Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hockey - Mind Chaos (EMI)

Already responsible for two of the greatest songs of 2009 thus far, there’s a wee bit of pressure for Hockey to live up to (in our eyes at least, and we realise we don’t carry quite the same weight as the NME but let’s face it, no-one reads that anymore either). So let us pop the Oregon new-wavers under the microscope to see whether their debut album is as brilliant as their singles would have us believe...

It doesn’t take long to determine that Hockey are a band worth getting excited about. In a climate where traditional rock ideas drown amongst dancefloor cliché, Mind Chaos demonstrates an effectual fusion of exceptional proportions. A sizeable dose of funk provides the main course, impressively melding with classic rock adeptness, whilst proudly gleaming with 21st century creativity.

The underlying house thud and nods to the 80s – responsible in no small part for the aforementioned superior singles Learn To Lose and Too Fake – continue throughout the majority of the album, but crucially, without riding clumsily on the coattails of the trite electro ‘revival’. It’s refreshing to hear influences rather than an out-and-out rehash, particularly when executed as successfully as on Mind Chaos.

The occasional foray into other flavours work equally well – the spritely hoedown Four Holy Photos; the melancholy closer Everyone’s the Same Age; and even Preacher, whose middle eight with its gospel overtones makes way for some big-haired noodling, is wholly effective and pleasingly unique.

Even the weaker moments of Mind Chaos – which, it must be documented, are barely noticeable – carry their own silver linings. Work’s lament of everyday life sees a need for metaphor normally reserved for Hard-Fi, yet its bored-by-design, fatigued feel actually proves incredibly effective in conveying the sentiment.

While perhaps sonically the differences are vast, it’s hard not to notice parallels with Kings of Leon – a band that quickly veered customary rock down a particularly sharp-angled road, to great effect. Admittedly, it’s an effect that it took us a good few years to appreciate, but Hockey’s vastly distinctive flair matched with a rooting in straight-up tremendous songwriting carries a very similar feel, and it’s safe to assume a number of Mind Chaos prime cuts will be the contrived choice of many an X Factor auditionee come 2011 and beyond.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Single Reviews 28/09/09

Well, five days on, and we’re still not 100% on the whole Sugababes thing. As it stands at the moment: we like Amelle, and don’t mind Jade, but she’s clearly not a Sugababe. Meanwhile, it’s taken this long to realise just how dull Heidi is, while in contrast, Mutya was hilarious on Shooting Stars. In summary, we don’t care much about the new ‘Babes, and think Mutya and Keisha should duo things up. P.S. Love to Siobhan. *takes breath* Single Reviews, then?

We open with a sizeable serving of squelchy house courtesy of Deadmau5 featuring Rob Swire, thankfully showing that commercial dance needn’t be limited to the faceless fuckwittery bafflingly popularised by the likes of Basshunter. And while Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff is unlikely to warrant a download on the Sloppy Dog Napster account, the distinctly dark vocals and understated thump make this a more than passable prospect.

Rather than the mid-tempo Swedish balladry one might expect from a matured Backstreet Boys, they’ve instead opted for an overdose of dancefloor candyfloss in the form of Straight Through My Heart. While its merits are few and far between as a standalone track, it’s even more uncomfortable emerging from the sea of nappy-changers with vanishing hairlines.

Rather puzzlingly, The Veronicas opt to follow the urbane, polished attitude of Untouched with the four-year-old Avril Lavigne-a-like 4Ever. A minimal makeover displaying a slight degree of added crunch unfortunately doesn’t mask the teenybopper wailing that calls itself a chorus, suggesting 4Ever would’ve been much better left in 2005.

And we close with our Single of the Week, awarded to Cerys Matthews – a woman seemingly incapable of producing anything less than amazing. Arlington Way is a significant step on from the whimsical folk she’s fashioned since Catatonia’s sorry demise, all big strings and Sixties sensibilities. It’s likely to invite lazy comparisons to Duffy, but the individuality carried by Cerys herself is unmatchable. Awesome, awesome stuff.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Honking Box Preview: The X Factor

With the X Factor auditions drawing to a close this weekend, and thus providing us with a double-shot of ‘spontaneous’ action in a staged environment with a full crew and an audience of thousands, we thought it perhaps time to add our two cents’ worth. And, as you may have guessed, we fall into the majority who feel the new format blows.

