Friday, December 31, 2010

The Sloppy Dog 2010 Honours List

Well, that’s 2010 done and dusted. A bit awesome, a bit disappointing, and overall, very cold indeed. So assuming that we’re not on the eve of a new and unforgiving Ice Age, we hope to see you in 2011. And to see in the New Year, we unveil our newest entrants into the Sloppy Dog Hall of Fame for services to pop culture...

Mel & Sue
A duo whose daily servings of Light Lunch were the cause of many a break in frenetic essay-scrawling for students in the late 90s, it was a joy to see them reunited for The Great British Bake-Off. Everyone crowing about the supposed Chiles/Bleakley chemistry needs to take a look at Mel and Sue in action to see how an on-screen partnership is really done.

Edgar Wright
The story of Scott Pilgrim vs The World was obviously a great starting point, but in bringing it to life on the big screen, Edgar Wright proved to be a true artist. A flurry of beautiful, simple blink-and-you’d-miss-it quirks; a visual feast for indie gamer geeks across the globe; and an explosion of colourful, gripping, brilliantly unpretentious action, it was the mark of a unique British director capable of knocking Hollywood’s trite principles right out of the park.

Gamu Nhengu
Not only did Gamu prove to be one of the most talented participants in this year’s X Factor, but what she had to consequently endure at the hands of the British press via Autotune-gate and the deportation saga made her a truly admirable figure. Plus, if nothing else, her unreasonable dismissal at the Judges’ Houses stage inadvertently brought about a much-needed backlash for the so-called Nation’s Sweetheart.

Tomasz Schafernaker
Three cheers for the creatine-guzzling weather legend who’s made the daily forecasts as entertaining as a Catherine Tate Christmas Special. Aside from the now-infamous middle finger incident, or his beaming pride at pronouncing Ejyafjallajökull, this brilliant queeny strop at a sarky news gimp is the perfect example of what Britain needs in its weathermen.

Sam Pepper
While Big Brother bowed out on a low thanks to its hideous Ultimate series, one housemate in Big Brother 11 helped make it one of the most entertaining in years. To live with, the barbed, plain-speaking irritant that was Sam Pepper would’ve driven anyone insane, but to watch, his droll commentary and razor-sharp one-liners proved absolutely brilliant.

Victoria Coren
Truth be told, we have a hard enough time figuring out the Egyptian hieroglyphs on Only Connect, never mind the questions. Thankfully, the deadpan hilarity that comes from its modestly-dazzling, panache-riddled presenter gives the show a whole other level on which it can be enjoyed, and regularly spills over into La Coren’s similarly mirthful Twitter feed.

We Are Scientists
Keith Murray and Chris Cain can seemingly do no wrong. Committed to record, their output is exceptional. In the live arena, they’re the perfect mix of electrifying and flawless. And in terms of personality, you’d be hard pushed to encounter musicians as naturally hysterical. Combine the three, and in We Are Scientists, you’ve got the ultimate popstars.

Nicolo Festa
While his X Factor career was never going to be a lengthy one, his refreshing honesty since his elimination has been hysterical (without reaching Brookstein levels of bitterness). Highlights include openly calling Simon Cowell a motherfucker, and, following Katie Weasel’s eventual chop, the legendary tweet “Go back to Eastwick and take your STDs with you.”

Leslie Nielsen
Although the latter part of his film career centred on cameo parts in the bold red font parody sub-genre, Leslie Nielsen’s legacy as a comic actor is impossible to contest. The Naked Gun series and the uproarious Airplane! were the perfect demonstration of Nielsen’s talents, and provided us with arguably the most quotable actor of his generation.

Nigella Lawson
We’ve always loved Nigella round these parts, but via this year’s series of Nigella Kitchen, she’s gone to new levels of aceness. Managing to take a simple cookery format and relocate it to the twin camps (camp being a key phrase, actually) of soft porn and ingenious comedy, there’s nobody who can do food quite like our delightful Nige. All hail!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2010: Albums

While the singles market has been saturated by utter pigswill this year, it’s not been a bad twelve months for albums. Notable omissions from the list this year include a venture back to form from Feeder; a joyous, pop-heavy indie gem from the Manic Street Preachers; a semi-acoustic strumalong delight from Val Emmich; yet another masterpiece from Sia; and the mightily good debut offering from Delphic. Also, we had compiled this list prior to The Boy Least Likely To’s Christmas Special, which is more than deserving of a mention. But alas, there can only be ten...

