Monday, March 31, 2008

Single Reviews 31/03/08

Oh lookit, we’re a bit late with the Single Reviews this week. Well, it’s on purpose. Yes, it’s all part of some lame-ass April Fools joke that has no real punchline. Actually, do April Fools jokes even have punchlines? They’re just sort of there.

Opening on a positive note, it’s our Single of the Week, which comes courtesy of the Courteeners. While not perhaps as excitement-inducing as One Night Only, it’s reassuring to encounter another new band not dripping in manufactured gimmickry. Not Nineteen Forever simple and classic, yet simultaneously, a trainee anthem with masses of promise.

The delightfully barking Roisin Murphy is snapping at the heels of the Courteeners this week with the sublime You Know Me Better. Truth be told, it’s all a bit sliced white in comparison to her kookier moments, as was the case with Let Me Know, but nevertheless is a chilled, intelligent invoker of pressing dancefloor convergence.

Certainly not one to add to your party playlist is the unapologetically grim Nude, an aural representation of a hospital mortuary courtesy of Radiohead – albeit with a capable display of innovation, such is the band’s trademark. Mind you, it not only lives up to their celebrated stereotype of misery, it sets it at a new high. Or low, technically.

Finally comes Touch My Body, marking the pre-album semi-comeback of Mariah Carey. It’s oddly unsettling how much emotion she puts into singing “YouTube” – if only she’d applied the same sentiment to 95% of her back catalogue. What’s more worrying though is the heartfelt honesty in the “I will hunt you down” lyric. The song itself is a pile o’ pish – but Mariah, you crazy old bastard, it’s good to have you back.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Honking Box Review: The Apprentice

You can’t blame the Beeb for their staunch uber-boost of the fourth series of The Apprentice, nor can you hold it against the gazillions of media outlets resultantly frothing at the genitalia in anticipation. If last night’s opening episode was any indication of the series to come, the hype was more than justified.

Of course, it’s hammered in pretty early that Sir Alan Sugar is the be-all and end-all of the series – nay, the world – and the contestants are merely his playthings in this demented circus of unintentional hilarity.

Overall, the mix seems interesting enough. 16 people of all shapes, sizes, colours, ages and with varying levels of cuntishness, but all connected by the fact they’re each more interested in conference rooms, spreadsheets and meeting requests than in friendship, family or any form of social existence.

The whippersnapper contingent has been upped significantly, with a higher proportion of post-pubescent business rugrats than in any previous series. But the early standout contestant for us was Lucinda, whose choice of attire for meeting Sir Alan and her fellow opponents was an inexplicable tribute to Eurovision-era Scooch. It’s safe to assume, even at this early stage, that Lucinda will prove to be full-on batshit crazy.

Although this year's Official Bitch has yet to be identified (though let's face it, she'll be hard-pushed to match the part-human, part-lizard poisonfest that was Katie Hopkins), we've already filled Rory's naff Sloanite loafers with the impossibly even more smug Raif, a foppish fuckwit who seemingly believes it's charm that he's oozing from every pore, as opposed to putrid, smarmy ectoplasm.

Sadly, Raif survived to blow his own trumpet another week, as we bid adieu to Nicholas de Lacy Brown, owner of the ponciest name since Sir Marmaduke Hussey. Still, the firing of NDLB was no great loss – partially because he had a breakout of gayface so far advanced, he made American Idol’s David Hernandez look like Geoff Capes; and partially because he was a smug, annoying shite-hawk.

Rather disappointingly, Nick Hewer's immeasurable assortment of facial expressions all displaying befuddlement were not on show. However, this bunch appear to possess more than their fair share of all-out idiocy, so no doubt we'll see the full range before the third episode is done. Yes, we’re going to stick our necks out and predict that we’re going to enjoy this series of The Apprentice – in fact, we'll be watching this round Nice Old Black Lady From The Market's house, to enjoy a nice bowl of eel face broth. Mmmm...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Single Reviews 24/03/08

Last year, our Easter weekend Single Reviews invited you to find a hidden Easter egg within the article. And even though a disclaimer at the end informed you that it was in fact a joke (no shit), news reaches us that a young South African woman is still – one year on – clawing away at her monitor, desperate for the aforementioned chocolatey treat. There is no chocolate, Jessica. We’re sorry.

