It’s time again to dip our toe into the pool of pop and see what bites. Yes, it’s the logistical nightmare that is “the VPME review.” This time we are joined by a panel, who, if their combined brain power was harnessed, would make the technology used on the Hadron Collider look like something built out of lego by Happy Mondays resident performing chimp, Bez. So before there is any temporal distortion, earth engulfing black holes or leakage from other dimensions, we best press on.
JULIA AND SIMON INDELICATE : From the Indelicates, who have released one of the albums of the year in “American Demo.” A viciously original band, and one who should be on everybody’s “best band” list.. you can visit them here, don’t be scared they don’t bite and you might learn something!
DOGWOOD : A reguar on the panel, Dogwood has undergone a “10 Years Younger” style makeover at the behest of his employers at Cheambeat Communications Radio. They feel the public want a “younger Dogwood.” The results were harrowing but did manage to shave an incredible 10 months off the old fellow’s appearance.
PHILIPPE DE NERO : Of Rock City Sixteen, one of our fave bands around. Their cinematic cool has even led to band members taking iconic names after such legends as Robert De Nero, Jimmy Durante and even Hollywood itself .. Seriously, they are ace, check out their new material here
MISTER LION: “He’s big, he’s tall, he doesn’t like football” the angular Mister Lion returns, he has recently provided us with remarkable new logo, check out his site, here but be careful, as you may weep with joy. He is available for parties , weddings and bar mitzvah’s (high-ceilinged venues preferrable)
VON PIP: Inspirational lifestyle guru, and David Icke disciple.
DODDY: No introductions are needed, but did you hear he got arrested again? “Did he” – Erm No, Doddy. This is a prime example of the sort of humour that makes us scousers the undisputed funniest people in the world, like ever.
MATT GEARY: Joins the team again after impressing Dogwood with his no-nonsense views. Matt also plays for Brighton band The Lieutenant’s Mistress he is a veritable mine of information. In fact the things he knows about the local music scene would make your hair curl and turn you into a Leo Sayer look a like within seconds. He remembers when a certain panel member worked for a certain health food chain, yes he does..
On with the review, no conferring here’s your starter for ten….
Zutons -What’s Your Problem?
DOGWOOD: What’s your problem? I’ll tell you what my problem is lad – you’re crap, that’s my problem. I can honestly say, without hesitation, that I absolutely detest everything about The Zutons. Except the crumpet with the saxophone but even that wears a little thin on the millionth play of ‘Valerie’. This load of old tosh is living proof that it may well be possible for a room full of chimps to eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare but you could take forever and a warehouse full of Zutons and you’d never get a decent tune. Where does my prejudice derive from? Well, let me think, ah yes I remember…they’re crap. And the fact that whenever you watch one of those interminable festival highlight programmes it will always – without fail – feature The Zutons and The Kaiser Chiefs. So boredom through familiarity then? Well, yes…plus the fact that they are crap. This is the problem see. You go to some Scouse art school, round up the teachers, and give them a few instruments and…hey presto…you get The Zutons. This lot are like the sort of long hair, pot smoking nerks that used to hang around the precinct in Preston, shouting at me to lend them ten bob as I made my way from Baxters the Butchers to Foxtons the Fishmongers and then to Unwins the Undertakers. I find that having The Zutons to contend with is an added complexity and I don’t “do” added complexities, I find that it make things more involved than they need to be. You probably want to know what this song is like. Well, imagine going to a party attended by a mix of creative media and public sector librarian types, in other words money and stupid looking specs versus no money and washed out cardigans. This unedifying spectacle unfolds whilst you are in the kitchen looking for a can of Mackesons and having to make do with a can of Skol that hasn’t been in the fridge. In the meantime, a search for food uncovers a mushroom quiche that someone has taken a bite out of and then put back. To cap things off, someone has just put on ‘Tubular Bells’, there’s a load of hippy swaying going on in the front room and you’re cornered by some 20 plus stone crashing bore called ‘Kit’ who wants to talk real ale. That’s what this song sounds like. In other words, crap.
JULIA INDELICATE: Every single press photograph I’ve taken for a band with a girl in it brings with it the same dilemma – putting her at the front of the photograph, preferably in a short-ish frock, and no matter what she plays, is exactly what the band and the label are after, whether they’re an indie or a major. Despite the fact that better ideas and better artwork, coupled with a hype-on-hype press and marketing team can do this much more successfully (I’ve never had the luxury of the latter, but I won’t give up a good idea for ANYTHING, only the bad ones), they’ll continue to follow and judge by this conservative rule. For this reason I will never buy a Zutons record, particularly one that follows the music student formula of “rocking out”. What’s my problem? You’re just having too much ‘fun’.
