Sunday, February 27, 2011

Single Reviews 28/02/11

Hey, are you lot excited? It’s Oscars Night! Yes, a whole load of people we don’t really care about voting for films that are probably far too highbrow for us. And just FYI, if The Social Network wins an award, the entire concept of cinema is a complete farce. If it was called Poke!: The Movie, people would realise how lame an idea it is. But enough tearing strips off films – it’s time to tear strips off music...

We open up with a bright burst of happy-clappy cosiness from Hackney indie-diva-in-waiting, CocknBullKid. Granted, the roundabout optimism and high-pitched happiness of Hold On to Your Misery might be a tad saccharine, almost as though it should soundtrack a Flora ad, but there’s promise of a rather interesting artist at the heart of things.

Postcards From A Young Man, the title track of last year’s triumphant tenth album from the Manic Street Preachers, gets a push as a single, and rightly so. A direct, engaging melody equipped with swathes of sentiment make for one of their greatest releases in years, and a deserving Single of the Week. And we’ll guess that the strings sounding near-identical to those from Melanie C’s Northern Star was a mere coincidence.

Louis Walsh resurrects the ghost of Bellefire in patchwork five-piece Wonderland, PURELY COINCIDENTALLY featuring Jodi out of Girl Thing, Hollyoaks, and Kian Egan’s bed. The beige, country-flecked Not A Love Song cleverly stands out from the spate of attitudey new girlbands, but you wonder who’ll actually part with money for such plain, lacklustre material.

Bob Sinclar employs the distinctive vocal of Sean Paul to add a smidgen of ragga to the diseased house horror of Tik Tok, which almost unbelievably, samples No Limit by 2 Unlimited. One can only assume 2 Unlimited’s noxious reach didn’t make it as far as Jamaica, else Sean Paul wouldn’t put his name to such a grim dishonour of the entire dance genre. Samples aside, it’s pretty much a big ol’ Euro-cacophony that’ll come and go quicker than, well, Wonderland.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Honking Box Review: Episodes

Well, a round of applause for Episodes, then. Even leaving the content aside for a moment, the fact it was allowed even reach the end of its run at a time when the BBC are brutally clawing shows from the schedules left, right and centre is a real accomplishment in itself. Bravo, seriously.

But let’s save the true applause for the brilliance contained within, for Episodes turned out to be quite the little gem. The Showtime/BBC co-production had set itself something of a challenge – aside from the ‘too many cooks’ ethos that turned the latest series of Primeval into a total shark-jumping shitshower, the high-profile and very apparent presence of Matt LeBlanc was another dangerous component.

Post-Friends vehicles for the Golden Six seem to attract a disproportionate amount of criticism. And while such scrutiny for Joey, a direct spin-off, might be understandable to an extent, it's largely meant some real gems have hit the commissioners' dumper far quicker than is justifiable.

And Episodes, an incredibly daring vehicle in which LeBlanc bravely plays an unflattering, distorted parody of himself, is no exception. Critics and fans tore it to shreds just minutes into the pilot, but having seen the series through to its climax, it was in fact, something of a triumph.

Admittedly, the sceptics had a point in wondering how good ol' British irony would stay above water in this curious transatlantic teaming, but the execution was actually quite an impressive achievement, choosing to play up to the cultural differences on-screen rather than a clumsy stab at a compromise.

And while the first couple of episodes might have taken a while to get going – the saving grace being the genuinely hilarious expressions of Daisy Haggard – the overall arc was sturdy, smart and hugely engaging, while all the little quirks within ranged from the shrewd to the uproarious to the touching to the gloriously un-PC.

But it seems those little quirks weren’t quite enough to win over viewers at large, and more’s the pity. The subtleties of Lisa Kudrow's short-lived but now cult series The Comeback failed to capture the drooling masses gagging for a burst of "WE WERE ON A BREAK!" familiarity. And while Episodes was a far more accessible vehicle, with its slapstick and its comfortable Friends references, there's a real danger that its gentle irony, its invitation to find your own humour amongst its nuances, and its free use of the word "cunt" might have scared off enough viewers to get the axeman sharpening his tired blade. Does Episodes serve a second series? Absolutely. Will it get a second series? Sadly, we fear the commissioners will be hovering somewhere around “I don’t wanna see that!” or thereabouts.

