Sunday, April 29, 2007

Single Reviews 30/04/07

Things that have been shit this week: Craig nearly getting the boot in The Evil Joseph Show; incredibly painful sunburn; finding out who’s nabbed the seventh place on the street corner that is the Pussycat Dolls, thus destroying the remainder of the series for us; and the Overrated Apes continuing to con the public into thinking they possess an iota of talent. Things that are not shit this week: the Single Reviews…

Returning to the spotlight as a solo artist this week is Dolores O’Riordan. It’s positive to see a worthwhile artist representing the Emerald Isle, something which the charts have been sadly bereft of in the past couple of years. Far removed from the strident, heated charisma of The Cranberries, Ordinary Day is a mid-tempo stroll along an impossibly straight road. But what it lacks in vigour, it counteracts with uncomplicated Irish charm.

On to one of the most interesting new acts of the year, the rather fascinating Mr Hudson & The Library. Frustratingly, they’re habitually dismissed as measly blue-eyed reggae, but Ask The DJ makes colossal progress in setting this stereotype straight. A stop-start anthem of laidback flair, not only does it claim our Single of the Week, but proves Mr Hudson & The Library are not a band to take at face value.

Another act who began the year on every showbiz column’s clichĂ©d Ones! To! Watch! lists are The Noisettes, and not without reason. Their energetic, high-gloss rock showed them to be a well-polished Juliette & The Licks. However, Scratch Your Name is so resolutely adhered to the overall formula, it’s all beginning to feel a bit gimmicky. Also, we’ve begun finding it hard not to think of the little green triangles in Quality Street.

The serially-underrated and all-round bloody lovely person Beverley Knight cries out for that second Shoulda Woulda Coulda. Sadly, No Man’s Land is not it. It ticks most of the boxes, no question - lyrically pleasing, gentle melody, superb vocals, merely lacking the character required to actually push people to take notice. Keep at it, Bev, we have faith.

Finally, the joy-on-paper collaboration of Manic Street Preachers and Nina Persson proves to be a rather pleasant one in actuality, too. That said, were it not for the presence of Persson, Your Love Alone Is Not Enough would be somewhat unremarkable in the wake of previous anthems. Sure, it’s been a good two years since they last showed their mugs, but there’s no escaping the mighty shadow of Design For Life and Motorcycle Emptiness. Good, just not Manics good.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The 'Ump: RIP Popworld

The British music industry is the second biggest in the world. Some of the most respected contemporary musicians have hailed from these shores, and today, the UK is still home to some of the most exciting new music and artists on the globe. Yet, with the news that Popworld has met a grisly end, not one show on TV is left to reflect that.

Seriously, what’s up with that? That’s not a rhetorical question. We’d genuinely like to know. It was distressing enough to watch CD:UK slowly turning to runny shit before our very eyes, but then Top of the Pops carking it achieved new levels of disconcertment (and we’ve still got a death warrant out for Andi Peters). Now, the lone remaining pop show on the box has gone the same way, leaving us to flick through videos across an onslaught of appalling music channels, and perhaps catching the odd performance courtesy of a bleary-eyed GMTV appearance.

Equally as annoying as the axing itself is the blame placed on Alex Zane and Alexa Chung, who, in the opinion of The Sloppy Dog, actually rescued the show from the bitchy, merciless gutter of self-indulgent bunkum it had previously languished in. Having gazed upon a few message boards across the web, it would seem the common opinion is that the departure of Simon Amstell and Miquita Oliver was the flatliner, and everything since has been merely postponing the cracking open of the embalming fluid.

