The Square Table

Jul 04

The Square Table: 1 / Rachel Stevens – “Some Girls”

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The Square Table: 1 / Rachel Stevens – “Some Girls”
Pop Rating: 723 Controversy Score: 205 Length: 213

He almost botches it. This is Richard X’s big shot at writing a Pop Classic and when Rachel’s vocals glide dispassionately in, answered with a limp “Hey!”, I’m thinking – Richard, no, too arch by half. For another ten seconds – a long, dangerous, time – I’m not sure it’s working, and then the chorus hits and everything is absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes I think choruses don’t matter so much these days: a beat or a hook, that’s enough. Richard X doesn’t agree and he pours everything into making the catchiest, cleverest chorus since “Ignition (Remix)”, and once you’ve let the chorus in you start noticing all the tiny little bits of craft in the rest of the record, flecks of gold in amongst the retro buzz and clank that we can already and enjoyably call “typical X”. (Richard’s schtick: he’s the loving keeper of the very machines that made the pop he grew up in, oiling and coaxing them into their final wheezing performances.)

Bits like? The zip-up boots. The Tight-Fit “ah-oohs”s tucked away behind the hit/miss/kiss bit. “and away we go!”. Rachel’s last dreamy sigh of “better”. All of them supporting the two stabs of true inspiration – the word-doubling on the chorus (“other other”: absolute inexplicable rightness) and “HEY! STOP!”. 9 (Tom)

Rachel Stevens + Richard X = glam-racket no-man’s land. Such a strange way of having fun. 10 (Alext)

Rachel probably thinks it’s her ‘Toxic’, Richard probably sees it as another piece in his own little puzzle. They part ways, probably never to meet again. They have served each other’s purposes. And so the story continues… 10 (William B Swygart)

Does she really use the line “I don a pair of zipper boots”? That’s fantastic. I presume ‘my baby’ is Pop Music; he calls me when he wants, he likes to tell me the things he’s done. It’s a little machinelike, that T-Rex-T-Raumschmiere stomp complete with hydraulic squeaks and thuddering tomtom, Stevens’ voice a carillion of bells over the top. 9 (cis)

safe to say richard x is still stuck somewhere in the 80s. will he ever escape? it treads the same pleasuredomes as miss goldfrapp but this track is much more palpable. goldfrapp is much too smug to grasp the real nature of SM Pop, it’s an art project she needs to master. the kinkiness is much cheekier in “some girls.” even though i can’t see this reaching number one, it’s glorious pop music. rachel realizes it too – she’s going to be stuck with nr two and the never dying dream of the top. in a sense pop should be like this – three minutes in which you already sense you’ll be forever trying to grasp the
eargasm again. 9 (stevie nixed)

The design and construction of a radio-certified, utterly disposable Ear-Grabber:

1. Start with a declaration about one’s baby and what it is they do (take the morning train, drive a car, etc).

2. Throw in a ‘!!’ to give the listeners something to pump their fist to. (“Hey!” always works).

3. You need a chorus. Make it big, swaggering, dumb and instantly memorable.

4. Lyrically, explore seduced/abandoned territory. Promise to make the singer a star.

Richard X stands a pretty good chance of becoming ‘our’ Phil Spector. “Some Girls” rolls off the assembly line filled with the stuff of great pop singles. Plus, it fairly glistens (and who doesn’t love a tune that glistens?) 8 (Henry Scollard)

Glam rock never did sexy or seductive, just unapologetic randyness – short skirts or tight trousers hastily borrowed from an older, wiser mate. The thrill of Rachel’s new one is to hear her sweet, demure vocals roughly manhandled by by a pumping, libidious neo-glam production, and coupled with the shout outs from the girl-crew (“hey!”- perhaps glam invented the possee cut?!), “Some Girls” gives the vibe that Rachel is being peer-pressured into a drunken and probably lewd night out on the tiles. I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

The verse sounds like she’s busking it a bit, searching for words, but the fluid poetry of the chorus- “this won’t last for long not forever and the champagne makes it taste so much better”- provide a personal touch. A track like this about living for the moment is enough, for now, to make her pop queen. 8 (Derek Walmsley)

Richard X makes very expensive fan-fiction. What if Barry Blue had offered a discarded glam-pop song to Bananarama instead of writing “Hey Young London” with them? What if Martin Rushent produced it? What if they used it to follow up “Sweet Dreams My LA Ex”, which was a stronger composition but ended being half as fun as “Some Girls”?” 8 (Diego Valladolid)

I like popband independence moves a lot (at least in theory) because they encourage singers to distinguish themselves from their former lives as drastically as the mainstream will allow. That often entails another movement in the great dialectic between pop music’s mainstreams and its outlier sections that makes pop music so much more interesting nowadays than contemporary movies, televison or literature.

So here you have a participant in the S Club diaspora singing about thwarted-but-resilient ambition and desire (“you said you’d make me a star”) to the ricochet echoes of Kompakt at its stompiest or maybe Add N to X’s “Monster Bobby,” both of which in turn stole anything worth stealing from “Rock & Roll Part 2,” – which was just about everything. Or maybe its sonic godfather is the Sugababes’ version of “Freak Like Me,” bootlegs, sample aesthetic, you read Wire Magazine so you know the drill. Or maybe what it really sounds like is Amii Stewart’s “Knock on Wood,” which was disco, which means avant-garde except not except really actually yes. 7.6 (Michael Daddino)

It comes in like Doctorin’ The Tardis. Sadly the girl with the dullest name in pop is no Dalek in her zip-up boots and her boyfriends car – despite the sleek engineering of this pop chassis. Both great and uninspiring at the same time, probably because it seems churlish for FHM’s most attractive woman in the world moaning that she doesn’t get what she wants. Especially when she keeps trapping on about wanting a number one. How many number ones do you want. If that’s what it’s all about rejoin S Club Bleeding 7. (Pete)

Sounds like somebody marched Amii Stewart’s cover of “Knock on Wood” out of Disco High School’s detention hall, glue-gunned a Gary Glitter tape into a draggy-batteried Walkman and duct-taped it over the poor thing’s ears, handcuffed it to an arcade game called Dance Dance Adolescence and spent three and a half minutes making it hop around on the platform as the lights flickered and flashed beneath it. For doing so they deserve a goddamned medal. 7 (George Kelly)

Initial thoughts on first listening suggest that this might be some sort of unholy Mix of “Morning Train” and “Rock and Roll Pt. 2”. Whattayaknow: it kinda IS.

The lyrics are a glorious mishmash of nonsense. What am I to make of: “Some girls always get what they wanna wanna; all I seem to get is the other other.” Dylan it ain’t, but the kidboppin’ splashy liquid elastic hooks inspire double dutch head bobbin and buttock wagglin’.

Right where this gets a little flimsy we get a halftime save with a returning seven dwarves chant, an overdone trick that works here mostly due to its utter incongruousness. We’ve been playing up in the falsetto stratosphere till now; suddenly finding a bass grounding inspires a fake crescendo – a multitrack layer of echovocals and whispered cmons is a windup and the decrescendo to the vanilla syrup
final chorus is the pitch.

This makes me want to put on bunny ears and hop around Grand Central Station while wiggling my nose. Six listens later I can’t imagine playing this more often than once a month; my jaw hurts from chewing bubblegum already. It’s a helluva shiny soapbubble tho.

I REALLY liked “LA Ex” and that and this are my sole exposure to Stevens. She’s pretty much unknown in America; when’s the invasion start? 7 (Forksclovetofu)

Her message seems irrelevant to the bigger plan: the continued takeover of pop by Mr X. Of course he knocks up a great bounce n’ stomp number that’s almost enough to carry the whole thing along by itself. This appears to be enough to satisfy me THIS TIME… 7 (Steve M.)

Sheena Easton. “Call Me.” Adam Ant? And all that Botoxed regret and pathos and “make me a star” preening makes me imagine a blown up and watered down “Dancing Queen”. And would someone PLEASE hire a real choreographer to spice up her video? Swerving like a duck-dancing Betty Boop in a poofy mini-skirt is not the new hottness. American analogue: Jessica Simpson covering Jewel’s “Intuition”. 7 (David Raposa)

I was disappointed it’s not a Racey cover! It has the same kind of cantering beat as LA Ex (good thing) but the singing seems weaker, more lifeless and bored, with less conviction – perhaps because the rather dreary, whiny lyrics can hardly be sung with belief by a glamorous megastar, and perhaps because lines like “All I seem to get is the other other” are pretty lame whoever is singing. There are some strong manly ‘whoas’ in the back of some sections and a bit of double-tracking to try to beef it up, but its hooks lay flat for me, despite the perky beats. I like the production, but it isn’t enough. 6 (Martin Skidmore)

I’ve tried, I listened to it for 8 or 9 times straight, each time hoping there was a reason why i was listening, some kind of musical key that would emerge, some kind of hook that would open the rest of the tune. Or I was hoping to hate it enough to bury it in vitriol and bile. But I’m just bored – and so you get a little over 100 words on how the dance beats are all the same, and the voice is girly with out being really sexy and i think the lyrics are about fame but they arent sufficently clear enough to be about anything. So I shrug. 5 (Anthony Easton)

Thematically coherent, if nothing else. Richard X’s abandoned spaceship production and Stevens’ various vocal tricks do give the impression of a singer with a threatened career pulling out every hook, every gimmick that she can think of. As a musical persona, a desperate diva is still more interesting than a successful one, but there lies the biggest problem: if this single does become a smash, it’ll have defeated its purpose, because Stevens will be successful again. And since the only interesting part of her new image is that she’s commenting on not being exactly that, she’ll be rendered useless once again. The best way out of this of course would be to forget about the whole rockist maturing as an artist bollocks and just go back to the silly, assumedly dorky image of her S Club 7 days; but alas, that moment has probably passed. 5 (Daniel Reifferschied)

It starts off sounding like an Adam and the Ants song, or is it Vindaloo by Fat Les? I dunno, it tries, it really tries. “Dreams of number one last forever, it’s the only way to make you feel better” – such a poignant lyric, considering the chances of Rachel getting to number one have all but disappeared. A few years of FHM and Maxim and maybe a guest spot in Hollyoaks are all that would seem to be on the horizon :( – you promised to make me a star. If only S-Club Proper could sort out their differences and get back together! 4 (jel)

I played this for about 15 minutes, trying to figure out whether I liked it or not. Then my little sister comes along and says ‘Turn that shit off.’ The end. 2 (Bushra)

Jul 04

The Square Table: 2/ The Ordinary Boys – “Talk Talk Talk”

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The Square Table: 2/ The Ordinary Boys – “Talk Talk Talk”

Pop Rating: 407 Controversy Score: 204 Length:

Yelling the words “grey and boring” in your chorus is tempting fate, and sure enough fate rears up and grabs the bait firmly in her pitiless jaws.

