Friday, May 20, 2011

Single Reviews 20/05/11

If the predictions are correct, this will be the final Single Reviews due to tomorrow’s big ol’ Rapture. Mind you, that prediction came from an American telly evangelist, so if we’re to believe him, we should also believe God wants us to send monthly instalments of $350 to the affiliated cable network. Save your soul now, and choose from this charming carriage clock or superb teasmaid!

We open with a man who’s become the punchbag of preference for a world of pop snobs, Olly Murs. Granted, his milky reggae hasn’t been all that deserving of acclaim, but it’s done the trick. New release Busy won’t win him any new fans, its bouncy, unpretentious charm ready to soundtrack a million yummy mummies’ in-car stereos. And hey, we’ll take any opportunity to point out we were right about Joe McElderry being the X Factor’s worst ever winner.

Plain White T’s are next under the Sloppy Dog brand of scrutiny, with the typically twee Boomerang. The bijou, sugary verses build up to a substantial, more forceful chorus, although the Love Is... tone is carried throughout. Not everyone’s going to enjoy the gentle strum and gooey sentiment, but what the Plain White T’s do, they do very well. Whaddaya mean ‘damning with faint praise’...?

Single of the Week is awarded to Jessie J, who seems to highlight more and more of her peculiar flaws the more time she spends in the spotlight. And yet, taking Nobody’s Perfect as a standalone entity, its raw sincerity and integrity make for a seriously impressive single. In fact, it’s remarkable how good it actually sounds outside of the misshapen sphere of debut album Who You Are – if she can rein in the self-parody and produce more of this ilk, that buzz might well be deserved.

And finally, The Saturdays attempt to mark their return with a largely pointless, vocoder-abusing example of nothingness in the shape of Notorious. The club clich├ęs and overtwiddled electro are predictably present, and bring essentially sod-all to the table. And FYI, girls, there’s not a whole lot of credibility to an Irish folk singer, a rent-a-bellower, a posh public school bimbette and a couple of S Club Juniors claiming to be the ‘big boss’ and a ‘gangsta’.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Honking Box Preview: Primeval

Much has been made on this blog of the often-loathsome tactics of drama commissioners, who see fit to pull the plug on a series at the most inopportune moments, leaving many a storyline dangling in a pen-pushing, dollar-driven world where content is bottom of the list. One such show was Primeval, whose moderate but consistent viewing figures didn’t warrant its high production budget, hence ITV’s decision to bury it.

So kudos to Watch for stepping in and giving the show a lifeline at a time when it had already felt the cold, unforgiving blow of the axeman's blade. Sadly, it seems reattaching the head of something already decapitated is quite a messy procedure.

The fourth series, which aired on ITV as per the deal hammered out with UKTV – and that’s before you consider the input of BBC America, ProSieben and Irish funders – saw Primeval lose its way massively, all gaping plotholes and irrelevant characters and iffy dialogue. Sadly, as the fifth series (which begins this weekend on Watch) was produced back-to-back with the fourth, we don’t hold out much hope for an uptake in quality.

Perhaps it's partially to do with the input of no less than five separate organisations. Fair play to them, clubbing together saved the show's life. But with the show’s editorial aspects now at the mercy of a pan-European coalition, it’s resulted in Primeval being pulled in a dozen different directions.

Primeval, in all fairness to its new incarnation, has had its shaky moments long before now. The clunky reswizzing of Claudia Brown into Jenny Lewis was previously the show’s greatest faux pas, and the dreadful Helen Cutter’s bad penny routine became quickly irksome. But Series 4 soon introduced a whole new level of shark-jumping. A lead character with zero heroism; the upgrade of Connor from speccy loser to all-action hunk to compensate for this; and the slipshod disguising of Dublin as London. Granted, it’s not exactly substituting Beverley Hills with Basra, but the Irish bus stops and road signs and number plates make for quite a clumsy affair.

And special mention must be made of an absolutely shocking performance from Ruth Kearney as Jess, who may go down as the most underdeveloped character in the history of scripted drama. One episode she’s a dead-eyed bimbo with a desk job; the next she’s a superhuman IT whizz; and, when the scripts see fit, she owns a luxury apartment large enough to house the rest of the team. The only consistent factor would be the dreadful stab at acting, though in fairness to Kearney, she’s not been given a great deal to work with.

It’s hard to be critical when the producers have evidently gone to some lengths to make this series happen. But unfortunately, what was once a hugely entertaining piece of British sci-fi has suffered heavily in a world where numbers carry significantly more weight.

We can only hope that a similar fate doesn’t befall the upcoming Torchwood: Miracle Day, which was given a lifeline in a not-too-different transatlantic co-production deal. And hopefully, this particularly brave plan will see Primeval through to another series where it can find its feet once again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Miles Kane - Colour of the Trap (Columbia)

Regular readers will be familiar with our general opinion of the Arctic Monkeys. But for the benefit of anyone who's surfed in randomly and is not aware of our feelings towards the Overrated Apes, their insipid, arrogant, cod-working-class claptrap makes us go all hulky smash-smash.

So when frontman Alex Turner ventured away from the band for intriguing side project The Last Shadow Puppets, we were surprised - nay, alarmed - to find it actually rather easy to stomach. And now, as his Last Shadow Puppets co-pilot Miles Kane releases his debut solo album, it's abundantly clear Kane's contribution is what made Turner so uncharacteristically bearable.

But on the strengths of Colour of the Trap, it's a talent that reaches way beyond merely nullifying the weakness of his sometime bandmate, and towers above the output of previous band The Rascals. It's something to get very excited about.

With current single Rearrange already a strong contender for 2011's best song, you don't have to listen too hard to realise Kane means business. The ample talent is housed in a defined musical identity, somewhere close to a wet-behind-the-ears Rolling Stones, and yet very much on its own level.

Whether it's the dynamic, sugar-flecked bounce of Quicksand, or the brooding, atmospheric title track, the album is swathed in authentic Sixties sensibilities. Where perhaps VV Brown or Beady Eye produced work inflected with a Sixties influence, Colour of the Trap is a full-blown voyage 45 years back, entirely undiluted and incredibly effective for it.

And most admirably, it doesn't feel gimmicky in the least - Kane boasts an aptitude far beyond his years, and any ventures within a more current genre would almost feel beneath him. Colour of the Trap combines a stark simplicity with a brave venture, all executed with serious finesse. Another record of this calibre, and Alex sodding Turner will be a mere footnote in the gold-leafed chronicles of Miles Kane.
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