Monday, January 29, 2007

Just Jack - Overtones (Universal)

Five years ago, a new artist was brought to our attention. Cutting through the PR guff, we found that there was actually quite an impressive talent beneath. This evidently wasn't the popular opinion - it sold diddly-squat, and we had about free eight copies that we couldn't even give away.

Here in 2007, Just Jack is rightly claiming his place in the spotlight, albeit oafishly lumped in with a selection box of fellow white rappers (admittedly a trap we fell into ourselves). So, with the dawn of second album Overtones, does he transcend the obvious pigeonholing?

Bypassing the gormlessness of Jamie T or the estate chic of The Streets, Just Jack doesn't allow himself to stray from the niche he carved himself on his 2002 debut, and rightly so. The working-class swagger of Mike Skinner became a 10-ton albatross once platinum status arrived. Intentional or not, Just Jack wisely avoids this by stepping out of the Heineken bubble he's found himself in (simply off the back of being a white rapper) and making use of the world that exists outside it. Metaphors, third-person narratives and overall fresh ideas replace tales of pill-poppin' an' doin' up me motor an' bein' daahn the dogs an' that.

Musically, there's not a great deal to better the singles already bestowed on us. The sharp social observations of Starz In Their Eyes state what we're all thinking with an urban eloquence, while the hummable escapism of Writer's Block successfully marries storybook melodies with a very real edge.

Not that the remainder of Overtones is by any means poor in quality. The 70's soul electro-gurgle of I Talk Too Much is a worthy contender for its Top 40-bothering siblings, certainly, and each track carries its own defined identity with ease. But you wouldn't serve up filet mignon for main if all you had to offer for dessert were Crunchie bars.

It's definitely no bad thing out of context; Crunchies, after all, are a kick-ass snack of chocolatey honeycomb goodness. And only rarely do the standards slip even a fraction - for example, Disco Friends' murky realisation shirks the winning formula long before it requires shirking. Still, it demands commendation for refusing to rest on such comfortable laurels, arguably a strong temptation.

So, with the previous album simultaneously tainting proceedings with its low sales and creating expectations with its high quality, with the lazy white rap label put under the microscope, and with absurd food similes utilised, it would seem we're putting unfair strain on Overtones. Lucky, then, that it's a hugely accomplished, hugely intelligent, hugely original piece of work. In Just Jack, there exists a meticulous musician that will shine no matter what stigma you attach. Burberry and all.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Single Reviews 29/01/07

We realise that The Sloppy Dog is a highly-respected global journalistic resource, and therefore is capable of conveying important political messages to the listening populace. Bearing this in mind, Shilpa to win. Shilpa to win, Shilpa to win, Shilpa to win. Additionally, Shilpa to win, dammit. Didn’t work when we did it for Aisleyne, but hey.

We’ve been singing the praises of Lady Sovereign for almost three years now, when she stole the show as part of the Fit But You Know It MC remix (Sad Arse Strippa only added to our love). At long last, she’s fittingly reached the big time, with Love Me Or Hate Me acting as three and a half minutes demonstrating all things positive about the Sov. Single of the Week, trust.

Containing as much self-pity as a My So-Called Life marathon weekend, Nick Lachey milks his divorce for a reckless attempt at fame outside of his conjugal profile. As wet and insipid as it’s viable to be when you secretly know it’s upping your status immeasurably, What’s Left Of Me is musically – and literally – a snot-soaked Kleenex primed for the bin.

It was too much to hope for that Two More Years was an indication of Bloc Party’s future direction – new single The Prayer confirms that it was merely a gimmick to shift the remix album. A dark, martial undercurrent sets a pleasantly sinister tone, but the all-too-literal prayer allusions and a chorus seemingly borrowed from a failed New Order tribute band swerves treacherously close to a slippery slope.

Incidentally, demonstrating everything we loved about the early days of Bloc Party (and then some), Oh MJ! is testament to the promise of The Little Ones. Aside from providing a winning opener on their recent tour, the disarmingly lovely hook and shiny happy lyrics make for a beefy contender for Single of the Week, were Lady Sovereign not such a tough adversary.