DODDY:I’m not tickled by this, missus, no not at all, the girl seems to be a focal point, and she does have cracking pins, but does it distract from the horrible noise made by the males? Reminds me of the one about the topless lady ventriloquist –she was rubbish but nobody ever saw her lips move! The singer sounds like that fellow Nobby Holder. No, it’s not for Doddy, this is like getting visited by the Inland Revenue on Christmas Day
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: “This is so middle-of-the-road that when I close my eyes I can see the house-band of a cruise ship playing the Saturday evening captain’s disco. Still, they all probably all have their own boats now that the royalties from the Ronson / Winehouse cover are rolling in: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=lqSKVv6YO8g
VON PIP: Ha-ha The title alone is asking for trouble and as your asking I’ll tell you, lads and horn blowing lass with the nice legs; the problem is this load of old tripe. It sounds like Rod Stewart jamming with Wings. Actually it’s the sort of MOR, radio friendly tripe that the mauve bonced Sir Paul would probably say “rocks” whilst giving his trademark “peace sign” and doing a “wacky” little moonwalk to show off his trendy Converse footwear. Over the years the Zutons front man has developed a vocal style reminiscent of Brian Blessed, sadly constant “roaring” just offends the old lug holes after a while and this sort of overblown nonsensical stadia rock just gets on my dander, I don’t even know what the songs about, and quite frankly I don’t care. I did like odd parts of the Zutons first album when they occasionally avoided Merseybeat/Beatles clichés…but if they carry on like this, then asking the question “Who Killed the Zutons” will undoubtedly induce the response, “Dunno, but they deserve a medal”. 4/10
MISTER LION: Fair enough, it’s been established that the lady in the group looks nice in a little dress, but it by no means comes through in the music, and it’s far from enough to build a career on. What’s my problem? Well, songs about “nutting” other people and “starting trouble” for one thing. Why so violent? I’m afraid the lyrics are really putting me off. I can’t shake the image of loud, obnoxious sorts facing-off outside public house in the early hours, too inebriated to properly articulate the kind of insults they really want to hurl, instead opting to shatter bottles and commandeer pieces of nearby benches in order to continue their disagreements through the ancient medium of bashing the living snot out of one another. It’s all too Neanderthal for my tastes. It’s a strangely jolly ditty considering the subject matter, but my other problem with the Zutons, generally, is the fact that the singer sounds preternaturally constipated in every song. Please, somebody, get him to sort himself out before he goes into the studio, and perhaps he’ll be a bit more calm and relaxed when he gets to the microphone. The likes of Neil Hannon and Richard Hawley manage a pleasing timbre without resorting to this kind of straining, don’t they? Perhaps the chief of Zutons could be encouraged along similar lines. Next Please
SIMON INDELICATE : There are, in Russia, two scientists who believe that – when the first kinetically charged protons smash into each other somewhere beneath Switzerland – there will be created (along with a shower of quarks and bosons) a wormhole. This passageway – essentially a bridge between the opposite slopes of curved spacetime (a multidimensional structureoften visualised as a rubber sheet bearing lead weights that distort its shape) – would be the first step toward a workable system of time travel. Assuming that current theories of time travel are correct, that the ‘path of least resistance’ principle can be applied four dimensionally to rule out continuum distorting paradoxes and that humanity will eventually develop such a discovery into a practical method for intertemporal voyaging: it seems eminently possible (these scientists claim) that the first visitors from our distant future will begin arriving among us within a matter of weeks. If this piece of skull-deadening pretend-ska irrelevance is the best current music can offer – I can only hope that the Russians are right and that whoever turns up brings their record collection. That way, at least, we might have something new to listen to. Arse.
MATT GEARY: I don’t know whether to feel sorry for The Zutons or not. Over 50% of the population are familiar with a version of your biggest single, but 50% of those wouldn’t know that you wrote or recorded it at all. It’s got to be a little frustrating but I’m sure that they were a little less worried once Mr Ronson’s contribution to the royalty pot kicked in. The other reason that I tend to feel sorry for the Zutons is that I believe that Liverpool bands suffer from the same weight of expectation that dogs the England football team; at some point in the 1960s there was a group of people who lived their dreams better than they are likely to be able to do themselves and everyone feels it’s essential to remind them of it. The trouble for me is that the Zutons are a little safe and their songs tend to plod along. I own both albums. I like both albums. No doubt I’ll get the third. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that it takes something like this review to make me reach for the CD. If I’m honest, that’s how I feel about the track; it’s a little “by numbers” but certainly likeable enough. You’d never be confused about whom it’s by, but, even whilst writing this I’m struggling to remember any of the lyrics.
Hooverphonic in Bloom
MISTER LION: This is a new one on me. How has this lot passed me by until now? What does the opening remind me of? Bizarrely, I don’t think the melody is far from a Pearl Jam song. Can’t remember which one. It’s a wonderful sound, from when those chilling strings start at the beginning. It’s quite cinematic, it would be right at home on the soundtrack if Joss Whedon ever gets the cast of Buffy The Vampire Slayer back together for a film. Lovely and dark without straying into Evanescence-esque territory. I really like the vocals, and the lyrics are pleasingly taunting without being overt. Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do! I’ll eagerly chase some more of their stuff when I have a moment, I think.
SIMON IDELICATE: I actually quite like this. It’s got a good bit where they change the chord from the original and it makes it sound all spooky. I like that.
DOGWOOD: I have to say that as a rule I decided to opt out of the whole Grunge farrago back in ’91 and ’92. Preston may share many things with Seattle , a west coast bearing with its fair share of rain, although instead of coffee shops we had sweat shops and a jar of Co-op instant decaffeinated. However, plaid shirts worn loose from the trouser waist was only ever going to invite a chill in the kidneys so it wasn’t something that I did. However, I have to say that – although never admitting this in public – I had a thing about Courtney Love (just a mild fantasy, she did things to me, I did stuff back – let’s leave it at that) and through association I harboured an admiration for the works of her husband Mr Cobain. So I find that this little love puppet bursts on my tongue with something like pleasure. Imagine a fruit pastille that makes love to you, well it’s nothing like that but it does have a fulsome roundness that brings to mind, Tracy the barmaid from down the Crown. I can see her now, low slung jeans, love handles and a canvas g-string that leaves little to the imagination. This brings about both a rueful grin and a long forgotten stirring in the loins. Dogwood is prepared to use this particular Hooverphonic to give that neglected space under the chaise-longe the once-over, leaving carpet, furnishings and Dogwood with a zesty lemon fresh gusset.