10. Kids In Glass Houses – Dirt
Not content with claiming the title of Best Single of 2010, Kids In Glass Houses followed through with a solid pop-punk masterpiece in the form of second album Dirt. And perhaps Undercover Lover was a slight misfire, but on the plus side, it was the mark of a rock band unafraid to experiment or to embrace their more day-glo side. Overall, made of win.

9. The Like – Release Me
In a year where you’d be hard pushed to find a lone decent track from any girl group, it falls to Los Angeles quartet The Like to represent the ladies. Mind you, this summery indie-rock offering was a million miles from the likes of The Splendabots, combining lilting Sixties harmonies with heavy, poised licks, seamlessly bridging the gap between VV Brown and a non-shit Arctic Monkeys.

8. Lostprophets – The Betrayed
It would’ve been easy to replicate the titanic choruses and instantaneous licks of Liberation Transmission and still emerge with a brilliant LP, but Lostprophets chose to take things a shade darker with a generous dose of coarse realism. The result? A distinctive, accomplished fourth album which underlined their place as genuine British rock heavyweights.

7. The Bluetones – A New Athens
With frontman Mark Morriss doing amazing things via his 2008 solo record Memory Muscle, the Bluetones hiatus was an easy enough period for fans to undergo. However, their smart, assured comeback album A New Athens, which brought all the best bits of classic Bluetones into a fresh, contemporary setting, revealed to us just how much we really missed them.

6. Skunk Anansie – Wonderlustre
And another 90s institution making a triumphant return this year were Skunk Anansie, whose first studio album in 11 years was a definite illustration of growth. Wonderlustre was slick, shrewd, mature and affecting, but crucially, not at the expense of any of the unrefined fire that made them such an exciting prospect in the first place.

5. Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
Going some way to cancel out the sullying of Northern Ireland’s musical output courtesy of the dreadful Nadine Coyle, the Bangor three-piece injected some liveliness and excitement into proceedings. Specific mention must be made of the outstanding Eat That Up, It’s Good For You, helping explain why Two Door Cinema Club were easily one of 2010’s best new bands.

4. We Are Scientists – Barbara
Keith ‘n’ Chris are quite the oxymoron. Solid, consistent and ever-reliable; yet they’re far from predictable in their output, and getting bored of them seems a complete impossibility. Third album Barbara proved to be a perfect demonstration of their talent, their ingenuity, their humour and their overall awesomeness.

3. Codeine Velvet Club – Codeine Velvet Club
Technically released three days before 2010, but we won’t let such pernickety details detract from a masterpiece of an album: bright, lush and cinematic whilst simultaneously grounded and raw. Their split barely a year after their emergence was disappointing, but at least Codeine Velvet Club left a captivating – if diminutive – legacy in their wake.

2. RPA and the United Nations of Sound – United Nations of Sound
Following a somewhat clumsy Verve reunion in 2008, Richard Ashcroft managed something pretty special with his comeback-turned-overhaul via the experimental United Nations of Sound project. A brave move perhaps, but one that paid off – a snifter of hip-hop, a dash of gospel, but all bearing the hallmarks of the rich, soulful indie only Ashcroft can pull off.

1. Fyfe Dangerfield – Fly Yellow Moon
And claiming the highest accolade – with stiff competition, so it’s quite the achievement – is Fyfe Dangerfield, whose first solo outing far outshines anything released under the Guillemots umbrella. Fly Yellow Moon flows between delicate balladry and lush, uptempo anthems, but is tied together skilfully by the common themes of lovestruck sincerity and unmistakeable character. Most definitely one to splash the inevitable gift of a HMV voucher on.

...thus concludes our round-up of the last twelve months in popular culture. The annual Sloppy Dog New Year’s Honours List will be published next week (sneak preview: Jan Moir does not feature). Until then, have an ace time forlornly lurking around frozen train stations and airports, and/or fighting with family members over the remote and gorging yourself with Quality Street. Merry Christmas! xx

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sloppy Dog's Worst of 2010: TV

It’s a funny thing compiling a list of the year’s worst television. Unlike, say, the worst songs of the year, avoiding the TV you hate is a lot easier. So, while this list may not be necessarily the ten biggest piles of crap to reach British screens in 2010, they’re the ten worst we happened to see. Although, bear in mind, we’re rarely wrong about anything. On with the roll-call of repellence!