Lastly, while we could probably gather sufficient evidence to validate a hatred of Fall Out Boy, we actually don’t mind them too much. Certainly nowhere near the way we wish Panic! At The Disco die of vicious papercuts. Because, for all their trite emo posturing, Fall Out Boy at least don’t take themselves too seriously. At least we hope they don’t, as This Ain’t A Scene is a pleasing pisstake but a mess of a proper song.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Honking Box Review: Skins

Allow us to draw your attention to an understated, modest little show which E4 chose to quietly ease us into with a soft launch last night. It's called Skins - you probably won't have heard of it.

That's probably quite enough, as it feels like we're coming dangerously close to choking on our own surplus sarcasm. Either Channel 4's On Air team have lodged the tape in the playout system and can't get an engineer out for two weeks, or it's without a doubt one of the most over-hyped shows since Denis Norden first invented television back in 1787 at the tender age of 43.

It seems to punctuate every single ad break on Channel 4, E4, and presumably More 4, but we only watch that for the occasional Father Ted repeat. Each time we reluctantly whore ourselves by logging into MySpace, Skins is instantaneously cyber-raping us with its desperate propaganda. Every time a bus trundles past, the REALLY HIP AND TRENDY campaign for this REALLY HIP AND TRENDY show bursts out of the poster on the side, subtlely reminding us that Skins is REALLY! HIP! AND! TRENDY!! OMG!! ROFL!! LMAO!! FFS!!!!! Yes, quite literally, FFS.

Having already decided we hated Skins before we'd even seen it, the show would have to do something pretty damn special - or slip us some kind of state-altering narcotic - to win our approval. Alas, it sank even lower than the gutter-height expectations we'd set it. A launch episode so awful, so pathetic, so shambolic, it made the BBC's dire Robin Hood pilot look like the climax to Return of the Jedi.

Strange that a show covering the supposedly hedonistic supersocial lives of a bunch of 17-year-olds is aimed at an 18 plus audience. It's probably fair to say that the average Brit spent their 17th year on Earth completing inexhaustible UCAS forms, stacking tins of beans for a pittance, and smearing Aquafresh on their spots in lieu of Oxy 10 (which was way out of budget due to the pittance earned stacking tins of beans). Therefore, it's not exactly going to invoke feelings of nostalgia to see a bunch of ill-cast Sylvia Young daaahlings acting out a cliched smorgasbord of sex, parties, cars, alcohol, and overwhelming popularity. And any viewers young and naïve enough to identify Skins as some sort of aspirational blueprint will have been tucked up in bed an hour before it even starts.

Nicholas Hoult, previously known as the smug cuntchild from About A Boy, is the seemingly-proud owner of the most demonic features ever cruelly assigned to a human face. A stare so cold and Satanic, it makes Gillian McKeith's fizzog of spite look like a Sylvanian Families grandmother otter's sepia-tinted 8 x 10. Seriously, this chap's eyebrows alone carry enough demented evil to justify chucking holy water at the telly.

We actually enjoyed the horse-faced public schoolgirls, who were shrewdly observed and well executed, like a young Margot Leadbetter had Mrs Dooms-Patterson convinced her that ragga was the way forward. However, it would require far more than a brief chuckle induced by throwaway tertiary characters to prevent Skins from sinking speedily to the bottom of the televisual septic tank.

Hey kids! If you're REALLY REALLY KEWL and stuff, you can, like, totally watch the next episode of Skins on MySpace!! Cos, y'know, that's like TOTALLY better than anything that ever existed, ever. Or, alternatively, hire the horrendous Virtual Sexuality from your local soon-to-be-a-Nando's branch of Blockbuster - it's like the British Film Industry wiped its arse on a length of celluloid rather than bog roll. Watch it in bitesize installments (all the while stifling that gag reflex), and realise that you've just seen Skins, like, even before it's on MySpace! Totally!! OMG! LOL! E4!! SOS!!! SOFS, FFS!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Single Reviews: 22/01/07

In light of recent events in the media, we’ve decided to ban the screaming crowds, flashing lights, pyrotechnics, paparazzi, press conference and can-can dancers from this week’s Single Reviews. We felt it wouldn’t be appropriate in light of the comments made by ourselves relating to Davina McCall’s arse being ‘ample’. We totally take this back, it was said in anger, and we’re most certainly not arse-ist. Her arse is, in actual fact, fucking mahoosive. Wahey!

