Sing(le) When You’re Winning
I suppose we’re re-entering the age of the single, really. With iTunes now providing a cheap and easy way to buy an odd song here or there, the single track as a stand-alone should be taking off now, surely? So surely this should mean the batch of singles I have to review should all be doing interesting, new things to grab people’s attention, right?
Of course, this is immediately disproved by the first single I listened to – ‘The Shock of the Lightning’, the latest offering from Oasis. It’s a solid enough rocker, with a pretty sweet drum solo towards the end, and, well, if you like Oasis, you’ll probably like it. But… it’s not really got any magic, nothing special. It’d be a passable album track, but as the lead single, it just represents further fuel for the argument that Oasis haven’t done anything REALLY good since, well, 1995, and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. And, frankly, I can’t see why anybody should really care much about them anymore. Compared to a lot of the younger bands who were influenced by their early work, Oasis just sound a little tired, trying and failing to recapture the energy and power they had in their heyday.
Speaking of 90’s bands trying to recapture past successes, Weezer’s new single, ‘Troublemaker’, manages to be a bit more promising. It’s no Buddy Holly, but it is a bouncy, catchy, fun piece of pop-rock. It puts a smile on your face for nearly 3 minutes, and then you can forget about it entirely until it comes on again. Plus, the video is just plain awesome, perfectly matching the song in terms of fun-levels.
‘Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)’ by Black Kids is one of those singles that’s always going to suffer by association. After the brilliant four track Wizard of Ahhhs EP, even a good, bouncy track like this doesn’t seem quite as good. It may not match their previous work, but, hell, it’s still a pretty damn good song, with some annoyingly catchy Gwen Stefani-esque moments. If you’ve never heard of Black Kids before, it’s a decent enough starting point.
The surprise hit of the bunch has to be ‘I Hate the Way’ by Polly Scattergood, which is one of the most unsettling songs I’ve listened to in a long time. Polly sounds like she’s about to break into tears as she sings, while the music builds from an eerie piano melody to one hell of a climax. The lyrics describe a relationship that’s clearly gone very wrong, and the closing line – “My doctor said I’ve got to sing a happy tune” is laced with dark irony. The B-side, ‘Poem Song’, is also an excellent track, so Polly could well be a singer who’s worth keeping an eye on, with her debut album on the way in the near future.
But while there’ve been some pretty good singles so far, Roots Manuva’s ‘Let the Spirit’ offers up by far the best B-side. The Hot Chip remix of the song turns an already good track into a trancelike, piano-based song that morphs half-way through into a sludgy, glitchy dance piece. The other hip-hop single that I grabbed, however, was by Soulja Boy. Whatever you may have thought of ‘Crank That’, you can’t argue that it was catchy as hell. His new track, simply titled ‘Yahhh!’, is just plain irritating, though, and should ensure he remains a one-hit wonder. Thankfully.
And now, a trio of perfectly good singles that I just can’t get too excited about. Metronomy’s ‘Heartbreaker’ ticks all the ‘indie-dance-anthem’ boxes, but just doesn’t really seem to have any heart. ‘Impatient’ by We Are Scientists got my foot tapping a bit, but is neither catchy nor interesting enough to hold anybody’s attention at all. And James Morrison’s ‘You Make It Real’ is just very boring, managing to be even more bland and inoffensive than James Blunt.
The Saturdays are a girl group featuring two ex-members of S-Club 8, and play progressive metal with strong influences from Tool and Dream Theater. Nah, I’m kidding, it’s tweenage pop that wouldn’t sound at all out of place at Eurovision. So if you’ve still got an inner 10 year old kicking around somewhere, you could certainly do worse than their latest single, ‘Up’. Mind you, I can’t figure out who’d like Duffy’s single, ‘Stepping Stones’. It’s boring, boring, BORING, at the same monotonic pace, to the same monotonic beat for the entire song. She’s got a nice voice, sure, but surely she can come up with something better than this to show it off?
According to the press release, Keane’s ‘The Lovers are Losing’ features “the unhinged energy of Tom’s thrilling one-take vocal”, which honestly leads me to wonder whether the person who wrote that lives in a world where everybody is permanently dosed-up on sleeping pills. Rather than the raw, desperate, energetic singing that you might expect, imagine Chris Martin having just woken up after a nice nap. The whole song is entirely mediocre, but then, we should really expect that from Keane by now. Maybe worth a look if you liked their previous singles, as it doesn’t deviate from their template too much.
Metal is a much-maligned genre, but the selection of singles this week does little to help that situation. ‘Shout’ by Black Tide has echoes of the sound of Dragonforce and other power-metal bands, but is relatively unambitious. When you take away the riffs and guitar solos, it’s basically just a pop song played really loudly. The wonderfully titled ‘Feed My Soul’ by Voodoo Six could honestly be by the same band, and is equally uninspiring. When the artwork’s more interesting than the song, you’ve got a problem.
Forever the Sickest Kids, on the other hand, have artwork that makes me want to hit every single one of them, especially since their single, ‘Whoa Oh! (Me vs Everyone)’ is irritating bratty power-pop that doesn’t even redeem itself by being catchy or fun. Easily the worst single of the batch, all you need to know is that you should never, ever listen to this song. Which makes it a good place to finish, all things considered. So, overall, we have a few good tracks, a lot of workmanlike stuff, and a couple of stinkers. Much like the music scene in general then, really.