Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Honking Box Preview: The X Factor

Ah, God bless The X Factor. Year in, year out, it makes for simultaneously some of the best and worst telly imaginable. And what better time to get off our arses and address the majestic mainstay of non-talent shows than at the judges’ houses stage? What’s that? They’re not the judges’ actual houses?! Shocked! And! Appalled! Time to write an angry, grammar-evading letter to the News of the World! And until then, we must boycott the Carphone Warehouse until they withdraw their sponsorship! Oh, those evil TV overlords and their torrent of lies. Lies!

Each of the four judges steps into their mentor role, as they whisk away the final six in each category for a poke and a prod and a whole lotta letdown, albeit in a pleasant location so it’s win/win. We’ve specifically been avoiding the spoilers splattered across various corners of t’Internet, so rest assured any estimates we make are highly likely to be wrong on all counts. More likely, however, is the history The X Factor has of ditching some of the best acts at the last minute. Hell, we still can’t believe 2 To Go ever reached the live finals.

Back to 2008, and Simon takes the boys’ category to Barbados in the company of Sinitta, whose perennial appearance as Simon’s henchdiva doubles up as both a hunt for new musical talent and a demonstration of how to incorporate garden furniture into your swimwear. Cheryl heads for St Tropez along with Kimberley Walsh, although Nicola Roberts sat scowling at each auditionee would’ve provided far greater television. And best of all, Dannii Minogue – rather unfairly, this year’s underdog – ropes in The Bunto to help her sift through the Over 25s in Cannes. Of course, anything with added Spice is sure to go down well round these parts.

Meanwhile, Louis, who is still happy to be thought of as the cheapest man in showbiz, takes his groups to Ireland. Couldn’t he at least dress it up as a fear of flying? Don’t get us wrong, we’re not dissing the nation – hell, Ireland begat The Sloppy Dog – but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s not Barbados. Although the mental image of Desire packing their bikinis and Factor 15 then seeing the closest they’ve got to a luxury infinity pool is a peat bog plays out quite fun in our heads.

The groups, once again, received the least regard throughout the auditions and Boot Camp, so it’s actually rather apt that they’re headed up by Louis, given that this year’s series has proved to be little more than The Simon & Cheryl Show. Two of the six – Girlband and Bad Lashes – seem fairly well-equipped for the live shows, certainly more so than the disgusting Hope were last year. Apparently, a similarly-crafted boy band were compiled this year from auditionee offcuts under the moniker Priority – we’ve seen sweet FA of them up until now, but don’t bet against them making the final 12; we all know how much Louis likes a young lad talented vocal harmony group.

That said, the weakest category by far is the boys. Tough titty, Cowell. With any luck, we’ll see the back of the vile Alan Turner, who may or may not have been given up for foster care by parents who may or may not have hated him, although our dislike comes mainly from his overall greasiness. Seriously, where does one even buy wet-look gel in 2008? Similarly, we don’t get the appeal of permanently-teary creatine goblin Austin Drage – some see it as determination, we see it as beyond desperate.

Which means, AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, it’s likely to come down to a face-off between Cheryl and Dannii. It’s almost as if the producers want them to have some sort of rivalry in the hope of obtaining greater publicity, and totally by accident, more viewers! But of course, that’s utterly ridiculous.

Dannii is definitely not one to be sniffed at – her seemingly-bizarre selections last year actually proved hugely successful, even if the end result did turn out to be Leon Jackson. This year, she’s got the batshit-crazy Rachel on board, who from the outset was dressed up to reach the finals. That said, Spanish Ruth may also be one to watch. However, Cheryl just pips Dannii with the girls, arguably the strongest category The X Factor has seen in quite some time. Aside from Hannah Bradbeer, whose Hyacinth-Bucket-meets-Aubrey-O’Day-meets-Axl-Rose outfits take a layer off your retinas each time she appears on screen, there’s a wealth of sizeable talent for Cheryl to cherry-pick. Or Cheryl-pick, if you will. Boom-boom.

And in true X Factor style, it’s spreading the gore across two nights in order to take the shine off Strictly Come Dancing, which incidentally, we couldn’t care less about in the absence of Alesha Dixon. Tune in on Saturday at 7:45pm to witness the semi-finalists choking on their shaky poolside renditions of Killing Me Softly, then at 7pm on Sunday to see gaggles of family and friends stuffed into someone’s front room like particularly excitable battery hens, only to recoil in despair at the news that “I ‘aven’t made it, Mam”. Except Alan Turner of course, who goes home to an empty orphanage with only his lies to keep him warm. Lies!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Single Reviews 29/09/08

Oh look, it’s the Single Reviews. This time, we’re going to blame the ongoing lack of updates on the fact we’ve been busy smashing open our piggy bank to help out our friends in the US government. Fear not, we’ll have a Honking Box post at some point within the next week, subject to us getting off our battycreases and actually writing it. But the intention is there, and isn’t that all that matters? No? Oh.