(...A quote which, if you failed to recognise, proves the point nicely. Can we interest you in a “How YOU doin’?” instead, perhaps?)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Single Reviews 21/02/11

This isn’t just any old Single Reviews. Oh no, this is a very special post, as it’s our 400th. Momentous, huh? And to celebrate, we bring you an exclusive interview with Lady Gaga, preview clips of the Abba comeback album, and an affidavit from Justin Bieber stating he’ll never record another song ever again. (Not really. We’ve just listened to some new releases and commented on them.)

The ongoing barrage of accusations that Oasis were little more than a Beatles tribute act must have been taken as a compliment by a naive Liam Gallagher, as Beady Eye have not only taken the baton but put it in a pair of round glasses and sat it upright in a bed next to Yoko Ono. The Roller is, aside from its Beatles leanings, a fairly watery radio-rock ditty with a disappointing shortage of character, and hardly the stuff of launch singles.

Birmingham-based buzz-gatherer Clare Maguire lives up to the generous mentions bouncing around the music press with The Last Dance, an atmospheric demi-house number that puts to use some seriously impressive pipes. In fact, she almost sounds rather like Cher when her face still moved. That’s proper Cher, by the way, not Cher Lloyd. Her face moves too much. But we digress – thumbs up for Clare Maguire.

Coming out of leftfield with a pseudo-military, social-commentary, electronica-enhanced anthem are Take That, although not to great results. Mark Owen gives a largely weak vocal, and the attempt at cheeky bravado was best left at the bottom of the septic tank with Rudebox. Aside from that, Kidz gains kudos for the stabs at such a daring new direction, and for the apparent lack of contribution from Robbie Williams.

And lastly, Morning Parade claim our Single of the Week with the difficult-to-resist immediacy of A&E. Alluring, bewitching verses make way for a forceful chorus, all displaying a clean, measured boisterousness and an innovative mélange of skilful rock and thumping dance sensibilities. Now if they could hurry their asses up and give us an entire album of this stuff, we’d be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sloppy Dog LiveBlog: The Brit Awards 2011

Good evening, and welcome to our momentous 399th post! Had we realised sooner, we'd have bothered to do a Single Reviews last week to round things up for this liveblog. But hey, we're not here to celebrate the ramblings of a sparsely-updated blog, we're here to celebrate the British music industry. Apparently. Yes, it's the Brit Awards 2011, and we shall be covering the shenanigans for your entertainment, because the show itself is likely to be as entertaining as a Jiffy bag. And as you may have noticed, we're not using the fancy-schmancy liveblog software we used to tear The X Factor to shreds this evening, so keep hitting refresh for updates.

Take That open proceedings, doing Kidz. It's not their strongest, and Mark Owen sounds like someone doing a really bad impersonation of David Bowie, but crucially, Robbie Williams is not front-and-centre. He's essentially the Tina Barrett of Take That tonight, and rightly so.

Potentially the most exciting thing to happen all evening: Internet Explorer just froze. Mind you, there wasn't a whole lot of action to comment on in the meantime. James Corden hosting, sans Mathew Horne and Kylie Minogue this time, and Dizzee Rascal presenting the Best British Male to Plan B - a deserving winner whose music is thankfully nowhere near as dull as his acceptance speeches.

Oooh, clumsy stuff, ITV HD! Cutting to the clock! Hardly professional! Says the person whose laptop just had a mini-stroke in the middle of a liveblog. James Corden introduces "the beautiful Adele" with an entirely straight face. Perhaps we haven't given Adele a fair chance, as much of our disdain for her comes from the hideous Chasing Pavements, but she's yet to release anything that acts as much of an apology.

Is this still going on?

James Corden IS WELLING UP. At Adele! Welling up!! Grow a pair, you massive jessie. This year, they're peppering the show with little pretentious VTs building up to Best British Album rather than just getting on with the bleeding award. First up, Mumford & Sons, sitting in a cornfield. Cos that's how they roll, yo.

Who the fucking fuck invited Justin Bieber?! Is he actually going to win something?! Disgusting. James Corden is getting all paedo on him, and it's deeply, deeply unpleasant. And sticking with the theme of deeply unpleasant entities, it's Fuck Off Fearne Cotton! Or a highly-exaggerated parody of Fearne Cotton anyway, as she's declared her love for Adele and "her friend" Justin Bieber in a manner so sycophantic you honestly think she's taking the piss.

