Friday, October 31, 2008

Single Reviews 03/11/08

Prior to this week’s Single Reviews, we feel we must address our actions. In light of recent events, it’s come to our attention that some readers may have been offended by our past slaegin of Mika. We apologise unreservedly for any upset these remarks caused Mika or his family. As a result, we’ll be suspending The Sloppy Dog for three days, and Tim Berners-Lee, who is obviously responsible in the bigger picture, will be retiring from the internet, effective immediately.

Aptly for a release this close to Halloween, a startlingly good debut by the intriguing VV Brown, which sounds dangerously similar to The Monster Mash. And, for all the sarcasm abused on this blog, we say this as a good thing. Crying Blood is the sort of delightful peculiarity doused in Sixties goodness that Solange Knowles’ album was sorely bereft of. With any luck, this is merely the start of something huge.

It’s safe to assume VV Brown would’ve been a certainty for Single of the Week had it not been for the Stereophonics, who steal the title with their greatest single since Dakota. The spine-tingling melancholia of You’re My Star provides a softer-edged sound for the band, but the raw, gravelly melodies are still very much on show. What better way to cap a ten-year career and lead into their Best Of? Or, more aptly, cover up Superman?

Whinging shite-sack and all-round pain in the cock Adele makes another stab at matching the inexplicable success of the loathsome Chasing Pavements. Yes, in spite of all ensuing singles barely denting the lower end of the Top 250, the grim Biffa unveils Make You Feel My Love, a truly depressing bleatalong fit for the dumper. And, for the record, we imagine Adele’s love smells like the underside of a North Sea trawler mixed with chip fat.

And sticking with the Brit School, we come to a slightly less irritating graduate in the form of Leona Lewis. Having already milked her debut album of a massive two singles (and no, we don’t count the truly cuntish A Moment Like This), the Cowell Cash Cow heralds a shameless repackage in the form of Forgive Me, a forgettable and nauseatingly sexless attempt at uptempo. Mind you, the accompanying video proves great fun – the dullest woman in music also dances like a white man.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Honking Box Review: Britannia High

It’ll probably come as no surprise to hear that the whole High School Musical thing passed us by here at The Sloppy Dog. Presumably because it’s aimed at eight-year-old girls, and as if we’d let eight-year-old girls loose on our wonderful blog. No, we have them scrubbing floors in the basement instead. Arf, etc. However, for those ignorant of the phenomenon, ITV are doing their very best to ram it forcefully down the throats of anyone who missed it the first time. Except, this time, it’s called Britannia High.

Let’s clarify, first and foremost, that this is IN NO WAY a complete and utter rip-off of the Disney dollar-printer. It is an ENTIRELY ORIGINAL concept, and could NEVER be described as a forlorn attempt to shamelessly anglicise one of the biggest brands in the world today in the hope of making a few quid. In fairness, it actually looks more like a Visit London presentation than a High School Musical parody, launching with what felt like a 16-minute title sequence flagrantly begging to be sold to overseas broadcasters.

So, the premise of Britannia High in a nutshell. Performing arts school. Singing. Dancing. Bitching, albeit on a Bella-from-Tweenies level. Genitalia-free love story. Shoehorned-in cameos. And overall, it’s a vehicle for albums, merchandise and all kinds of multi-platform spasticity. Mind you, things haven’t gotten off to a great start - the school itself looks scarily like Drake Circus Shopping Centre, leaving you thinking the bendy girl practising her ├ępaulements on the front steps is about to be shoved sideways by a noisy Devon lady bogged down with Primark bags running to catch a No. 41.

The drama – and when we say drama, we’re talking a Year 8 improvisation of shoplifting an apple – is interspliced with frankly bizarre pop video-type performances. A scene where two jazz-handed brats in tights and off-the-shoulder tops (and these are just the male students) will be discussing whether they’ve got Maths after Double Tap, until 80s power chords drown out the dialogue, provide a bed for ‘inspirational’ lyrics, then all of a sudden we’re transported to some sort of Total Eclipse of the Heart for the digital age. It’s inexplicable.

And briefly returning to the subject of dialogue, Britannia High’s first episode displayed some of the ropiest scripts ever broadcast, which you could well imagine even the cast of Robin Hood wincing at. Particular bile must be spat in the direction of Maxxie from fucking Skins, complete with God-awful perm a la Rita Fairclough, for his brazen use of the term “chillax” – a word which has quickly come to be defined as the calling card of an utter cunt.

