TOM’S TOP TWELVE (Part 2) (As Promised) (Before the big pre-honeymoon decks-clearing pop roundup) (Now where were we…)

A-TEENS – “Upside Down”: I now suspect it was just a kind of wilful perversity that stopped me liking Belle And Sebastian for so long. There are some bands who seem just too ideal, who are too obviously going to press your buttons, so you (or perhaps just I) avoid them for as long as possible. A different set of buttons, a different group, but I’m sure something of the same was preventing me from listening to the A-Teens for so long. The idea of the A-Teens was that they were a bunch of Swedish children who had been grown in tubes from ABBA’s own DNA: obviously I am going to like them, and I do like them. A lot. Particularly “Upside Down” which is as close to a realisation of that old saw ‘perfect pop’ as I expect to discover. In other words it has a hook every fifteen seconds, goofy lyrics, a swoony slow bit, a thumping beat, proper harmonies, a honking great KEY CHANGE, etc. I have to admit that almost nothing S Club 8 have done so far can touch this (Little Trees’ peerless “Help! I’m A Fish!” is a different matter of course).

EGYPTIAN LOVER – “My House (On The Nile)”: There is no reason for this bloke’s house to be on the Nile other than that he is the Egyptian Lover and by God if his gimmick was good for one hit it’ll be good for more. Primitive but convincing electro oozing the usual involuntary spookiness (perhaps his house is on the Nile because he is a Mummy! Though my knowledge of Egyptology does not encompass fifty-foot long waterbeds.)

LORD ROCKINGHAM’S XI – “Hoots Mon”: (see below)

DAVID BANNER – “Cadillacs On 22s”: Southern hip-hop blues with just enough corn to hook me in. There’s nothing new in the regret-scarred rhymes, but in this territory familiarity is a kind of virtue – the fact that others have walked Banner’s paths before lends weight to his metaphysics. He soul-searches with desperate conviction, and of course the beat is gorgeous: a bony skitter propping up melancholy acoustic guitars.

PET SHOP BOYS – “Always On My Mind/In My House”: The PSB’s album remasters are a real joy – Introspective in particular sounds so much fuller, a kind of wry cousin to New Order’s Substance. And “Always…” is this record’s “Bizarre Love Triangle”, an exercise in rhythmic robot-building which suddenly becomes an experiment in the creation of life itself. All building up to The Moment, which floored me in 1988 when I first heard it and always makes me pause and beam now, when the single version’s triumphant riff surges through the track. The little synth stabs that herald it make me think of an egg hatching, or a present unwrapping itself.

THE SMITHS – “William, It Was Really Nothing”: Every time I pick up a Smiths album after a couple of years away I find new things. This time, after listening to so much old pop for Popular, I could hear so clearly the way the band put down roots in the 60s. Not the worn-coin 60s that inspired Britpop, but the shuffly, skiffley forgotten 60s – the 60s of Cliff and The Shadows, optimistic light pop that Morrissey shadows with sadness and doubt. And listening to this single, it was suddenly not William that I felt sorry for, but the singer.