And the winner of Best British Breakthrough is Tinie Tempah. That's right, ladies and gents, lyrics about keeping your clothes at your aunt's house is what wins awards these days.

For precisely no reason, Boris Becker is here to announce Arcade Fire as recipients of Best International Album. They seem genuinely chuffed, which is nice to see. And how often do Canadian acts win these things? Only sometimes-ish. That's how often.

James Corden introduces Rihanna with a joke about wanking, which, let's face it, is the only reason she's still got a record deal 216 singles after the dreadful Pon De Replay. She's doing Only Girl In The World underneath what looks like that sacred tree out of Avatar.

Ah, but now it's skeeving off into S&M, ensuring the front page of many a scabloid will be adorned with her gusset in 10 hours' time.

And now it's morphing into fucking What's My Name, arguably the worst thing she's ever done. Let's face it though, this woman's only ever bearable when she's humping Matt Cardle's leg.

An advert for the Justin Bieber movie! How utterly disgusting. Who's up for picketing any cinema dumb enough to show this tripe? It'll be like the cinema protest in Father Ted, complete with "Careful Now!" placards.

It's time for the Critics' Choice Award, or to give it its correct title, Brits School Graduate of Note Award. In fairness, Jessie J seems a fairly decent choice, if you can overlook the repugnant Do It Like A Dude. She claims to be speechless, which is pretty fucking stupid given that she's known about this award since December.

It's time for another gushy VT for Best British Album, this one showcasing Tinie Tempah. Now, he seems a nice chap, doesn't he? But we do not 'get' him. Do you have to be an actual pubeless schoolchild to understand his appeal?

Mind you, at the other end of the spectrum, it's a live performance from Mumford & Sons. It's actually quite refreshing to see an unrefined, adult-oriented, tweed-clad folk act in the same category as ageing boybands and fly-by-night rappers. Mumford & Sons have, on paper, absolutely no right to have done as well as they have, and for that reason, they wholly deserve to be on that stage.

It's pretty fucking dull, though.

Lewis Hamilton has escaped the vile clutches of Nicole Scherzinger for the evening to announce Best International Male, a category his aforementioned girlfriend would probably have been nominated for prior to the operation.

Result! Cee-Lo Green takes the award. Very well deserved it is too. Hey, did you lot catch his performance on the Grammy Awards? It had Gwyneth Paltrow and The Muppets. GWYNETH PALTROW AND THE MUPPETS. Yes folks, star of Market Kitchen on Good Food, Gwyneth Paltrow. And The Muppets. YouTube it if you haven't yet had the pleasure. It'll be a damn sight more entertaining than anything on this stage tonight, that's for sure.

Alan Carr presents the award for Best British Single, and it's one hell of a sorry category. It's sponsored by Capital FM - how exactly have they totted up ten nominees when their playlist is comprised of only four songs?

And the winner is Tinie Tempah. Once again, we ask you - the aunt's house lyric? Seriously?

Tinie Tempah is stood in total silence while he waits for Labrinth to join him onstage. Labrinth does not come. Tinie Tempah continues to wait. Alan Carr looks awkward. No sign of Labrinth. Tinie Tempah plods on anyway. RIVETING STUFF.

A selection of Duran Duran personnel are on hand to crown the Best International Group, a category which somehow includes the Black Eyed Peas, the aural version of a septic collective of conductors of backstreet abortions. Luckily, they don't get it, and it's just as well, as they'd just melt the award down to make some stupid fucking oversized sunglasses or a metal bra for Fergie's heaving plastic chest. Instead, it's a second win for Arcade Fire.

Plan B is demonstrating why his win earlier was a much-deserved one, via an impressive live performance of She Said, which segues dramatically into Prayin'. There's a big choreographed riot taking place on stage, although a tenner says Paloma Faith misses the joke completely and hides under the table to call the police.

Next to get the Best British Album video-eulogy are The XX, a band so frighteningly pretentious they almost go full-circle and come all the way back round to 'quite good'. Only almost, mind.

James Corden is kissing up to Cee-Lo Green. It's not quite as creepy as when he put his ickyness all up in Justin Bieber earlier, but it's highly unnecessary stuff.

