressed production. It’s yet another song for P!nk to swear (gasp!) and whinge (yikes!) her way through and if you think this song “speaks” to you or “gets” your situation on any level, I suggest you take a long hard look at yourself. 3/10

Alex Clare – Humming Bird

After the success of his it’s-everywhere-but-still-no-one-really-knows-who-he-is-or-where-the-song-came-from smash, Too Close, Humming Bird has flown in (b’dum-tish, etc.) slightly under the radar. The cantering drum beat that gives the track its rhythm is scarily reminiscent of Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine and while the vocals really take off (and again) in the chorus, the music doesn’t really mirror that ascent (wahey!). Humming Bird was always going to struggle to match the intensity of Too Close, but it’s still a disappointment, and the disparity between production and voice really doesn’t do Alex Clare any favours. 4/10

Spiritualized – Little Girl

Spiritualized are now in that odd position of their albums being a big event for around a week after their release, before disappearing off the radar altogether. It’s almost as if everyone sticks around to see if they’ll make another Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and when it becomes clear they’re not going to, their attention goes elsewhere and, like someone running for the bus, missing it and pretending they never wanted it anyway, they tell themselves they knew it wouldn’t live up to expectations. They could be missing out though, because Little Girl has the kind of epic, uplifting feel that Rolling Stones tracks used to have when they were good. Jason Pierce’s voice sounds particularly flat, unfortunately, and Little Girl, rather than being something fantastic, sounds like the kind of half-decent track Richard Ashcroft or Ian Brown used to somehow produce about once a decade. So there you go. Little Girl: a bit like A Song For The Lovers or F.E.A.R.. 7/10

Redlight – Lost In Your Love

After announcing himself to the world earlier this year with the addictive Get Out My Head, Redlight has returned with a song that sounds like it’s been taken straight off the Energy Rush Safe Six compilation cassette I was bought for my birthday in 1993. There’s a resurgence of early 90s rave and house for sure, but this is as blatant a recreation as I think I’ve seen. Breakbeat drums and piano loops play behind repeated vocal phrases; the whole thing is likely to send segments of the population of a certain age off to a warehouse in the country for a night of illegal fun. Yes, it’s well put together, but when a track from 2012 permanently seems about five seconds away from morphing into U Sure Do by Strike, it’s not exactly going to inspire rhapsodising. 4/10

Dry The River – No Rest

Come on, popular music beat combos, sort it out. Are there really so few good band names left in the world that people are happy to saddle themselves with this kind of thing? Dry The River is the kind of name that conjures up anything but excitement and in addition, I always think they’re called Dry The Rain, which is a Beta Band song. On the evidence of No Rest, Dry The River are better than their name suggests (though it would be near impossible not to be) with the smooth croon of frontman Peter Liddle similar to Beirut’s Zach Condon. However, halfway through, No Rest takes an about-turn and really dials everything up to eleven with soaring strings, huge guitars and impassioned vocals leading to a huge climax. It’s the kind of thing a few groups tried to make a career out of in the middle of the last decade (Hope Of The States, Haven, Longview) and Dry The River make a decent fist of it too, turning No Rest into a genuinely affecting song. 7/10

Jay Sean feat. Tyga – Sex 101

Just the title of this song is enough to make you want to take a vow of celibacy, move to a Tibetan monastery and spend sixteen hours a day working a loom. If you’ve heard any pop music radio in the past five years, I’m sure you can imagine exactly what this song sounds like. It could be a Chris Brown track, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Pitbull turn up halfway through and it’s about as sexy as varnishing a windowsill. Why do myriad R&B artists fail to understand that sexiness is more about what’s implied than what’s revealed? There’s absolutely no mystery or intrigue in Sex 101 (like you wouldn’t have guessed from the title) and when Jay Sean purrs, “I really wanna test your body”, it sounds like a terrifying threat from a psychopath. If I were a woman and somebody tried to “impress” me with this song, I would laugh in their face and then call the police. 0/10

Niki & The Dove – Somebody

Look, can we just take it as read that all Niki & The Dove songs are amazing? Harking back to an age when the most successful groups wrote their own material and tried to make music as crowd-pleasing as possible, Niki & The Dove pluck solid gold choruses from the ether as if it were the simplest thing in the world. Synth riffs collide, cymbals crash, vocals are brash and the overriding sensation is one of pure joy. It’s said it’s harder to write a happy song than a sad song, and more difficult to write a simple song than one that’s complicated, and if that’s true then Niki & The Dove deserve some kind of medal. A huge sounding record that’s fun, that you can dance to, that you can sing along in the mirror to and that you can spend three minutes getting entirely lost in. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Dizzee Rascal feat. Pepper – Scream

Now while I like the Olympics as much as the next person (actually, probably more – I’ve gone entirely Olympics mad), the seemingly never-ending glut of Olympics-related singles is somewhat wearing. While clearly a talented and important artist, it can’t be overlooked that Dizzee’s been involved in an awful lot of collaborations and commercial tie-in tracks lately – a key sign of someone losing their inspiration and thinking more about the money than their music. Admittedly, the Olympics are on Dizzee’s doorstep (slight tangent: Dizzee’s Doorstep sounds like a great name for a kids’ TV show) but he’s about as far from Boy In Da Corner now as it’s possible to be; the boy who’s centre stage, if you will. Scream is full of well-worn hip-hop braggadocio, harp in abundance and a chorus from Dizzee’s latest protégée. I sincerely hope he’s not going the same way as so many rappers before him and putting business first, but the signs aren’t good. 4/10

Madonna – Turn Up The Radio

Seeing as it went soaring into the bargain bin faster than a British cyclist round the velodrome, you’d be forgiven for having completely forgotten Madonna had an album out recently. She’s still trying to flog the dead horse that is MDNA though, and Turn Up The Radio is the latest attempt. Whereas Give Me All Your Luvin’ had a bit of life to it (we gave it Single Of The Week – no, really!), Turn Up The Radio is the sound of someone who isn’t even trying. It seems inconceivable that Madonna’s career could be coming to an end (despite what Elton John says) and she’s probably planning her next move as we speak, but the failure of MDNA must have been a wake-up call. Turn Up The Radio is dance-by-numbers that Scissor Sisters would reject for being too obvious; you’d feel cheated if this turned up as a free bonus track. 3/10

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