10. Masterchef
As a format, Masterchef works rather nicely, if a tad predictable. Our main gripe with the series – be it Celebrity, Professionals or regular – is the presence of Gregg Wallace and John Torode. Or more accurately, their excruciating volume. Yes, we know it’s got to be tasty, it’s got to be succulent, it’s got to be this, that and the other. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FUCKING SHOUT IT.

9. Don't Stop Believing
It came as no surprise that there’d be numerous cash-ins on the popularity of Glee, and Channel 5 were first off the mark with their hunt for Britain’s best showchoir. However, their haste proved to be their downfall, with a clumsy, unprepared monstrosity of a show, with missed cues a-plenty and, somehow, Duncan James granted a position of authority.

8. Eastenders
Yet again, Eastenders proved to be the benchmark in lazy, ineffective complacency, with weak characters and even weaker storylines, all executed very, very badly. Obviously, the addition of Tameka Empson to the cast creates a sizeable improvement, but sadly, Eastenders has to go some way to undo a decade of inept, foolish shark-jumping.

7. Ultimate Big Brother
With a surprisingly good Big Brother 11, the flaws of Ultimate Big Brother were only heightened. A peculiar line-up of ‘favourites’, rules seemingly made up on the spot, hugely biased editing, a blind eye turned to some staggeringly severe bullying, and another inexcusable bout of unprofessionalism from Davina McCall made for some truly awful TV – never mind the sickening choice of Brian Dowling as Ultimate Housemate. Still, such a dreadful swansong makes parting a whole lot sweeter.

6. So You Think You Can Dance
It was no surprise that such a big hitter internationally finally made it to UK shores, but far too much reliance was placed upon the success of the US format, hence the clunky, unexciting, lazy nature of it. Such flaws meant it was impossible to engage with the host, the judges or the contestants, just about stopping short of utter catastrophe.

5. The Jeremy Kyle Show
A programme we strive to avoid where possible, but sadly a couple of minutes’ worth leaked onto our screens while channel-hopping. That was enough to cement its inclusion in the list, and let’s face it, Kyle himself isn’t getting any less cunty. However, props must be given to the toothless chav that chucked a paternity test envelope at his head. Bullseye!

4. Sky News
It’s a wonder how such twisted, prejudiced coverage can call itself news, but the right-wing phonyfest that is Sky News continues to shock, disgust, and generally act as a TV counterpart to the Daily Mail. Specific props must go to the repugnant Adam Boulton and the genuinely hateful Kay Burley, together forming the twin-headed zenith of broadcasting cuntishness and truly representing what Sky News is.

3. Daybreak
With the amount of inexplicable expectation placed on the shoulders of Christine Bleakley – a decent enough host, sure, but by no means the televisual behemoth of brilliance she was so heavily reported to be – clearly Daybreak was on wafer-thin ice from the get-go. Add to that the rubber chops of Adrian Chiles, a cold and clinical set, and a distinct lack of worthwhile content, there was no mystery as to why viewers flocked in their near-squillions to BBC Breakfast.

2. Grandma's House
The terminally-unfunny Simon Amstell being given his own sitcom obviously had alarm bells ringing round these parts, but we thought we’d at least give it a try before dismissing it. Alas, it was even more deplorable than we could have foretold. Passable scripts and a more-than-decent supporting cast were sadly defecated upon by Amstell’s perplexingly bad acting – even more embarrassing when you consider he was supposed to be playing himself.

1. Lost
To think Lost made our Best TV lists on two separate occasions is testament to its maddening qualities, but nothing could have prepared us for the devastating disappointment that was the final episode. In fairness, the final series – and even the final episode – boasted some genuinely beautiful moments, but the amount of time wasted weaving intricate backstories only for it to be clumsily wiped in what was on a par with a Year 7 “it was all a dream” English assignment was sickening. 120 hours of high-quality, gripping drama amounting to such a weak, unimaginative cop-out ending provided the worst television not just of 2010, but for quite some time.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2010: TV

After the exercise in venom-release that was the year’s worst singles, we now switch back to arse-kissy mode with 2010’s best telly. Special mention must go to the BBC’s one-off comedy Lizzie & Sarah, by far the darkest sitcom we’ve ever witnessed; a triumphant final series of Ugly Betty; the barking Spartacus: Blood & Sand, which invoked the ironic majesty of Sunset Beach, albeit with added intestine; the twist-crammed excitement of The Event; the uproarious Phoneshop; the even more uproarious Miranda; the consistently brilliant Spooks; and Ashes to Ashes, which provided arguably the greatest concluding episode since Buffy. But let’s turn our attention to those shows which did make the cut...