Aside from anything else though, Britannia High finally gives some sort of explanation for why the atrocious DanceX actually happened. Rana and Marquelle, admittedly two of the more talented contenders, appear here in lead roles. And while, at the time, we thought Rana was all sorts of ace, she appears to have grown an entirely new voice in the past 18 months, and miraculously no longer sounds like Michael Jackson being ironed. So Britannia High is magic! Like Hogwarts!

Elsewhere from the DanceX camp, Daniel has been reduced to an extra role (sorry, “supporting artiste”), and an upcoming episode sees Phoenix starring in the Britannia High end-of-term production of Phantom of the Opera, where he doesn’t actually require a mask. This may or may not be a lie. But with Arlene Phillips on board as producer, who knows? If she can last a whole episode staying firmly off-camera, and not running on to dry-hump the male stars, anything – literally, anything – is possible.

All in all though, there’s little positive to say about Britannia High. Aside from the quality aspect, it’s just all very unoriginal and uninspired. The shadow of High School Musical… a questionable Fame redux… The Biz with a hefty budget. Undoubtedly though, there’s most likely a market for it; an audience that might consider Britannia High to be something halfway to passable. If only it were on in the slot between Lazytown and Newsround where it belongs...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sugababes - Catfights & Spotlights (Island)

Who’d have thought, eight years ago, that a trio of working-class schoolgirls would develop into an acclaimed British pop institution? Well, only one of that trio did, technically – but Sugababes, as a band and as a brand, have come to be respected and recognised, and as such, can be taken for granted to the extent that the nation will open identify their new single as an unreserved piece of shit.

It kinda serves a purpose here, mind. Where fifth album Change had to live up to astronomical expectations set by About You Now, it’s the opposite for Catfights & Spotlights, whose lead single Girls will go down as a dirty great black mark on the career of the Sugababes. Never mind the tracks that missed the Top 30, the one that sampled the Boots ad will rightfully remain the albatross on a generally flawless catalogue.

Which begs the question, is there anything the remainder of Catfights & Spotlights can do to redeem matters? In short, hell yes. Girls pales into near-insignificance amongst the ingenuity and sinister charm of Every Heart Broken, or the lovelorn 21st century doo-wop of Nothing’s As Good As You.

Some material, while high in quality, does feel slightly more imitative than we’re used to from the Sugababes. Bearing in mind Overload was mother to any number of thunderous pop masterpieces since 2000, it’s a shame that no such innovation makes an appearance on Catfights & Spotlights. Nonetheless, excellence doesn’t always spring from originality – see the Bond-esque Sunday Rain, or the Winehouse-circa-sobriety superbness of Beware. There are very noticeable Sixties overtones throughout, which may well be a conscious leap aboard an already-tired bandwagon, yet the ’Babes pull it off with personality and finesse.

Ironically for a group of women in their mid-twenties, they’ve still failed to produce anything as mature as gymslip debut One Touch, but Catfights & Spotlights comes dangerously close. It’s a cohesive snapshot of where the Sugababes – after personnel changes, label politics, unwelcome scabloid coverage and the occasional duff musical choice – are right now, and it’s a far stronger place than at least three previous albums.

And if Change didn’t fully cement Amelle Berrabah as a paid-up member of the Sugababes proper, Catfights & Spotlights soon lays the now surprisingly-distant ghost of Mutya to rest (presumably in a Puffa-lined, studded coffin). The slightly clumsy Side Chick is rescued entirely by sixty-mile-a-minute rappery courtesy of Berrabah, drenched in a distinctive attitude no other Sugababe, past or present, has proved capable of.

The Sugababes have reached a point in their career where each new album release feels almost comforting. You know it’s coming, you know roughly what to expect, and it never carries the foreboding of, say, a Britney Spears or Girls Aloud release. In this respect, there may be a danger of complacency amongst both the band and the public, but on the strengths of Catfights & Spotlights as an album, the material is going to keep everyone more than interested for a long time yet.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Single Reviews 20/10/08

So, another bad seven days. Winter well on its way; the financial world still in disarray; and, more importantly, it’s not been the greatest week in the reality TV world either, with Bad Lashes and Nel’s both inexplicably booted from The X Factor and The Restaurant respectively. Dark times indeed. Hey, fancy some Single Reviews to cheer yourselves up?

