Mike Atkinson

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 21st March 2005

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on March 21, 2005

50 Cent – Candy Shop

I’m trying to explain, baby, the best way I can; I’ll melt in your mouth girl, not in your hand, ha ha!” YES YES OK WE GET THE POINT. IT’S A METAPHOR. YOU’RE NOT REALLY TALKING ABOUT LICKING LOLLIPOPS. And did no-one tell you it’s bad form to laugh at your own jokes? Smacks of desperation, don’t you know. Much like the rest of this thigh-rubbing “knickers knackers knockers” claptrap, which displays a half-assed puerility that even the likes of Roy “Chubby” Brown would have baulked at. Worse still, Fiddy sounds as bored as the rest of us; and ultimately, it’s this lifeless lack of enthusiasm (for both the quality of the music and the sexual favour in question) that offends most of all. (1)

British Sea Power – It Ended On An Oily Stage

John Cleese once observed that the main aim of the English was to successfully conduct themselves from cradle to grave without ever encountering any serious embarrassment along the way. In which case, British Sea Power—whose live show sticks in the memory for having successfully extinguished any emotional response whatsoever, positive or negative—might just be the most quintessentially English band of all time. (5)

Dizzee Rascal – Off To Work

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk. Here’s to you, raise a glass for everyone. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go. The transformation of Dizzee “Proper Bow” Rascal from iconoclastic eminence noir to the Timmy Mallett of grime is now complete. No flow. No show. No go. (4)

The Faders – No Sleep Tonight

This all pivots around one glorious focal point: the thousand-yard-deep double-thumping head-rush which launches its chorus. “You can’t stop this DOOMPH DOOMPH fee-ling…” WA-HEY! WALLOP! God hits world! World hits back! Entire solar system shudders from the aftershock! That aside, “No Sleep Tonight” is a worthy addition to the Quatro-Nena-Republica-Portobella canon of plastic trashbeat teenpop. Recreation is indeed its destination. So don’t wait up. (9)

Natalie Imbruglia – Shiver

Some rubbish singles are such fun to hate that they end up being vaguely enjoyable, in a twisted sort of way. In this respect, Natalie Imbruglia still has some way to go. A clear case of Could Do Worse, then. (2)

Mario – Let Me Love You

Mid-Eighties Eugene/Luther/Alexander seduction-job corniness, redeemed by a touching hesitancy and vulnerability. Once Mario has set out his pitch (he’s a bastard, drop him, I’ll treat you right), you’re left with a certain ambivalence as to the likely outcome. If he’s even addressing her directly in the first place, that is; for it is difficult to say whether this is a public entreaty or a private prayer. (7)

Million Dead – Living The Dream

Now look here, all you retro-rock “proper music” Luddites: for all its admittedly off-putting nu-metal trappings, there’s more craftsmanship, dexterity and range in this (not to mention those other dread rockist qualities: sincerity, authenticity and passion) than in all your Razorlights, Kasabians and Killers put together. I’m particularly taken by the way that the full-tilt shoutiness of the chorus is offset by the softly tumbling Johnny Marr-ish guitar runs of the verses, and by the self-questioning “meta” qualities of the lyric. (8)

Roots Manuva – Too Cold

Humility? Self-doubt? A questioning attitude to materialism? Oh my dears, how frightfully un-hip-hop! Throw him to the Guardian readers! (8)

Tom Vek – I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes

As with Bloc Party, there’s a strained histrionic stridency to the vocals that will either thrill or grate; and as with Bloc Party, I’m in the latter camp. Like so many of its ilk, this strives to emulate The Cure and the Gang Of Four, but ends up falling somewhere between Modern English, The Comsat Angels, and one of those regional compilation albums that were all the rage in 1980-81. “The Sound Of Rotherham: 20 Urgent Urban Dispatches From The New South Yorkshire Underground.” Older readers will know of what I speak. (5)

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 14th March 2005

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on March 14, 2005

Basement Jaxx – Oh My Gosh 

“Based on Wordy Rappinghood”, they told me. Damned if I can hear it, though. Which is no great loss, considering that ‘Oh My Gosh’ is my favourite single of 2005 thus far. Like all the best Jaxx singles, this feels like it’s sitting right at the centre of something, with 50 different ideas all going on at once; so much so, that it’s almost impossible to cram them onto one track, but – like 50 rag week students squeezing themselves into a phone box – they somehow manage to pull it off. (10)

Beck – E-Pro

Having wasted the opportunity of having a Gary Jules-esque slow-burning crossover cover version “cult” [sic] movie smash with “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime”, Beck – always at his least convincing when attempting to Rock Out – instead serves up a tepid, grungey, downright BORING din, of no discernible purpose. (3)

Tony Christie – Is This The Way To Amarillo?