Lookit, we don’t ‘get’ Simon Amstell. We never have. The unfaltering malice that he liberally shat on every guest was, at times, genuinely uncomfortable. Sure, we like a good bitch now and then (hell, this whole column is dedicated to it), but how can one person produce so much bile? Bile which meant Popworld wasn’t a music show, it was a solid hour of insecurity peppered with a performance or two. So when Amstell and his toady subordinate legged it, Popworld actually became the show it deserved to be.
But alas, the British public didn’t see it that way. What exactly will it take for both viewers and telly bosses to notice that the music industry is more lucrative and revolutionary than ever, and that not everyone’s music consumption amounts to frothing over some unsigned It-cunt on MySpace? Tell you what, channel execs, once you’re done with the facts and figures and focus groups, give us a call. We’re brimming with ideas, we’d like to think we’re fairly clued-up both musically and televisually, and quite frankly, we’ve witnessed enough music TV tragedies up close to know what doesn’t work. Til then, you are cordially invited to hang your heads in shame. Or, y’know, just hang.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Single Reviews 23/04/07

Forgive the lateness of this week’s Single Reviews, folk - we were out running the London Marathon this morning, and we’re pleased to say we topped last year’s time of 3 hours and 10 minutes, by crossing the finish line at 3:02 - next year we’ll come in under the 3 hour mark, for sure.
(Is there any chance you’ll believe that to be true, and not that we were actually sat indoors devouring a violently unhealthy breakfast?)

The mop/monkey hybrid and all-round parody-of-music that is Mika foolishly risks assassination further by releasing a second single. The rancid Love Today is as shrill, as maddening, and as annoyingly camp as Grace Kelly, proving Mika truly is this year’s Sandi Thom. Let’s hope he follows the whinging bastard by dissolving into sweet FA after just the one hit.

Having arguably milked the awesome I’m Not Dead of all its potential singles, Pink gives it one last push with Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely), where the slightly awkward lyrics are wholly pardoned by the engaging melody and severe arse-kicking energy. Now be a good girl and go record us some new material.

Lostprophets similarly eke a final single from their stupendous Liberation Transmission. And again, it’s not unjustified - 4am Forever is a victorious rock ballad, by far and away one of the album’s stand-out tracks. We’d have probably gone to see them at Wembley this weekend if we weren’t terrified of being a good decade older than everyone else there.

Travis make a quiet, soothing - yet entirely triumphant - return with Closer. A precise example of the gentle, melodic masterpieces they’ve crafted over the years, albeit with an indication of maturity, it’s definitely ample reason to get excited about fifth album The Boy With No Name. A clear Single of the Week.

Finally - and Christ knows how this passed us by - comes Dannii Minogue, with her interpretation of He’s The Greatest Dancer. It’s hardly surprising that it’s gained sod-all in the way of airplay or screen time, but you’d think such a train wreck would be hard pushed not to grab your attention somehow. It’s Dannii Minogue. Doing He’s The Greatest Dancer. That says it all.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Honking Box Preview: Any Dream Will Do

Truth be told, we couldn’t have given a moth’s arse when we heard about the Beeb’s latest ratings-whore. The only time How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria ever caught our attention was when we learned that Connie Fisher was 23. Seriously, the girl could pass as her own grandmother.

But we digress. Any Dream Will Do, which follows the same format to unearth a mud-flecked gem to take on the role of Joseph (as in “him with the coat”), wasn’t something that had us foaming at the Freeview box. Yet after being talked into a couple of episodes, we’ve developed a taste, and we’re proud to announce it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Rather than being the throwaway paradigm of reality fluff we had anticipated, it is, without a doubt, one of the cruellest talent shows we’ve ever witnessed.

Performing in front of millions of viewers is bound to be terrifying, and the panel of judges can only make it ten times worse. But that’s not enough for Any Dream Will Do. No, the producers want to make these boys literally SHIT THEMSELVES live on television. Denise Van Outen and John Barrowman gushing hormones from every pore, piercing and orifice is bound to be a distraction in itself, never mind when twinned with the presence of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Sat on his throne of pomposity, Lord LW observes each performance with the sharpened attention of a contacts-wearing bald eagle looking through a telescope. Luckily for the hopefuls, ol’ Andy’s baggy rubber chops are wholly incapable of expressing emotion, so it’s impossible to tell whether he’s smiling, frowning, or mourning the death of contemporary music. Andrew Lloyd-Webber only has one look: Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

It seems single-expressioned folk are popular with the BBC at the moment - see also Margaret Mountford (permanent disapproval), Nick Hewer (permanent perplexity), and Fearne Cotton (permanently fucking hideous). But again with the digression. Back to the cruelty - Any Dream Will Do’s cruelty, not ours.