First up, a distinctly average entry from terminal specialists of ‘alright’, Bloc Party. The decidedly cardboard Talons houses thundering riffs matched with jittery beats, but sadly, once again, a vocal from Kele Okereke which sounds as though he’s reading a particularly sombre news bulletin. Luckily, a brawny chorus and middle eight save it from complete ruin.

Continuing the tradition of slightly ropey Bond themes, the how-the-fuck-did-they-meet pairing of Jack White and Alicia Keys roll out another clich├ęd offering. In fairness, Another Way To Die is nowhere near as dire as many are making out, but for a good two decades now, it seems a near-impossibility to produce a decent Bond song. Or maybe we’re just bitter that the Feeder pitch was rejected.

Girls Aloud once again underline their status as champion opinion-splitters with the far-from-immediate, quirky quasi-ballad, The Promise. It’s a tad frustrating to see a group as inventive as Girls Aloud follow the trend of dreary post-Winehouse nods to the Sixties, but at least they’ve managed it with a degree of sparkle. Based on this, we’ll be intrigued to cast our beadies over the album…

And finally, a tremendous return to Hopes & Fears greatness from Keane, a colossal relief after the ropey-at-best sophomore submission. The Lovers Are Losing boasts the ability to firmly prop up neck-hairs before the chorus is even in sight, and is thus an instant Single of the Week. Oh, and we’d started reviewing the album earlier this week, but never got round to actually writing anything of substance. In short, it’s good. Buy it. Y’know, if you like Keane.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Single Reviews 13/10/08

So, two days since we semi-launched a half-arsed campaign to gently pollute the insides of the UK’s worst customer, and we’ve not yet had a snarky, clipped email from his solicitor. Go us. Mind you, perhaps our time would’ve been better spent picking up the phone for Bad Lashes (oooh, burn) than spreading hatred. And yet we’ve still found time to do some Single Reviews, you lucky buggers…

The Saturdays start us off with a surprisingly impressive helping of femme-pop goodness. After a shockingly beige debut, Up is frankly the kind of thing the Sugababes should’ve been putting out in place of that Advantage Card monstrosity. Whether they’re interesting enough as a group to go any significant distance remains to be seen, but on the evidence of Up, at least they’ve got the music side right.

Single of the Week is awarded to Snow Patrol, who hopefully are ready with shovels to bury Chasing Cars for good - The X Factor doesn’t just crush dreams, it makes superior songs entirely unlistenable. Thankfully, Take Back The City is the very antithesis of the aforementioned - an energetic, unrefined, hook-packed indie radio mantra, and a welcome reminder of a band who do uptempo just as good as solemn, if not better.

Speaking of The X Factor, last year’s apparent winner Leon Jackson finally opens the velvet drapes on his first material. However, where Leona’s expensive, high-gloss cash machine of a single displayed some rationale for the wait, the colourless tedium of Don’t Call This Love wouldn’t justify a fortnight’s delay. Good luck keeping your eyes open past the two-minute mark, seriously.

And finally, pretend-political Mitcham mongfest M.I.A. unleashes another supposed postmodern rant about something we’ll probably never care about. We could just about get our heads round the idea of a few singles being shifted to pretentious morons who leave vintage copies of The Face on their coffee table to prove some sort of point, but now she’s daring to bother the Top 20?! Fingers crossed Paper Planes is just a one-off fluke…

Friday, October 10, 2008

Honking Box Review: The Restaurant

Amidst the spate of attention-grabbing televisual events at the moment (The X Factor, Merlin, Beautiful People, Heroes, that dancing show people inexplicably go cuckoo over), there’s one show proving to be more gripping, entertaining and generally watchable than all of the above. The Restaurant is quickly establishing itself as one of the greatest reality/elimination shows of recent years.

So far this series, we’ve seen someone serve tinned mango pulp as a dessert and expect to get away with it; potato salad, carrots and green beans passed off as Mexican cuisine; diners being verbally requested by the restaurant manager to leave a tip; and, hilariously, Sir Walter ‘Reilly’.

However, the mighty Sarah Willingham continues to steal the show, although her presence is more of a complement to Monsieur Blanc as opposed to an out-and-out Scherzingerisation. Her steely gaze as she grips the steering wheel en route to dissecting each contestant is something to behold, especially when you know a mezze of knockout one-liners will be doled out once she reaches her destination.