I have a mild, furtive sympathy for the Ordinary Boys because I have never liked small talk either. In fact I used to be rather a prig about it, proud that family dinners degenerated into combative verbal slugging. The fact is though that my Mum and I battling it out over the value of modern art was exactly as consequential as tittle-tattle about Mrs.Green from No.42. Was it more fun? Only if you’re 18.

And if I was 18 I might have liked this insufferably. I say “might” because I was also quite precious about The Smiths and took a dim view of people using their legacy drably. The Ordinary Boys for most of this track manage a fair musical equivalent of the workaday, time-filling chatter they affect to hate, a burly yomp through the guitar-rock mud which gets its hooks across by shouting them (preferable to moaning them, so bonus point). There’s a nice bit of chimey guitar towards the end of the track, but it’s hardly enough. 4 (Tom)

Recently, the hosts of the Breakfast Show on TalkSPORT did a record, that being the godawful ‘Come On England’ by 4-4-2. If Nicky Campbell were to have a similar idea, it would sound like this. 0 (William B Swygart)

As I believe Tanya said, once you realise he sounds like the bloke out of The Family Cat there is no going back. This song as a political rant is almost as empty as ver Cat’s seminal “Bring Me The Head Of Michael Portillo”. Good inasmuch as it highlights how bloody good Shed Seven were (in case you forgot). And, fact fans, the weather has only been rainy and boring since I first heard this song. 2 (Pete)

The world needs a Gene tribute band like a fish needs a Bono. 2 (Diego Valladolid)

First of all, the weather’s been fantastic in these parts for the past 3 weeks, so don’t give me this Manic Monday London Fog garbage. Second of all, small talk’s got its proper place, lads (cf. the bloody fookin’ lyrics) (or is this meta-ironic?) (seriously, the wit here’s so arid, I’m parched) (PS – fuck you and your quaint UK irony Damon Albarn) (hugglz). Thirdly, 15 quid for a hoodie from a group that sounds like Green Day covering Billy Bragg covering 10,000 Maniacs? Balls. Speaking of balls, the growing of hair on the offending sacs of the OBs would improve things immensely. 3 (David Raposa)

Thud thud thud thud thud thud chug-gah chug-gah choppychord guitar, that peculiar open-voweled yodel/whine, a flat-footed four-four strop through the dull grey streets of Every Trite Indie Song About How Stuff Nowadays Is A Bit Rubbish, Ever. It’s like if Shed Seven and Gene bred, and lost any hint of charm either might have had in the process: workmanlike, derivative, and forgettable. 3 (Cis)

“I went to a shrink…” It’s “Basket Case” by Green Day! I like the guitar bit at sround 1 minute 10 seconds, but that’s about all I do like about this one. Overall, it’s kind of a jumble sale song, bits of this, bits of that, other people’s hand-me-down’s. Also, the singer’s voice is kinda annoying – I hate that sort of affected snotty vocal style. It’ll be a hit. 4 (jel)

I do not own a cell phone, for the stupid reason that I do not want to become a member of the ever-growing legion of blather-on-about-absolutely-nothing people I encounter daily on the subway, sidewalk, etc. So I’m, at the very least, sympathetic to the Ordinary Boys plea for intelligent, critical conversation. Likewise, I dig their referent points: their name is a Morrissey song title, “Talk Talk Talk” is a Psychedelic Furs album, and musically it recalls The Jam. Lyrically, though, there’s no bite here, no trace of the sarcasm that made all those so interesting. “Talk Talk Talk” (the single) has some great hooks, but is dragged down by its own earnestness. It ultimately reminds me of Gene, in those unseemly moments when they “rocked out”. 5 (Henry Scollard)

I’m an old punk, and anything that sounds as if its model is going to be Stiff Records in 1977 gets me on its side from the start. I like the strong guitar intro and choppy riffing, but the guitar breaks are horrible and pointless, interrupting the insistence of much of the rest. I’m torn between thinking that the lyrics needed a tune
with hypnotic monotony behind it, perhaps a Wire sound, and thinking that this is quite monotonous enough and needed more anger, but from either perspective the guitar breaks and the fizzle-out finish don’t work.

The vocals barely rise above Billy Bragg, though I like the shouty group replies here and there (I’ve always liked yobbish backing vocals, ever since the Belmonts). I didn’t care for the lyrics: all the “too much small talk leads to a small mind” stuff rather reminds me of one of the least pleasant recent ILE threads, ‘what do stupid people talk about?’ – maybe it’s this association as much as the lyrics themselves that give this an unattractive air of smug superiority, a feeling of the Ordinary Boys looking down on ordinary boys and girls. I can see this lot finding a big audience, becoming a UK Strokes or something, but this tune seems to have some of the faults it is complaining about – it’s a bit unoriginal and banal. 5 (Martin Skidmore)

So some company’s decided to re-release a single by some no-name punk band from ’81 trying their best to sound like a cross between The Jam and The Mekons, and credit it to a “new band” in order to capture the Libertines audience, eh? What? No? It’s an actual new single by a real band? Well, I’ll be. 5 (Daniel Rieffersheid)

Wow, the Van Bondies go to London! This is fun, bouncy, getting-ready-to-go-out music; the sort of thing that is likely to show up in an iPod commercial before too long. There’s a real lack of originality and not much that makes this stand out from the crowd but as generic ROCKNROLLWILLNEVAHDIE! music, it gets the job done. No complaints. 6 (Forksclovetofu)

If only I was still stuck in university, dressed in oversized sweaters and ripped jeans, I might have given this a tenner – I couldn’t have given it more because my budget would not have allowed it, har har. But, alas, I dropped out, mainly for statistics and the annoying Smiths obsessed fellow students trying to infiltrate my pea-sized brain with messages like “Buy Parklife!” and “The Queen Is Dead out-brilliants any Freudian Theory.”

So, uh, I soooorta like it in a nostalgic kinda way. It reminds me of The Jam (bonus point), cheekily steals from The Smiths (two bonus points, one for being at the right time) and it’s not yet another lukewarm R&B song (hah! that’s for the next round!). In short it’s just terribly English and a harmless ditty that never outgrows its 6 points. (Stevie Nixed)

I like this – it’s an english Fountains of Wayne, kind of clever, kind of catchy, with the boy voice jangling over the guitar choruses – somewhere near the end said guitar chorus becomes absurd, though. What happened to that punchy, drunken, codependent, pubstar voice – all we get as a coda is the guitar, and shouldn’t codas end quicker?

But the stuff that isn’t guitar is lovely and fun in its own way – especially how it indicates that the filler conversation that everyone partcipates in could be considered a dodge for serious emotional commitment, and then says “fuck it who needs emotionally commitment”. (In this genius line: “Too much small talk leads to a small mind, so tell me all your secerts. I will never tell you mine.”) 7 (Anthony Easton)

Jul 04

The Square Table 3/ Usher – “Burn”

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The Square Table 3/ Usher – “Burn”

Pop Factor: 442 Controversy Score: 240

The plot of “Burn” is simple. It’s not working, is it? – Damn, it was working. Having ‘been there’, it’s hard not to cheer the pivot-moment (“till you return”), especially when the tremulous voice and the heavy arrangement are playing nice-cop/nasty-cop on you. But not ‘being there’ now, my head is feeling this one more than my heart: there are lots of little touches I like (the quiet shuffle of electronics at the start, for instance) but that climax is the only point where the song stops being decent and grabs me. 7 (Tom)

The swain’s refrain fails mainly to explain, over four minutes and eighteen seconds, what’s left of him after fifty-‘leven days and umpteen hours. You get to the end of it to find that the music’s too cheerful and the man’s too evasive. The real story? She left him. “Burn”‘s the face-saving story you, the unlucky listener cornered and hemmed for a round of solitary sadness, get to hear. My advice? Tell him to sob off. 0 (George Kelly)

Usher: “I don’t understand why. See it’s burning me to hold onto this. I know this is something I gotta do. But that don’t mean I want to. What I’m trying to say is that I love you, I just I feel like this is coming to an end. And I don’t understand why…”

Stevie: “I don’t either, honey, but I know one thing: this song is really boring.” 0 (Stevie Nixed)

Goodness me, isn’t Usher meant to be all SMOOVE? Instead of the coolest be-capped King o t’Dancefloor who sang to us YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! we now have a sniffly little sod wiping his nose on his sleeve before going to his mam’s house for some roast beef crisps. Quite frankly I couldn’t stand more than 2 minutes of this song, after being CONVINCED it had already lasted a Yes-style epic 8 minutes. Imagine being stuck in a conversation with him! Stop this Nu-Man nonsense right now! I blame “Mens Health” magazine. What a load of todgers! On the plus side, the beats remind me a bit of Ignition (Remix), but you know. 2 (Sarah C)

Usher is a SOMETIMES turn on for me; when he’s hot, he’s real hot. When he’s not, he’s tremendously disposable. This track falls into the weak category for me. Synth strings, predictable beats, lyrics that were old when Jodeci sang them. Usher’s a fine crooner, but after ten listens I think I still would have trouble picking this track out of a quietstorm lineup. “Burn” is an absolutely inoffensive wash of Urban elevator music, only about a tenth as compelling as “Feelin’ On Ya Booty”, which I just queued up to clear the palate. 3 (Forksclovetofu)

The only reason why people are taking this generic and souless piece of R & B seriously is that it is about two people who are famous and how one of them fucked around, right? There cannot be anything interesting in this maudlin dreck? 3 (Anthony Easton)

I suppose we should give Usher some credit, as he has managed to summarise most of his traits in the space of one single – drossy ballading, excessively high notes, shout out to the fell-uhs, attempt to coin new and rubbish catchphrase (see also ‘Pop Ya Collar’, ‘The U-Turn’), and dance moves of impressive dexterity but precisely bugger-all emotion or expressive purpose. Features neither Ludacris nor Li’l Jon. 3 (William B Swygart)

Sing along:

It’s the remix to Ignition
Hot and fresh out the kitchen
Usher’s pissed off with R Kelly
So it’s his tune he’s nicking.