MATT GEARY: Madonna’s ‘American Pie’, Alien Ant Farm’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ and Kid Rock’s entire career are clear indications of the reason why people say that classics should be left alone. Apparently, this adage never made its way to Belgium . I had always associated the Belgians with being world leaders at the classier aspects of life; luxury chocolates, specialist beers, and mussels for lunch. However upon investigation, musically, their role of honour extends to Soulwax, half of 2-Unlimited and the singing Nun. The signs were never good. Evidently, when a Trip-Hop band does grunge, it sounds like Limp Bizkit with a fragile female vocal and an organ solo. They have been clever in taking the quiet verse / loud chorus idea of the original and trimming it to a quiet verse / extremely quiet chorus but I’m still not sure that they’ve saved it for me. The other thing that, on a very basic level, really phased me was the drawn out “-awn” sounds in the chorus. I’m not someone who holds Nirvana on a particular pedestal, they were great but I didn’t scrawl their name on my school bag, take to baggy jumpers or get teary when Mr C. reached for the shotgun. I also like the occasional cover version – as long as adds something to the song or introduces me to a track or artist that I wouldn’t know otherwise. Even Nirvana themselves covered Bowie and both parties did pretty well from it. However, there are some things that you just shouldn’t do and this was one of them.
JULIA INDELICATE: The massive Buffy fan in me imagines this in a scene at the Bronze, with a beautiful femme lesbian witch giving me the eye from across the room, before Spike (when he’s still bad) brings the vampy sexy trouble that he does, and Buffy stakes some hearts. It’s my wet dream. It’s also a song by Nirvana, and they were really quite good. A nice cover though.
PHILIPPE DE NERO: Good song, of course. The arrangement sounds a bit too much “Avril Lavigne” to me. Still, if you like Nirvana covers, I can recommend this one instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_ciiCyxOJA
VON PIP: Crivens, Nirvana given a trip-hop treatment from Hooverphonic, the most stylish thing to come out of Belgium since Hercule Poirot’s ‘tache. This is just ace and definitely the best cover of a Kurt Cobain song I’ve heard in a while. Now if somebody had said to me “we’re going to cover Nirvana’s “In Bloom” I’d have chuckled and said “of course you are” whilst thinking they were barking up the cuckoo tree, but I’d have ended up with a large omelette on my face, as this works unbelievably well. They have replaced Nirvana’s noisy thrash and Cobains anguished yelpings with a sophisticated sound that is spooky atmospheric, sexy, yet sinister. A bit like me. I likes it a lot 9/10
DODDY: This perked up my tickling stick missus, even though I prefer songs about “Happiness,” didn’t this poor fellow blow his brains out ? Shame the situation couldn’t have been headed off… Very sad,my heart goes out to his family.. Sometimes I can no longer bear to think of the victims of broken homes, so I begin to think of the victims of intact ones.
Ladyhawke All Night Long
JULIA INDELICATE: This is a bit too 80’s Stock, Aitken and Waterman for me. Is she from Brooklyn? The accent sounds like it, but seems British at points. Bah, who cares? Julia Indelicate thinks it is a bit boring, and a bit retro, and a bit ‘end of the disco, get out’ rather than the last dance, which is clearly so much better. Plus I generally loathe retro music videos, and being consistently reminded how shit women in music are, how little effort they have to make to be either ‘ethereal’ or ‘dirty’, with no thought for the possibility of another option, doesn’t really help anyone, least of all the argument that girls don’t get on in a ‘male dominated indie’ market. From what I can surmise, the idea is sod the message, all I’ve got to do is bring the F*CK. They seem to be ‘getting on’ fine to me, they’re just not very good. And neither is this. I am dulled to the tips of my bent little fingers.
MATT GEARY: Her name sounds like a classic metal group from the 80s, her voice sounds like Madonna from the (late) 80s and the backing sounds like the Pet Shop Boys’ from the 80s. So if Vogue to the tune of West End Girls sounds like something you’d like to hear then, I’d suggest this could be the song for you! On reflection, if I’d read that description I’d probably be looking elsewhere to swell my record collection but the track is strangely addictive. I saw Ladyhawke play at Lovebox this year and enjoyed her show. As soon as I played this track, I instantly recognised it and even where I’d heard it – which pleasantly surprised me. It’s got a memorable hook, just enough quirk and just enough pop about it to make it likeable but I can understand that, like the Ting Tings, Marmite and Fearne Cotton, it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste.
These days there seems to be more and more electro-tinged pop, and more and more pop using watered down electro tinges, but I’m not really sure that I personally like all of it. It’s probably how the “just like the Beatles” brigade viewed the 90s guitar bands that influenced me, but more often than not it’s a catchy motif that carries a very average track. That’s arguably the case here but there is something about it that keeps me from hitting skip, even if it’ll never be my favourite song.