Princess Superstar, once brimming with vivacity, flair and the promise of world domination, makes a tail-between-legs comeback as part of a half-arsed house mash-up. Luckily, the anonymous lack of inspiration crafted by this so-called Mason character cannot smother her stardom entirely, and while Perfect far from lives up to its title, it’s actually rather tolerable. Like getting the giggles in a car accident.

Not only do the new chart rules make the Top 40 look like the Virgin Radio playlist, but they send our Single Reviews into complete disarray. Here we are tackling Grace Kelly by bifro’d buzz-whim Mika, a week after it entered the Top 3 and was focusing its beady eyes Number One-wards. Yet we can’t figure out what’s more annoying – the ridiculous new system or the song itself. The rest of the world hears a spage-age Freddie Mercury, we hear the Dustbuster ads circa 1993.

Another act riding on the crest of the New Year buzz wave are The Klaxons, albeit sat cosily in an inflatable dinghy rather than left clumsily doggy-paddling. Golden Skans is an active, high-gloss celebration of melody, cutting through the hype without effort. No doubt we’ll have grown to hate them within a month, but for now we’ll bestow them with our Single of the Week prize. In comparison, we’re finally seeing – three years on – why sceptics were so reluctant to get on board with Keane. We could only gush over Somewhere Only We Know for so long, and sadly A Bad Dream fails to pick up the baton. The elegant artistry is still very much on display, but there’s a desperate need for some inspiration here.

Finally, we’d hoped the hideous Laffy Taffy by D4L had been successfully flushed away without causing much damage. However, it’s somehow found its way back up the U-bend in the corn-flecked form of Chain Hang Low, a painful should-be hoax courtesy of Jibbs, who’s quickly established himself as the court jester of hip-hop. Novelty music has rarely sounded so odious.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Honking Box Review: Celebrity Big Brother

We give in. We were planning to avoid giving our ten rupees’ worth on Shilpagate, but in the midst of the escalating lunacy, we came to the realisation that the British public need to hear The Sloppy Dog’s thoughts far more than they need to hear the thoughts of those people wot is old and wot sit in that big house wot’s attached to Big Ben.

While each viewer, housemate, politician and church mouse has their own thoughts on the racism claims, our interest is more with the bullying tactics we’re seeing from the Coven of She-Kevs. Not that we’re in any way worried at this stage – the relevance is that the unpleasant matter has produced a clear frontrunner.

Our initial fascination in Shilpa Shetty began off the back of her intro VT, which portrayed her as the quintessential brattish diva. Of course, that’s in no way what the producers wanted us to think she’d be. No doubt, when they heard tales of her entourage and day-to-day requirements, they expected they were booking a South Asian J-Lo, not an intelligent, respectful woman who’d fight her corner with dignity rather than tantrums.

That interest has now turned into complete support. Much as we love Cleo, it’s hard to do anything but have total respect for Shilpa and her unrivalled levels of dignity. Anyone else made the subject of Danielle Lloyd’s ignorant gob would have turned round and kicked the vacuous tramp square in the flange. Not our Shilpa – she argues her point with decorum, sheds a brief tear, dusts herself off and readies herself for the next round. And with one single line (the already immortal “your claim to fame is THIS”), has utterly wiped the floor with upright sow and all-round scumfest Jade Goody. She’s truly this year’s Aisleyne, albeit perhaps slightly more demure.

We can’t help but snigger at the news that protestors in India have taken to burning effigies of the Big Brother producers. That snigger would have turned into unremitting belly laughter had the protestors dressed said effigies in the Endemol uniform of Ugg boots and indoor scarves. Let’s hope an angry mob in Mumbai with a keen attention to detail are reading.

Of course, we can rely on Davina McCall to be impartial, can’t we? After all, her entirely fair treatment of Makosi and Susie during their eviction interviews indicates that she’s happy to be even-handed. Almost as if it were part of her job! Sarcasm aside (for a very short space of time, we imagine), expect much Shilpa-baiting from a woman who has not only displayed she’s incapable of sitting on a fence crafted for her ample child-bearing arse, but a woman who shares the same agent as Jade.

