Thursday, August 21, 2008

Single Reviews 25/08/08

Welcome, one and all, to this week’s Single Reviews, where we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the news that Reverend & The Makers are to split, and Jon McClure is stepping back from the music industry. WOO-HOO!!! Pop open the champagne Lambrini, the charts have just gotten marginally less shit! Now we just need Fightstar, Mika, Katy Perry, the Kaiser Chiefs, Cascada and the Overrated Apes to follow suit…

On the subject of pure shite, the happy-clappy and all-round crappy Alphabeat return with a third explosion of glitter, helium, blood and guts via the truly pathetic Boyfriend. Dated, clich├ęd, grating and dull, it’s the kind of septic musical faeces you’d expect to find from Scooch, as opposed to an uppity, self-important REAL!! BAND!! who totally WRITE THEIR OWN STUFF!!! We hereby officially add Alphabeat to the above list.

And from that, we go to what could potentially be the greatest song of 2008 so far. Hey, we’re nothing if not diverse. The unspeakably awesome Little Jackie unveil the first gem of what we hope will be a sizeable treasure trove, in the form of the truly outstanding The World Should Revolve Around Me. We did consider whether Imani Coppola bias pushed the song up in our opinion a tad, but a track this original, catchy, fun, attitude-crammed needs no help. Single of the Week, fo’ sho’.

Way back in January, our support of Low by Flo Rida prompted a few head-scratches amongst our loyal readership – a move that we excused by reason of holiday anthem syndrome. That same voyage also gave us See You Again by the All-American tweenage sovereignty that is Miley Cyrus, a song significantly better than literally anyone could’ve anticipated. Whether it’s a true representation of the talent of Miley Cyrus herself is unlikely, but… CHOOOOON! (We’re very, very sorry.)

And sticking roughly with the theme of television darlings assaulting the charts, we come to Hamfatter, a band no-one apart from their mothers would ever care about had they not whored themselves on Dragons’ Den. Fair play to them, mind – they’ve guaranteed themselves financial backing, extensive coverage, and at the root of it, The Girl I Love is actually more than half-decent. And hey, if Peter Jones wants to pump some money into The Sloppy Dog, we wouldn’t say no…

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Solange - Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams (Polydor)

Pop siblings haven’t had the greatest track record. The Osmonds, Hanson, Cleopatra, the Bedingfields, now the fucking Jonas Brothers. Thankfully, ready to buck the trend is Solange Knowles, kid sister of Beyonce and thus part of the dollar-printing mogulfest that is Knowles Inc. And yet, the most admirable thing about Solange – aside from her talent – is her open reluctance to carry any form of attachment to her incidental brand. Perhaps not the best opening paragraph on our part, then.

However, the music does the talking far greater than any press embargo on mentioning her family ties could. Her second solo album (first in the UK), the curiously-titled Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams, immediately proves Solange is the black sheep of the Knowles clan, albeit one with day-glo multicoloured highlights through its fleece and glittery fake eyelashes.

Mere seconds into the soapbox opener of God Given Name, it’s abundantly clear that Solange has more in common with Eminem or Ani DiFranco than she does with her sister. Okay, perhaps not quite, but there’s a display of cheek and social commentary that is virtually invisible within the R&B sphere, quickly cementing Solange as an artist with a brain between her ears.

On paper, the bright Sixties shuffle of Sandcastle Disco or the digi-Ronettes mantra Would’ve Been The One would suggest an album of entirely retro concepts, Solange herself injects enough quirk to underline Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams as a truly 21st Century entity, with just the right level of nods to legends past.

Unfortunately, the quirky Motown sensibilities don’t permeate every track. A handful – This Bird or Valentine’s Day, for example – clearly take their lead from watery 70s/80s soul, and while Solange’s bewitchery makes them a more appealing prospect than their description alone might imply, they fail to stand up next to the selection of tracks that boast originality and personality.

Even a straight comparison of the two takes on I Decided – both of which appear – is interesting. While the Freemasons’ mix has the verve and bounce to carry it on UK radio, it actually sounds somewhat empty and naff next to the classy subtleties of the Neptunes’ original.

Yet, on the whole, Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams is the benchmark of a formidable artist, very much worthy of her own pedestal. Solange proves her musicianship, inventiveness and all-round worth, and while the material may not tick every box, the abundance of integrity and chutzpah should ensure you’ll hear plenty more from her, whether you like it or not.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Single Reviews 18/08/08

Before we embark on this week’s Single Reviews, we need to make a slight amendment to a previous week’s reviews. Having been exposed to The Verve’s Love Is Here a tad more than is necessary, we’ve come to develop a near-dislike of it. Seriously, who thought getting Pingu in to do backing vocals was a good idea? We hereby strip them of their Single of the Week title, and hope that the album doesn’t utilise an entire array of Cbeebies stars.