However, it’s an entirely futile exercise to list the cons – because let’s face it, there are no pros – when each and every article, commentator and Yorkshire terrier has already outlined the epic failure of Cowell’s big idea. It’s safe to say it’ll be back to the good ol’ audition room next year, and the inevitable reinstatement of Tony the bodyguard. That said, isn’t it interesting that a chorus of boos can clear a stage quicker than the threat of violence from a 30-stone meathead?

But audition formats aside, there’s still plenty to talk about (as demonstrated so wonderfully by our favourite X Factor blog, The Bitch Factor), so let’s recap the breathtaking idiocy that has been the Series 6 audition process...

Thus far, we’ve liked Jamie Archer, the biffro’d rocker that prompted Simon Cowell to sing along – something we’d have thought impossible given the man evidently doesn’t have the capacity to comprehend the idea of good music; Miss Fitz, the all-girl trio whose jazz interpretation of Toxic was fun (although their swing schtick and their ropey name might get rather old rather quick); and Trinidad, or, if you’re Louis Walsh, 'Tobacco' native Rozelle Phillip, who our glamorous spy informed us of several months ago, and with reason.

We’ve completely failed to be bowled over by the supposed charms of Will-Young-a-like and ZOMG BISEXUAL!!1! Danyl Johnson, who has become a sort of poster boy for the series in spite of an overblown audition and some fucking hideous spelling.

Which means this weekend’s shows will presumably unveil a selection of other acts who’ve garnered a hefty amount of publicity – granted, not Danyl-levels – before we’ve even seen their auditions. Stacey McClean, who was one of the S Club Juniors that isn’t now a Saturday or a gay greased-up go-go boy; girl group Kandy Rain, who seem to resemble a HBO remake of Band of Gold yet are supposedly the best group to ever audition (wot, better than Addictiv Ladies?! We won’t hear of it!); and the apparently-amazing father of Mali-Michael McCalla, by far the strongest candidate in the Boys category last year, foolishly overlooked in favour of the troika of awfulness that was Eoghan, Austin and Scott.

We’ll unleash a true torrent of bile (what? You think the above was bad?) in a few weeks with our first X Factor liveblog. Until then, you can be sure we’ll be bearing our fangs on the subject via our Twitter feed (lookit, up there on the right), assuming Hell doesn’t freeze over before then as a result of Dannii garnering more than three seconds of screentime.

Single Reviews 21/09/09

Nearly three years ago, we were using this wee paragraph o’ nothing that precedes the Single Reviews to partake in a brief satire of Kanye West’s strop against Justice vs Simian’s EMA win. Well, this time it’s beyond parody, and while we’re hardly saying anything you haven’t heard or read a thousand times already, the man is an out-and-out cunt. And this comes from a media outlet that couldn’t give a hoot about Taylor Swift.

Ian Brown opens for us this week, with an intriguing taster for upcoming album My Way. As with such a large portion of his solo ventures, Stellify takes the straight-up Mancunian sensibilities and twists them into an entirely new shape – in this instance, a rhythmic throb of placid rock dotted with blasts of brass. And rather nice it is too.

Old ‘favourite’ Shakira makes a return this week, with the incomprehensible musical psychosis of She-Wolf. Her last batch of material wasn’t actually too offensive, all things considered, but we’re quickly reminded just how astonishingly dreadful this woman is. A migraine of high notes and asylum-beckoning lyrics, all you can do is run for cover. She’s HOWLING, for Christ’s sake. (Although, top marks for use of the word ‘lycanthropy’.)

And, in contrast, signifying how it’s possible to be batshit-frickin’-mental in a worryingly playful way are Aqua. Yes, THAT Aqua. They’re actually back. And, as much as every last iota of good taste within the Sloppy Dog sphere tries to fight it, Back to the 80s forces us to love it. The same way Cartoon Heroes did, the same way Doctor Jones did. We feel utterly violated, and not in a made-up attention-seeking Katie Price way. Like she’d ever say no.