10. Sherlock
A modern-day reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, on paper, is a pretty dreary idea. And yet, the BBC’s quietly-epic, rulebook-burning mini-series provided one of the greatest dramas of the year. Inventive, twisted and cerebral, with outstanding performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, it’s more than created an appetite for the second series.

9. The Road to Coronation Street
While Corrie itself rarely makes an appearance on the ol’ Sloppy Dog tellybox, this one-off drama documenting its origins was an absolute triumph. Charming and familiar whilst simultaneously razor-sharp – we’ll overlook the lone misfire in the form of the worst American accent since Channel 5’s The TribeThe Road to Coronation Street was a surprise hit, and a welcome one at that.

8. Glee
The All-American saccharin overkill was at times offputting, but when Glee got it right, it got it very right indeed. It goes without saying that Jane Lynch as the wickedly twisted Sue Sylvester was the star attraction, but mention must also go to a brilliant cast all-round, devilishly funny dialogue, and some of the most unlikely pop songs given a jazz-hands, eyes-and-teeth makeover. Let’s just overlook its unleashing of Don’t Stop Believin’, shall we?

7. The Great British Bake-Off
Seeing Mel & Sue reunited on screen was a pleasure enough in itself – add a reality elimination format and fuckloads of cake to the mix, and you’re left with televisual heaven. The Great British Bake-Off was simple, entertaining, informative and drool-inducing, filling the gap left by The Restaurant before it descended into utter farce.

6. Brothers & Sisters
Last year we described Brothers & Sisters as a very slick, very expensive soap opera, which still stands, but boy, do they know how to do it properly – the balance of wit and sentiment, the odd but effective mix of reality and escapism, and a fantastic cast across the board, while the flashback double episode provided one of the most powerful and well-executed TV moments of the year.

5. Mongrels
As previously demonstrated by Greg The Bunny and Avenue Q, there’s something acutely hilarious about puppets swearing. The rule most definitely applies in Mongrels, BBC Three’s uproarious tale of inner-city animals, though the laughs come from far more than the occasional f-word: shrewd popular culture references, side-splitting dialogue and unthinkable storylines culminated to give us 2010’s best new comedy.

4. Shooting Stars
Much like last year’s triumphant comeback series, this year’s offering from Vic & Bob was equal parts random and hysterical. The departure of Matt Lucas as George Dawes was of course disappointing, but the transfer of Angelos Epithemiou from panellist to scorekeeper was a stroke of absolute genius. And it's safe to say, nothing else aired on television throughout 2010 that invoked as much undignified, cheek-aching laughter as the Coldland sketch.

3. The Walking Dead
The intensely shadowy tale of a zombie outbreak in Atlanta was a last-minute entry to our list, but to make such an impression so late in the year is clearly the mark of an impressive drama. Dark, exciting, emotional and unapologetically gory, The Walking Dead was dangerously transfixing from its first few scenes alone, and stands way above the conventions of the horror genre as a moving, intriguing and morbidly entertaining show.

2. True Blood
While some wrote the second series off as a bit of a non-starter, the different strands throughout made for an interesting story – Jason’s experiences with the Fellowship of the Sun and its parallels with terrorism; the genuinely touching (and simultaneously hilarious) love story between Hoyt and Jessica; the slightly Twin Peaks-esque Texas storyline; and the lunacy unfolding back in Bon Temps, in particular the gleeful brilliance in Maryann’s eventual comeuppance. Thank Christ for FX, else we’d be waiting til 2016 for Channel 4 to air Series 3.

1. Misfits
The first series was outstanding; but the second series thus far has proved to be truly exceptional. While Misfits may sell itself under the “Heroes with ASBOs” theme, it’s proved to be significantly more than that, switching between some riotously funny dialogue and performances, and some incredibly solemn, emotional scenes. Iwan Rheon’s talent is deserving of its own mention, the same for Robert Sheehan portraying the single most aggravating character on British TV with such conviction – perhaps a backhanded compliment, but a compliment all the same. Quite where Misfits can or will go next is difficult to contemplate, but after what we’ve seen already, we can’t wait to find out.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Sloppy Dog's Worst of 2010: Singles

Regrettably, there’s been a serious influx of appalling music this year, making this list quite the challenge. Counting themselves lucky are McFly with the awkwardly grim Party Girl; Pixie Lott’s beyond-irrelevant Turn It Up; the clunky Let’s Go Surfing by The Drums; the exasperating Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey, which although 29 years old, was inescapable in 2010; that shit-caked excuse of a Robbie/Gary duet; plus a torrent of sell-out McGrime, any number of anonymous dance ‘tunes’ and a whole cornucopia of forgettable wank from serial singles-churner-outer Rihanna. But let’s focus on the worst offenders...