I mean, by all means steal someone’s song, but don?t then call it something like the original as well. R Kelly started the fire, and Usher is happy to let it burn. 4 (Pete)

Heaven, Usher needs a hug. He wants to dump his shorty…and then get back with her…or get back with whomever he dumped to get at this current, soon-to-be-ex-shorty. The narrative confuses me. And “let it burn”?! This song couldn’t even singe a merengue. His vocals are, as always, impeccable. (No man this side of that McAlmont guy can soar into falsetto with such grace). And not a trace of melisma! The song skirts too close to “smooth jazz” territory, for my liking, though. I miss Lil Jon and his bag of “what!”s. 5 (Henry Scollard)

I had to look up one of those lyric sites with fifty popup windows just to make sure he actually did use the word ‘umpteen.’ And then I found he’d come up with ‘fifty-leven.’ Obviously after twenty-twelve months in Usher Time it’s been long enough to do something that sounds just like ‘You Got It Bad.’ I’m not saying it’s rubbish, it’s just nothing new. 5 (Bushra)

I want to know when ‘boo’ became the accepted hiphop term for Lady Friend, and whether it is as I suspect a bastardisation-cum-feminisation of ‘beau’. It’s a bit of a silly word, innit? Very hard to get the pathos when Usher wibbles ‘what’m I gonna doo-oooo! without mah booo-ooo!’ Other singers can pull it off: Usher, mediocre and anodyne, cannot.

The song is embarrassingly generic, the speechlike tumble of verse leavened only by a little internal rhyme and rhythmic emphases (just as in ‘you remind me’), his voice straining a little awkwardly as it passes into quiet falsetto range without any emotional effect. Everything in the arrangement, the production, is straight out of any given slow jam – I’m not into ballads, and I’m not into this. Points for using the word ‘umpteen’, but not many: 5 (Cis)

This sounds like a chilled-out r&b rip of Ignition (remix), but since I haven’t heard the original Ignition, maybe it’s just a straightforward copy. It’s smooth enough and works a lot better detached from the awful video, but it’s been a long time since Usher’s made me wanna… 6 (alext)

For four minutes he’s unsure about if he’s doing the right thing, so much that he has to ask his audience about it: “Ladies tell me do you understand? Now all my fellas do you feel my pain?” He’s more worried about having the nod of approval from his audience than about not hurting his girl, it seems. With a follow-up to “Yeah” as well crafted as this he doesn’t have to worry about the former. Yet I really can’t “feel him burning”. 6 (Diego Valladolid)

The faux sophistication of plucked guitars usually indicates a frigidity in ballads – it’s only when Usher hits the high notes that the tune feels momentarily sensuous. We’ve been here before with the “my new boo ain’t as good as you” lyrics, although when he sings about his party not jumpin’ anymore it’s certainly touching in a naive way. It’s an engagingly, almost sublimely soporific ballad with a feeling of late period genre-maturity. And yet it’s a bit indulgent to get my party jumping, really. 6 (Derek Walmsley)

I really like the style of R&B ballad that has appeared in the wake of Ignition (Remix). At its best there is a restrained tension, a power replacing the sometimes wet limpness that the form has always been prone to, even in what I see as the golden era of soul ballads, three-to-four decades ago. This does lean that way here and there, but the almost-rapped choral lines give it an insistence that easily balances the occasionally slightly thin vocal (at its worst halfway through with a very unconfident ‘ooh ooh ooh ooh’). It’s reported that it is about TLC’s Chilli; I don’t know if that’s true or even interesting (much as I adore her), but talking about apparently real past relationships does seem to be 2004’s big theme. 7 (Martin Skidmore)

Usher’s still a teenybopper at heart. It’s not the supremely unconvincing stab at a Barry White-ish opening monologue that makes “Burn” sound so good; it’s the weepy, sugary synth line and that there thing that sounds suspiciously like a Spanish guitar (but it can’t be, ’cause everyone knows you can’t make a good Anglo-American Pop record with a Spanish guitar.) This ain’t no “Love TKO”, this is “Autumn Goodbye”. On a related note: some people can pull off using terms like “boo” in a serious break-up song; Usher is not one of these people, which is why my initial 8 has been downgraded to a 7. (Daniel Riefferscheid)

E-mailing me the MP3 turns out to be unnecessary to the quadzillionth degree, since the only song from the past 6 months I’ve heard more than “Burn” is Mr. Raymond’s “Yeah”. Sometimes I wish the track featured “legitimate” instrumentation (violins, cellos, other music boxes made from wood and catgut), but then the sincerity of the music would undoubtedly step on the toes of the lyrical sincerities, and then we’d be on some “All Cried Out” tip, which is not where anyone wants to be. Anyway, “Burn” is a great song (though the grandeur of the “break down and cry” bridge gets pissed on by the half-ass return to the chorus following all those sexy & lonely “hoo-hoo”s), and (it’s a fact!) is the lesser of The Three Usher Singles, which is why the grade is “only” a 7. (For the record – “Yeah” gets an 8.5, and “Confessions (Part II)” gets a 396.) Regardless, the Usher corporation can take solace in my gratitude for their avoidance of the goddamn “fire / desire” rhyme. Thunderclap! 7 (David Raposa)

Usher is okay, I like him, he seems like an affable chap. Much more likeable than that creepy JT. This song is nice, it sounds like a lot of care was taken when making it. The backing is simple, and I like all the changes in vocal style, and the way the vocals float and intercept each other. 8 (jel)

Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 4 / BIG AND RICH – “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)”

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THE SQUARE TABLE 4 / BIG AND RICH – “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)”

Pop Factor: 784 Controversy Score: 256

You’ll love it first time if you’re going to love it at all, I reckon. The froth of messageboard talk raised my eyebrow – country-disco-rock? Oh-kay. Sounded great – on paper. On record? Oh, only perfect. It delivers everything that blend might suggest – cute words, big chorus, hotline to the hips – and then looks around for even more to absorb. The smatter of city slang makes it plain that Big And Rich are living in our world; the craft should satisfy the most technocratic pop fan; the two-part harmonies are thrillingly traditional. Tying it all is the casual delight in the record: its simple confident infectious rightness. “Save A Horse” has soundtracked some of the best of my Summer already – hope it does the same to yours. 10. (Tom)

What type of name is Leroy for a horse?? CHAMPION, now there’s a name, Champion, or perhaps Fido, but Leroy? And bling-blinging?! You’ll never get a horse down Broadway! What would the cops say? Best song ever, obviously. 10 (Sarah C)

James Bond banjo, achy-breaky block-rockin’ beats, and even some modest guitar shreddin’ straight from the Jackson Family school of Owning Your Ass. If the world were a perfect place, this track would replace “Cotton Eye Joe” AND “YMCA” at every sporting event, wedding. batmitzvah, house closing, and ritual sacrifice from here to the return of Cthulhu. 10 (David Raposa)

I can’t recall being this enthusiastic about joining a hype in a long, long time. Growing up with a Gram Parsons/Byrds/Kris Kristofferson loving father has ensured that I find delight in the same fiddles and banjos some instinctively deride, so this was never going to get a low score from me, but oh there’s so much more. It rocks with as much gleefulness as any Darkness track, they reference the “Bonanza” theme song, the chorus has the sort of over-the-top Southern drawl that we’ve become used from hip-hop (“citay” fits in nicely with “urrbody in the club get tipsy”), and also features a bunch of children singing the song’s title; there’s the line “I’m singin’ and bling-blingin'”; there’s self-references (always a dandy) and, of course, the song’s biggest highlight: “sang her every Willie Nelson song I could think of/AND WE MADE LOVE!”

I used to have a misguided tendency to use the words “joie de vivre” whenever I reviewed something I loved, and of thinking that this was the main aesthetic standard that one should search for in all art. That’s bollocks, but when a record comes along that epitomizes that feel with such perfection, it still feels to me as good as music could possibly get. 10 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

Anthony Easton’s comment was long and incisive and deserves to be a separate post. But he gave it a 10 too.

This is great! The best country record of the year and the best rock record! The lyrics might not get much of the attention, but the rhyming and cadences in the opening verse are tremendous – the use and neatness of the internal rhymes is almost Eminemesque. But it’s the punchiness and wit, with the elegant old-fashioned country fiddling embellishing the rock power chords, that makes this an outstanding record. The blend is wonderful – everything works, the female second voice, the banjo plucking, all of it. This is a terrific, storming record, and surely must be a huge hit. 10 (Martin Skidmore)

They’re unspeakably generous, and I’m not talking about the hundred-dollar bills they pass out or the double round of Crown they buy the bar.