In conclusion: don’t pick up your phone to complain to Ofcom about racism. We’ve seen – in the best possible way – that Shilpa can take care of herself. Instead, pick up the phone and keep her in by voting Jade out. The Sloppy Dog is proud to align itself with the aceness that is Shilpa Shetty. Anyone know the Hindi for “you better know yourself”?

EDIT: Apparently the Hindi for “you better know yourself” is Aapse Jaano. Many thanks to our lovely correspondent in Hoshiarpur Punjae for that...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Single Reviews 15/01/07

Stuff we’ve been thinking about this week: why Jackiey Budden doesn’t just lose the flappy useless arm altogether. Why the hell she spells it ‘Jackiey’. Whether ‘dimella’ should be added to the English Dictionary. Why we don’t have more of a life. Oh, and the Single Reviews...

Opening the events this week are hot! new! band! for! 2007! The View, with the clumsy, overly-literal folk-rock of Same Jeans. Ignoring the exasperating hype, it’s definitely not without charm, but it’s a bit too close to Kooks territory to actually appreciate.

To say we’ve never been fans of JoJo would be fairly accurate. To say we hate her with a blistering vengeance would be even closer to the truth. Like a walking, talking Bratz doll, JoJo is triggering paedophilia in thousands of innocent dirty old men globally, reason enough to string the filthy wee bastard up. Yet, as if we need more reason to loathe it, Too Little, Too Late demonstrates everything wrong with R&B – overproduced, gurgling vocals simpering over a tuneless, lifeless backdrop. Back in yer pushchair, bitch.

Right, who’s up for a hip-hop battle? Anyone? C’mon, who needs 8 Mile when you’ve got SE19? Gather round for an all-Caucasian rap extravaganza – in the white corner, we’ve got Jamie T with the puny Calm Down Dearest, while in the other white corner stands Just Jack, whose exceptional Starz In Their Eyes is set to become his benchmark tune, boasting an amalgamation of razor-sharp observations and quirky, captivating melodies. Literally, we’ve already forgotten what Jamie T’s track even sounds like...

And before we begin our final review, we’d like to confirm that we’re staunchly supporting Team Preston in the recent Buzzcocks battle. Aside from the fact we wish to stab ever-smug, humour-evading cuntrag Simon Amstell in the face, the Ordinary Boys effortlessly sail back up to their congenial pinnacle with the adorable I Luv U, an additional worthwhile cause to back the primary contender. A cast-iron Single of the Week – give him a slap from us, Pres’.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Single Reviews 08/01/07

Welcome to the first Single Reviews of 2007, which is looking to be a rather cordial evaluation, as we’ve already used up about six months’ worth of bile on the Celebrity Big Brother launch episode alone. That said, we can certainly muster a tiny bit more to comment on McCall’s get-up during the Goody invasion episode. Basing your look on Mamma Fratelli from The Goonies probably wasn’t your best decision, love. Uncalled-for cattiness out of the way, let the reviews begin...

It’s hard to believe we once loathed Amy Winehouse – anyone who claims they’d rather get cat AIDS than duet with Katie Melua is worthy of a British Comedy Award, if not an OBE. Following up the addictive Rehab with another crude work of art, You Know I’m No Good comprises equal helpings of extensive musical ability and eye-rolling attitude.

Jarvis Cocker recalls the greatness he once helmed during Pulp’s halcyon spell in the enchanting Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time – soothingly anthemic, instantaneously catchy and generally top-quality. And, as our Single of the Week, it’s technically also the greatest song of 2007. And while it’s unlikely that title will last longer than a week or two, it’s unquestionably set the bar pretty high.

For the record, we’re choosing to ignore Raoul by The Automatic – when a re-release is justified, we’re all for it. However, shameless cash-ins are another story. Tut-tut, etc etc. Elsewhere, cue much frothing at the chops, for The Cooper Temple Clause are back with new material. In spite of their Didzlessness, Waiting Game is a hook- stuffed hymn of testosterone, albeit clad in a tailored suit rather than crusted combats. This ‘growing up’ thing is becoming an epidemic.

