Friday, May 29, 2009

Single Reviews 01/06/09

Welcome to this week’s Single Reviews, where we’re pleased to announce that The Sloppy Dog is officially a Susan Boyle-Free Zone. We realise mentioning her name sorta nullifies this, but hey, it’ll send our hit counter through the roof (like the last time that happened, when the term “Holly Willoughby’s tits” brought in hundreds of new visitors – presumably, they won't be searching the term “Susan Boyle” for the same purposes).

After the saccharin bloodbath of My Life Would Suck Without You, one would think Kelly Clarkson might try and pluck something half-reasonable from her catalogue to excuse it. Evidently, no such track exists, hence I Do Not Hook Up, yet another insipid, all-American female “I’m demure, me” cliché, this time performed in the style of an anaemic mutant Avril Lavigne, all ham-fisted lyrics and vocal police sirens.

What a relief, then, that we can block out such filth with our Single of the Week, a mightily grand indie-funk masterpiece courtesy of Hockey. For a band from Oregon, the flagrant entertainment factor of Learn To Lose has a distinctly British feel, though special mention must also be made of the strapping vocals and spellbindingly riotous synthwork on display. We can haz album? Kthxbai.

Another artist nodding funkwards is Solange, with another single plucked from an album that feels like it was released a good two years ago. While the unhurried, laissez-faire T.O.N.Y. isn’t one of her stronger efforts, it’s nonetheless a reminder of a unique artist who frankly should’ve turned a lot more heads. For her music, we mean, not for mouthing off at hapless Fox News presenters.

And bringing up the rear this week are Snow Patrol, with a more produced, slightly livelier update on The Planets Bend Between Us – a pleasingly more abstract offering than previous downtempo numbers, yet still unmistakeably Snow Patrol. Perhaps the piano-led album take didn’t lend itself to X Factor soundbeds as effectively? We jest. Well, partially.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Honking Box Preview: American Idol

So, as we come to the final of American Idol 8, we’ve witnessed many a would-be Idol go packing – early bookies’ favourite Alexis Grace; walking tale of woe Danny Gokey; the utterly shambolic Megan Joy, arguably the worst talent show finalist we’ve ever witnessed; SPONTANEOUS thirteenth wildcarder Anoop Desai; and the outstanding Allison Iraheta, who, if there were any justice, would be sharing the stage with Adam Lambert this week.

Alas, we can’t complain, as Adam, the official Sloppy Dog-endorsed contestant, made it to the end. And bearing in mind we’re still bitter about Ruth Lorenzo coming fifth, that’s progress if nothing else. So what are his chances? With slow-burning tweenage favourite Kris Allen claiming the other spot in the final, it’s a tighter race than even ol’ Calculated Cowell might’ve predicted.

Will Kris join the worryingly sizeable club of mousey, boyish silver medallists (David Archuleta, Clay Aiken, Blake Lewis), or will the hordes of squeeing fangirls win out and make him the next Idol? Bear in mind, the aforementioned squeeing fangirls didn’t manage to crown their beloved Archuleta last year, as demonstrated hilariously here. (Aside from being a brilliant opportunity to laugh at the misery of a bunch of 9-year-old girls, it’s also a pleasant reminder that David Cook is, by far and away, the greatest winner Idol has ever had.)

Speaking of the great Cookie himself, our initial thought on Adam Lambert was that he was effectively a gay edition of David Cook. However, we’ve since deduced that if last year’s finalists – that’s Davids Cook and Archuleta, for any fools not in the know – had a baby, it’d be Kris Allen. Seriously, try watching him without seeing bizarre elements of both Davids melded into one.

But enough talk of the most grim, perverse genetic experiments imaginable, and on with the competition. In the interests of fairness, we’ve weighed up the pros and cons of each contender for your perusal...
In short, Adam Lambert for the win. However, the bible belt will be doing its damndest to vote against the sinful theatre gay, upping Kris’ chances significantly. So we shall take this opportunity to politely request the rest of America GETS OFF THEIR BATTYCREASES AND VOTES FOR ADAM. Thanking you kindly.