Where The Apprentice sees the truly repugnant Sir Alan Sugar revelling in the misery of desperate, dead-eyed businessbots, Raymond Blanc openly looks for style, creativity and personality over black-and-white figures. Fair enough, excelling in the restaurant trade requires an entirely different set of skills to stomping through the dollar-driven world of business, but the mere fact that Raymond Blanc openly respects and understands the contestants and their ideas only highlights Sralan further as a grotesque, ignorant bully with a severe Napoleon complex.

And yet, the worldwide levels by which all bastards are measured were reset this week on The Restaurant, which would put Sralan somewhere around the Fwuffy Bunny mark. True Provenance played host to arguably the most hateful, aggressive, loathsome fucking scumbag we’ve seen on television this year. If his frankly unbelievable behaviour was some form of compensation for having a small penis, then we can only assume his todger was practically inverted. Fair play to Tim and Lindsie for keeping their calm with such a disgusting example of humanity, as he’d have gone home with a fork in his neck had he been eating at the Sloppy Dog Brasserie.

We openly invite kitchen staff of the nation to defecate in anything this man ever orders. Give the toilet floors a wipe with his steak before slapping it on his plate. Lace his soup with a generous splash of the laxative of your choice. Hell, even if you serve him at the checkout in M&S, try and at least sneeze on his change.

Back to the matter at hand before this turns into another Grace Adams-Short fiasco, this week’s challenge saw the rice-and-grammar-ignorant Welsh Wok duo taking on the sweaty, awkward passive-aggressiveness of The Gallery, and the actually rather endearing Nel’s.

However, the inability of a Cantonese chef to cook rice coupled with front-of-house skills frostier than a particularly aloof penguin meant that Laura and Peter rightly got the chop. And although Alastair and James must surely be on their last legs, The Restaurant would be far less entertaining without them. A frankly bizarre inability to communicate with one another; disorganisation matched only by homoeroticism; out-and-out stupidity. Overall, they’re only just behind Sarah Willingham as the star(s) of the series.

…We should point out, however, that there’s no correlation between who the stars of the series are, and who’s going to win. We’re anticipating a final showdown between Nel’s and The Cheerful Soul, although determining who’ll walk away with the prize is far more difficult. Much as we love The Cheerful Soul, we partly want to see Michele’s happy pink bubble go pop, unleashing all manner of four-letter darkness. Actually, that’s a bit evil, isn’t it? Maybe we’re more suited to The Apprentice after all…

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Single Reviews 06/10/08

This week’s Single Reviews are brought to you by a dangerous cocktail of diclofen, co-dydramol, and Lemsip Max Cold & Flu (lemon flavour, we can’t be doing with any of that blackcurrant shit ). So you’ll forgive us if we’re a tad hoarse, sniffly, or do something crazy like forget to actively detest Mika for a second or two.

Ordinarily, we’d be all kinds of cockahoop at the return of the Sugababes - given that previous comeback singles have included About You Now, Freak Like Me and Push The Button, it’s fair to expect pop magnificence. Instead, we get Girls. One wonders whether it would’ve been the shitshower it is had it not been on the Boots ad, but sadly, with the image of mummies bouncing on a lawn-trampoline armed with Soltan burned into our brains, we’ll never know.

And going from bad to worse, the Kaiser Chiefs also make a return this week with the pantomime singalong monstrosity of Never Miss A Beat. Quite aptly titled too, as we’d never miss an opportunity to beat the bejesus out of these contrived tosspots. See what we did there? All things considered, it doesn’t appear to owe too much to the likes of fucking Ruby, but sadly they’re still a vast expanse of diarrhoea away from first-album majesty.

John Legend isn’t ordinarily an artist we’d pay much attention to, but it’s hard to ignore the wonder of Greenlight, thanks largely to a guest appearance by the inimitable Andre 3000. The lingering ivory-bothering takes a back seat to a lively, elasticky techno-bounce and actually provides a far more appealing foundation for Legend’s downy vocals than anything he’s done by himself.

And finally, the Ting Tings surprise us all - and probably even themselves, we’d imagine - with a display of talent previously confined to irritating playground skipping anthems for the digital age. Be The One manages to hook our Single of the Week honour with its memorable chorus, disarming melodies, and most importantly, that it manages both of these things with a distinct lack of patented Ting Tings annoyance. Is this the Lemsip talking?
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