Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Sloppy Dog 2009 Honours List

With the presents unwrapped and most likely exchanged, the seasonal goodwill replaced by too-much-time-with-the-family frustration, and the turkey a skeletal mess at the bottom of the dustbin, it’s clearly that awkward tween-Chrimbo period of nothing before New Year’s Day. However, that also means it’s time to wrap 2009 up with our annual Honours List, which, let’s face it, carries far more weight than the Queen’s ever does. See you in 2010!

Sara Cox
Finally clambering aboard the Twitterwagon has been incredibly beneficial for when we can’t be bollocksed to write a full blog post, but also as it’s opened up a world of hilarity. Special mention must go to Lee Gaze and Grace Dent, whose Tweets each induce many a megalol, but Sara Cox wins gold. This woman’s ramblings - about anything and everything, but mostly food and dogs - are mind-bogglingly hysterical.

Their choice to ditch albums altogether and just release a series of singles may have appeared peculiar at first (it certainly induced some cynical head-scratching round these parts) but the consistent brilliance of these singles so far has been a pleasant reminder of just how gifted Ash are, helped massively by their dynamic, entertaining and frankly ingenious A To Z Tour.

David Tennant
Although December has seen him reaching Barrowman/Klass levels of ubiquity, the aforementioned media saturation has cemented David Tennant as not only an awesome actor, but a jolly nice bloke you’d be delighted to go for a pint with. And it’s only fair to salute him as he bows out of his role as the Tenth Doctor – a role he’s absolutely nailed, leaving an incredibly hefty pair of shoes for Matt Smith to fill.

Dannii Minogue
For the third year running, Dannii Minogue has had the toughest time on the X Factor judging panel. However, she’s seen it through with decorum, shrugged off the bad press, and consistently played fair, even when her fellow judges have been sneaking low-blows. Meanwhile, her appearance on the generally-execrable Piers Morgan’s Life Stories underlined her status as an underdog done good, something we always like to see.

Jon & Tracy Morter
It’d be unfair to cite Rage Against The Machine as heroes of the recent Christmas No. 1 campaign – the true stars were its originators, Jon and Tracy Morter, whose efforts saw the dreadful Joe McElderry and his even worse single The Climb kept from the top. As well as achieving the desired results, the campaign will no doubt send a shellshocked Simon Cowell back to the drawing board and hopefully see some positive changes for next year’s X Factor.

You’d be hard pushed to find a woman with as many strings to her bow as Beyoncé Knowles, so it’s even more of a pleasure to find she’s evidently still got her feet firmly on the ground and has a very human side beneath the layers of gloss. Her response to Kanye West’s depraved cry for attention at the VMAs in August was the very definition of dignified, saving the night not only for Taylor Swift, but giving the rest of us the warm ‘n’ fuzzies too.

Danny Boyle
Overshadowed in 2009 on the Boyle front by Susan and Frankie, perhaps, but a universe of kudos goes to Danny Boyle for creating the film of the year. Slumdog Millionaire was inventive, touching, entertaining and incredibly powerful, and proved to be Boyle’s finest work since the untouchable Trainspotting.

Stacey Solomon
Time for our Annual X Factor Contestant Entry, this year going to Stacey Solomon. By no means our favourite of the series, but it was a genuine pleasure to witness her journey – not many people can come out the other side of the X Factor mangle as humble and appreciative as Stacey did. That, and the fact she’s unintentionally freakin’ hilarious.

Adam Lambert
...And with every perennial placing for an X Factor contestant comes the annual Idol participant. While this year’s silver medallist may be flawed on many a level, it’s impossible to contest his talent, nor to have an ardent respect for someone who steadfastly refused to water themselves down under pressure from the gutter media and the glare of the Bible Belt. Sterling work.

Russell Howard
Russell Howard’s appearance here comes solely from the fact he’s capable of inducing unbecoming snort-laughter with little to no effort. His superb BBC Three show Russell Howard's Good News show may even trump Newswipe as our favourite satirical current affairs point-and-laughfest – anyone who describes Nick Griffin as looking like a Greggs sausage roll with learning difficulties is truly a comedy mastermind.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Turkey Cull, Part 6

Merry Christmas! Or, in the interest of political correctness, Happy Holidays! Ugh. That sounds so sterile. But hey, today is not a time for snarking, it’s a time for being all Baby Jesustastic and celebrating and that. So, let’s do just that with a couple of timeless seasonal anthems.