The way they say they “wouldn’t trade ol’ Leroy or their Chevrolet for your Escalade or your freak parade” speaks to a generosity of spirit, a non-grudging, non-judgmental self-acceptance that invests the groove they offer with something edgier than a “Kumbaya” cool-pose. They may be “the only John Wayne in this town,” but that doesn’t keep them from singing “every Willie Nelson song I could think of” to get next to Ms. Right Now.

They’re not a player, they just twang a lot. They want to lay down the boogie and play that country music till they die. And all the girlies say they’re pretty fly for a cowboy! 10 (George Kelly)

It announces itself as a novelty record, it goes on in the vein of a novelty record but unlike a classic novelty record there is still something left when the novelty has worn off. It’s the theme to the musical version of Midnight Cowboy, with a tip of its hat and a cheery smile and no consideration that an in-depth look at the lyrics may
uncover some zoophiliac content. 9 (Pete)

Haha, this is great! Obviously not as good as Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory album though. They sing kinda like Brett Michaels, and the totally lame song title appeals to me. The spoken bit towards the end is brilliant. This song is totally wrestlers coming to the ring music, overblown with all that whole fake bravado and booze vibe. Maybe they’re not joking? I doubt it. 9 (jel)

It’s almost like they’re daring you to have a go, isn’t it? Country and pop and staggeringly defiantly so. They use “Bling-bling” as a verb, and it doesn’t sound terrible. That chorus! Pump that fist! Some – no, all will call it novelty. The album’s meant to be great, though, isn’t it? Heard one other song, it was also classy. Should be a hit. Deserves to be anyhow. 8 (William B Swygart)

Jumpin’ Jesus on a souped up pogo stick, what the heck is THIS? Just kidding; I know what it is: my newest, guiltiest pleasure. I’d be embarrassed to be found listening to this but I can’t turn it off; a too-familiar set of circumstances that suggests that I have a good pop cut in hand.

You pull the banjo and this track doesn’t work; without a solid country backbone, I don’t buy it. You cut the self-aware trickery (the Lone Ranger intro, the Peter Gunn theme tnterpolation at the bridge, the blingbling/escalade/”what, what” hip hop lingo), it’s a little too lunkheaded. Without the swift, crisp songwriting (that “WE MADE LOVE” line – absolutely perfect), without the lighter-in-the-air powerballad gee-tar and the twangin’ bangin’ sangin’, you got a car with no engine. The disparate parts make one hella whole.

As if we needed it, Big+Rich strike me as proof that the speedy canonization of Outkast was a good thing for the music buying public. A quantum leap ahead of the odious Kid Rock, a sideways glance at Bubba Sparxxx and a hope that this continues to sound clever in the morning after I’ve sent this review and gotten some sleep. As it is? 8 (Forksclovetofu)

The girls, they are so prettay.

Normally, it’s the harmonies that hook me on country, something campfire warm to the intervals: but that’s for melancholia, and this is… not. These two sing almost all of the song an octave apart from one another, yowl above and growl below, a comfortable clutter of instruments trapped between their voices. Heaven knows you can’t go far wrong with a bit of banjo, but that twiddling fiddle that pirouettes about behind the semi-spoken section is the real star of the show, its over-excited little twitter after ‘begging for salvation all night long’. It’s impossible to hear without smiling – and that goes for the whole song, a bow-legged strut that can’t quite keep the stupid grin off its face. 7 (cis)

Big And Rich might be part of Country, but it’s closer to Kid Rawk style bling dung than Willie Nelson. So, no, “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” – is this some sexual innuendo or wot wot? – is not really my kinda thang, baby. It’s just too slick – could the production be slickah? – and trying to attract all crowds – dropping hip references in between the slap’n’yell. I’m sure Big And Rich is extremely entertaining, but only on a Nashville stage, not on this single. 6 horses and half a mule. This cowgirl ain’t riding with these cowboy duo. (Stevie Nixed)

It’s being described as a “country-rap” song, a cheap – and probably fraudulent – way to create some buzz and spark endless threads about “the state of country music today” and the inevitable “but if you do a little research you’ll find that the first cowboys were actually black” bit of trivia in tagboards everywhere. The “bling-blingin'” bit will surely be offensive for some country fans, “can’t you see they’re mocking hip-hop?” for more forgiving others. Though on a first listen I hated it, some days later I find myself having a soft spot for this song, the same I had for Electric Six’s over-the-top macho rock. 6 (Diego Valladolid)

A stomping swamp hoedown that boasts of the bling-bling – although it sounds all a bit Rednexx, the powerful motor of ZZ Top is roaring away in the engine room. The lyrics are of course a context-less farce, but the joke is done with such a speedy pitter-patter delivery it’s contagious. I fancy that a lot of work went into this one, and it’s paid off. 6 (Derek Walmsley)

The best thing about this track is that it immediately reminds me of the film The Cowboy Way starring Woody Harrelson and indeed seems to have been inspired by it. Ten years on from that MASTERPIECE we have an accompanying anthem only with extra ‘bling bling’ references…yes this is basically some wry faux-redneck posse imitating Nelly imitating wry faux-redneck posses which in one way is absolutely fantastic (well crafted pop nonsense, does what it says on the tin splendidly – could well be a massive hit even in Europe, will at least be hearing it in Walkabouts and similar watering holes for a while to come surely), but in another more accurate way is as dumb as actual redneck posses (inane but hey-fun celebration of the idea of cowboys coming to New York and doing rather well with the ladies – yes fine but done much better in aforementioned film!). Probably better than ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ tho. 5 (Steve M)

We haven’t had a novelty cowboy song for several years now, so here comes Big And Rich to fill that void. Honestly, songs like this seem to exist solely to provide us with jokey reference points in future pubs. Who doesn’t get a kick out of slurring the lines of “I Wanna Be A Cowboy” or “Wild Wild West”? I’m not sure that history will be so kind to Big And Rich. This “Horse” song is kinda fun, but it only makes me long for Kid Rock. 3 (Henry Scollard)

Smart-arse frat-rock bollocks. What sounds like it ought to be an anti-redneck slogan turns out just to be dumb-duh-duh-dumb-dumb dumb. A waste of a good AC/DC riff, buried under all the banjos. 2 (alext)

Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 5 / Girls Aloud – “The Show”

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Pop Factor: 807 Controversy Score: 153

A little cold, a little forbidding, perhaps even a little too well-drilled: typical Girls Aloud. Their singles are design objects: beautiful, impeccably put together, never neglecting the practical (i.e. you can move to this stuff), but lacking warmth. Which often doesn’t matter. And also – in among the shining sweeps and arcs of the synthwork a little flawed humanity creeps in anyway, from the clunky, cryptic words. The awful oversinging in the first verse is a sign of fallibillity too, and a less attractive one, but I can forgive 5 rotten seconds. 9 (Tom)

I hear this as another song about saying NO to sex: you don’t see the show until my heart says so! (But is the something special just a little bit dirtier: we’re surely out of Avril Lavigne territory here?) Or just about saying NO to men in general. I should have known, should have cared, should have hung around the kitchen in my underwear – Oh really? At what point was that part of the deal? But the war between the sexes being a dialectic, it’s no fun on your own, so we’re back into the show… So perhaps you SHOULD have made me? Should have made me do what it takes to keep you: and the flip retort flip-reverses. Did she want to be made or not? How could you have known? But you should have. 10 (alext)

A huge great fruit machine of a song, all flashing lights and improbable promises – if it weren’t for the fact that fruit machines are rubbish. A glamour mag of a tune, shiny pages of shiny pouting models and fold-out freebie perfume rubbing off like celebrity on your fingers -but glamour mags are boring. Chicklit lyrics – I know what I want and it’s you, but I’m going to faff about with other blokes for a while anyway – except chicklit is stodgy and smug. I can’t think what to say about this, how to explain that it’s just thrilling. The clipped vocals, the crunched-up synth, hook piling into hook like silver cars on a science fiction highway. Joy.

Plus, the power of pop telly is such that I cannot listen to this song without the image of The Blonde One doing her ‘get in the queue’ thumb-up handwave. Best dance move ever. 10 (cis)

Abba-esque in its catchiness, The Show is just so devilishly addictive. Pop is all about the in-group, being part of the masses. The Show seems to instantly draw you into the (female) circle, begging you, the listener, to sing along. Although I want to erase the synths – even though I realize that’s what makes The Show a hit – there’s never a moment I want to reach for the stop-button. 10 (Stevie Nixed)

A group’s not “Girls Aloud!” unless they’re afraid they won’t be heard. That they “hung around the kitchen in their underwear” reveals more than just their underclothes or their sense of how to play with propriety. It’s where they find comfort, sip tea, spoon some ice cream, crack jokes and pause for breath from the rigors of performance – where we’ll have to wait for them and that is that. These young ladies don’t rap so much as let off a rhyming stream of self-consciousness, a chant coating a dense, rushed and buzzing synthesized background. “That special something that they are hunting, they’re always wanting more and more” is not just a bridge, if I read Paul Morley’s “From moppets to puppets” correctly. “Nobody sees the show until my heart says so” is what they say to themselves to buck up their courage. The curtain rises and they hit the stage, but it’s not a musical. It’s just broads’ way. 9 (George Kelly)

Well sexy tune, with synth lines flashing across the mix like long legged dancers. BUT problems present themselves – it’s too fast and dense to dance to, like the girls have been shackled to a frantic dance workout machine. And the concept lyrics are great only once you’ve figured out what they’re on about.