MISTER LION: Ah, Ladyhawke. That was a fab film. I never really bought the idea that Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfieffer were a couple, but hell, he was a wolf and she was a bird, so I guess it worked out in the end. Anyway, yes, I must say that Paris Is Burning was an extremely promising start for this lass from New Zealand , but I have to say I’m a tad disappointed with this follow-up. Not that it’s bad, per se, it’s just not as good as Paris Is Burning. When it kicks off it has something of Running With The Night by Lionel Richie to it – and I assure you, this is no bad thing in my book – but it quickly plateaus and doesn’t really go anywhere after that, more’s the pity. It does have an abundance of synth whistle in there though, completing a very authentic eighties vibe.
DODDY: No Missus, no! Not what I’d listen to after a hard day down the jammy butty mines in Knotty Ash. Mind I had a terrible day today, me and the Diddymen just missed a marmalade seam before lunch break. I had a ploughman’s lunch…he wasn’t very happy. Anyway this one bangs on and on like the mother-in-law, mind, I haven’t spoken to her for 18 months – I don’t like to interrupt her.
DOGWOOD: Someone told me that Ladyhawke is a Japanese Mango Superhero. A superhero made from a mango that is Japanese, whatever next I thought. Then I was corrected and told that it was Manga, y’know ‘Marine Boy’ and all that cartoon nonsense. As it transpires Ladyhawke is nothing of the sort, it’s actually a Kiwi lass who likes retro computer games. I must admit that I quite liked her single ‘Paris is Burning’ it brought to mind the sort of caterwauling that you’d expect from the likes of The Slits coupled with a chorus that would have the gay cop from the Village People spitting out his frothaccino as he minced his way to the dance floor. I think if there is a problem with this it’s that it sounds like it’s travelled here courtesy of HG Well’s Time Machine from 1987. As people will know, I don’t do the eighties. The eighties, as today’s kids are prone to say, were gay and I don’t mean homosexy although there was a fair bit of that going on as well to be fair. At the risk of repeating myself, the eighties was having Ben Elton in sparkly suit and big glasses entertaining yuppies with his ‘Thatch’ rants whilst downing gallons of Lambrusco and thinking that T’Pau were a serious proposition. Shallow froth for the most part with the occasional weighty drama thrown in as ballast. That sums this up. Dogwood hears this and simultaneously thinks that its time to sort out the drains again.
SIMON INDELICATE: This has something of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven about it. A sensuously powerful evocation of the feminine imagination as a radically decentring force existing in opposition to the patrician hegemony. Simultaneously indulging in the submssive responses of a romantic heroine (the idea of a lone woman being terrorised by a ghostly, night-long campaign of aural intimidation is a clear reference to Emily Bronte’s Cathy) and undermining them with a pronounced upbeat musical lexicography, the narrative voice here is one of playful horror. Ladyhawke reclaim the Lovecraftian unnamed from it’s stylised male antagonists and return it to a feminist dialectic where the sense of foreboding is as much an internal play on the oppressive ‘hysterical’ narrative as it is a simple tale of sexualised fear. In lines like ‘Cool breeze down the hall/I can feel you breathe outside the door’, the narrator eschews traditional notions of rhyme, allowing her linguistic structure to break down around her even within so deceptively simple a metre. When she finally descends into repeating the meaning-stripped syllable ‘doo doo doo doo’, we are invited to enter a nonlinguistic, poststructural arena where her otherness achieves its own supremacy and her true subversive intent crystallises into a totemically transgressive parity. Oh no wait, hang on, it doesn’t. It is, in fact, just another f*cking nursery rhyme for grown ups who should know better.
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: While listening to this, I had to stop myself from singing the line “another one bites the dust” at the end of the each chord sequence. I think this would go down well at a beach party. I haven’t been to one myself, so I am not even sure if this is correct. Still, if you like 2008 disco-revival tunes, I can recommend this one: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Fb8S51M2GAc
VON PIP : I too quite enjoyed this young lady’s previous single “Paris Is Burning” as a bit of upbeat pop but initially this track left me colder than Margaret Thatcher’s embittered, frosty old heart. It sounds like The Ting-Tings covering that baldy clown and owner of the sweatiest top-lip in pop, Phil Collins. I’m once again scratching my head in utter befuddlement, why oh why do people seem to take the worst elements of 80’s music as a reference point; it wasn’t all synthie pop crap was it? However there’s a thin line between love and hate and I’ve a horrible feeling I’ll end up begrudgingly tapping my feet to this, the insistent chorus is already burrowing into my head …must…fight it ..If… I …can ..just…reach…the off..button ….It’s daft enough to be a big hit, I wager…. 6/10
Charlatans Mis Takes
DODDY: By Jove Missus, this makes me feel like shoving a cucumber through the vicarage letterbox and shouting “Vicar, Vicar the aliens are coming.” I like Wurlitzers, this ditty would give Richard Clayderman food for thought- Mind-bogglingly tattinormous missus!!