We’ve brought you a selection of inherently non-shit Christmas songs over the past few weeks, mainly as a response to the same old cack wheeled out on radio and music TV at this time of year. But today being Christmas Day, we thought a couple of traditional Christmas carols would be appropriate. Well, we say ‘traditional’, but they’re not exactly performed by a Salvation Army brass band.

Behold: Hark The Herald Angels Sing as interpreted by Weezer, and the eternal classic Away in a Manger, as performed by Sweep. Yes, you heard right – Sweep.

Feliz Navidad, an’ ting!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2009: Singles

After the liberal spewing-forth of bile that was our Worst Singles of 2009, we now counter the acrimony with some lovely Christmas arse-kissing in the form of our Best Singles countdown. Sadly, as with the albums list, there was a worryingly low amount of decent material to select from – but that said, we’ve chosen to discount Ash and their A-Z series, as they could easily have taken up half the list.

Special mention must also go to the Noisettes, Animal Kingdom, Daniel Merriweather (for Impossible, most certainly not Red), Athlete, Pink, Skunk Anansie and the Holloways, who all fail to make the cut. We’re sure they’re devastated.

10. Innerpartysystem - Don't Stop
An oversized slice of hefty, synthy juggernaut rock, Don’t Stop was a triumphant transition from remixers du jour to front-and-centre rockband. The Pennsylvania natives may not have set the charts alight over thisaway, but it’s difficult to fault the output – and if Don’t Stop is any indication, Innerpartysystem’s electrifying material will soon be speaking for itself.

9. Alesha Dixon - Breathe Slow
Amidst all the novelty mambo singles, the endless scabloid tattle, and the ill-selected judging role on Strictly Come Dancing, the best thing to ever emerge from Alesha Dixon’s musical catalogue was somewhat overlooked. Breathe Slow, a twiddly electroballad from Soulshock & Karlin, made the Top 3 in February, and underlined Dixon as a formidable solo artist.

8. Absent Elk - Sun & Water
A horribly-underrated track which unfortunately fell on very few ears, but it certainly worked its charms on us. Big, opulent strings and sweeping chords made Sun & Water the kind of classic indie anthem that would’ve turned many a head just a few short years ago when dial-a-rappers and Pixie frickin’ Lott weren’t the be-all and end-all for UK radio.

7. Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow
We’re sorry. Really, really sorry. So, so, so, so, so, so, so sorry. Mi dispiace. Je suis désolé. Gabh mo leiscéal. Perdón. Jammer. Desculpe. Yes, we feel thoroughly ashamed to be doing this, but Boom Boom Pow was an addiction too hard to fight. Simultaneously one of the best and worst songs of the year, the Black Eyed Peas have successfully woven whichever evil magicks we’d managed to swerve since Shut Up. Sorry once again. Really.

6. Weezer – (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
The tremendous Pork & Beans topped our Best Singles of 2008 list, and still sounds as awesome today. But no, Weezer weren’t content with that, and elected to craft yet another pop-rock paragon to invoke a smile in every listener. And while ensuing album Raditude may have fallen on the wrong side of gimmicky, this track confirms there’s still many a classic in the band yet.

5. Kings of Leon – Revelry
It may have taken a back seat to both Sex On Fire and Use Somebody as far as Only By The Night’s singles went down acclaim-wise and performance-wise, but Revelry’s soft, moderate melodies coupled with raw sincerity make for overall an incredibly human, engaging piece of music. A stark – and very welcome – reversal from the buzz-riding mulletsmiths Kings of Leon once were.

4. The Boy Least Likely To - Every Goliath Has Its David
The lead single and standout track from the truly splendid The Law of the Playground album, Every Goliath Has Its David may well be The Boy Least Likely To’s greatest song since Be Gentle With Me. Merging a endearing underdog sentiment with a mighty chorus only serves to tell its tale with even greater conviction, and inadvertently brings out the squeeing fan at Sloppy Dog Towers with incredible ease. Marvellous stuff.

