Morning. New year, new blog. A simple premise, this: a quick round up of the six most pertinent singles officially released today, today being Monday. I shall strive to keep prejudice and subjectivity to a moderate high, whilst genuinely attempting to give a decent impression of the song in question. Constructive comments, please: ‘less shit’, ‘shorter’, ‘less wrong’, that sort of thing. So; to the breach.
Sugababes: Girls ***
This should be by far the best single released this week. Its cocksure swagger and good-time keyboard effects underpin a hideously artificial but undeniably sassy vocal. Can a song preen like a complacent peacock at the same time as burrowing into your brain like some tenacious weasel? Yet despite all this, frankly it’s nowhere near as good as it makes out, not that that’s ever hindered chart success. The official remixes all play pretty safe, respecting the integrity of the original structure a little too much and contenting themselves with adding a layer of hand claps or squirty synths. But when someone gets this right, club playlists are going to go into a new Groundhog Day…
Sharleen Spiteri: Stop, I Don’t Love You Anymore ****
This is in fact by far the best single released this week. The work of the same Scottish chanteuse who gave the world ‘Halo’ and ‘Black Eyed Boy’, thus putting herself one martyrdom short of saint-hood, this Motown/Spaghetti Western hybrid is brimming with all the infectious joy and pop hookery that should be bubbling through Sugababes’ latest. As it is, this ultra-retro effort from her out of Texas combines ‘50s guitar, a vocal of Diana Ross gorgeousness, some discreet Hawaiian percussion and truly exultant trumpets to bring light into your young lives.
Foals: Olympic Airways ***
In which Oxford’s most overrated homeboys peddle yet more math-rock with all the emotional connection of the Dewy Decimal System and as little funk as you’d expect from some skinny white kids playing guitars. Except that, thanks to some delicious harmonics early on and lullaby-soft dual vocals, this one’s actually quite good. It lacks the brilliance of Foals’ standout track, ‘Red Socks Pugie’, but ambles along pleasantly enough compared to most of the album it comes from. Wittering away about building aviaries and pronouncing ‘disappear’ with four syllables, there’s just about enough eccentricity to keep the brain engaged and the foot tapping.
Tilly And The Wall: Beat Control **
Dear God this song is infectious. Like SARS. A sort of aerobics workout for the teen dipping their big toe in the waters of ‘80s indie, this song means absolutely nothing and has zero artistic value. Even the bizarre use of solemn church-organ to underline the infantile chord progression fails to lend it chutzpah. What it does have is one hell of a melody atop an inoffensive groove that, if you’ve previously sold your soul to any form of diabolical entity, feel free to go and inanely grin to.
Kaiser Chiefs: Never Miss A Beat *
I begin to sense a theme: the cynical use of the word ‘beat’ to lend cutting-edge significance to a song that is in fact soul-searingly irrelevant. Worse still, the well-intentioned message, some kind of indictment of the poverty of ambition and intellect prevalent in today’s youth culture, may be pitched at too subtle a level of irony for the Chiefs’ fans. They themselves are clearly irony gods, as they manage to disapprove of wilful, destructive, narrow-minded ignorance with their lyrics, whilst exhibiting precisely that on a musical level. If you’ve ever heard a Kaiser Chiefs song before, then you know what this sounds like. My commiserations.
Jack White & Alicia Keys: Another Way To Die **
Hopefully the Bond film this is written for will take rather less time to get going. Once ‘Another Way To Die’ stops sashaying around in the background and gets in your face, it certainly demands attention. But, like a shy belly-dancer who eventually gives it their all, this could do with a few pointers on taste and style. Based very loosely around a suitably schizoid Jack White riff, this is less a coherent song, more a mad welter of bar-room piano, skulking strings, and apocalyptic brass. It has no discernible tune. The two protagonists content themselves with arguing heatedly but vaguely about furniture and receipts somewhere in the background. It sounds like another tired attempt at capturing the ideal ‘Bond Theme’ sound. One happy day they’ll all just give up and use Morrissey’s ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’, which is what Bond themes should always sound like.
Top Of The Ox: local tune of the week.
Every week I intend to support Oxford artists by, ah, giving their music away for free. I’ve been plugging Stornoway for years so I may as well get them out of the way first. Zorbing is simply the greatest take on the three-chord song I’ve ever heard and regularly gets me weepy around the third verse. First revel in its pop simplicity, driving jazz piano and name-checking of the Cowley Road, then check out the band live at the Jericho Tavern, supporting Sam Isaac, this Wednesday. If you can’t make that, they’re playing the Academy on November 8.
Send your suggestions for tune of the week to oskar.coxjensen[at]chch.ox.ac.uk.