Musically though, I get off on the tango-style sexuality that catalyses hi NRG production into a strident show stopper. The key to dancing to this must be to find a partner. And if I have any remaining doubts about how this song works, it’s only because there’s so much going on under the bonnet. 9 (Derek Walmsley)

Note to self: find a hairdresser who hangs around the kitchen in her underwear or die like Atomic Kitten trying. 9 (Diego Valladolid)

Two songs for the price of one – stellar pop! I bet they have a movie called Girls World before long, and that’d be a good thing. 8 (Jel)

Arpeggiated ‘title screen’ synths grind into motion, the echo of a ghost in the pop machine, some dark, vampish chills n’ thrills to come? The idea of the girls as mere joyless cut-outs almost appeals, almost a sense of guilt or even relief in hearing the tone of their regret so cold, depleted and possibly cyborgian. Whereas Alison Goldfrapp (the saucy mare) appears to willfully embrace the trappings of her strict machine, GA seem noticeably less thrilled by the prospect of mechanical oppression. No Orgasmatron for them, only gleaming but desolate cells, dancefloor prisons with no-one else around. Show, what show? Is it over? Has it started yet? Is there still time to go to the lobby and get ourselves some snacks?

Nadine’s opening line grates at first, like a chalk agonizingly scraping ‘TRITE’ on a blackboard, but there’s still the sense of hope in her brittle tone. The harmonies, particularly in the bridge and chorus are stark but satisfying in that synthetic style, with the call to be rescued perhaps cutting the deepest. Despite appearing locked in broody resentment (of themselves, of the other party and of the fact there were these things they DIDN’T do) their defiance, stubbornness, refusal to let go also resounds heavily. Like continuing to hurt was at least still a sign of life. Attracted by the sound I’ve wandered into the abandoned fairground, opened up an old door and turned the light back on, to find them all there in their individual cages – beautiful emotional freaks captured like birds. But their pleas sound too scripted and rehearsed. How to trust them? Is this the show itself? The doubt, the guilt, it’s all too much! I’m off for a cold shower… 8 (Steve M)

Strikes me as a hi-NRG version of some of the girly-groups who hogged the sound systems of cheesy meet-market dance clubs in the mid/late-80’s (Waitresses, Bananarama, Expose, Cover Girls). Which is no mean feat, actually. As with those artists, “The Show” exhibits a certain “becoming” facelessness. I can’t even begin to form a mental image of what these Girls Aloud look like, so anonymous and bland is their singing. Again, a good thing. The ravey hook of the chorus oddly reminds me of “Chime”. (I realize I’m probably alone here). Yeah, this track would have my gangly ass on the dance floor, Long Island Iced Tea in hand. 7 (Henry Scollard)

Some fiddly vocal lines, as when different voices sing on “I want you”, do them no favours at all (they’re pretty ordinary singers, and anything that draws attention to this is not helpful), and it’s not got the power of their mighty first two singles – the main vocal lines sound very mechanical and don’t really hook me – I think there is a disappointing lack of big moments. Nonetheless, it bounces along pleasantly enough, and I like the housey breakdown three quarters of the way through. 7 (Martin Skidmore)

As a kid, I would be a dancin’ with my-self uh oh oh to Axel F, performing for a hundred thousand strong throng of hysterical admirers. This has the same animus. Utterly relentless, completely lacking in pretention and fillled with some of the most bone dumb sillyass lyrics I’ve EVER heard (“shoulda known, shoulda cared, shoulda hung around the kitchen in my underwear”?); putting this on permarepeat hurts like an indian burn, but switching it back on after three hours of the new Devin tha Dude album feels fresh like an Altoid. A little online hunting suggests that these guys are the progeny of a Brit “American Idol” type show. Sometimes the suits get it right. 7 (Forksclovetofu)

This is good. I was searching those lyric sites again, so I could figure what they were saying at the ‘shoulda this, shoulda that’ bit. Oh all right, I looked them up so I could sing along. Happy now? Now if I started looking up the ringtone7 (Bushra)

Meh. Sounds like Sugababes covering the Spice Girls, which isn’t as bad an idea as I thought after a few listens. Still, I feel like I’m missing something w/out any sort of accompanying media blitz to give my formless, diffident feelings for the song some substance and structure. I need calculated marketing schema against which my passion and snarkery can flower and bloom!

The femme-pop over here in the Most Popular Country In the World…Ever! seems to eschew the glitz and glamour of electric dreams for guitar-based effrontery dripping with authenticity (Britney notwithstanding, of course, since she can do whatever the hell she wants) (and I think Fefe Dobson is rocking the 99 Luftballoons, but I can’t say that for sure). Between this track, the Rachel Stevens slab goodness, the Sugababes MP3s that repeatedly find their way onto my playlist, and the wonder that is Richard X, I find myself landlocked pop-wise (poplocked?), dreaming of a United States where Sheryl Crow ain’t a thang, The Matrix is just a movie, and Michelle Branch is getting Fischerspooner to produce her next record. So, hey, Tom or anyone else reading this – if you got some more, please send it, even if substandard. 6 (David Raposa)

Something clever about it being all Show and no substance?
Something about walking around stools?
Something about the Sugababes doing this sort of thing better?

All of that is bollocks. I cannot put my finger on why I do not like The Show. My critical faculties tell me that I should. And yet the curse of Girls Aloud is that if I see them, I hate them. They should be like Kraftwerk and send out mannequins of themselves, because after seeing the debut of this on CD:UK I disliked it. The more I hear it devoid of them, the more I like it. In this ying-yang battle the song is caught halfway so it gets a 5. (Pete)

Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 6/ The Shapeshifters – “Lola’s Theme”

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THE SQUARE TABLE 6/ The Shapeshifters – “Lola’s Theme”

Pop Factor: 673 Controversy Score: 260

My appreciation for Lola’s Theme considered as the image of a dance track:

A. THE BUILD: it seems like it’s always been around, a Summer constant even though I only heard it for the first time – hmm, when did I hear it first? – I’ve forgotten, its slow fade-in to my attention forgotten in the shine of its unvarying presence.

B: THE PLATEAU: “Oh what’s this?” “I know it, it’s that different person song, oh what’s it called?” “Who’s it by?” “Damn, I can’t remember” “Is it a current song?” “I don’t think it’s out yet”

C: THE BREAKDOWN: One too many plays, one too many repeats, one good song dulled by the endlessly looping radio playlists. It becomes an unwelcome earworm, a tired pleasure at best, an irritant at worst, ignored at most.

D: THE PEAK: And suddenly in an office or on headphones it comes to life, its familiarity turning sweet, pleasing me for the twentieth time, surprising me for the first.

E: REPEAT. 7 (Tom)

Some things just work beautifully, don’t they? 10 (William B Swygart)

I’m a different person. But if I were a bus, I’d need a guide too. 10 (George Kelly)

Radio Edit? What the hell? 3:30 isn’t enough – this needs to be a 20-minute megamix full of come downs and come ups and fade-ins and beat drops and every other glorious disco cliche. Don’t leave me this way, baby – my dumps are full of love & desire & Coca Cola for you. Shake me like a glowstick, big boi. Sign of strength – first verse sticks like teflon, and that chorus is beat into the ground by the ‘Shifters like John Henry did railroad spikes. Also, on a related note, I finally get Daft Punk – it was a long, arduous test (damn my hate for vocoders) (blame Cher), but I finally passed. In comparison, this track (&, I hope, future nu-disco goodness) feels like the bonus points one gets for putting a John Hancock on the paper. Study hard, y’all. 9 (David Raposa)

Salsoul to go. Transistor disco for the coffee bar set. I’m generally pretty quick to show “my life was empty without you” songs the door, but “Lola’s Theme” is gonna be hanging around for awhile. I love the synthetic string/horn section. Sure, it’s no “Crazy In Love”, but it’s still pretty damn insistent. I could see Dimitri From Paris dropping this on a handbag-house revival night. The weird vocal effects buried in the mix add to the French house feel. Not major, but fun. 8 (Henry Scollard)

A bit of filtered house and some strong soulful vocals always gets my vote, and this handles its elements very well. Do I know the song, or does it just sound like something else? Some old Chaka Khan song? Anyway, pretty irresistible. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

I was really looking forward to hear this track, and with such great expectations I was a little disappointed at first. It didn’t sound like a dance track distinctive enough to be topping the charts in a way that Space Cowboy can only dream to do some day. But that’s probably its greatness: a compelling, if maybe a little too adequate, disco anthem with lush strings splashing onto Mediterranean shores. Plus enough filtered charms to reignite the sale of Sherman Filterbanks as if it’s 1999. A Valencia to Rachel Stevens’ Real Madrid, maybe? 8 (Diego Valladolid)

I asked my sister about this. I don’t know what to say myself, I thought if I checked out the ringtone maybe it would sound even better, because it’s like it needs something else. Don’t ask me, I don’t know what. Anyway, my sister started singing that ‘I’m a different person’ bit in a really high-pitched squeal, which made me laugh. I suppose it’s all cheery, happy and whatever. That’s not bad, is it? I won’t be keeping the ringtone though. 7 (Bushra)

How much you like this depends entirely on how much you like the faded in intro, and how often you can listen to it over and over again. I like it a lot. It burrowed into my brain a while ago and I won’t really think about it until suddenly this comes on at a Club FT and I will grin and dance. It does exactly what it sets out to do.