3. VV Brown - Leave!
Initial plays of Leave! gave us the impression it was largely a Crying Blood rehash. No bad thing, when you consider the brilliance of Crying Blood, but Leave! soon stood up on its own as a gut-wrenching breakup tale buried within an upbeat, passionate, doo-wop work of art. And although follow-up singles Shark In The Water and Game Over appeared to steer her in another direction, this is VV doing what she does best. Well, that and weirding people out on Twitter.

2. Hockey - Learn To Lose
A risky, but highly effective, fusion of spirited indie and old-school funk, Learn To Lose introduced us to a band that failed to disappoint in 2009. Hockey’s inimitable rock-for-the-dancefloor enchantment was carried throughout their outstanding album and live performances, but the contagious radiance of Learn To Lose was rightly turned into their calling card – something we imagine they’ll be using well into 2010 and beyond.

1. Stereophonics – Innocent
While not strictly a single, given the label’s decision to pull it at the final second, it largely functioned as such, and as a result, makes it to the top of our list. Reinvigorating the Stereophonics’ sound with an infectious, dynamic hook and seemingly some much-improved vocals courtesy of Kelly Jones, it was the perfect taster for album Keep Calm & Carry On, and provided the band with their greatest song since Dakota. And if this is the kind of thing Radio 1 deem too ‘old’ for their playlist, then sod ‘em. Radio 2 all the way, baby.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Turkey Cull, Part 5

With our previous selections boasting a modicum of indie credibility to varying degrees, we thought the next choice ought to be an upbeat, out-and-out pop effort. And who better to turn to for such needs than Girls Aloud? Well, maybe the Spice Girls, or Take That. Maybe Britney Spears, or Alexandra Burke, or the Jackson 5? And then there’s Abba, of course. McFly, even? Well, never mind, you’re getting Girls Aloud.

Christmas Round At Ours, taken from the special edition Christmas CD bundled in with generally-lame third album Chemistry, is a typically literal, overly camp, eggnog-swigging merriment anthem, where Cheryl’s never sounded so Geordie (except for when she’s plugging lukewarm, sexless, over-before-he’s-begun X Factor contestants from the same region). Don't get too excited, mind - it's not an rare unseen Girls Aloud vid, merely audio with a load of cobbled-together stills. But with less than two days to go til the big day, it nonetheless ought to get you in the Christmas spirit good and proper...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Worst of 2009: Singles

It’s been a busy year in the music industry, though sadly it seems labels are putting the majority of their efforts into thoughtless, genre-reversing pop and throwaway, forgettable dance. On the plus side, it means we’ve had a veritable diarrhoea smorgasbord to wade through and make our selections of musical cuntery from, so behold, 2009’s worst singles...

10. Shakira - She Wolf
During the Oral Fixation era, we came to develop an understanding of Shakira – not a tolerance, but an understanding – which allowed her to exist without us getting too angry about it. However, She Wolf absolutely tears the arse out of that, trumping even Whenever Wherever as the worst thing she’s ever done. Let’s take a moment to consider just one aspect of the song: SHE’S FUCKING HOWLING. Need we say more?

9. Lily Allen - Not Fair
It’s hard to believe, in a year where Lily Allen produces the two greatest songs of her career thus far (The Fear and Fuck You), she can also come up with the worst. Not Fair’s irksome primary-school melody coupled with classless, dim-witted lyrics make for an overall unbearable single. We’ll be thankful, then, that Not Fair was a mere one-off, and even more thankful that she’s finally put her spoiled tweenage social networking rants to bed.

8. Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You
A sentimental syrupfest dressed up in a cookie-cutter Max Martin cast-off, My Life Would Suck Without You saw Kelly Clarkson ditch the emo yearnings that sold diddly-squat and return to power-pop with her tail between her legs. Clearly she wasn’t too chuffed about it either, as this track is so horribly naff you almost wonder if she’s being sarcastic.