This week heralds the return of talentless oxygen thieves and general peddlers of malevolence, Boyzone. Providing a strong contender for worst single of their career (no, really), Love You Anyway is a forlorn attempt at the knowingly-camp gladness of Take That’s Shine, yet just falls short of Vanilla’s True To Us. Quite who invited these imbeciles back is an enigma, but they’re doing so with some abominably catchy witchcraft that ensures it won’t be a flying visit. Damn them. Damn them!

Another 90s institution - albeit one that doesn’t make you want to plug your ears with sticks of lit dynamite - also makes a return this week with the meaty, impressive anthem The Shock of the Lightning. Yes, in spite of many a missed boat, Oasis add a chapter to their heritage where the likes of Lyla diluted it. An easy Single of the Week, and a tremendous advertisement for Dig Out Your Soul.

It’s also a welcome return to the truly stupendous Pink, who’s using So What not so much to exorcise her demons as draw comedy moustaches on them and run away cackling. Much like Stupid Girls, it’s hugely tongue-in-cheek with an aim to grab attention, and while the subject matter and toddler chant may not float everyone’s boat, the sheer attitude displayed in So What firmly underlines Pink as one of today’s greatest pop stars.

Finally, The Streets manage to quell the third-album tales of celeb-humping debauchery had a childish “I know something you don’t know” quality, thus heavily alienating the Kudos-frequenting throngs that came to be Mike Skinner’s bread and butter - the comparatively modest Everything Is Borrowed redresses the balance nicely and presumably begins the long process of winning people back. We couldn’t give a rat’s ass over thisaway, mind. When’s Heroes on?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Single Reviews 22/09/08

Hmmmmm. Is it just us, or is there very little music to be getting excited about at the moment? Seriously, something needs to come along soon before the Sloppy Dog MP3 player falls victim to Little Jackie album overkill. As if to prove the point, here’s this week’s Single Reviews. Which does feature Will Young, so at least we get to release some bile…

Opening proceedings are one-time X Factor charlatans Avenue, who, in spite of what we imagine to be severely underwhelming demand, unveil themselves via the Dr-Luke-a-like ohrwurm Last Goodbye. Amidst all the hoo-ha about whether the industry is ready for another boyband, fundamentally, it’s actually a decent enough pop song. And bear in mind, people are buying into the fucking Jonas Brothers, so anything’s possible.

If the global economy is in that much trouble, folks would be wise to place all their stock in earplug production - Will Young is back. Yes, the in-bred, monkey-mugged, McJazz-peddling spunkbubble continues his quest to become the UK’s most irksome, unsightly and hateful singer, as proven in the vile Changes - a song that miraculously manages to be both excruciating and beige simultaneously.

Stuttering electro-beats and dark cavernous chords all point towards another masterpiece courtesy of Ladytron. It’s no Destroy Everything You Touch (yes, we’re still hung up on that), but nonetheless, the stirring Runaway scoops our Single of the Week honour. A keyboard-battering anthem which revisits the Eighties in their entirety, as opposed to just a polite acknowledgement (in a good way, mind, not in a Calvin Harris way).

Finally, as we return from the 1984 jaunt with Ladytron, we make a stop in the mid-Nineties with a re-release trumpeting a Best Of compilation from Saint Etienne. The opening synthage of Burnt Out Car 2008 implies a great big homosexual disco anthem is imminent, yet thankfully it just stops short of reaching such lows heights. Xenomania hint towards the long-forgotten golden millisecond they provided for Dannii Minogue’s career, but all in all, add sweet FA to the first edition.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Single Reviews 15/09/08

Hey you! Stuck in a foreign airport after your airline and/or holiday provider went tits-up? Sat in a car outside Dover amidst a static convoy of backed-up lorries? Pacing the platforms at St Pancras wondering how to get to Paris, or vice versa? Well, we can’t help. But we can provide you with a few minutes entertainment in the form of our Single Reviews

The increasingly desperate McFly unveil the second single from their giveaway stunt, presumably in the hope it’ll claw onto the Top 40 for more than a lone week this time. However, Lies may actually go some way to turning a head outside of their squeeing fanbase. A grand, pop-heavy nod to the 80s, it’s by no means bad, but it’ll take another All About You to induce anything greater than a ‘meh’ from Joe Public.

After a handful of (somewhat unfair) non-starter singles, The Feeling finally come good with the titular gem from their second album. While it may conjure up an initial desire to visit a Toyota dealership, Join With Us is a particularly satisfying reminder of just why the band grabbed our attention in the first place. And while the “ring ring, beep beep” hook is a definite divider, the fact Join With Us is our Single of the Week should clear up which camp we fall into.