A long, long time ago, I found something powerfully sexy about this, particularly the almighty pelvic thrust of the bridge section: “Sha la la, la la, la la la, THWACK! BOOSH!” [Hey, I was too young for Elvis.] However, any residual erotic charge has now been thoroughly defused by Peter Kay’s Comic Relief video: admittedly delightful, but distinctly detumescent. I hope all of this makes Christie a bob or two, though; he deserves to be remembered as more than a chicken-in-a-basket Tom Jones. (10)

G4 – Bohemian Rhapsody

If Frasier and Niles Crane had ever attempted to form a pop group, with Gil Chesterton the restaurant critic and Noel the trekkie dragged in to make up the numbers, then this extravagantly baroque folly is probably what it would have sounded like. [“Ooh! Ooh! I know! Let’s replace those vulgar electric guitars with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra!”] With a shining-eyed sincerity of purpose and an innocence of its own ridiculousness which borders on the heroic, what could so easily have been unlistenable dreck is instead elevated to the realms of High Camp. (8)

Jem – They

Great choice of sample: a jaunty, Swingle-ing Sixties affair. So great, that it all but carries the rest of the song along in its slipstream. Take the sample away, and you’re left with a slight, disposable piece, with just about enough residual breezy charm to get away with it this time. (7)

John Legend – Used To Love U 

Nice jazz piano, nice Stevie Wonder-style massed choral wailings, nice dinner-party R&B vibe. All very Paying Due Homage To Classic Soul Roots, all very Guest Spot On All Star Quincy Jones Project, all very Rebirth Of The Cool/Jazz Café/Straight No Chaser/Trevor Nelson inna 1994 style. If this WAS 1994, this would have been my single of the week, no question. But we move on, don’t we? (6)

Mars Volta – Widow

Last time I ran across this lot, they were all squiddly-widdly neo-prog-metal eight-minute workouts of overweening extravagance and excess. Not for me, but admirable for its aspirations. On the strength of this disappointingly straightforward clod-hop, they seem to have settled for being Muse, albeit leavened with a smidgeon of Rush. Admittedly, there is a small soupçon of squiddly-widdliness towards the end, but it’s still too little, too late. (6)

Queens Of The Stone Age – Little Sister

Boring generic plod is redeemed firstly by an attractive incidental “NEE-NA NEE-NA” guitar figure, and secondly by a pleasurably intense-yet-musicianly guitar freakout climax thing. (5)

Shapeshifters – Back To Basics

In which the Shapeshifters resort to the time-honoured ploy of following up a major dance crossover hit by jiggling its constituent parts around a bit, putting them back together again in a different order, and attempting to pass them off as a brand new song. Such timidity inevitably leads to diminishing returns. Have we learnt nothing from Rednex? (6)

Gwen Stefani ft. Eve – Rich Girl

The namechecks for haute couture designers. The wholesale vampiric appropriation of a semi-digested sub-cultural youth phenomenon type thingy, but hey, it’s JAPANESE! and hence unimpeachable mm-KAY? Big wigs, big gowns, fit dancers, The Gays All ADORE ME You Know. Little smidge of a Jew-cool sensibility tossed into the Pan-Eurasian stew. Big fuckoff production job, to mask that tinny little Minnie Mouse helium squeak of yours. All lingering memories of those naff old AOR power ballads firmly snuffed out, because now you’re so achingly Zeitgeist that it HURTS, missy. Gwen Stefani is the continuation of Madonna by other means. Discuss. (5)

T.I. – Bring ‘Em Out

There’s a fantastic sense of momentum to this big dumb booty-shaking bits-wiggling beer-blasting juggernaut of a monster monster party tune. Is this what the youngsters are calling ‘crunk’, or does this bear as much resemblance to the genre as the Boomtown Rats did to punk? Rather than risk betraying my ignorance, I’ll simply dub this a ‘Jump Around’ for the 2000s, and move swiftly on. (9)