The positive, addictive bounce of Jukebox Sunshine means a well-deserved Single of the Week title for The Holloways. Frankly, it’s hard for your ears not to prick up at any mention of ‘sunshine’ given we won’t be seeing any more of it this year, but the abundant merits of the song itself are great enough for this to even overtake Generator as the Holloways’ calling card anthem.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Single Reviews 14/09/09

Well, it’s been a funny old week in popular culture, hasn’t it? A blonde female winning Big Brother in spite of housemates from that social group lasting approximately a week; Ellen DeGeneres joining American Idol in a display of UTTER GENIUS; and a Sugababe apparently going missing. But Keisha has since Tweeted her batty off in fury, proving that all is right in showbiz after all. So, as the world keeps turning, we bring you this week’s Single Reviews.

We begin with Ignorance, the first single from Paramore’s (somehow) third album, which doubles up as a warning to avoid at all costs. While the tiniest iota of respect has to go to Hayley Williams for shifting slightly away from her ‘grubby Gwen Stefani’ schtick, there’s little else of note. Perhaps such trite emo leanings are lost on those above the age of 16, much like a Mosquito alarm working in reverse.

Managing the impossible and escaping the shadow of Eurovision is the actually-not-bad Jade Ewen, who ditches the wibbly Shaftesbury ballad in favour of a dose of glossy, high-aiming, yet fairly limp, R&B. There’s certainly talent on show, but it’s hard to see whose heads she’ll turn with My Man. Still, she craps all over Leona Lewis. We’ll perhaps leave the Alexandra comparisons for now, though...

While it’s no secret we’d happily see the entire musical output of 1995-1998 played out in place of today’s charts, it’s perhaps more likely to hope for the occasional comeback. One such fulfilment comes from Skunk Anansie, with the classic yet wholly contemporary Because Of You. The tingles that only Skin’s voice can induce are accentuated faultlessly by the thundering rock backdrop, scoring an easy Single of the Week.

And closing this week’s analyses are a band quickly marching their way to the upper reaches of the Sloppy Dog Favourites list. Had Hockey not been releasing alongside Skunk Anansie, it’s safe to say they’d have scooped the above honour. Song Away is a more modest, slightly less anthemic offering than Learn To Lose, yet provides a nice contrast and highlights an exciting, multi-faceted band. An album review is on the way though, so here’s hoping we’ve not built them up too much...

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Single Reviews 07/09/09

So, another Big Brother over, and to think we’ll only have this feeling once more. Congratulations to Dogface (a much more fun name than plain ol’ Sophie), who was perhaps the most deserving winner from the remaining five. That said, in our heads, the final five were Hira, Marcus, Beinazir, Noirin and Sophia. Much better, no? Anyway, Single Reviews ahoy...

Beverley Knight opens the show this week, albeit with significantly less clout than previous work. There’s not a lot to fault with the poppier sound of Beautiful Night, but it’s by no means one to add to her roll call of bestest bits. Still, it’s nice to see a comeback from one of the few authentically talented British female vocalists around – Bev’s nothing if not resilient.

The musical Godsend that is Muse return with The Uprising – a typically intelligent, innovative, unmistakeably-Muse offering, and yet simultaneously, nothing like they’ve ever done before. We’ll bypass another tired reference to the staggeringly obvious soundalike to bestow The Uprising with the honour of being our Single of the Week.

Kelly Clarkson further cements her future as a disgruntled label puppet with the Ryan-Tedder-by-numbers practical joke Already Gone. As the bellower herself has remarked, it’s a note-for-note rehash of Beyonce’s Halo – seriously, can this man only write the one song? Mind you, it’s a damn sight better than the lame McEvanescence tripe she’d be desperately peddling if she got her own brattish little way.

And if you thought that was a negative review, then hold onto your eyeballs. Oh yes – Mika is back. We’d been hoping he’d permanently slithered back into the Petri dish in which he was created by Peter Tatchell and Beelzebub, but no. Almost thankfully though, We Are Golden is so incomprehensibly shit, so genuinely embarrassing to endure, that even the general public – who he somehow bewitched last time around – cannot stomach it. Please, let this be the beginning of the end. Please.
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