Prior to the bottom two’s sing-off, they’re informed which of them polled the fewest votes. And once cut, there’s no obsequious announcement that they were “a great contestant” followed by a montage of best bits, oh no. Instead the unlucky evictee is made to sing Close Every Door, while the successful Joes segue into Poor Poor Joseph. The humiliation is heightened even further when the poor lad is unceremoniously stripped of his Bi-Colour Dreamcoat. Then finally, Graham Norton prances back centre-stage, where he declares “Let’s cross live to your entire family, who you’ll now see being slowly burnt to death on account of your FAILURE, you absolute useless CUNT!!”

There’s a small chance the process stops after the coat bit.

(By the way, we’re backing Craig, if you’re at all interested. Not to the extent that we’d pick up the phone and vote, but please feel free to waste your credit on our behalf.)

In conclusion, it’s pure evil. In fact, the only thing that would make Any Dream Will Do any more unnecessarily merciless would be the presence of our top reality harridan, Roseann McBride. That’d soon put those thoughts of horizontal squelching with the Josephs out of Barrowman and Van Outen’s heads…

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Single Reviews 16/04/07

Oo-er. A whole week without even one measly update. Can we blame the weather? Or perhaps the Grand National? Yes, that’ll do. The Grand National. We’ve been getting in shape for it all week, we’re desperate to cross that finish line first this year. Hopefully the jockey won’t be too heavy, and our mane will look nice and glossy on the telly. Right, Single Reviews all round?

Opening this week’s proceedings is Sloppy Dog favourite Lady Sovereign. Almost like her own interpretation of Estelle’s 1980 - albeit without the winning hook or the same level of charm - Those Were The Days isn’t one of her finest moments. Still, Sov at her worst towers above other rappers’ bests. And hey, kudos for namechecking Mortal Kombat.

Glory Days is the latest offering from Just Jack, a softly sunny hum-along punctuated with a slightly grating horn parp. It’s an appropriate anthem for the current pseudo-summer, which luckily detracts from the fact it’s actually little more than a shoulder-shrug after the stupendous Writer’s Block and Starz In Their Eyes.

Speaking of glory days, it would seem that Ocean Colour Scene are choosing to leave theirs far behind. I Told You So sounds like Cast at their vainest attempt to recreate, in turn, the glory days of The La’s. The results, unsurprisingly, are not pretty. Let’s just sweep this one under the carpet and pop Moseley Shoals on the stereo, shall we?

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and indeed that’s proved true - while she was away, we completely forgot what a whiny, irksome twat Natasha Bedingfield was. A bit harsh, perhaps, but the flimsy, training-bra-tastic, Bridget Jones monstrosity of I Wanna Have Your Babies puts her right back where she started out with the dire Single. Music to menstruate to.

Fireworks, backflips, silly hats, Party Rings and a big ol’ parade next, in honour of the return of Ash. Now a Charlotte-free zone, but far from suffering as a result, the power applied to the mighty 1977 is back in spades, as You Can’t Have It All demonstrates. Single of the Week by a long mile. Think we’re overexcited now? Just wait til the album review…

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Single Reviews 09/04/07

Happy Easter, dear readers! In the style of Nickelodeon’s piercingly-shrill fucktwat Dora the Explorer, can you find the hidden Easter Egg during this week’s Single Reviews? Look very carefully! Where did that Bunny hide the egg?

The sloppily-assigned label of New Rave is something we’ll gladly avoid for eternity. But sadly, The Klaxons have permitted some reluctant lumping-in thanks to Gravity’s Rainbow, a Casio calamity that even The Horrors would shy away from. In fairness, it’s passable if you can stomach the gruesome intro, but still massively disappointing after the striking Golden Skans.

Next up, the dual behemoth of Beyonce and Shakira, a pair who’ve taken a substantial baiting for their understated Beautiful Liar. Fair enough, it’s hardly forging a new genre, but the subtle harmonies and Middle Eastern waft make for a fairly listenable artefact. Perhaps the negativity comes mainly from failed expectations, but seriously, when did a gargantuan collaboration last blow you out of the water? Britney & Madonna? Sugababes & Girls Aloud? That fucking Moulin Rouge cataclysm? Precisely.

