Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Singles Bar: 16/07/12

The Singles Bar took a break last week due to the marvellous and comprehensive No Ripcord Top 100 Albums of 2000-2009. However, we’re back and to celebrate, we’re reviewing twelve singles this week instead of the usual ten. Any link you wish to draw between the increased word count and the terrible recent British weather is, of course, entirely coincidental and without credence. So, what’s been making its way into our ears on this grey and windswept day?

King Charles feat. Mumford & Sons – The Brightest Lights

The tagline to Jaws 2 was, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”, and the same might apply here. Perhaps you’d forgotten about Mumford & Sons and their David Cameron-friendly brand of tepid folk-pop, but no, they’re back, and for some reason, they’ve brought a 17th Century monarch with them. For somebody who died in 1649, Charlie’s in remarkably good voice but if you were expecting a departure from the Mumfords’ usual schlock and hokum, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s country-tinged Americana packed with more banjo and fiddle-eye-di-dah than doctors recommend tolerating in one sitting. Also, bizarrely, it sounds like Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver, but with bagpipes. Perhaps I’m missing something in the fetishisation of all this ye olde hoedown stuff, but The Brightest Lights isn’t going to make me change my opinion. 1/10

Daniel Powter – Cupid

As we all know, the correct response when faced with a Daniel Powter record is, “KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!” but I guess he should be given a fair crack of the whip. After all, Cupid can’t be quite as awful as Bad Day, can it…? Well, it’s not as bad, no, but only in the same way that a week as Courtney Love’s housekeeper isn’t as bad as two weeks as Courtney Love’s housekeeper. Cupid is a jaunty, syrupy ode to Powter’s significant other that contains all the emotional depth and hard-hitting impact as the memoirs of Kim Kardashian. It makes Jack Johnson sound like Lou Reed; it’s trite, irritating, facile and condescending, and I hate it. Killing it with fire might not be such a bad idea after all. 0/10

Post War Years – Glass House

Now here’s an interesting one. I was planning on leading with a weak joke (for a change) about not throwing stones while listening to this song, but instead I was entirely captivated by Post War Years doing their best Human League impression. Analog synths buzz and burble, and even the vocals sound as if they’ve been touched by the hand of Phil Oakey. Get a couple of female backing vocalists in and we’re all set to make Dare! Part 2. A great track, though it’s difficult to give Post War Years too much kudos when they’re adding so little that’s original to their work. We’ve got 80s nostalgia tours for this sort of thing and, if you go and see them, you get to hear ABC too and you might even bump into Steve Strange. So, Glass House is certainly enjoyable but it’s difficult to see the reasoning behind it. 7/10

Little Boots – Headphones

Headphones may be a relatively lightweight piece of electro-pop with a “la-la-la” refrain, but that doesn’t stop it being addictive and full of giddy joy. Like most music about the brilliance of music and dancing, it’s infectious, fun and – like the best dancing – entirely free of any notions of cool or self-consciousness. And as for that “la-la-la” bit, it’s an exceptionally catchy hook that will stay with you long after the track finishes. Little Boots sings, “I wear my headphones at the disco / And nobody ever has to know”, which seems like quite an odd thing to do in such an environment, but if it helps her make ridiculously good, disco-inspired pop tunes like this, then it’s clearly very much a ‘good thing’. 9/10 – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Misha B – Home Run

Misha B obviously comes from a musical family, being as she is the sibling of Plan, Mel and Katy (props to my friend Matt for that joke). Apparently, Misha B was fourth in the last series of X Factor, which was news to me, finishing higher than such musical luminaries as Nu Vibe (no, me neither), Craig Colton (*shrugs*) and The Risk (*"WTF?" face*). Anyway, for the product of a televised talent show, Home Run is really not a bad effort at all. It’s frantic and jerky, has a real dancehall influence and, crucially, doesn’t succumb to any vocal gymnastics or melisma. Misha B may have got the balance between hip-hop edge and mainstream pop just right on Home Run and, given some decent airplay, this has the potential to do really quite well. Still not a scooby who she is though. 7/10

Hot Chelle Rae feat. New Boyz – I Like It Like That

Despite sounding like it might be the name of the younger sister of Blu Cantrell, Hot Chelle Rae are in fact a four-piece pop-rock band. There’s a touch of Gym Class Heroes to I Like It Like That, and the whiff of Foster The People isn’t too far away either. It’s an entirely lightweight, substance-free piece of party-fixated fluff about, y’know, pretty girls and that. I haven’t seen the video but I can imagine it features slo-mo shots of girls in bikinis stopping at traffic lights in a topless car. If you had a teenage child and heard them listening to this in their room, you’d be entirely within your rights to throw their laptop into the street and subject them to some Clockwork Orange style mind-altering techniques. You may find this morally dubious but it’s fine, I said you can do it. 0/10