Today’s first single pays a visit to Spain – or more aptly, a naff backstreet ‘Spanish’ restaurant run by an ex-pat couple from Rotherham. All things considered, the White Stripes actually manage to craft quite a skilful rock anthem in Conquista, it just all feels rather gimmicky. The musical equivalent of a straw donkey, albeit quite a good quality one.

Next up, Chris Brown is subjected to a severe case of producer fatigue via With You, an identikit Norwegian mid-tempo strumalong. Seriously, Stargate, there is an outside to the box as well, you know. Each “gotta see you, boo” is interchangeable with a “to the left, to the left”, a “just like a tattoo” or a… well, however that new Leona song goes. She’s too boring to pay any real attention to.

The most easily-awarded Single of the Week this year so far is lavished upon Estelle and Kanye West, with the stupendous American Boy. Much has been made of the Britisms within the song (WAGs, Ribena, bloke, rubbish, yadda yadda yadda) but don’t allow that to detract from the true star of the show – Estelle herself. Although if she’d gotten Kanye to say “butters”, we would have had to actually marry her.

And finally, another welcome return in the form of Gnarls Barkley, though it must be noted their comeback barely registers in comparison with Estelle’s offering. Run is disappointingly unoriginal, with gargantuan elements of Gone Daddy Gone throughout. It’s by no means poor or shoddy, but from such an innovative band, you’d expect a great deal more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Danity Kane - Welcome To The Dollhouse (Bad Boy)

Imagine, for a moment, if Girls Aloud were suddenly dragged kicking, screaming and frothing at the gobs back to Popstars: The Rivals. Hell, they have a job getting Nadine to acknowledge she’s even in the band on a good day, let alone participate in something that would set their careers back half a decade.

And yet, dispatching fellow reality alumni Danity Kane back to square one seems to have done them one hell of a favour. Perhaps the demands of crafting their second album entirely in front of the cameras has pushed them to surpass their debut, or perhaps Diddy has proved himself to be a constructive, motivational, compassionate boss? No, it’ll definitely be the first one…

Welcome to the Dollhouse, the sophomore album from the one true success story of Making The Band thus far, is a far cry from the non-specific, bottom-drawer nothingness of the first record. Granted, it had its high points, but a strenuous amount of digging was required to locate them. No such exertion is needed here.

The opening line of Damaged – the potentially-immortal “Do you got a first aid kit handy?” – lyrically embodies the exact sentiment of femstravagant pluck that the first album was so bereft of. (It’s also a reminder of the existence of Shannon Bex, who could no longer be mistaken for Ashlee Simpson missing her cue and wandering onstage into the hub of an R&B girl group.)
And from there, the triumphs just keep coming, most notably in Bad Girl, a thundrous lunar lullaby which gets more than its money’s worth from a Missy Elliott cameo. The R&B rulebook has certainly been consulted though, with every urban cliché ticked at least once. The majority of tracks cover that habitually-visited subject matter of rutting like bunnies on a conjugal visit, albeit draped in all manners of swingbeat gloop.

The balladry hasn’t been abandoned altogether – let’s face it, they’d be deported for crimes against the genre for even thinking it –yet it doesn’t act as a minus, merely a stop-gap from the overtones of thrusting, flexing and ladyjiggling.

That said, the overall tone of the album is a far cry from the American standard. Welcome To The Dollhouse is a tidy inventory of Danity Kane as artists, dressed up with sufficient fizz ‘n’ bullion to give it that vital international push. Harder beats married with distinct melodies, the correct amount of fresh foibles, and most importantly, masses of attitude make for, frankly, the record that should have been their debut.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Single Reviews 17/03/08

Well readers, we’re pleased to be here in one piece after the ‘storms’ this week. They’re actually the reason behind the lack of Single Reviews last week, and not at all anything to do with the fact we were busy doing other stuff. The ‘storms’ were to blame. And the ‘earthquake’ from the other week. That too.

With arguably the strongest album of their career, Girls Aloud have a wealth of potentially chart-mounting gems from which to choose their singles. However, they’ve opted for Can’t Speak French, a reasonably fun number but by no means a head-turner, which finds that Girls Aloud evidently don’t do saucy as well as they do thundering bollock-crushage.