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: I like the Charlatans. Unfortunately they haven’t really produced anything truly great since this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOX-ksO8tC0
DOGWOOD: If someone were to tell me that in 2008 medieval chic would return I would have scoffed in a fashion that would have sent Edward the Confessor scurrying for his codpiece. And yet, here we are with young Master Burgess sporting the sort of hairpiece last spotted on Edmund Blackadder on the first (and best) series of Blackadder. I heartily admire his candour – real men do still wear monk-ish bowlheads. If you don’t believe me take a stroll down Clitheroe High Road on any day of the week. Amongst the stench of tripe, garlic and onions – an army of working class serfs with Burgess type hair are modelling the latest in Venerable Bead shell suits. Anyway, enough of all this – much as I approve, I’m here to talk about music and the music doth work, it doth. It truly doth. Verily, I downloaded the Charlie’s album when it became available and I think that it has helped to make this year of Brown and Darling and their ham fisted attempts at steering this country straight towards the iceberg of disaster, a bit more bearable. I like to wash my windows to this tune; it injects enough vigour to allow me to get a good head of speed on the old shammy and affords the cleanest windows in the Cheam district. For that I thank Sir Burgess and his knights of the Magic Roundabout. If I have one minor quibble it would be this. If you are going to flirt and even – let’s face it – sneak a French kiss with the whole medieval thing then let’s convey something in the lyrics. I think something like: ‘In days of old, when knights were bold and women not invented, they drilled holes in telegraph poles and they were quite contented’. That sort of profound insight would pay dividends. Dogwood, a fellow Lancastrian, is ready to kick some House of York buttock with this broadsword of a tune.
MISTER LION: Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. I’ve never had much time for the Charlatans for all the years they’ve been going. And what about that name? A charlatan is someone who falsely claims to be more skillful or knowledgeable than they really are – I’ve never quite figured out what it is they’re claiming to be good at. Anyhoo, this sounds a bit like a Pat Benatar tune – you know, that one about love being a battlefield. I’m not saying they ripped it off or anything, I’d probably like it more if they had, but here is another bit of music that seems to have succumbed to that fashionable thing for sounding “a bit eighties” that everybody’s at these days. I think it’s an admirable thing to try to recapture, but too much of a good thing and all that. No, this is going nowhere. No chorus to speak of, lack-lustre lyrics and a plodding tempo. Bored now!
SIMON INDELICATE: The Charlatans are one of those bands who make the application of proportional representation so complicated. It would be easy to devise a fair system of electoral reform if every party was someone’s favourite and if people’s second choices were distributed similarly to their first. As it is, though, parties like the Liberal Democrats are the favourites of few but the second choices of many. This means that any system of PR has to be oddly weighted so that the electing power of second preferences does not lead to a situation where middle ground parties achieve power despite being nobody’s favourite. I can’t imagine the Charlatans are anyone’s favourite band, they’re just alright, the Christian democrats of 90s indie music. I can’t hum any of their songs, including this one that I’ve just listened to. Stick it in the background of something and it definitely won’t spoil it. It’s fine. Just fine. Well done.
MATT GEARY: Really, really like it. As long as I’ve been conscious of music, The Charlatans have been there. They keep changing and developing, and despite being pigeon-holed in a handful of movements from Baggy to Britpop since 1990 they’ve outlasted all of them. In spite of being in their forties and having been together in one form or another for 18 years, they are still making fresh and interesting music. A great track and an excellent group.
JULIA INDELICATE: I find myself feeling sympathetic. It isn’t bad music, I’m not dazzled by the lyrics, I think ‘You Cross My Path’ is a better song lyrically than this one… But I’d probably listen to it above almost everything else here because it just sounds better, there’s more space to hear what he’s saying, and that’s increasingly unusual. We saw them briefly at Frequency in Austria this summer. He has a proper bowl haircut, Beatles style, which certainly caught my eye.
VON PIP: This is just what the doctor ordered to get Ladwyhakwe’s incessant banging out of my head. I have to say I can’t see the Pat Benatar comparison, to me it’s far more reminiscent of New Order with a bass so rumble-mungeous that I was half convinced The Charlatans had kidnapped Peter Hook and thrown him down a well. Nineteen years the Charlatans have been at it, and they’ve improved with almost every album, which is surely the point, I mean you don’t plan to form a band with a view to becoming progressively worse, do you? Unless you’re Bono. The Charlatans emerged at a time when any Tom Dick or Bez with a pudding bowl hair-cut, ill fitting jeans and the ability to say “sorted” in a vaguely northern accent were immediately labelled part of the Mad-chester scene. The fact that Tim Burgess is from Northwhich whilst the band originally formed in the West Midlands mattered not one jot, the press had em down as “baggy Mad-chester boys.” I’d always found them one of the more interesting bands from that era, I never got the Happy Mondays, they always looked and sounded like folk with learning disabilities who’d accidentally stumbled into a recording studio after giving their carers the slip. So following death, drugs, armed robbery and prison I wonder who would have put money on The Charlatans still being around after all this time. Nice to know the can still produce the goods. 9/10
Bloc Party- Mercury
SIMON INDELICATE: Mercury has had it rough these last few years. With the downgrading of Pluto to the status of ‘dwarf planet’, Mercury has gone from being a fairly well-regarded sphere to being the smallest real planet in the solar system. A dubious distinction at the best of times, one can’t help but feel that having already spent centuries being overlooked in favour of it’s sexier neighbour – the incorrigible Venus – Mercury’s career is at an all time low. Still though, it’s worth sticking with as, despite its comparative misfortunes, the innermost world holds a continuing fascination. Similar to the moon in appearance, Mercury’s cratered surface is radically jagged and angular recalling the landscape of the American west in its violent splendour. While unquestionably hot – it’s mean temperature is a scorching 442.5 degrees Kelvin – and lacking in any kind of atmosphere, at its deepest moments there is something really cool, even icy about the planet’s surface and this dynamic range is captivating for even the most jaded of observers. It’ll never be a big planet – or even much of a cult one – but it has survived everything thrown at it and time has revealed the broadness of its influence. Can you really imagine Greek mythology without Mercury? that you can’t is a testament to its value that speaks for itself. It also shares a name with a Bloc Party single; but what would be the point of reviewing that?