10. Yolanda Be Cool vs D Cup – We No Speak Americano
Christ, even seeing this shit written down is depressing. The artist name and track name just scream out “faceless novelty Ibiza cuntery”, don’t they? Somehow this abomination scaled the chart back in July and August, and has since been used as a soundbed on what feels like every TV show ever broadcast. Come back, The Ketchup Song, all is forgiven.

9. Duffy – Well Well Well
“Duffy is crap,” we used to hear uttered from many a gob. “No, she’s not,” we would reply. “Yes she is, she can’t sing!” would come the retort. “No! She CAN sing! Mercy is a tune! As is Rain On Your Parade!” we would argue back, and continue thusly until the argument was won. Then we heard the shrill, shudder-inducing titular hook of Well Well Well. *Om nom nom humble pie nom nom*

8. The Midnight Beast – Booty Call
One of the worst things to grace our ears this year was Harry Hill’s I Wanna Baby, which we chose to discount from the list as it was clearly ‘comedy’ over music. If only The Midnight Beast (essentially 3OH!3 with a bit more awareness) had defined the dire Booty Call as clearly – marketed and serviced as a single, yet it’s hard to believe it’s not a joke. An unfunny one.

7. 3OH!3 – My First Kiss
And as if by magic, here are the US blueprints themselves. While we’ve come to recognise Ke$ha as an unashamed scutterfest whose’s carved out her own filthy niche, 3OH!3 remain a pair of hapless fraternity chancers hiccupping their way through a record deal, demonstrated by the fumbling, goofy, grating My First Kiss. Seriously, what do these ass-hats think when they listen back to this shit?

6. Lady Gaga – Alejandro
Once again, the supposed charms of this lumpen, publicity-courting tranny fail to bewitch us, unlike the rest of the globe. At least Telephone and Bad Romance held an understandable appeal, but Alejandro was a washed-out, unoriginal, Ace-of-Base-a-like Eurocheese disaster, demonstrating Lady Gaga’s style/substance ratio is way off-kilter.

5. Mark Ronson and the Business International – The Bike Song
The awesome Bang Bang Bang very nearly made it into our best singles list, making Ronson’s choice of follow-up single as confusing as it is shit. Irksome, childish and pointless, plus the subject matter and the iffy dye job made the whole thing feel like a Boris Johnson love-in, which conjures up all kinds of disgusting images requiring a good rinse with brain bleach.

4. Alexandra Burke – Start Without You
We do like Alexandra Burke round these parts, but there was no getting away from the fact Start Without You was a steaming turd of unfathomable proportions. There are many ways in which to describe Start Without You – a mutant playground skipping rhyme; a hideous rip-off of Iko Iko; bearer of 2010’s worst video... but 'ear-burningly bad' should cover all bases just fine.

3. Scouting For Girls – Famous
Perennial filler-outers of many a ‘Worst’ list, Scouting For Girls returned this year to funnel more toxic waste into the ears of the nation. Famous was a hilariously bad attempt at social commentary, with typically babyish lyrics and the same tired hook they churn out with each song. Moaning about fame-chasers is fair enough, but surely attaining fame for being monumentally shit is far worse?

2. Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg – California Gurls
Perhaps even worse than the truly execrable I Kissed A Girl, the slippery media-strumpet made her comeback with the deplorable California Gurls, purveyor of some of the year’s worst lyrics, a video almost as poor as the aforementioned Start Without You, provider of Snoop Dogg’s ultimate shark-jumping moment, and, in spite of what Perry clearly thinks of herself, about as sexy as an oily titwank from Gillian McKeith.

1. Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit)
And just pipping Katy Perry at the very last second is the aural abortion currently and inexplicably sitting at the top of the charts, The Time (Dirty Bit), which presumably has Patrick Swayze spinning in his grave with such velocity it could power the entire West Coast of the United States. The Black Eyed Peas have always been a strange hybrid of terrible and amazing – in fact, Boom Boom Pow muscled its way into our Top 10 singles of last year – but with this inexcusable detonation of diarrhoea, any previous appeal is crudely shat upon and set alight, as they spiral all the way into just plain evil. EVIL.
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