That said after this anything Lola does would probably be a let down. 7 (Pete)

Hearing it, and hearing the voiceover describe it as a “summer anthem” on an advert for a shitty summer compilation, made me hate its plastic, made to order perkiness. But a proper listen did a lot to change my mind- a fairly sumptuous build and release disco number. The kind of thing they weren’t supposed to make anymore, and a soaring melody that I still just about can summon up enough naivety to dig. 7 (Derek Walmsley)

Alas, Simon might try to convince his wife – for whom he’s written the song – that he’s a different person, but Lola’s Theme never really ventures out of your typical disco-glittery universe. I love the bubbly intro, the female vocals, the euphoria trumpets and even the Roger Sanchez synths. Like any good club slash pop song it works on both the dance floor and the radio. Yet there’s never any real punktum partially because of the extremely trite lyrics and partially because I can’t seem to remember what 70s disco tune it rips off. Grrrr. 6.5 (Stevie Nixed)

And they say the new Prodigy album is dated! Still I guess you can never hold this kind of thing down – in reality it’s a bit ordinary but there is that moment, a moment that could sum up every disco-tinged track of the last 30 years, the predictable inevitable muffled quiet-down-abruptly-then-build-up-slowly crescendo giving way to a strong Balearic sunshower of disco strings casting light on a plateau of vibrant carnivalesque euphoria (sorry about this). Nice appropriation of vocal steal as well. So maybe not so much dated as just ‘right now’, which is fine, I guess. 6 (Steve M)

I like that there horn riff. 5 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

The first time this gets turned on I think “Hmmm. Not really feeling that hook. Maybe it’ll develop.”

Twelve spins later, I’m still not feeling that hook and it never has developed. Sonic treadmill. This IS a contemporary song, right? And it’s on the British charts RIGHT NOW? Really? Whew. So familiar that I thought I must’ve already heard this on Christopher Street and just about a half step below mediocrity. Let’s call it a full step. In the name of love. 4 (Forksclovetofu)

Disappointingly, this bears no relation to ‘Tony’s Theme’ by The Pixies. For whatever reason, this fails to move me in any way whatsoever. 3 (alext)

It leaves me utterly cold.

Those submerged strings are recognisably classic, a deft nod to the disco canon; were I writing a press release, I’d call the horns uplifting. But it doesn’t make me feel anything, not love nor hate, not a mild liking nor a distant disdain. It’s just… there.

And what the fuck is the point of that? 0 (cis)

Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 7/ Lou Reed – “Satellite Of Love ’04”

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THE SQUARE TABLE 7/ Lou Reed – “Satellite Of Love ’04”


Lou Reed must surely have one of the most horrible voices in rock: a weak, blank, tissue-thin method-acting smug smirk. I’m fairly sure it’s why I’ve never been to New York. This remix takes a smarmy track, locates its pretty hook, applies said hook liberally and improves things greatly – but that void of a voice is still all over it and any joy the mixers inject is soon spent. 3. (Tom)

So we take the jazz hands equipped ending of Satellite Of Love and make a song out of it, only occasionally breaking into the dirgey bit that preceeded it as some sort of anachronistic ‘verse’. No, sorry, it doesn’t work. The reason the end of Satellite of Love is the best bit, is that it is THE END. You can’t make it the BEGINNING and THE MIDDLE and hope to have the same effect. 2 (Pete)

Really, Lou, it should have been “Sally Can’t Dance.” 2 (George Kelly)

Well, the bouncy opening made me laugh. I can’t tell if it’s serious or taking the piss. I really like the original – I think it’s the loveliest thing Lou ever did. This seems to strip away the beauty in favour of an absurd jolliness, which Lou’s laconic vocals hardly fit. It could almost be part of a Jive Bunny Lou Reed megamix (I have a friend who does very convincing Chas & Dave style versions of anything, and much of Lou’s Berlin works particularly ‘well’ in that style). I’m all in favour of remixing rock classics, and of treating them with complete disrespect, but I think this is misconceived and pretty dreadful. 2 (Martin Skidmore)

I don’t know why they need a radio edit now, and a radio edit that seems to take out most of the lyrics, and one that makes it sound like bad Bonnie Tyler. Dull, dated and strangely completely balls-less. His girlfriend is doing shit for NASA, maybe she could teach poor Lou about interesting developments in new satellite technology. (Is this label revenge for the bizarre ego trip that was The Raven?) 2 (Anthony Easton)

This seems to lack the spark and charm of Supermen Lovers ‘Starlight’ or countless other happy dance pop anthems. I can imagine maybe liking it if I was 6 years old again (big VU fan I was back then of course) but twenty years later this is just offensive in its half-assed approach and lazy production values. Only fun in the ‘Happy Shopper Reduced To Clear’ sense. I think I’d even rather listen to ‘The Raven’… 2 (Steve M)

The original’s a great enough record that it still packs a pretty powerful pop punch rejigged, and I won’t mind if this comes on when I be clubbin’, but it’s still a pretty lazy record. Highly inferior to Junkie XL, “Are You Ready For Love?” and yes, even that Neptunes remix of “Sympathy For The Devil”. 4 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

I honestly found nothing either appealing or unlikable about this track. It’s just as if I’ve wandered into a Gap and can’t get out. Don’t suppose it helps that I’ve never been much of a Lou Reed fan. I imagine I must be missing something here but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what it might be. Best I can muster is a shrug. 4 (Forksclovetofu)

My sister has this tinny little radio preset to some station devoted to R&B (spelling?) and they’ve been playing this Lou Reed track quite a bit. But it doesn’t sound good on a tinny radio. If all you catch is this voice going ‘Satelli-i-i-te’ over and over again surrounded by all this static, you’re not going to like it. Maybe if I listen to it properly I might like it, but I’m not too keen on the ‘Satelli-i-i-te’ bits anyway. 4 (Bushra)

Some glam-pop influences seem to have re-fought their way onto the dancefloor they’ve been absent from since the messy last days of the Walton Hop. Kompakt recently took things to a logical – and maybe too obvious, too much given away – end with that “Hot Love” mash-up slash cover slash homage. Though the Bowie axis of glam rock is less dancefloor friendly than the Gary Glitter one, Dab Hands is convinced that this song can be turned into a floorfiller by using the most catchy part of the original, the classic coda in all its camp splendour, as the leitmotiv for a remix. The actual verse of the original song, along with its playful piano phrase, is used as the breakdown of the song, a nice touch that nearly lives up to the task of revitalising the charms of Lou Reed’s “Transformer”. Sadly, the rest of the track doesn’t feel as inspired and inspiring. 5 (Diego Valladolid)

Peculiar incongruity corner. but, y’know, in a pretty entertaining way, a club mix you can’t actually dance to, Lou Reed himself sounding peculiarly out of place… it’s a very happy record. Maybe too happy. The kind of happiness that tends to arouse suspiscions. If The Polyphonic Spree were to ever live up to the single mix of ‘Soldier Girl’, it’d probably sound somewhat like this. 7 (William B Swygart)

The Lou Reed original was always a grotesquely indulgent piece of Reed egoism – winkingly ironic, falsely naive, ponderously slow. Stripping it down to its bare essentials and forcing it to dance is a fitting fate, and it makes it sound a hell of a lot better. Don’t know what this says about Reed and his song, but this is as pure a slice of cutesy, sunny day, children’s music as you can get. Perversely, this piece of pop-cheese is a whole lot more soulful than the original – indeed it’s closer to the knockabout fun of the Velvet Underground’s version. 7 (Derek Walmsley)

This is how I like my remixes: stripped of its 70s jacket, Satellite Of Love 04 feels instantly NOW. Despite my reservations – expecting Groovefinder to merely slap some wishwashy housebeat underneath Loud Reed smug vocals – I rrrreally love this track. Every space has been filled, every beat has been placed. It isn’t the glam love song it once was, but then that already exists on Transformer. 8 (Stevie Nixed)

Yep. Lou Reed shakes-a-puddin’. Better than “A Little Less Conversation,” not quite as good as “Rubbernecking,” but Lou’s alive and Elvis is in Arkansas, so score one for the wild side, what the heck. It’s got a good beat, and I would’ve danced to it, except I was sitting down, so I did the appreciative “that’s a pretty snazzy beat” headbob instead. Bonus points are awarded for conjuring the image of Lou Reed: Disco Diva (doo do doo). I hope he’s saving this for his Bridget Jones’ Diary project. 8 (David Raposa)

More SEQUEL than REMIX, this version picks up where the original left off, when it really started to sound like it was going way up to Mars. Perfect. Like “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, I always felt that “Satellite Of Love” should have lasted at least 3 minutes and eight seconds longer than it did, because it found such a groove at the end. And here it is. The Polyphonic Spree on dexys, this one. Should be longer still. 9 (Henry Scollard)

Jul 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 8 / The Streets – “Dry Your Eyes”

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Was I ever in love? I called it love.

I mean, it felt like love.

There were moments when –

well –

There were moments when.”
8 (Tom)

The Streets finally have indie cred here. Painfully hip fashionable stores (the kind that stock Vice magazine amongst the Vintage) play Mike Skinner’s music beside Adam Ant and “Jean Genie” era David Bowie, which always struck me as silly – there is nothing glamorous or artificial in his music. He is the perfect British novelist, someone who plumbs the banality and pathos of middle England.

The single makes me cry. I have heard people say that it tells the world that boys shouldn’t cry, and i think that this is a dangerous misreading. He is begging, of course, but he has to be beg – there is nothing left, she is going to go, and the desperation is palpable. The drying of eyes is not machismo bravado, but an honest recognition of the futility of the situation.

I cannot think of an American hip hopper (fuck that – I cannot think of an American musician) that engages in this kind of emotional vulnerability, you could argue Marshall Mathers, but he is blessed with a multiplicity of personae, there is only one the Streets, and his life is so indivisible from the life of both Mike Skinner and all of the lads that he represents. (Lad as romantic hero, instead of hooligan – a new trope?)

The best thing though is the honest use of cliches. The dialogue has a verisimilitude – who hasn’t had there mates use the line, there is plenty of fish in the sea, as an attempt to clear the debris of a broken relationship, or don’t cry – because there is nothing to cry about. Or how that muteness comes, and all you can say is I can’t say a word, or that calling for the chimera of trust.

Even the sung intervals, while not technically brilliant, are revelatory – the mark of good singing I think is finding what your limits are, and what the song requires and using that in tandem (which is why Courtney Love is a Great Singer and why Mariah Carey is a Poor Singer). Mr Skinner’s aching, broken, soft pleading is exactly what is needed here, the cradle of melancholy and dust is sadder then any of the lachrymose ballads that the American Idol crowd brings.