Already making a sizeable dent in the charts is Flo Rida with the insanely catchy Low. Had this not been an official – if unintentional – Sloppy Dog holiday anthem back in January, it’s safe to assume we wouldn’t have given it a particularly warm reception. Effectively a slice of upbeat crunk with truly absurd lyrics, it should somehow be diabolical. And yet, it’s our Single of the Week. We’re so, so sorry.

The Guillemots have to tread carefully round these parts. We’ve not forgiven them for spoiling us with the overwhelmingly brilliant Trains To Brazil then crapping out a dire album, resulting in a bigger disappointment than the expulsion of Addictiv Ladies. Still, they’re back on track (Guillemots, not Addictiv Ladies) with the buoyant, pop-heavy Get Over It, with a level of quality that’ll hopefully be carried over into album #2.

Closing proceedings this week are the Sugababes, who, unlike Girls Aloud, don’t have much to choose from on their somewhat lukewarm current album. Nonetheless, Denial is tuneful, mildly idiosyncratic, and typically Sugababes. Perhaps too much, in fact – this is likely to follow Shape, Change and Soul Sound as one of their ‘meh’ singles. Hell, at least it doesn’t follow Easy as one of their ‘fucking abysmal’ singles.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day! Tá m'árthach foluaineach lán d'eascainn.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Honking Box Preview: American Idol

Things have been rather scarce here lately, haven't they? Places to go, people to see and all that. Please accept our humblest apologies by way of this nice American Idol article we wrote for Lowculture, if you haven't already read it there. (Yes, we're cheating you with second-hand material. We'll pull our socks up soon. Promise.)

The auditions, the Hollywood juncture, and the ever-peculiar Top 24 episodes have been and gone, and we’re down to the live finals. And the final list has thrown up a few surprises, or more fittingly, surprise omissions. Mind you, Danny Noriega’s finger-snapping and Valley Girl cadence were never going to trigger dialling-induced RSI around the Bible Belt, whilst Asia’h Epperson frankly paid the price for displaying the revered American institution of nonsensical forename apostrophe use normally reserved for Ricki Lake guests.

So what are we left with? According to Ryan Seacrest, the most talented Top 12 in the history of American Idol. Meh. What does he know? Hey, fancy a significantly less obsequious rundown of who to put your money on..?

Ramiele Malubay
Aiming to go one better than fellow Filipina finalist Jasmine Trias (you remember her, all Hawaiian flowers and twee), Ramiele’s quite the belter, and more importantly, managed to get Simon Cowell on side early on. But then again, so did Raquelle from Hope, and it’ll be a dowdy day in Sinitta’s wardrobe before we hear from that one again.

David Cook
Pseudo-rocker whose inexplicably thick neck makes him appear deceptively fat. Having already gotten Cowell’s back up with a textbook “I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing this for America! Yeah!! U-S-A! U-S-A!” retort, it looked unlikely that David’s brand of watery McRawk would take him very far, until a surprisingly decent take on Lionel Richie’s Hello. No, really.

David Hernandez
Barman and go-go boy (if the internet is to be believed – and when has it ever been unreliable?) from Arizona, it seems Middle America is experiencing a second dose of Antonella Barba Syndrome and are up in arms at the mere idea of previous nudity. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to detract from an admirable confidence and impressive vocals (though the overplucked eyebrows go some way to managing it).

Brooke White
Wholesome, virginal Disney princess with a substantial talent. As happy to bang away at a piano or strum a guitar as she is trilling like a nightingale, Brooke musically bridges the gap between Karen Carpenter and Alicia Keys. And as her in-show USP was that she’s never seen a porno, she’s got the Christian vote if nothing else. A strong contender for the Top 3.

Carly Smithson
Tattoo parlour proprietor from Cork, who has had America’s gums flapping over the fact she released a major label album in 2001, a chunk of which went on to be recycled and caterwauled by Kelly Clarkson. Apparently, this also means she’s been shagging all three judges, founded freemasonry, and shot JFK. Still, ‘controversy’ aside, Carly displays the most impressive pipes in the contest. Cailín maith!

Serial auditionee who finally made it to a stage where anyone begins to give a crap. Powerful voice and killer stage presence are nullified by atrocious velvet suits, and that’s before you even consider Simon Cowell’s ongoing habit of calling him “Jacuzzi”. Accidentally, of course, and not for the purposes of contrived televisual hilarity.