7. Annie Lennox - Shining Light
While Ash’s 2001 masterpiece may not instantly come to mind as a song that should never be touched, you’ll soon realise it should have been locked away in a leadlined room once you hear the vapid bloodbath treatment it’s given by Annie Lennox. Accompanied by a video that would have even Peter Stringfellow screaming “GROW OLD WITH DIGNITY!” at the telly, it’s perhaps the lowest point in an otherwise impressive career.

6. Tinchy Stryder & Taio Cruz - Take Me Back
We’d be hard-pushed to find something negative to say about Tinchy Stryder, but his appearance in our worst singles of the year comes courtesy of Taio Cruz, and his shockingly bad input into Take Me Back. The dullest, weakest chorus of the year is significantly worsened by the use of the non-word ‘misleaded’, and cements his status as the most irrelevant artist of 2009.

5. Eoghan Quigg - 28,000 Friends
The inexplicable success of Eoghan Quigg in last year’s X Factor was mercifully not repeated in the charts, with this nut-flecked stool of a song, penned by James ‘Cunt’ Bourne of Busted fame (and nothing else) bombing spectacularly, as did its accompanying album. And ironically, Eggnog’s MySpace page now only has 619 friends...

4. Calvin Harris - Ready For The Weekend
It’s hilarious that Calvin Harris chose to storm the X Factor stage when John & Edward were performing in some form of protest, as they can genuinely sing better than him. So while we’d usually be glad that he’s passed vocal duties to someone else, Ready For The Weekend sees an uninspired, repetitive bellow from a faceless backing brutus, making for the worst kind of gay anthem.

3. Mika - We Are Golden
Oh look, it’s perennial ‘favourite’ Mika claiming a place in our Worst Singles list for his third successive year. It was a colossal relief to see that whichever dark sorcery he used on the record-buying public finally wore off, with most of his output this year doing sweet FA, but that still doesn’t excuse this hateful, sadistic atrocity of a song, nor its retina-burning video. With any luck, he’ll be dropped in the New Year, though we’d also quite like to see if he can make our list four years running...

2. Pixie Lott – Mama Do (Uh-Oh)
We just can’t seem to get our heads round the idea of Pixie Lott. While it’s refreshing to see a young British popstar do well via a more traditional route, you can’t help but wonder how she achieved it with such utterly, utterly shit music. Oh that’s right – by permanently baring her arse cheeks in a fraction of a pair of hotpants. Every second this creature spends at the top of the charts, you can smell both pop music and feminism decomposing simultaneously.

1. Lady Gaga - Just Dance
Somehow, a bland, lacklustre song about precisely nothing became one of the biggest sellers of the year, and worse, set the Gaga train in motion. While later efforts at least had a touch of character and a notable chorus, Just Dance was pure unadulterated beige, merely dressed up in glitter. Add a wholly irrelevant cameo from spectacularly-underachieving nonentity Colby O’Donis to the mix, and you’re left with the most bewildering and frustrating success story of 2009.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2009: TV

In the four years of compiling these end-of-year lists, never has there been such a broad line-up of superb television from which to choose. Selecting a final ten was incredibly difficult – special mention must go to the classically-brilliant Britcom Miranda; the cutting and criminally underrated Moving Wallpaper; the cult virtuosity that is The Life & Times of Tim; another uproarious helping of The Supersizers; a consistently brilliant – if premature – curtain call for My Name Is Earl; the hugely-promising Flashforward; surprisingly, a rather decent series of Primeval; Merlin; Desperate Housewives; Misfits... we could go on.

Also missing out on a spot are the two Doctor Who specials, both of which are deserving of a mention but unfortunately have had to make way here for a selection of more consistent entertainment. It’s also safe to say the upcoming specials are worthy of a placing, but hey, we don’t got ourselves a crystal ball, y’know. So sit back, enjoy the fruits of our painstakingly-crafted list, and don’t worry too much about the sycophantic gushing – the worst TV of 2009 is up later in the week...

10. Brothers & Sisters
Yes, once you strip away the gloss and the expense and the blockbuster-worthy cast, Brothers & Sisters is, in effect, a fancy soap opera. But it’s one that boasts some majorly notable acting (in particular, Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths, Matthew Rhys and Dave Annable), some fatally razor-sharp wit, and an inexplicably addictive quality. (Plus it’s on More4 which officially means it’s sophisticated.)