Leading the pack are The Automatic, who claim an easy Single of the Week with the harbinger of their second album. The absence of keyboard loon Penny is evident, as the maturity levels are increased ten fold on Steve McQueen. It certainly doesn’t suffer for it, mind - harder-edged in sound but boasting a taut, memorable tune, it’s hopefully a good indication of what This Is A Fix has to offer.

Gabriella Cilmi is up next, and, in spite of her obvious talent, is doing very little to win us over. Having originally fashioned herself as a Petits Filous Amy Winehouse, it seems the disco soul nothingness of Save The Lies is an attempt to drag her in another direction altogether. Now she’s an anaemic Anastacia - try saying that five times quickly.

And finally, a docile slice of boozy Glaswegian majesty courtesy of The Fratellis - who else? - with the considerably marvellous Look Out Sunshine. A sleepy soft-rock jam in the vein of Whistle For The Choir, yet just diverse enough to underline that the band have progressed rather satisfactorily. Now, let’s have Lupe Brown as the third single, and we’ll say something REALLY nice…

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Single Reviews 11/08/08

In light of the spectacular opening to the Olympics earlier this week, we had planned a similarly extravagant opening ceremony to mark this week’s Single Reviews. Sadly, the pyrotechnics got rained on and thus failed, the acrobats went on strike, all four Beatles were hungover, and the performing pterodactyls flew away. But it would’ve been ace, trust us.

We start things with a song that feels as though it’s been out as long as Bloc Party themselves have been around. That said, Mercury is a balls-out dance thumper with overtones of grimy punk, a million miles from the melodic soundtrackery of Two More Years, or the tiresome clumsiness of The Prayer. In fact, sounding more like a remix than a flat-out Bloc Party track, it’s a good indication of a band refusing to rest on their laurels.

Santogold is next up, with the meh-inducing Lights Out. Constant guitar mutterings lifted from a Max Martin standard provide an incompatible foundation for shrill, tedious vocals which would sound contentedly at home in a Kate Bush tribute dinner-and-concert jobby. Mildly amusing Santogold fact: the spellchecker on Microsoft Word automatically changes her name to ‘Sainthood’. Hell, it’s more entertaining than the music itself…

Shaking off any trace of Knowles nepotism and commanding her own spotlight with ease is Solange, with the entrancing magic of I Decided. Ordinarily, anything touched by the Freemasons reads like a government health warning in our eyes. However, a blast of Neptunes-produced indifference has been transformed into a bouncy, summery, Motown magnum opus, cementing Solange as an artist to keep a keen eye on.

However, Solange is just barely pipped to Single of the Week by the truly awesome Meccano, the second single from Transatlantic radio-rock genii Red Light Company. Three seconds of twinkling make way for explosive riffs and towering voices, surpassed only by the huge choruses. The strength of Meccano alone is enough to induce a frantic itchiness for the album’s release - surely the mark of a band destined for magnitude?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Single Reviews 04/08/08

Welcome, one and all, to another selection of songs being torn to shreds, more commonly knows as the Single Reviews. Things seem to be rather scarce on the new releases front these days, so you’ll have to pardon the somewhat skimpy length of the article. Mind you, the way we’ve been going lately, we’re lucky to have been able to chuck anything together…

Easing us into the reviews this week are The Music, a band who once threatened us with inescapable Kasabian-style triumph, yet have just about achieved success on a par with Sirens. Oh well. Their brand of intense, pelvic rock clout is very much present in The Spike, yet is simultaneously a step on from the haughtiness of previous material. A vast improvement, all in all.

Second only to the Spice Girls as the most exciting return amidst the recent spate of comebacks, The Verve signal their chart homecoming with Love Is Noise. Whilst the truly grating Laa-Laa style backing vocals detract from the song significantly, there remains enough potent Verve ingenuity to ensure a thumping, bright anthem worthy of the band’s legacy. And, in spite of its Cbeebies associations, we can just about push it to Single of the Week status.

And finally, we’re sad to report that yet another song has been tortured, gutted and worn as a vulgar, gory skin-suit by dancefloor-diluting musical assassins Cascada. Admittedly, we never cared one way or the other about the original version of Because The Night, but such vile, tasteless cover versions one after the other make for some seriously unpleasant listening. Almost as unbearable as the curdling screams it’s likely to induce in anyone who hears it.
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