Overall, this season of American Idol has been massively entertaining – perhaps not quite as good as last year’s, but we shall certainly have difficulty filling that immoral talent show hole until The X Factor kicks off in August. We’ll miss Ryan’s hapless attempts to appear down wit da kids; we’ll miss Paula babbling incoherently like the utter fucking loon she is; we’ll miss the frankly bizarre star spots in the audience; we won’t, however, miss Kara telling someone “You were sen [ten second pause] SAY-tional! Who does that? You, that’s who!”

The final airs tonight and tomorrow in the US, so we’ll be avoiding pretty much every news and pop culture website in existence until it goes through the Coke-blurring and Ford-eradicating process for ITV2 on Friday night. For now, we trust the good folk of America will be dialling appropriately, but if not, at least they get to experience the awkwardness of having their very own Leon Jackson. Ha.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Single Reviews 18/05/09

So, seriously, Europe, what the jiggins is up with voting Norway? Did we see a completely different performance to the rest of the continent? Or is this like another bloody Ebony Bones thing (‘ello love!) where everyone else in the world ‘gets’ it but us? With that in mind, this week’s Single Reviews will probably be directly contrary to the general public opinions...

Taylor Swift is first under the microscope, with the saccharin Disney ballad of Teardrops On My Guitar. The fact she actually has a guitar bodes fairly well, and there’s certainly the air of talent here, but it’s a tad too eyes-and-teeth for it to truly shine through. So with that in mind, we’ll await her post-rehab, post-pre-marital-baby, post-punk album with glee.

The welcome return of the Manic Street Preachers next, with the anthemic Jackie Collins Existential Question Time. Aside from the mouthwateringly barmy title, which in itself deserves some sort of blue plaque, the song itself is unpredictable, nonchalantly grand, and boasts a distinctive balance of riotous and melodic. Always nice to have you back, gents.

However, it doesn’t quite stretch to Single of the Week, a title which is instead given to Absent Elk. The atmospheric indie majesty illustrated in Sun & Water demonstrates a great deal of promise, which hopefully later material will live up to. Mind you, their acoustic YouTube material is as accomplished as the big orchestral splendour displayed here – can they do any wrong?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top (Transgressive Records)

With the Blur reunion imminent, notably as a quartet for the first time since 2002, it’s worth noting that Graham Coxon’s seventh solo album is more on a par with his earliest solo work – the arguably-diversionary acoustica released as a side project during the 13 era – rather than his more recent, more FM-friendly material. Is such melancholy material an insight into his Blurtime mindset? A dose of distraction, perhaps? Or merely an earnest demonstration of one man’s musical endowment?

A lengthy, quietly-epic album of simple, understated innocence, The Spinning Top tells the story, quite plainly, of a man’s life from birth through to death. Perhaps on paper not the most immediately-engaging narrative, yet the unassuming vocals and simple melodies twinkle along, complementing to the tale to incredible effect.

There’s a clear theme on display throughout The Spinning Top, with the overriding milieu one of stillness and subtlety. Gentle whispers of guitar pervade each track, and while accusations of repetitiveness are likely, they’re nullified by what Coxon is aiming to achieve – the seamless flow of the album is key to the tale being told.

That’s not to say the individual songs don’t carry their own identity, even if it is difficult to discern at first listen. The eight-and-a-half minute lullaby of In The Morning refuses to stray from its hushed country fayre blueprint, while Caspian Sea displays a dizzying resonance, peppered with intentionally-clumsy wallops of cymbal. Elsewhere, If You Want Me and Perfect Love each begin life as a sombre strumalong, before making way for, respectively, a bluesy galumph and an effervescent indie masterpiece.

The simplicity and agelessness of The Spinning Top, coupled with Coxon’s unobtrusive sincerity as a vocalist, make it an album that achieves far more than its minimal components would initially suggest. For a concept album, particularly one with such an austere, unembroidered story to tell, it’s gloriously unpretentious stuff. On the strength of The Spinning Top, that Blur reunion can wait a bit longer.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Single Reviews 11/05/09

Yes, we’re aware updates have been sporadic of late, if sporadic means “entirely absent.” Amongst other things, we’ve been undergoing the... er... immense task of setting up our Twitter page, which given we’re still not fully ‘getting’, is likely to be updated less often than this increasingly-patchy blog. But for now, enjoy our Single Reviews...