VON PIP: Bloody hell, my serotonin levels have been seriously depleted after listening to this mewling tommy rot, within seconds my interest was withering on the vine, as was my will to live – Bloc Party? More like C*ck Party. Apart from “Two More Years” I’ve always found this lot a massive, massive bore, and as soon as Obi One Kenobi’s (or whatever his name is ) trademark reedy vocals start to permeate my consciousness I normally start to feel drowsy and am oft lulled into a snooze that threatens to rival Epimenides’ fabled slumber. Apparently “Mercury” is being hailed as a bit of a change of direction, hmmm… irritating whine doesn’t sound like much of a departure from their usual output to me. What are they waffling on about? Freddie Mercury’s last holiday at a Baltic Sea port? Is it perhaps some sort of medical condition? What happens when ones Mercury is in retrograde? Does it hurt? Either way its guff, I feel like I’m wading through treacle and molasses whilst having my skull removed with a tin-opener, the only redeeming point is that it only lasts minutes, which really should have been the length of this lot’s musical career. There’s a window cleaning round somewhere with their name on it. 2/10
MATT GEARY: Bloc Party always surprise me and I don’t always like it. It’s a positive thing – I’d rather that bands develop than stagnate – but as a consequence of that, there will be songs that just don’t sit. Strangely enough, this one of those that became a complete grower and, although it sounds more like a remix than a single, if this is a taste of the future then I’m really interested to hear more.
DODDY: Now then missus, I like heavenly bodies as much as the next man, but this is a lot of cabbage. Mind you Mercury’s supposed to be nice, it’s got everything. Sand for the children, sun for the wife, sharks for the wife’s mother, that’s where I’d encourage this lot to go for a dip. Tatty bye -Doddy remains untickled and discomknockerated!
JULIA INDELICATE : Oh my god it’s f*cking horrible. F*CKING HORRIBLE. TURN IT THE F*CK OFF! TURN IT THE F*CK OFF NOW YOU F*CKERS STOP IT!! F*CK!!! F*CK!!! FUUUUUUU*U*CCCKKKKKKKKKKKIIIINNNNGGGG TUUUURRRRNNNN IT THE F*CK OOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRFF!!
OK OK, lemme have a go at this ‘Give me a job at the NME/ Q/ Plan B/ Guardian/ Independent/ Mojo etc, I’ve just left my band and I have to get something out of it’ trash. Ahem. Here are some words I might use to get said job: Accessible and kickass, truly daring experimental, sweeping, punchy pop, angular, a more accessible Kid A, the piercing intelligence of Kele’s voice, grime vocals, at home on any dance floor, with shimmering and elemental electro, OR SOMETHING, YEAH?
DOGWOOD: Never in my life have I come across such a bunch of joyless Puritans as this lot of moaning ninnies who go under the nom de plume of ‘Bloc Party’, presumably in honour of some former ‘Socialist People’s Entertainment Committee’ set up in Prague circa 1961 to investigate and discredit the notion of ‘fun’. Bloc Party appear to be the sort of band that bemoans the passing of Marxist texts in favour of Hollyoaks. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Hollyoaks is the work of a Satanic diabolicist but the old sackcloth and ashes credo of the Party Bloc means that we just stand around eating dry stale bread and drinking tap water and even for me that gets a bit wearing. Come on Bloc Beat where are the tunes? Don’t fob me off with sixth form existential psychobabble about Mercury. I know what Mercury is thank you very much; I don’t need a load of jean wearing students to tell me. For those that don’t know by the way, Mercury is a planet (closest to the sun) and also a liquid metal. Also he was the winged messenger of the Gods. Can’t this lot think of something a little more original like ‘Let’s have a rock and roll party’ and throw some drape coats on? This shapeless, holey jumper, mock poverty Camden nonsense gets right up my crack it does, and when you’ve got a periodical bout of the Rockford’s, you do not want that sort of palaver, believe me. Dogwood thinks that this was written to appease the spirit of Oliver Cromwell but has only succeeded in getting that other ace Puritan Gordon Brown nodding in time whilst he knots his tie in preparation for another day of taking the country to the dogs.
PHILIPPE DE NERO: This quite a bold arrangement. The drums are driving my a bit crazy, but at least they are not scared of trying out new things. Does it actually get a bit drum’n’bass at the end?