Single of the Week is awarded to a previous recipient, which is unsurprising as they’re one of the most consistent bands around. Muse continue their trend with Invincible, an example of such high-standard timeless songwriting, it could be committed to record by any artist during any era, and it would still be as remarkable. Still, we’re glad it’s Muse and not, say, Girl Thing.

You’ve got to hand it to Gareth Gates. Arguably one of the most easily-disposable pop stars of recent times, he’s done bloody good to claw his way back from the shitter. Even more impressive is the quality he’s brought with him, having royally ditched the flat, motionless ballads (possibly currently being dusted down for Leona). Sounding uncannily like Radiohead’s No Surprises without any obvious overtones of intent, Changes warrants a well-deserved thumbs-up.

Finally, as if making an appearance in our Worst Singles of 2006 list wasn’t shameful enough, The Dykeenies have foolishly chosen to re-release the alarming New Ideas, which remains as insipid and as aggravating as the first time around. If you fired vomit all over the floor, you wouldn’t munch it back up in the hope of it coming out as a nice hot-dog the second time, would you?

Oh, and there’s no Easter Egg. Sorry. But aren’t you glad you read right to the end?

Friday, April 06, 2007

The 'Ump: DFS

Pre-tirade, we’d like to clarify that this particular edition of The ‘Ump is not in any way about “selling out”. Hell, since the Spice Girls put their name to Pepsi, not a drop of Coca-Cola has passed our lips.

No, this is a matter of quality. There’s nowt wrong with lending your face or music to plug a product, but generally you’d hope the product in question would be one that carries a bit of refinement. Not one whose previous adverts boasted numbers from The Official Songbook of Hades, including Nigel & Marvin’s Follow Da Leader and DJ Pied Piper’s Do You Really Like It.

So imagine the revulsion, the dismay and the shock to hear our favourite song of 2006 – the astounding Be Gentle With Me by the equally-amazing The Boy Least Likely To – gracing a cancerous DFS commercial. Hearing that superhuman soundtrack besmirched by a voiceover informing us of four years free credit instantly teleported us to the moment in The Neverending Story where that stupid horse got yammed by the Swamps of Sadness (in short, we were gutted).

But we absolutely heart The Boy Least Likely To. As our current favourite band – we’re SO over The Feeling – it’s going to take more than a stylish Linda Barker creation for just £499 (read as “four nine nine”) to put us off. No sir, we’re going to attempt to find the good in this repugnant three-piece leather tragedy.

Frankly, the more people that hear The Boy Least Likely To’s adorable, inventive music, the better. And maybe Joe Public (read as “The Sloppy Dog”) will stop hating DFS as a brand now they’ve begun to sort out their calamitous advertising. And at least it’s only an instrumental track, so they’ve a good few more souls to sell before they reach Natasha Bedingfield depths.

Most importantly, it’s reassuring to believe that the money earned from this experience will fund the band’s second album, which, if The Best Party Ever is any suggestion, will be one of modern music’s greatest creations. So, with that, we not only forgive Pete ‘n’ Jof, we heartily celebrate them. Behold!

Big, bold and definitely not bashful, the Zanzibar 3-seater deluxe sofabed!

The fabulous Dakota, for just three-nine-nine!

The Boy Least Likely To, proper fucking awesome!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thirteen Senses - Contact (Mercury)

You've got to feel a modicum of pity for up and coming indie bands that don't fit into the cocky, unkempt lad bracket. It would seem that unless you're as ugly as The View, as pompous as Bloc Party, or as arrogant as the Overrated Apes, you're trying to be Coldplay. Well, welcome to a review of Thirteen Senses that thinks outside the box.

Having duly dismissed the abundance of lazy journalism widely available, perhaps actually reviewing the album in question would be useful. Thirteen Senses, who made their fair-sized mark two and a half years ago, return with second album Contact. And, bearing a huge amount of character, it could well be what's required to embolden that mark.

Lead single All The Love In Your Hands functions exceptionally well as an ambassador for the album. Thoughtful and emotive, but with a good dose of gusto, it's hugely indicative of Contact's overall theme.