Kristy Lee Cook
Dainty country ‘n’ western songbird with little else of note. Simon has already decreed Kristy will be hard pushed to make it beyond the Top 10, so we shouldn’t have to endure her quarter-arsed LeAnn Rimes schtick for much longer. If only the same could be said about the blubbery scutter bellowing Love Machine in the Chicago Town sponsorship bumpers.

Amanda Overmyer
Somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin as performed by Cheryl Baker, nurse Amanda boasts a seasoned rock growl, comedy scat vocals, clumsy stage-trudging and hair like a petrified skunk. By far and away the most unique contestant, but America would be more likely to deport Oprah than crown Amanda their next Idol.

David Archuleta
Channelling a particularly squidgy compound of early Gareth Gates and a Labrador puppy, make way for a nation of females reaching screenwards to pinch his cheeks. In fairness, he also possesses one of the competition’s best voices, so expect a landslide victory followed by a lukewarm second album and a lengthy spell in drug rehab.

Michael Johns
While Carly flies the Irish flag, the considerably-gifted Michael Johns is the second contestant threatening to be a non-American American Idol. Hailing from Australia, Randy’s already likened him to Michael Hutchence. We’d have dismissed this as a lazy comparison relating solely to geography, though given it came off the back of a Simple Minds cover, it seems Paula’s been sharing her sweeties around the judging table.

Jason Castro
Dreadlocked muso who’s previously snuck into the spotlight as co-bumper-of-uglies with tweenage Lilith Fair fodder and MTV reality urchin, Cheyenne Kimball. Jason certainly displays a sizeable talent behind the mic, yet appears incapable of stringing a sentence together. Still, seeing Ryan Seacrest try to cope with the awkwardness of a one-word answer guarantees a few chuckles.

Syesha Mercado
Claims to be an actress, though a glimpse at her CV suggests she’s been as much of an actress as Jordan has a recording artist. Nevertheless, Florida native Syesha boasts a genial quirk, a decent pair of lungs, and one hell of a barnet. Additionally, she’s already got a hefty online army of supporters calling themselves “Faneshas”, which may well be the most gag-inducing name for a collective since “Fearne & Reggie”.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Single Reviews 03/03/08

Welcome, one and all, to this week’s Single Reviews on your ever-reliable and bile-heavy webfriend, The Sloppy Dog – a blog you can trust not to reveal the whereabouts of certain military royals. Actually, we've just decided, that’s going to be the tagline on our business cards…

Westlife unveil their first original material since the dawn of time with the gooey Us Against The World. Of course, when we say “original”, it refers not to the song’s groundbreaking, genre-defining ingenuity, merely the fact it’s not a housewives’ favourite rehashed for the sake of any mong willing to part with cash for such tripe. But what’s the use complaining? Westlife are an omnipresent part of life, much like bowel movements and GMTV.

Onto more positive affairs – namely our Single of the Week – and the much-appreciated return of We Are Scientists. Admittedly, it’d be easy to address the untouchable Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt, but the first-rate After Hours is a reasonable move on from its predecessor; melodious yet brawny, immediately catchy, and altogether a lot less darker. In short, it pwns.

Wheeling out wearisome rent-a-shouter Luciana for what feels like the tenth single in a month is supposed urban “sensation” Taio Cruz. Admittedly, her contribution to Come On Girl is kept to a minimum, thus only slightly tainting an otherwise passable electro-R&B dancefloor summoner. Let’s not get carried away, mind – this is unlikely to bother many an airwave, Zavvi till, or ear.

After making their debut on the back of Timbaland’s all-round-to-mine buddyfest, it was unclear where Onerepublic were going to go. However, Stop & Stare answers that question – Maroon 5. Mid-tempo radio rock, it’s easy enough to dismiss as inoffensive, yet carries a certain panache that warns they might just be worth getting excited about.

Finally, our recent review of Duffy gave us a chance to express disapproval at the mediawide fawning towards Adele, something we’re unlikely to bore of anytime soon. That in mind, Amy McDonald attests yet another artist far more worthy of praise than the puffed-up ‘n’ pasty aforementioned. Run is tuneful, compelling, just the right amount of Scottish, and an overall display of substantial flair.
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