Aside from the singing? The introduction of strings as signifier of romantic ballad is a good notice of genre, so that there is no real time wasted with superfluous introductions, and then it almost becomes a capella, the drums and guitars providing a skeleton, nothing over the top, nothing in excess, just what needs to be said, and what is said is said very well. 10 (Anthony Easton)

Dry Your Eyes is a lover’s discourse. But you’d be mistaken to think Mike Skinner is singing to his soon to be ex-girlfriend. The whole point of the song is that he was never able to express himself, let her know how he really felt. Not when they loved each other and certainly not now when all falls apart. So now, when she’s ready to part, what little he is able to convey is through motion – the (right) words are still stuck in his brain. The only listener is you. I love how he’s able to use all the cliches to his advantage. That’s what love is: you’d be mistaken if you think what you feel is really original. It’s happened a million times before.

Dry Your Eyes is stacked up with cliches – from the “plenty more fish in the sea” to the weeping strings. But then that’s what makes you understand this love song: you hurt with him. You can take a song (and relationship) apart and try to find what really moves you to tears (or smiles). There’s never really one thing. So with Dry Your Eyes, it could be the lyrics, the way Mike Skinner sing-speaks’em, the strings, the shuffling beat,… I don’t know. Nor care. I just feel. 10 (Stevie Nixed)

There’s vulnerability in those imperceptibly important movements of the eyes and the hands, in that unending stretch of time between learning the truth and acting on it, in the rumpled double-tracked vocals of the chorus and bridge, in those precious young & restless weeping strings, in the solemn funereal drum machine beat, in that first moment when the knowledgable Streets fan realizes s/he might’ve mistakenly changed the channel from Lock, Stock… to Love Story, in hearing Mike Skinner actually sing (mewl, even) one of the hoariest cliches available (“there’s plenty more fish in the sea”), and in realizing that other cliche about cliches being cliches for a reason. You always find what you’re looking for in the last place you look. 10 (David Raposa)

In lesser hands, this would have been career sabotage. In fact, the whole idea of a rap opera involving a conceit as flimsy as a money-swallowing TV set (still not sure how that one works) should be the recipe for a disaster of “Kilroy Was Here” proportions. But it SO works. It’s always facinating, but rarely this successful, when a rapper takes the plunge. Like last year’s “Deliverance”, a hip-hop power ballad for the masses to sing in pubs and sports stadiums. “Goodbye Lucille #1” from both points of view. 10 (Henry Scollard)

Cynically released to cash in on British sporting teams going out in everything, Dry Your Eyes is not a typical single and offers no closure. A song for the dumped, we never get a song for the dumper. So we feel sorry for Mike (though fans of the album will also be aware that he has also wronged her). But it manages to articulate the incohate rage, the helplessness and the idiocy of the dumping situation. In the Grand Don’t Come For Free movie, there won’t be a dry eye in the
house. The song is for us as well. 9 (Pete)

When Spain was defeated in Euro 2004, the song that was rising in popularity in our country was Aventura’s “Obsesion”, whose chorus goes something like “no, it’s not love, what you feel is called obsession”. So Dry Your Eyes has absolutely nothing to do with Spain supporters’ feelings about our team, and anyway in order to do so it would have said “dry your armpits” instead. I can guess that we relate to football in a different way than english supporters do. But what really matters is that I can really relate to the song itself – I never imagined that the “there’s plenty more fish in the sea” cliché could be so touching – and I think it deserves all the praise and chart success it’s already getting. 9 (Diego Valladolid)

A videotape, rewound, replayed, over and over. Your fingernails are biting into your knuckles; you didn’t know they’d got that long, maybe it’s just that you’re gripping too tight.

You should stop that.

Except, right, this is the bit where she. And then-

You know the movements blind, by now, you must. You’ve repeated them, rewatched them, so many times your hands started to shape them in the air, his side, her side. Sign language. Turn the volume off, overdub it, reword the words, more convincing, more like what you ought to say.

Doesn’t matter; still ends the same.

Rewind, play. 9 (cis)

One problem with storytelling albums is that individual tracks can often work less well as singles, out of the logical and emotional context of their story, and this does indeed lose some impact. Still, it’s interesting to consider it as a single track – would we associate this with UK garage or hip hop if we’d heard nothing else by him? Strummed acoustic guitars, weak singing, talking about your unsatisfactory love life – I imagine I’d be thinking indie, perhaps the territory of, say, Arab Strap, notwithstanding some quiet electronic beats late on. Still, there are some very strong and wonderfully evocative lyrics in this (not least the opening lines), and obviously having and knowing the album I have the benefit of context so I find it easy to like, but I wouldn’t think it will find him a lot of new fans. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

I like Dry Your Eyes, I listen to it on my minidisc all the time. There’s a noisy office person at work who likes having an audience to talk at. He’s this scary looking tough guy, facial expression always says ‘you got a problem?’ and he likes to talk about the muggings and robberies that have happened in his neighbourhood over the weekend. It’s really funny hearing this guy going on and on in his Brummie accent: ?I mean, I mean, if they say hand it over, I’m gonna hand it over, y’know what I’m saying?! I ain’t gonna argue, no sir!?

He also likes to talk music. I once heard him say the name ‘Joss Stone’ at least five times in a single sentence. Anyway, yesterday he walks up to the coffee machine, and you know what he was whistling really loud? Dry Your Eyes. I mean, what’s that all about? Dry Your Eyes isn’t something you’d whistle, is it? Is it? I like listening to Dry Your Eyes, but it’s not exactly chirpy or cheerful, so you can’t really whistle to it, right? Or turn it into a dodgy ringtone either? 8 (Bushra)

It feels weird to hear this outside of the context of “A Grand Don’t Come For Free”, much more so than it did with “Fit But You Know It”; it feels like a clip from a classic movie or something. 7 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

It’s got a sweet sentiment, I kinda like it for that. I can’t really imagine sitting back and listening to it though, and maybe it is a little too much like some guy talking over advert music. 6 (Jel)

Hard to begrudge the love expressed for this song by most here. But I just don’t share the feeling. It’s not me, not my life – not that that’s a pre-requisite for my enjoyment of a song (indeed perhaps it’s more a complaint…to have loved and lost in this way suggests a life well lived, possibly), but I’m having trouble even recognizing it as a good song. Good like Dido? Good like Coldplay? Somewhere between poignant and trite for sure, and either way somewhat painful to listen to.

The strings are not particularly tingle-inducing, the guitar link not particularly heart-tugging, we’re used to Skinner’s audaciously semi-drawn speak/sing method at least, and usually it’s entertaining. Here I’m not so sure.. Maybe it’s the eagerness of people to mention the ease, pre-meditated perhaps, at which this song can be tacked on to accompany sports highlights or whatever i.e. DYS hell. As happy as I am that Skinner has scored a #1 hit with this, I’m also a little disappointed because I think it’s his weakest, most unimaginative single thus far. 5 (Steve Mannion)

Aug 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 9 / Terror Squad Ft Fat Joe – “Lean Back”

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I’m not proud of losing touch with hip-hop, even the most commercial big-production hip-hop, so much but facts are facts and that’s what’s happened. All it needs I’m sure is one or two great CD-Rs to make my ears twitch again, but meanwhile this relentless heaviness is making me feel heavy, sluggish, unwilling to dance no matter how much I like the noises. I am heavy, come to think, and frankly that short-of-breath chorus is an unpleasant reminder even if it’s a top pop gimmick. 5 (Tom)

The mix of the rhythm is all on the one-drop kick drum, which feels like an explosion has gone off down the road. A string sample ominously hovers like helicopters overheard. Rhythmically, it’s similar to Vietnam, and indeed it went down a storm when the DJ spun it at the recent Mobb Deep gig.

The vocals are basically hand me downs, standardised big ups and a tired old “gucci sweater” ripped from the Wu Tang; but hollered over this party tune it’s great.

A serious single. Any forthcoming album will be rubbish. 9 (Derek Walmsley)

Even Lil’ Bow-Wow be throwin’ it up! How hot is that beat? Hot enough that the OK Player boards had a lengthy argument about why Scott Storch (previously of “Things Fall Apart” and “Phrenology”) didn’t give this to the Roots. But why hate on Terror Squad? They surf the wax without making waves and choosing to let the beat carry them rather than versa vis is definitely the way to go. I appreciate Fat Joe and Remy Ma (she’s gonna blow up afore too long, without doubt), but the rest of his crew sounds like a slightly weaker Flipmode. The loopy Arabic strings and the spastic hooptie bass is what makes this car go. There’s not a reason in the world why this shouldn’t be one of the ten summer songs of ’04. Please sir, c’n I have summore? 8 (Forksclovetofu)

When indie kids finally conceded that they couldn’t dance they invented a genre which even they could get into with their bodies as well as their ears. They – or some unkind individual – called it ‘shoegaze’. ‘Lean Back’ claims to introduce an equivalent groove-free dance to hip hop, for all those bangers and ballers too fat to get down low. The backing is pretty cool, splenetic plastic prog-hop with a nice bassy thump to it. By the way, have you noticed that that crotch-grabbing dance Eminem does comes spontaneously to small children in need of a wee? 8 (alext)

Disappointingly not about bacon, but that bombastic cello (violin? I don’t know) riff makes up for it. There’s a hint of Eastern tonalities in it, a bit more Timbaland than Adam F perhaps. I didn’t realise this lot were still going – I thought the group had stopped after Big Pun died, and with Fat Joe’s solo success I assumed that was it. Anyway, I like this – very strong music and beats and delivery, even if the lyrics don’t amount to very much. I imagine it must be a big club hit. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