9. Survivors
While a number of sci-fi purists were quacking about the sacrilege of remaking the 1970s cult classic, Survivors was enthralling everyone else. Although Julie Graham’s character was perhaps one of the most slappable individuals in recent TV history, Survivors was gripping, exciting, and perhaps surprisingly, rather thought-provoking. Series Two kicks off next month – if it even manages half of what the first did, we’re happy.

8. Lost
2009 saw a return to form for a show that’s disappointed heavily over its course (and Sky One returning to Virgin Media helped matters significantly too). Lost’s fifth series boasted some excellent dramatic performances, whilst the partial tying-up of the show’s numerous loose ends eased the frustration massively. However, the parting cliffhanger of Juliet and the hydrogen bomb was the true star of the show, setting up the final series nicely and leaving Flashforward with some very big shoes to fill.

7. Being Human
After a promising start in the form of the 2008 pilot, the fully-commissioned series had a big task on its hands, especially following a drastic recasting session and the decision to go even darker in tone. But it paid off, with Being Human displaying a brilliantly-executed mix of eerie tragedy and black humour, and providing BBC Three with arguably its greatest series to date.

6. Come Dine With Me
A culinary spectrum ranging from chef-quality masterpieces to inedible sewage, and a mix of characters the Big Brother producers can only dream of, Come Dine With Me is fly-on-the-wall at its best. Special mention goes to Lesley Joseph’s fantastically abysmal job at hosting during the Celebrity edition, but the golden wooden spoon goes to the inconceivable Preston week, which provided some of the funniest TV moments of 2009 – genuinely too many to go into here...

5. The Sarah Silverman Programme
Although it’s once again fallen foul of some staggeringly retarded scheduling courtesy of Comedy Central, The Sarah Silverman Programme continues to shock and amuse in equal parts with its brilliantly crude humour. The term ‘random’ is used far too often, but Silverman’s headscratchingly hysterical comedy truly nails it, something The Sarah Silverman Programme showcases tremendously.

4. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
The perfect Sunday night television, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency was charismatic, magnetic and entertaining, but crucially, without employing the empty, cloying twaddle typical of its slot. Charming simplicity, rare touching moments, and an exceptional display of comic timing from Anika Noni Rose as the wonderful Mma Makutsi all play a major part in what’s been a surprise televisual gem.

3. Shooting Stars
No-one can induce the kind of snorty, undignified laughter Vic and Bob can, as demonstrated in the very-welcome return of Shooting Stars. Jack Dee’s deadpan awesomeness, the off-the-wall brilliance of George Dawes and the unbridled hilarity from Angelos Epithemiou all added massively to the mix, with particular highlights being the latter’s ‘dance’ to Mud’s The Cat Crept In, the You’ve Been Framed spoof, and Mutya Buena playing Whose Face Is It Anyway. The funniest show of 2009 bar none.

2. True Blood
And claiming the silver medal is the almost-unfathomably brilliant True Blood. Its combination of Deep South charm and distinctly un-American offensiveness make for a winning result, helped along hugely by some exceptional acting, inspired scripts and a killer theme tune. Meanwhile, Tara Thornton has very quickly gained herself a place as one of our favourite TV characters of all time (and bearing in mind this is a list that includes Homer Simpson, Annie Douglas, Margo Leadbetter and Spike, she’s in great company). By a long margin, the best new show of the year.

1. Torchwood: Children of Earth
It was a tough call for the top spot, but True Blood was just pipped by Torchwood’s jawdroppingly remarkable five-night special. Any memories of gigantic comedy CGI bulls or Katy Perry-style shoehorned-in bisexuality were quickly banished courtesy of the most gripping, rousing and pleasingly-disconcerting drama of 2009. Day Four in particular proved to be an example of incredibly powerful television, with an untouchable combination of stellar performances, magnificent scripts and incredible direction. Sci-fi snobs are cordially invited to grow the fuck up, remove their blinkers, and witness something truly special.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Sloppy Dog's Worst of 2009: TV

Having celebrated the best albums of the year, it's now time to get into full-on Scrooge mode and put the worst television shows of 2009 on the stand.