We’ve begun to deliberate whether we’ve been too kind in reviewing Evanescence’s newer material. Given their initial USP was their originality, you wonder why they’ve opted to regurgitate the same pattern with added shade. You have to fight to find Lithium’s good points – they are there, if you’re willing to look beyond the doom, gloom and ten tonnes of Claire’s Accessories mascara.

The Cheetah Girls are a make-believe girl group from the latest Disney Channel musical. Considering our vitriolic thoughts on High School Musical and the presence of All You’ve Got ‘star’ Adrienne Bailon, you’d probably be surprised if we were to say The Party’s Just Begun is a winning pop song boasting originality, character and musicianship. However, you needn’t worry about your jaw heading floorwards, as we’re actually going to say it’s a smoking mound of horse shit.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Honking Box Review: Celebrity Big Brother / Desperate Housewives

Happy New Year, readers! Welcome to The Sloppy Dog's first post of 2007. We're still half-filled with novelty chocolate Santas, but there should still be sufficient acidic bile to apply to the worst examples of pop culture. And four days into the New Year, there's already been a barrage – we’re not even going to mention This Life +10 (except for the fact that it felt like it was being made up on the spot, didn't feature even a mention of Jo and Kira who far outshone the main characters, was the polar opposite of the series in being wholly unbelievable, and that the dialogue was on a par with USA High). Ah, it's good to be back.

Perhaps we shouldn't have allowed ourselves to get so worked up about Celebrity Big Brother. We already know NOTHING could ever top "Yeah… Brackie", but we had expected at least something to get excited about. Were we the only ones for whom that underwhelming feeling grew and grew with the arrival of each "celebrity"? Seriously, Endemol… when your two biggest achievements are this shower of morons, and a show where the creator of Mr Blobby guides a contestant in saying numbers out loud, it's time to rethink your output.

Our early favourite is Shilpa Shetty, who we hope will be difficult, precious and holier-than-thou throughout her stay. That said, we texted a friend who completed an MA in Bollywood Studies to gain a further insight into the potential legend of Shilpa (we could have used Wikipedia, but fitting a description into 160 characters is obviously far more fun). Said friend, in spite of qualifications and vast knowledge, was unable to provide any form of information. Good work, celebrity bookers. Good work.

Of course, mention must be made of H, who we already dislike for deciding to steal his name back from our favourite Lostprophet. His newly open status as a card-carrying gayer is supposedly something we're meant to be surprised at – for a grown man who spent his entire Steps career making whooping noises, there's a fair chance we might have already known.

We also learned Jo from S Club 7 is now a dog-breeder. It's good to see she's applying her experience of working with Tina to a good use. And let's not forget CRAZY! and MAD! Donny Tourette, effectively a Matalan take on John Lydon. Donny's claim to a celebrity title comes from his role as frontman of a cult rock band, and it doesn't take Countdown's Dictionary Corner to tell you which word "cult" is one letter away from.

We weren't quite aware of just how pathetic Celebrity Big Brother had been until Desperate Housewives began, and we were confronted with true entertainment. Bearing in mind we'd severely lost interest since the end of series two, perhaps it was solely the lack of expectation that made it such a pleasant surprise. Maybe, in turn, the huge expectations we had for Big Brother explain why it was so shit.

…Nope, it was definitely the content that made Big Brother so shit.

Back to Wisteria Lane, we couldn't have been blessed with a better opening episode. Gabrielle's exchange with Xiao Mei was absolutely priceless – who’d have thought a ruthless bitch-off between a material model and her immigrant maid would be so evenly matched?

Elsewhere, Nora is promising to be truly fantastic – not only because her arrival is adding another much-needed dimension to the eternally-beige Lynette, but for reasons of undiluted white trash greatness. And it's a relief to see Teri Hatcher is finally grasping the conventions of physical comedy. For a woman whose attempts at slapstick normally resemble a special school drama club re-enacting that broomstick scene from Fantasia, the milkshake moment in the hospital was outstanding.

So, to summarise, kudos to Channel 4. And at the same time, shame on you, Channel 4. Not that quality necessarily matters - we'll be terminally glued to both shows indefinitely.
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