While the hidden persuaders shift their wares to us, here's a question: does anyone else feel like today's pop is starting to pass them by? Granted, it's a worrying notion for a sometime music writer still (just) in his twenties, but something like tonight's Brit Awards just cements the fact. It's just all a bit anonymous and... meh... is it not?

It's funny how Will Young can stand next to Avril Lavigne - a girl with extensions and pink and green streaks - and still be the one with the most artificial hair. They're here to announce the Best International Newcomer...

...Justin fucking Bieber. A shrill shrunken lesbian whose entire career hinges on the hysterical hype of a billion retarded social networking baboons. That lyric about the aunt's house sounds like the stuff of an Ivor Novello right about now.

Boy George is here to announce Best British Female. Go on, make a joke about Bieber...

Bah. No such luck. Instead, we're treated to a few million Britons making "whuh...?" noises at Laura Marling and Rumer.

See the above "whuh..." noises and multiply them by about a thousand, as Laura Marling has just scooped it. Wouldn't you love to hear Cheryl Cole's thoughts right about now? Actually, it's probably just a stream of pound signs and Chupa Chups and images of Simon Cowell from a suspiciously low angle.

And here to cap their double win are Arcade Fire. They're really quite good, considering the performances this evening have been rather lame on the whole. Don't you long for the days of an awesome mimed Who Do You Think You Are?

And following a largely irrelevant chat with Mark Ronson, who's rocking the Shakira-circa-Underneath-Your-Clothes six-inches-of-jet-black-roots look, it's a VT of Take That talking about how they let the Duke of Pontins back in.

Cheryl Cole is presenting Best International Female. However will she cope when faced with an actual singer?

No such worries. It's Rihanna.

James Corden talks up the Tinie Tempah performance so much you'll be disappointed unless an apparition of the Virgin Mary rocks up and does the Written In The Stars hook.

Some very nice lasers there. *waits for something big*

*continues waiting*

Is this a whole theme Tinie Tempah is peddling this evening? Waiting around for fuck-all? First the blank nothingness while Labrinth was taking advantage of the hospitality, then a straightforward performance which is nothing more than a straightforward performance.

Still with us? Not feeling too old, are we? Ah well, as if to prove the point that music is passing by everyone who's not in One Direction, here are the Best British Group nominees: Soupy's Elk Party; Shirlee & The Rattlesnake; Humbugz; Bricksniff; and The Wet Jealousies.

Not really. Take That win, and have an onstage love-in with the Fat Dancer, who thinks it's appropriate to say "shabba" a number of times. Hey, however old you might feel, at least you're doing it with dignity and not saying "shabba" in front of millions of viewers. It's like the world's worst dad-dancing condensed into one solitary word.

James Corden has a conversation with Plan B so insanely boring it prompts four-fifths of the Brits viewership to flick over for the end of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

Ha! The new Downing Street cat scratching fuck out of an ITN reporter. Maybe it thought she was Kay Burley.

But back to the Brit Awards, and Roger Daltrey is here to crown the winner of Best British Album. Having trailed it so heavily, it better be someone good. But bearing in mind it's in association with Daybreak and The Sun, whoever gets it probably won't even want to touch it lest it give them a rash of some sort.

And the winner is, somehow, Mumford & Sons. Fair play to 'em. They cement the difficulties of an awards ceremony staged in the round, as none of them know which way to face. James Corden hurries them off stage to welcome Cee-Lo, presumably without Gwyneth or Muppets.

Bah. Why do the Grammy Awards get the big fun performance, and we're stuck with a load of dancers channelling Emma Bunton's Maybe video? Probably because the Grammys actually count for something, in all fairness.

Oh dear. It's Paloma Faith, sounding horribly off-key. Mind you, she's a sort of hybrid of woman and Muppet, so at least they've attempted to recreate the magic, even if the result is like a chemical spill at a special school Christmas concert.

And it's only now that the credits have rolled that we've realised there's no Outstanding Contribution this year. Maybe because there haven't been any artists worthy of such an accolade recently? Never mind, The Wanted, there's always next year to talk your boss into twisting the industry's arms. Thank you all for joining us this evening, and if there's one thing you've learned, it's to only buy enough clothes to store in your own house. Your poor aunt. :o(
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