MISTER LION: Ow. My ears! OW!! Stop that! Seriously, could somebody turn that off? I’m in proper pain here. Thrice daily, BBC 6 Music blares this cacophony of hatred and disharmony from its studios. I’m not sure whether it’s some kind of extremely unsubtle way of hypnotising the populace (a bit ambitious, 6 Music’s listenership is still counted in the thousands, rather than the millions) or that somebody decided the harsh, abrasive quality of this dirge represents an important step in the progress of popular music, but either way it’s an annoyance I could do without. It’s not irritatingly catchy. It doesn’t have some annoying hook that stays in your head for days. It doesn’t have a cool summer vibe that’s going to catch people up in its infectious mood. It’s just nasty. I dare say the music press will (or perhaps already have) fall over themselves to praise this “change in musical direction”, and true enough, this doesn’t sound very much like the familiar same ground Bloc Party has trod for the past slew of singles. But it’s unmistakably them. I remember that song “Two More Years?” I liked that one. Nothing else since has really won me over, and this new offering – despite being a different kettle of fish altogether – fails to do anything but make me wince, cower and frown. Horns. Everybody’s got those since Mark Ronson started working his “magic”. And somebody’s pressed the “sound a bit like the Prodigy” button, haven’t they? And what exactly is this song about? Is Mercury really in retrograde at the moment? I’ve never been much of one for astrology, but it sounds like these lyrics are stretching it a bit if the hapless vocalist is blaming all his current woes on the passage of a single celestial body in the heavens. And is that really, genuinely, a sample of Crazy Horses by the Osmonds at the end? Thumbs categorically down.
VON PIP: Well, well well, look what the cats dragged in, from the land of “best forgotten” it’s yet another band that were unconditionally crap the first time round ready for another bite at the cherry. NKOTB have a back catalogue that should be consigned to pop hell, because quite simply it sounds like Lucifer emptying his rancid putrid bowels, alas to marketing men, one imagines, it conveys the pleasing kerr-ching of cash registers. Releasing aural sh*te never stopped this band being successful in the past and those who have grown out of teen infatuation will take little convincing that NKOTB’s manufactured, anodyne claptrap was the “soundtrack to their youth.” Maybe it was, if so then you really do deserve this song, and if you liked NKOTB the first time round you’ll probably think this rank, musical pustule is akin to the second coming. Truth is it’s a depressing, musically kak exercise in corporate greed and deceit- but a fool and his money and all that….
As for the video- what’s the devil is going on with Donnie Wahlberg’s hair? Has somebody painted his bonce with Hammeright ? I was initially under the misapprehension that the hardest man in the world,like, ever, had decided to become a rappin’ rabbi and donned a Kippah to cover his balding noggin, well, as we have a band called Black Kids, Jew Kids On The Block definitely has a certain appeal? No? … Now I may be out of touch but is it really fashionable to have your hair painted on in a style that can only be described as Napoleonic? He looks more “Homepride” than “Westside.”
But it’s all good fun in the name of cheesy ironic pop, isn’t it? And these days’ students and hipsters find everything knowingly ironic, even things that aren’t. They will of course dance “ironically” to the reformed NKOTB, smart enough to know it’s crap, but cool enough to say “yes, yes its utter shite but hey, its fun and where’s the harm in that? ” Being bubbly and having a sense of fun, seems all one needs to put on a job application these days, and complicity accepting crap music like this is just another nail in the coffin of popular culture. It merely provides an unchallenging but depressingly befitting backdrop to the avaricious pursuit of the big dollar. I’d rather be filmed on “Springwatch” by Bill Oddie having my teds gnawed off by a rabid badger than view this w*nk again …. … Anyway back to the song and video- the short version??- “Horse c*ck!”
MISTER LION: Didn’t these fellows try to make a comeback a few years ago, renaming themselves NKOTB? Forgoing the usual acronymic etiquette for omitting initials for prepositive and conjunctive words of course, because otherwise they’d have been simply NKB. Which sort of looks like an anagram of “knob”. I digress. From what, I’m not entirely sure, but there’s certainly a significant advantage in stepping away from the full name of this band when you consider that they can hardly call themselves “new” after all these years, and to term themselves “kids” at their advancing collective age would be dipping rather greedily into the much-sought after and increasingly shallow trough of available “ironic” humour. That said, I’ve always seen as a trifle ambiguous the exact nature of the “block” of which their moniker speaks, so perhaps if you speak early nineties mainstream street-lingo, it all still makes perfect sense. The creators of this video have at least bowed to the possibility that we might not remember the band members’ names, handily introducing them at the beginning with a batch of sub-Guy Ritchie freeze-frames which serve to make them all look like benign gangsters in bafflingly exotic locales.
During the course of the action however, I did laugh out loud, twice. I don’t think I was supposed to, but I don’t think that matters. The first time was when the silhouettes of our heroes are seen cavorting against a dramatic sunset, a piece of iconography surely borne out of a more earnest time of old, when the year still started with a one and nobody had yet heard of digital television. The second was when their revealed shapes, all jauntily decked out in coordinated white office attire, appear to give up the ghost at the very end, turning on a whim and marching as one away from the viewer. One cannot really blame them for trying to get out of shot as soon as the thing was in the can. This is a dire and entirely uninteresting piece of celluloid tripe; the steadily increasing contingent of bikini-clad models doesn’t really serve to distract from the grinning, smug fizzogs and toned torsos of the “kids” themselves, and even by the time the entire group is surrounded by scantily-clad young women in the strange little beach hut they’ve all crammed themselves into, the gyrating on display doesn’t rival the likes of the bumping and grinding, barely-clothed daytime pornography that disturbingly saturates the music channels of today. The result is a sequence of images that matches the unmemorable accompanying song. Flat, insipid and uninspired, neither titillating (at least to this heterosexual male) nor entertaining (two unintentional laughs aside), I’ve really no idea whatsoever whether this tune has a chance in the hit parade, but I can’t imagine this video helping it on its way.