Having the unenviable spot of being the first single we’ve reviewed in a month means The Killers might be doused in stored-up bile. Luckily, we’ve rather taken to Day & Age-era Killers, something which The World We Live In cements further. This won’t do them any favours with the backwards fans who want them to revert to the diluted stabs at stadium rock, but the hummable, temperate synthage is more than passable.

Alesha Dixon follows up the still-genius Breathe Slow with the slightly-less genius Let’s Get Excited – a floorfilling pop thunderer which functions brilliantly as an album opener, but with the cheap, tawdry remix that’s unfathomably gone to radio, is unlikely to bring home the bacon as a single. Mind you, Alesha could burp the alphabet, release that a single and we’d still think she was the absolute dog’s bollocks.

Sounding like Coldplay’s entire back catalogue pretty much all at once is quite an achievement, but Gary Go manages it with ease on new single Open Arms – you, the reader, can decide whether that’s a compliment or a cuss-out. From where we’re standing, it might not display a whole lot in the way of originality, but the cascading riffs and rocketing vocals are an indicator of some genuine talent, and thus warrant a Single of the Week accolade.

Lastly, the ginormous cultural question mark that is Ebony Bones, with the similarly-baffling The Musik. Seriously, is this some sort of media-wide prank? Let’s break this down: Yasmin from Family Affairs (YASMIN! Low-rent Yasmin! Not even Dusty!) singing. Shouting, in fact. Over some pre-programmed 1991 school music-room Casio beats. Music and fashion press alike are foaming at the mouth. Fans, similarly, going apeshit. Ladies and gentlemen, the world is being Punk’d.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Sloppy Dog LiveBlog: The Apprentice

Good evening, and thank you for choosing to spend the duration of The Apprentice with us, assuming you're reading this live. The rest of you - what's tomorrow like? Is it filled with hope and optimism, or is Fearne Cotton still alive? (Those of you who are reading this live, keep hitting refresh for updates).

21:01 - Not only are the half-hour opening titles duller than shite, they're also a sore reminder of the brilliant contenders that were sent packing. Sadface for Paula and Kimberley.

21:02 - A recap of last week's dire lack of action, and Noorul getting fired to worldwide indifference.

21:04 - Ben drops the prophetic statement that "a gateway is a gate to somewhere" - someone carve this man's every word in marble, for he is a veritable knowledgefest. Despite the contestants' hopes that they'll be heading off to sell sports cars on the beaches of Dubai, they're heading somewhere up Norf in the rain.

21:07 - Time to select the project managers. Mona's foolishly putting herself forward, which screams of a boardroom bloodbath. Meanwhile, on the opposing team whose name escapes me with all this team-swapping, Lorraine is at the helm. Poor, put-upon Lorraine. Flustered, overbite-tastic, accent-shifting know-it-all Lorraine. Last week, she was described by Margaret Mountford as being Cassandra:

(We're certain that's who she meant. Surely the cultured and wise Margaret Mountford, highly-educated laywer, entrepreneur and executive, currently studying for her doctorate in papyrology, couldn't have been talking about another Cassandra?)

21:10 - So the task, it seems, is to select and market a new product from a range proposed to each team by new designers. Or at least, that's as much as I could gather when I was busy Googling for an image of Cassandra. Amongst the products on display is a cardboard box for cats to play in, which your keyboard-battering correspondent spotted in an overpriced gift shop in Brighton last week. A spoiler, perhaps?

21:13 - Lorraine's team have selected the aforementioned cat monstrosity, and a bike bag, which she's now pitching horribly with Yasmina. Lorraine, FYI, is currently speaking with English accent. She'll no doubt flit to Irish before the episode is out. This is very annoying indeed.

21:17 - Mona has despatched Debra and Howard to pitch to the same panel of business-Scousers, with a similarly poor display to their rivals. Their products are a repugnant, impractical and presumably hugely uncomfortable sleeping bag with limbs, and a two-person dog lead. Or, if you use it upside down, a one-person dog lead for a two-headed dog.

