Posts from January 2014

20
Jan 14

ROBSON AND JEROME – “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?” / “Saturday Night At The Movies” / “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

Popular69 comments • 10,899 views

#750, 9th November 1996

satan In an act of unprecedented generosity, Robson and Jerome’s return single – the first from a new LP of reworked covers – was a triple A-side. If they were indecisive over the lead track, that’s no surprise – each of these songs is a worthy addition to the Robson and Jerome catalogue, quite the equal in quality of “I Believe” or “Unchained Melody”.

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19
Jan 14

SPICE GIRLS – “Say You’ll Be There”

Popular71 comments • 8,816 views

#749, 26th October 1996

SYBT You can see why Simon Fuller and the label wanted “Say You’ll Be There” to be the Spice Girls’ launch single. It’s just as bouncy as “Wannabe”, but tighter and perhaps even catchier. It both fits into the mid-90s pop landscape and leapfrogs it – doing the plastic R&B thing Peter Andre does and Take That sometimes tried, but making the boys look laughable, with heaps more swagger and panache. It gives everybody in the group something to do – if this had been first, maybe Mel C would have been seen as more of a focal point, and Victoria less dismissed.

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16
Jan 14

BOYZONE – “Words”

Popular66 comments • 5,647 views

#748, 19th October 1996

boyzone words Boyzone began life as an advert for an “Irish Take That”, and their first number one is a Bee Gees song, like Take That’s last. Those are the facts – but by this point the relationship feels more coincidental than planned. Boyzone are breaking away from the existing boyband model, moving toward something new – something less creative but far more commercially powerful.

Looking at Boyzone, you see the initial conception poking through – five hunks, one or two perhaps a bit grittier, one younger-looking and cheekier, and one a blond who writes the songs (or helps, at any rate). But Take That became more ambitious, varied, and self-serious as they went on. Boyzone got narrower. By “Words”, they’ve been having hits for two years. We’re already past their most charming single – a bushy-tailed cover of “Love Me For A Reason” – and we’re also past the catastrophically funkless “Coming Home Now”, their last attempt to do anything remotely R&B, except in the name of comedy.

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15
Jan 14

THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – “Setting Sun”

Popular111 comments • 10,928 views

#747, 12th October 1996

setting This is a story about the twilight of innovation in British independent music. Oasis in Summer 1996 were impossibly big, big beyond almost all yardsticks of British rock bigness. They had the fanbase and the opportunity to take their audience anywhere the band cared to go – and the motive, too, with critics enthralled by their power but often sniffy about their range. With his hand on the tiller of British rock, with the chance to put anything he wanted at the top of the charts, Gallagher lent his star power to the Chemical Brothers, and made what amounts to a big beat remix of “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Stop the clocks, as Oasis later put it.

It’s a harsh story, and perhaps it sounds like a reasonable judgement on the existence of “Setting Sun”, or the motivation behind it. But a story is all it is. It leaves out how the record actually sounds and feels, and it leaves out the world “Setting Sun” exists in.

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12
Jan 14

DEEP BLUE SOMETHING – “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”

Popular137 comments • 9,521 views

#746, 5th October 1996

dbs It’s by no means a hard-and-fast rule, but if you’re writing a break-up song it’s often a good idea to try to make your protagonist sympathetic, or at least not a fool. Here we have a guy who knows his girlfriend is going to break up with him and clutches at an Audrey Hepburn-shaped straw as evidence that maybe – just maybe – the two still have a chance. Your judgement may rest on whether you think “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” trades in bathos or pathos. Is it a merciless document of the kind of undignified rhetorical lunges men will make to avoid being dumped – or is it supposed to be touching?

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10
Jan 14

All Our Friends: The Marvel Tumblrwave

The Brown Wedge//36 comments • 16,537 views

(Important disclaimer. I am something of a partisan, in that my brother is writing two monthly comics for Marvel. This partly explains why I’m so interested in their strategy, but I haven’t mentioned his titles in this piece. Oh, and Hazel Robinson writes for this site. And I’ve been to the pub with Kieron Gillen, but then so have a lot of people. Look, speculative Internet random, just assume I’m very biased. Sorry.)

ya pancakes

POSTCARDS FROM THE DINERVERSE

Young Avengers ended well. If I say that my favourite issues were 6 and 7 and 14 and 15 it might seem like a terrible unintended slight to Jamie McKelvie, who drew only one complete issue of those four, along with everything else. But they were my favourites – the issues where the comic was most clearly about the parts between the adventures: shit jobs, cheap eats, parties. The stuff of late teenage life.

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8
Jan 14

Popular Reader Question

FT147 comments • 3,076 views

Hello –

As I ramp up the posting frequency on Popular again (hopefully an ongoing trend, though I’ve said THAT before) I realise I have very little idea about a potentially quite important thing.

If you’re a regular (or semi-regular) reader of the blog, how do you find out about new posts? Twitter? Tumblr? Facebook? An RSS feed? Just popping by now and then? Telepathy? Stalking me? I want to make Popular updates easier to find (and encourage new readers in, of course) but to do that I’d like to know about more about how you find them in the first place…

Any responses would be very helpful! Thankyou!

FUGEES – “Ready Or Not”

Popular54 comments • 5,938 views

#745, 21st September 1996

ready or not Carried to Number One in “Killing Me Softly”’s slipstream, “Ready Or Not” feels a darker, stranger proposition. As before, Lauryn Hill holds the song together by laying an old soul tune over a spartan beat, but there the resemblance ends. “Killing” was intimate; “Ready Or Not” is forbidding – the tone set by the cold smears of woodwind the beat is built around: an Enya sample transformed into a ghost owl call, carried on a night wind across desolate open ground. The Delfonics’ song this track borrows is blissful – one of the greatest expressions of joy and life force in all 70s soul. Here it’s at least half threat, Hill investing the song’s break – “You can’t run away…” – with a dancing, taunting confidence.

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7
Jan 14

PETER ANDRE – “Flava”

Popular64 comments • 5,082 views

#744, 14th September 1996

flava Pudgy naïf that I was, I had never heard the term “six-pack” before I encountered Peter Andre splashing about under a waterfall. His granite abdomen was his main selling point. I huffily dismissed him as a chump. Often when you write an act off like that you’re proved wrong – not so here: I might not have had the purest of motives for disdaining Peter Andre but I reached the right conclusion.

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3
Jan 14

SPICE GIRLS – “Wannabe”

Popular220 comments • 14,986 views

#743, 27th July 1996

WannabeWhat they had going for them, at the start, was instinct. The label – and manager – wanted a more street-smart first single: the group insisted otherwise. The band came up with the pell-mell structure of “Wannabe”, the tumble into rap at the end, and a nonsense-word that turned out to be a rocket-fuel hook. Every choice the right one.

But that first foot-down moment is the most important. The record label saw launching the Spice Girls as launching a band – something everyone involved (except the 5 women in the group) had done tens of times before. The group saw launching the Spice Girls as launching an idea, potentially far more powerful. And far more lucrative, of course. For that, the first single had to be a manifesto.

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