In the hope of coming across perhaps slightly less negative than usual, we've consciously tried to avoid shows we already know are shit, hence the absence of The Jeremy Kyle Show, GMTV and I'm A Celebrity amongst others. There may even be a few shows you'll be surprised to see listed here, so read on and let the venom flow...

10. The X Factor
Yes, we watched religiously, spent at least ten hours solidly liveblogging, and God knows how much more time arguing the toss outside of that. There’s no doubt it was entertaining, and in spite of such a weak winner, there was definitely some true talent on display. But much of the show’s key pleasures were bloodily sacrified in the name of column inches, hence a nation of viewers largely left with a very bad taste in their mouths.

9. Watchdog
Watchdog rightfully has a place on prime-time BBC One, given what it’s setting out to achieve and its impressive track record. However, its clumsy relaunch evidently lost the plot whilst desperately attempting to emulate Top Gear, to the point Matt ‘No Concept of Personal Space’ Allwright rounded up a selection of consumers to pen a comedy song to Virgin Media about the treatment of their dead relatives. Classy.

8. Deal Or No Deal
Look, it was fun for a while. Nothing wrong with a bit of a gimmick here or there, is there? But come on. Four years on, and not only is Deal Or No Deal still going strong, it’s achieving new levels of self-congratulatory bullshit. Noel: there is no technique, there is no strategy, there is no form of gameplay, and there is no amount of ‘positive thinking’ that will alter the outcome. It’s four years of SAYING NUMBERS OUT LOUD. End of.

7. Harper's Island
We all love a good whodunnit now and again, but if it’s going to be the lone premise for an entire series, there perhaps ought to be something resembling depth to the plot. Harper’s Island was effectively a big-budget reimagining of Sunset Beach’s marvellous Terror Island storyline, except severely lacking in the ‘marvellous’ part.

6. Paris Hilton's British Best Friend
A chance for Paris Hilton to add to her screentime count (which we imagine is to her what plasma is for vampires), and a chance for a horde of insipid wannabes to desperately whore themselves for her pleasure whilst garnering a smidgen of fame for themselves – so it’s win/win in VacuousLand, but ultimately, a slow-motion train wreck for anyone with half a brain cell.

5. The Restaurant
Even a ropey series of The Restaurant is leagues above most other things on television, but the crushing disappointment that came attached to this series was unforgivable. The noticeable drop in budget was heavily felt, and the format itself was rejigged into a horribly rushed, clumsy affair; but the farcical end result – namely a chef with NO COOKING SKILLS winning – was the cherry atop a depressingly shambolic series.

4. 4 Ingredients
It’s safe to say few of you will have heard of this, but trust us when we say it’s dire. Two women, who we swear blind must’ve been the inspiration for Trude & Prue, vomit out a speedy torrent of inferior recipes consisting of just four ingredients – ‘ingredients’ which often include jars of pasta sauce, ready-cooked roast chickens, and probably, entire ready meals. Truly the anti-Nigellas.

3. Fearne And...
It’s bad enough hearing Fearne bookend each track she plays on Radio 1 with how much she’s LOVING THAT RIGHT NOW, but witnessing the wretched sack of irrelevance gush directly in the face of a celebrity for a whole hour is excruciating. And bearing in mind these celebrities included Peaches Geldof and Paris Hilton, Fearne And... was like the televised funeral of popular culture.

2. Pants Off Dance Off
Is there really any question as to why this show is sat here? The clue is right there in the title. It’s people stripping. Old people, young people, fat people, skinny people. Stripping. Perhaps the least titillating television programme since the heyday of Fanny Craddock, Pants Off Dance Off is yet another dirty great black mark slapped squarely on the face MTV UK.

1. Demons
It started out so promising. By which we mean, the trailers were brilliant. However, it was approximately five minutes into the first episode that Demons showed its true colours – a low-budget Buffy redux with some of the most cringe-inducing dialogue of the 21st Century, and the world’s worst American accent courtesy of Philip Glenister. It’s since felt the sharp end of the axeman’s blade, unsurprisingly.
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