We Are Scientists narrowly miss out on the aforementioned accolade with the excellent Impatience, a pleasantly pulsating anthem that shows off all Keith Murray’s bestest bits to great effect. And frankly, if anyone can find a greater example of uproariously indulgent lycanthropy anywhere in contemporary popular culture than in this video, we shall happily munch on the hat of your choice.

And finally, a song which is apparently poised to claim the Number One spot this Sunday. While we’re all for the end of Katy Perry’s repugnant reign, why have there been such a worryingly high number of chart-toppers this year that we just don’t ‘get’…? Sex On Fire by the terminally overrated Kings of Leon is no exception - though highly alluring, you simultaneously expect a teenage Courteney Cox to emerge from the crowd and start uncle-dancing halfway through.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Single Reviews 08/09/08

Woo-hoo! We’re happy chaps here at Sloppy Dog Towers this week, mainly because the vile Mikey didn’t win Big Brother. We’re actually more happy that the bloody thing is over and done with, but huge congratulations to Rachel all the same, proving that nice guys don’t always finish last. Well, in this case, she did… but finishing last was a good thing. Oh, you know what we mean. Right then, Single Reviews

Gym Class Heroes kick us off this week with the rather disappointing Cookie Jar. The college rock sensibilities on display throughout As Cruel As School Children have been dropped in favour of smooth ‘n’ synthy chestnuttage courtesy of The-Dream. It was always going to take a magnificent song to paper over the fact Travis McCoy willingly puts it in Katy bastard Perry - and Cookie Jar sure ain’t it.

Next comes the distinguishable parp of a sax that can only be the work of The Zutons (or, on occasion, further desperate attempts from Mark Ronson to shoehorn an entire brass band where there’s clearly no need for them). What’s Your Problem is a memorable, affable stand-out gem amongst the largely disappointing You Can Do Anything, and makes for a more-than-decent Single of the Week.

Speaking of our Single of the Week honour, this year’s two least likely recipients team up for a track which is sorely nowhere close to the mark of distinction each achieved on their own. Flo Rida and Will.I.Am stutter the clichéd ramblings of In The Ayer atop a beat used by Fergie a thousand times over. Also, ‘air’ spelt as ‘ayer’…? Do. Not. Want.

And finally, we welcome back perennial Sloppy Dog adversaries, the fucking Pussycat Dolls, who return from their syphilis treatment hiatus with the frankly ridiculous When I Grow Up - a song that documents their childhood aspirations of stardom. Realistically though, does ANYONE dream of thrusting their anonymous gash behind a woman significantly more talented than them? With any luck, this sewage will go the same way as Scherzinger’s wretched solo idiocy (which, by the way, HA).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Little Jackie - The Stoop (Parlophone)

Every now and then, an album comes along that commands your attention from the first bar. One such album was Chupacabra, the 1998 introduction to New York newcomer Imani Coppola – sadly, too few people heard that first bar to reel them in, thus creating a lost masterpiece.

A decade on, and Imani Coppola has teamed up with DJ/producer Adam Pallin to form Little Jackie, a collective that have already bestowed us with the greatest song of the year in the shape of The World Should Revolve Around Me. Setting the standard so astronomically high with the first single means semi-debut album The Stoop has quite a challenge on its hands…

Rather than acting as some sort of Chupacabra Redux, it seems Pallin has Coppola firmly tethered to 2008, and more importantly, reality. Where Coppola’s debut was a fantastical mash-up of John Lennon meets Phoebe Buffay, The Stoop is a much more pragmatic affair, grounded in the hardships and simple pleasures of everyday life. And yet, when such potentially muted subject matter is swathed in the inventive, refined, zesty magic of Little Jackie, it takes on a whole new outlook.

Guys Like When Girls Kiss manages with class, humour and relevance what the grotesque Katy Perry tried to convey with trashiness and failed titillation. Elsewhere, the stupendous Crying For The Queen calls out the terminal joke that is Amy Winehouse for her unprofessionalism and general idiocy. Well, it was about time someone did it – Little Jackie just happen to do it using killer hooks and scathing (yet entirely justified) lyrics.

The brand of quirky, fresh indie-soul on display throughout The Stoop is literally impossible to pigeonhole. Much like Gnarls Barkley, the Little Jackie sound hits you without warning, yet simultaneously from a hundred directions at once. That’s not to say there’s any parallels with Gnarls Barkley sonically – it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of this collective creating music quite so unique.

In fact, the lone gripe that can be nit-picked from The Stoop is that it’s over way too early – however, whether this is an actual duration issue or merely a ‘time-flies-when…’ cliché remains to be seen. The Stoop proves that Imani Coppola is as capable of astute social commentary with a sly wink as she is of hip-hop lunar lullabies, and that Adam Pallin has the tools to make that talent operate tremendously. Together, they’ve produced an album which, if there’s any justice, will reach a significantly higher number of ears than Chupacabra - and however many ears it does reach, you can guarantee will be entirely captivated.

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