Bat For Lashes – Laura

When she’s not dressing as a horse, throwing make-up at her face, prancing around reciting Edgar Allan Poe or holding up an enormous placard that says, “Look at me – aren’t I kooky?!”, in four different fonts, Bat For Lashes occasionally finds time to make pop records. Laura starts off as a pensive piano ballad which is pleasant enough but, of course, comes replete with Khan’s entirely unnecessary vocal histrionics. But then it turns into… well, actually, it doesn’t turn into anything at all. It’s just an uninteresting dirge of a track that seems to be all first verse and nothing else. It’s the kind of track that, during a gig, would signal that it’s time to nip out and have a cigarette or get another drink and yet, strangely, it’s been chosen as a single. Dispiriting stuff. 2/10

Cypress Hill X Rusko – Lez Go

Now here’s a combination to conjure with. Lez Go is the opening track to the Cypress X Rusko EP 01, which opens up the possibility of further collaborations to come in the future. Typically, it’s an all-out aural assault from Rusko that’s straight in at the deep end, with deep bass growls and synth arpeggios flying in from all directions. It’s a thrilling collision of styles, between the Cypress Hill flow we all know and the ultra-modern, in-your-face dubstep of Rusko and, for the most part, it works. Minor gripes are that it finishes just when it feels it’s getting going and that, if anything, Cypress Hill are actually underused. However, it’ll certainly get your toe tapping if nothing else, and it shows Cypress Hill are, thankfully, still willing to take risks. 6/10

Matthew P – Long Way Home

Matthew P is best known in the UK for writing the Girl On The Platform song from the adverts and… no, wait, come back! If you were to judge Matthew P on the basis of that one track then you’d be missing out. Acoustic singer-songwriters tend to get a rough deal in The Singles Bar, but Matthew P has got something that sets him apart from the usual band of solipsistic troubadours. First and foremost, he’s got a great way with a melody, and Long Way Home has been really well put together; think Turin Brakes rather than Ben Howard. If Newton Faulkner can get to the top of the UK album charts, then Matthew P deserves to go platinum. Sure, it’s not going to change the world, but it’s a well-crafted pop song that certainly deserves a wider audience. 7/10

Bloc Party – Octopus

After the soap opera surrounding Kele Okereke’s place in the band, Bloc Party are back. Musically, Octopus shows the progression towards a more dance-oriented sound that was hinted at on their last record and, more obviously, Kele’s solo record. As with a lot of Bloc Party tracks, the drums are the real star of the show, and they propel Octopus along and save it from being something entirely unremarkable. It has its moments, but Octopus bears the hallmarks of a band who have been making themselves busy with extra-curricular activities and have returned to the studio a little rusty. Two-thirds through, there’s a very un-Bloc Party guitar solo which, if anything, is actually more reminiscent of Daft Punk. There’s the potential here to suggest Bloc Party could return to – or even surpass – former glories, but Octopus doesn’t quite hit all the right notes. 6/10

Elton John vs. Pnau – Sad

Sir Reginald of Dwight has never been averse to employing the tutelage of hip young bucks so he can desperately cling onto relevance and – ill-advised 2Pac collaboration aside – he’s usually pretty astute when it comes to this sort of thing. Pnau are an Australian dance duo, one of whom is the guy from Empire Of The Sun who isn’t in The Sleepy Jackson (do keep up at the back) and on Sad, they’re pitched somewhere between 70s AOR, disco and blissed-out euphoric dance. The overall effect is something rather wonderful, as the uplifting horns and swirling synths cut through the melancholy of the lyrics, taking it to another plane altogether. There’s a whole album of this Elton John vs. Pnau stuff knocking around and, on the evidence of Sad, it sounds like it could be well worth further investigation. 9/10

Kasabian – Switchblade Smiles

Oh good, finally some real music for real music loving lads. It’s great that Kasabian have named their new single Switchblade Smiles, because it’s all about knifing, yeah, and it shows they’re double plus well-hard legends. This track is perfect to listen to when you’re spending too long artfully styling your facial hair and wearing a tracksuit top. You may want to complete the look by employing a simian-like strut as you walk through the town centre, glowering at anyone who threatens to usurp your alpha-male superiority and, most importantly of all, a cheeky wink at any ‘birds’ who happen to be in the vicinity. This isn’t the worst Kasabian track of all time, but that’s like saying there have been worse wars – everyone still loses. Desperately cobbled-together from a recycling bin of half-finished riffs and vaguely threatening couplets, Switchblade Smiles constitutes a real stumbling block for anyone trying to explain the theory of evolution to a creationist, as it seems to provide tangible counter-evidence. If you enjoy this song, and the music of Kasabian in general, why not get, “I’m an easily led puppet and a product of the Tim Lovejoy generation”, tattooed on your forehead post-haste? It helps the rest of us distinguish you from people we might want to actually talk to. 0/10

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