Animal, for instance, provides a dirty bass bed for a blend of uplifting vocals and soaring riffs, while Follow Me is a studio-honed gem of optimism. Mood-wise, it's not as easily nailed down, but the quality, at least, is consistent.

The overall heavier sound makes for a far meatier album than the first offering. That's not to say The Invitation was in any way insubstantial, merely that Contact appears to carry a confidence previously not on display.

Fans of the more pensive, introverted Thirteen Senses are still catered for to an extent with the wistful haunt of Spark, while Ones & Zeros sneakily reinstates the tone of the album, beginning life as a stripped-bare ballad before morphing into a mass of lengthy, heavy crunches.

While Contact undoubtedly contains music to get excited about, it doesn't have a particularly strong identity amidst a profusion of blokey-yet-sensitive guitar bands. Not that this matters a rat's ass once it's on your Zen Creative (NB: not iPod), but it raises questions as to whether it'll cause any additional ears to prick up outside of their current consumption. Still, you've got to admire the honesty - had they purposely crafted an album with the contrived intention of dollar signs, we'd have another second Killers album (and hey, at least we didn't liken them to Coldplay).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Honking Box Review: Pussycat Dolls Present The Search For The Next Doll

Hey, girls! Want to be in a pop group? Can you mindlessly gyrate 8ft behind a woman vastly more attractive than you? Are you able to apply all the sexiness and refinement of Babecast to every task thrown at you? Can you work a dummy mic like it’s a throbbing erection? And possibly vice versa? Then roll up!

T4 bring us The Search For The Next Doll, a highly-hyped hunt for a new member of the Pussycat Dolls. Because, of course, there’s so few of them that numbers frenziedly need replenishing. Although maybe they’ve finally realised someone else to contribute to the vocals might help with that whole crazy “group” idea. A note to whoever gets the job – good luck getting Melody to share her precious ad-libs with you.

Hosted by Mark McGrath, who has long left his rock delusions behind yet is still incapable of correctly pronouncing his own surname, he introduces us to Robin Antin, who created the Pussycat Dolls 12 years ago. Or at least, the parts of her that still existed 12 years ago.

And of course, we meet the potential Pussies, all of whom are a good 20 years younger than Carmit. We’ve got Anjelia, who’s the spitting image of Kimberley (AKA the one that looks like a bloke). We’ve also got Melissa R, who’s the thorough doppelganger of Nicole (AKA the one that does everything. And looks like a bloke). And our current favourite Sisely, who looks like Daphne out of Daphne & Celeste (that being the sole reason she’s our favourite).

The first episode, hilariously, sees the hopefuls coming down with an unpleasant bug on the eve of their first elimination audition. Although having the reeking squits and spewing gallons of vomit will no doubt provide useful experience for when the Dolls record their second album, it’s not exactly the best circumstances under which to perform a high-energy routine to be judged upon. As if to prove the point, medics are stood backstage with intravenous drips. You couldn’t make this up.

Of the nine girls selected to move on to Pussycat Doll Boot Camp (no, seriously, you really couldn’t make this up), a hefty portion of them resemble the rough end of a meat cleaver. So how did they make it through? Is it because a 16th eyelid lift has rendered Robin Antin blind? No, it’s because Nicole played a part in the selection, and God forbid someone more attractive claws their way in.

The sub-BeyoncĂ© megalomania of this woman is almost comical – even during the end credits, the special guests are listed separately as “Nicole Scherzinger” and “The Pussycat Dolls”. We’ll expect next week’s credits to list her as Associate Producer, with the third episode bumping her up to Executive Producer. Then they’ll rewrite the Bible to include Nicole. “And lo, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; if he is hot, thou shalt loosen up his buttons.”

PCD branding aside, it’s nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times. Weepy auditions, vacuous in-fighting, tales of familial woe, overly Californian words of encouragement. Still, as with all outrageous train-wreck television, it’s these skin-peelingly bad qualities that make it so enjoyable. We shall be keeping a close eye on this (though future reviews may be more positive under the imminent wintry dictatorship of President Scherzinger).
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