SIMON INDELICATE: Well it’s no ‘Hanging Tough’, but if they had to return the New Kids could have done worse. I think this the first song I’ve heard that convincingly uses the teenglish phrase ‘and now I’m, like…’ to introduce a chorus and that does make it impossible to hate. It isn’t as good as Jordan Knight’s solo single, and they seem to have forgotten about being ‘rough’, which is a shame, but at least when you look into their eyes you don’t see the eternal darkness of relentless artistic bitterness which motivated Hitler and which is horrifyingly present in the newly refamed Gary Barlow. Seriously, look into that guy’s eyes. When he says he wants to rule the world he really really means it. As for the video itself, its kind of like 24 only where, instead of Keifer Sutherland using dubious extrajudicial interrogation methods to prevent terrorist attacks, he just uses his residual fame from the Lost Boys to get off with girls on beaches. Who could have a problem with that?
PHILIPPE DE NIRO: Why didn’t they spend half the money it cost to hire that helicopter on a decent production? This sounds completely out of date; this could have been a Haddaway b-side. Seriously, aren’t these guys all millionaires? Actually, if you like 2008 boy bands, check out this one instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oxm-MsD9xo
DOGWOOD: NKOTB, which sounds like a secret arm of the KGB, is actually American Boy Bland New Kids On The Block. Having thrown imaginary grenades at Bros, bayonet charged Boyzone, flushed Westlife out of the bunker courtesy of a flamethrower and napalmed Take That, I’m running out of viable options to destroy every five/four piece dance troupe that crosses my vision. NKOTB conform to every boy band template – the ‘hard’ one which in this case is Donny. Donny? I ask you, that sounds as hard as that bloke Jason who works down at the local Esso and wears a blouse and slingbacks. The only redeeming factor about ‘Donny’ is that he was also that sergeant in Band of Brothers. There’s normally a tall gormless one who stands at the back and doesn’t say much because he sounds utterly thick. He usually works out, is ripped and has myriad Celt type tattoos and ends up in a soap opera or some reality TV programme. There’s also normally a little monkey boy like Mark Owen or the little monkey one out of E17, with NKOTB this could be Donny multi-tasking or it could be one of the others. Apart from Donny, the rest are fairly non-descript – Joey, Jon , Jordan and thingy. It is Donny though, through his hip hop fashioned hardness that raises NKOTB marginally above Brother Beyond and slightly below Dean Friedman in the credibility stakes. The others flounce around in turtle neck sweaters but it’s Donny, whose shaved head and goatee resurrect memories of days in the Hood when he and the Bro’s (Mark, the one in Planet of The Apes) would be ‘illin’. The video is a shambolic cliché of excess and celebrity showing off that makes Hello magazine seem the model of restraint. Opulence and wealth abounds – helicopters, motor yachts the size of a frigate, limo’s and tailored slacks – and a few birds thrown in for good measure. All this to make it crystal clear to us plebs that these people are better than us because they are successful and rich and we are not. The song itself would struggle to make the b-side on a lift muzak dirge. The one reassuring feature with this whole bag of ill fitting spanners is Donny. Donny remains, as always, a reminder that drama school kidz from the hood can be both ‘hard’ and faintly ridiculous in equal measure. Hang on, I’ve just found a bazooka….
MATT GEARY: I always think that any TV programme that starts with “Celebrity” makes its claims more dubious by the fact that it needs to include their names on the opening credits as a reminder. It’s not a million miles away from the pantomime posters every Christmas that need to explain which soap their “star” appears in for a day job. This video introduces the band members and their millionaire lifestyles. Or, more likely, those of the record company executives who wisely closed the door on this experiment all those many years ago. The “New Kids” run through a series of clichés before getting invited to a party where there are no men other than those in the band, no girls old enough to remember the band and the dance move du jour is to stroke your own hair. It’s clearly not a great party as they leave to indulge in a spot of silhouetted shape-cutting on the sunset beach before the 10 seconds of choreographed dance routine. I would absolutely love to believe that the video is tongue in cheek, bearing in mind that the expected audience should be about 18 years older and wiser, because it really does seem like a poor parody. The thing that is making it difficult to believe is that surely, the track couldn’t be a parody too. Either way, it leaves me “like WA-OH” but not in a good way. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
DODDY : How tattyfilarious! By Jove, missus… what a day for waving your knickers in the air and shouting,“over here vicar, quick!” This is a nice melody which should do well on the wireless and in the hit parade. Mind you, missus, the video’s a little saucy. I hope they practice safe sex… I do, I have an Iron Bar around the bed!”
JULIA INDELICATE: It’s beautiful. See THIS is how you write pop. None of that ‘pure pop’ shit. You play it in the car when it comes out, you play it at the school disco where you get to grind for the first time. How can you do that to anything else? It’s got to be R&B, with the N to the K to the OTB. When i was at school it was Brian Adams for the slow dances with boys who would later turn into rapists, and people like the Backstreet Boys for the grind. It’s sexier, funnier, and sillier than anything else, which is exactly why it’s way better than anything else we have today reviewed. Oh, and I like the ‘oh oh’ bits in the background in the chorus. I could wave my arms in the air for that shit.
Erm …the winner, no idea, probably The Charlatans or Hooverphonic.