Most misleading song title of the year! I’ve heard this described as a Summer hit, but it seems far too focused on the traditional NYC Hardcore despair to provide unambigous good vibes, even if it comes with its own dance. Still, with DMX retired and MOP gone Rock, this serves a purpose – will Fat Joe ever graduate to the big league I wonder? 7 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

Ooooow yelling over boombastic contrabass strings and then Fat Joe comes in. “Lean Back” slides over the dance floor like a bull-dozer. There’s no avoiding it. You have to move. Never for a moment will you pay attention to the lyrics – that hook gets you dancing, smiling at the line “my niggas don’t dance, we just pull up our pants.” I mean how can you not smile at a line that contradicts your movements? So the strings thump at your stomach, Fat Joe is a bit too oily in his flow, Remy a Lil’Sassy. If you ask me tomorrow morning I’ll probably have forgotten the song, but then it was never about the future on the dancefloor. 7 (Stevie Nixed)

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little Hokey Pokey. Cinch that belt, G. 7 (David Raposa)

No fun. Despite the exotic and insistently funky rhythm, this is dirge-rap, and Terror Squad (or at least this particular track) are the hip-hop equivalent of Evanescence. With its menacing undertow, this will sound great as background music when ballplayers step to the plate, but I’m just not in the mood to be scared right now. 6 (Henry Scollard)

It’s OK. They go to a club and make a point of not dancing so you know they hate fun for real, which makes them hard, and makes them Goth, and beause they’re hard Goths they’ve got big fuckoff ork synths (percussion limited to cowbell and bass thuds that are practically unnoticeable on MP3). Why no real strings? I suppose real strings wouldn’t achieve that queerly ‘Arab’ quality quite so fluidly, orchestras also aren’t as user-friendly (you can’t fuck around with an umpteen-member string section the way you can with a computer/synth to achieve a queerly ‘Arab’ sound), and maybe cost-efficiency, too, though with the conspicuous consumption details in the lyrics I’m not sure that’d matter. What is the sound of money being spent nowadays, anyway? 5.5 (Michael Daddino)

He bangs on about committing “grand larceny” and “armed robbery” and then what does he start talking about? Pulling up his pants!!! What? He’s a big kid look what he can do, he can break the law AND wear big kids pants too?? And what does “my arms stay breezy” mean? This grows on me the more I hear it though, and I give it four Bernards Matthew Turkey Dinosaurs out of Ten Chicken Burgers. 4 (Sarah C)

Reminds me that my summer holidays are over. 3 (Diego Valladolid)

Sensible advice about pulling up ones trousers whilst dancing, that whole showing of your underwear thing is a massive dud, I agree. 3 (Jel)

I declare the war on Terror Squad begins now. This is a lumpy old dirge. Some nice secondhand Timbaland middle-eastern strings, whilst Joe belches over it. Not enticing a second listen, making me wish the first listen had not happened. 3 (Pete)

I find this abrasive and abusive, bullying and angry – the pounding gives me a headache, the lines about half the niggas having scars on their face, the loco kid, i can rhyme until i die, the bouncers don’t check us, thats what the fuck i call a chain reaction, fry that cracker, these faggot niggas, all of it is gutter, it’s all angry and it’s all looking to come after me.

The music backing the words isn’t much better, with the squealing of fireworks or bombs, the click clack of drum machines, the martial leanness, the command to lean back has a rapists smarmy charm, especially when coupled with brags about how he fills his pants.

Maybe this is my own essential racism, my geographical lack of understanding of the nature of this kind of track, my ethnic lack of understanding the language and my political fear about being a cultural tourist, but I have yet to hear anything so aggressive as this. (I feel an odd sort of shame that I have not grokked hip hop yet,
with how ubiquitous it has become.) No mark given (Anthony Easton)

Aug 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 10 / Goldie Lookin’ Chain – “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do”

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Pop Factor: 400

At Glastonbury, Goldie Lookin’ Chain were enormous; the dance tent was flooded with people trying to cram themselves in and catch a glimpse of the comedy Welsh rap troupe. You wouldn’t have got that sort of crowd for MC Miker G, more’s the pity. From our vantage point by a clothing stall playing 80s pop to drunks (i.e. us) we were able to see GLC’s crowd strangely thin out over the course of the performance.

I’ve not actually sat down and listened to this record, I know it from Radio 1, who have got gamely behind GLC and placed them on some kind of rotation. The first time I heard it I thought it was the worst record of the year. Now I just think it’s tiresome and awfully laboured, but it bounces along without getting in anyone’s way. I was sorely tempted to come over all K-Punk and decry the total lack of intensification (or indeed good jokes) GLC provide – I mean my god, when I was a student I fell for music that MEANT something and FELT something, I didn’t waste my time on idiotic rap pisstakes, what could anyone possibly GET out of this, etc. Then I remember Sultans Of Ping FC and retreat in shame. 2 (Tom)

Guns Don’t Kill People Crrraaahhhhhpaaaaaahs Do.

When was the last time a crapper killed someone? The toilet bomb in Lethal Weapon 2 did not kill anyone, and even the bloke who got stuck in the lavvie on that plane did not die. No, crappers never killed no-one.

Goldie Looking Chain on the other hand are obviously murderous young scamps who are attempting to corner the comedy rap territory. Except they are not even vaguely funny. Scratching from 1938 and rhymes that would have put Morris Minor and The Majors to shame. Shitty Looking Chain more like. 1 (Pete)

21 seconds to go times infinity for 6 (or however many) hawd gankstuh rapphus (wit billy clubs) making like they might be giants, dropping names and stiff old skool iambs like pigeon shit all over Trafalgar. Hip-hop US jingo fuckers knocking Dizzee & the Streets & anyone else from that side of the Atlantic don’t need more ammunition. 2 (David Raposa)

It’s Helen Love for people who’ve just discovered that ‘hiphop has
some quite good production’, innit? 2 (cis)

Backward-Looking Chain, more like. This ironic “rappers and violence” stance is just not very topical (15 years after Ice-T, 8 years after Biggie/Tupac). Not sure I get it. Reminds me a bit of the Black Grape song that sampled/plunderphonicked Reagan about 10 years after he was relevant. (Hell, they might as well have sampled Ten Years After). Even the dirty guitar riff and beastie-yapping seem pretty 90’s. Dizzee and The Streets have raised the bar in British rap pretty high, and this innocuous number just doesn’t cut it. 3 (Henry Scollard)

Streets-wannabes Goldie Looking Chain have come up with a mediocre Hip Hop version of Losing My Edge. Aren’t spoofs meant to be tongue in cheek? I guess not anymore. 3 (Stevie Nixed)

Guns don’t kill people, but tracks like this make me want to kill the people who make them. Annoyingly, this isn’t all bad: occasionally the banality of the sentiments being expressed matches the banality of the attitudes being attacked, and the song finds that awkward crossing point where the politician who likes to blame music or video games for society’s ills and the rapper who likes to pose with weapons meet on the road to heaven to receive their karmic payback from a mutant torture robot. But then if I’d had a decade on the dole to write a novelty rap hit, I hope I’d be able to come up with a couple of half-decent gags too. See you in another ten years boyos? 3 (alext)

Of course all kids should be doing this stuff, but it should circulate on downloads, not on the bleedin’ pop charts. Charismatic lads I reckon, and spending the odd 30 seconds with this tune is fun enough. The jokes don’t quite come fast enough, though, and it’s strangely un-hectic considering the bolshy, hyperactive 12 teenage piece behind it. They all rap the same, and there are multiple lisps are in effect. This is/they are a stoned joke. 5 (Derek Walmsley)

While the name Goldie Lookin Chain rings familiar to me, I guess not only because of its similarity with Gold Chains, I hadn’t heard them before so I don’t know how this song relates to the rest of their material. “Guns Don’t Kill People, Rappers Do” could be playlisted in indie discos and I could appreciate it in that particular context. At home at work at play I wouldn’t be bothered to listen to it, though. The Blockheads-alike groove makes me somewhat curious about the rest of their repertoire, even though I fear that everything except the namedropping will be as retro as this one song. 5 (Diego Valladolid)

Cali’s Gold Chains doesn’t seem to have the lockdown on ol’skool bigbeat whiteboy novelty hiphop anymore. Infectious, silly-ass twoturntablesandamicrophone tracks with shout outs to Scott LaRock put me back on the bus to junior high with the boombox pumpin’ License to Ill. Clearly these guys would love to be Britain’s answer to the B-Boys and I’m pretty impressed with how dead on they hit that note. Lord knows this type of throwback treadmill rap from a European source is unlikely to sell big numbers (or even turn heads) here in the states; I imagine they’d catch a serious beatdown opening for Jadakiss. Still, I’m amused. They’re no Mike Skinner, but they’ll do. 7 (Forksclovetofu)

First listen: I hate this! Horrible parody/novelty record junk. Morris and the Minors, grr, gah, grr!

Second listen: Oh, it’s quite good really. “From Bristol Zoo to BNQ” “saw it in a documentary on BBC2” haha…It’s deceptive! 7 (Jel)

Unlikeliest mainstream catapulting of the year, then? Impossibly sweary Newport posse find themselves on a major label and showbiz pals with the middle-tier of the music industry (Snow Patrol, SFA, The Darkness), and with the bizarre and slightly scary prospect of a second top 40 hit… I really rather like this. They’re not particularly good rappers, but there’s just something about their opening lines – “Guns don’t kill people, rappers do/I’m a fuckin’ rapper and I might kill you” – to these ears, that’s almost as good as, like, MOP or someone. It’s a nice, light, enjoyable three and a half minutes or so, with some genuinely dead funny moments and a half-decent tune wrapped around it. Bonus points for their first hit single being exactly the same as the one they’ve had up on their site for years, plus them hanging up on Wes live on air. 8 (though I’ve this bizarre feeling that’s an awful lot more than anyone else will give it…) (William B Swygart)