21:21 - The voiceover describes "the shops of the North-West" in the same way as you'd describe "the slums of Sao Paolo". Not long after "the shops of the North-West" open, Mona flogs the people-shaped sleeping shrouds to a camping shop, while the ever-vile Ben nails a high-profile pitch. A pitch which is quickly hijacked by the hapless Lorraine, in spite of Yasmina's protests. This should be good.

21:24 - Debra Barr doesn't quite have the businesswoman look down pat, does she? She's not so much 'get the job done' as she is 'get fingered in the Wetherspoon's beer garden after two Smirnoff Ices.' A prime paradigm of pramface.

21:26 - Vile Ben, Whiny Geordie and Spare Slapperton Sister crash and burn in their pitch to a cycling shop. Meanwhile, Lorraine charges headlong into their big-money proposal with all the poise of a three-legged rhinoceros. It's not looking good for Stealth. Or Eclipse. Or Insight. Or Burglar. What are the teams called this year?

21:29 - Oo-er, Lorraine is snarking about Slapperton Kate's beauty. Well, wouldn't you, if you were the spitting image of Calamity James?

21:32 - Accentwatch: Lorraine's gone momentarily Irish.

21:34 - Time for the boardroom, and it's a reminder of just how little we've seen of Mona and James today. In fact, her whole team garnered sod-all screentime today. You'd initially think this might be a result of the opposing team's utter stupidity, but Sralan reveals they sold diddly-squat during the pitches he set up for them. Way to impress the boss, guys.

21:37 - Slapperton reveals Lorraine "lacked some structure", which may well be the most diplomatic way of saying "was a complete fucking moron who turned everything she touched into a puddle of diarrhoea."

21:38 - And Mona's team - Empire, we finally learn - win by a margin of £3000. Slapperton looks pissed, Ben looks vile, and Lorraine looks worried. As worried as one can look when their face is made of mouldy latex.

21:39 - The Sloppy Dog's backseat bloggers think Lorraine will be bringing Kate and Philip back in with her. Well, that's no good! Get rid of Vile Ben. Let him waddle back to his army-themed bedroom in his parents' house, and eat pies while wearing his fetching braces. Meanwhile, Empire live it up in a helicopter.

21:44 - Ben's coming across quite well in the firing line. This does not bode well.

21:45 - Philip is the best kind of bitch, in the sense that Lorraine is on the receiving end. Apparently, "a monkey in a pair of dungarees" could have done better, which is probably fair. Slapperton Kate, meanwhile, does not cope well under pressure. Better get to pouting, love, show Sralan your potential.

21:48 - And it's Kate and Philip who'll be joining Lorraine back in the boardroom. Does this mean we've got another week of seeing Ben's pockmarked, flabby, arrogant self strutting around like a Goomba dressed as Gordon Gekko?

21:50 - Philip, for all his flaws, stands up to Sralan in a rather impressive manner. However, he is quickly shot down by another Nick Hewer classic: "Tell us about Pants Man."

21:52 - Well the sneaky cow! Lorraine decides to bring out the big guns and reveal Kate and Philip have been getting all squelchy behind the scenes. Low blow, Lorraine, low blow. Philip is genuinely welling up.

21:54 - And the candidate being shown to the taxi of doom is...

21:55 - Philip. How disappointing. Still, you can't expect someone to stand up to Sralan and his Napoleon complex and live to see another day. How Debra even made it back after giving Nick Hewer a mouthful last week is utterly perplexing. In hindsight, Philip was his own worst enemy, and probably deserved to go. But not as much as Lorraine.

21:57 - Spare Slapperton Kate lays into Lorraine back in the house, and rightly so. She'd have been within her rights to uppercut the slimy bastard, in fairness. Debra congratulates Lorraine by saying "Well done Irishwoman" - so WHAT'S WITH THE BLOODY ACCENT?!

21:58 - Next week, Margate. Classy stuff indeed. Do they still have the Looping Star there?

22:00 - In summary: Ben and Debra being hideous; Kate looking like an All Saints merchandise blow-up doll; Lorraine displaying huge new levels of ineptitude; a disappointing lack of Margaret Mountford; and we bid farewell to Philip, surprisingly not off the back of Pants Man. Night-night all! x
Creative Commons Licence
The Sloppy Dog by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.