Mike Atkinson

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 25th April 2005

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on April 25, 2005

Athlete – Half Light

Oh, Athlete: I came not to praise but to bury you, with your shining-eyed Christian-rock sincerity, and your I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Coldplay one-chord guitar chops, and your corporate-indie latter-day-Travis don’t-rock-the-boat nice-to-be-niceness, and your encapsulation of everything I thought I opposed with every fibre of my being… but then, BUT THEN, you have the bare-faced TEMERITY to come out with this thoughtfully crafted, deftly honed little gem of a single, with all sorts of pleasing little twists and turns and counterpoints and dissonances and smile-inducing moments along the way, and before you know it I’ve crossed this sort of invisible line and I find myself LOVING it, quite despite myself, and I can ABSOLUTELY picture this as soundtracking this year’s six-in-the-evening second-stage-at-Glastonbury defining moment that will see your album in the Top Five within the week, and… well… do NOT let this happen again, or there will be CONSEQUENCES, do you hear? (9)

Battle – Isabelle 

“Isabelle, you know me Isabelle, please don’t te-e-e-ell, on me.” Sorry, but that’s such a risibly crap way of starting a song that I can’t get very far beyond it. Lads! Have you ever had one of those auto-erotic episodes where you realise too late that you’re not actually in the mood at all, but you’re not going to give up either, and so you screw your eyes together and speed the action right up, in the hope that by simulating the frenzy of passion you’ll somehow fool your nervous system into thinking it’s genuine? No, me neither. But listening to this over-wrought but under-thought indie-boy bluster, I am at least afforded some sort of insight as to what it might feel like. (4)

Black Rock ft Debra Andrew – Blue Water

I know the weather’s been picking up a bit recently, but isn’t it still a bit early to be releasing sun-drenched Ibiza Anthems? Or maybe this is just designed to get you in a suitably anticipatory frame of mind, before you make that trip to the travel agents. Going anywhere nice this year? (5)

Clor – Love And Pain

“Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, you look a little lost and found.” Oh, this will do nicely. Warmly inviting, readily accessible, with the sort of XTC/Futureheads/Dogs Die In Hot Cars skinny-tied quirky-modern power-pop angularity that has yet to ossify into cliché (although I can feel that particular drawbridge being pulled up even as I type), this does its darndest to prompt me into saying “file under: promising” for the second week running. Resist! Resist! (8)

Destiny’s Child – Girl 

After two distressingly shit singles in a row, DC stage a welcome and spectacular return to form with this deliciously melodic, eminently believable, sisters-stand-together, take-it-from-me-he’s-a-bastard, you-KNOW-you-deserve-better, have-another-bite-of-cheesecake-and-let-it-all-out-girlfriend co-counselling session. Yes, of COURSE they’re all sitting round a lunch table in a swishy metropolitan eaterie in the video, in an overt homage to Sex And The City. What did you expect? Burger King? (8)

Helen Love – Debbie Loves Joey

“She was Debbie Harry, and he was Joey Ramone.” Ah, bless. An irrepressibly jaunty, irresistibly catchy retro-punky-poppy novelty ditty (suspiciously well enunciated, it has to be said), to which only the dourest anti-fun curmudgeon could form any meaningful objection. (7)

Le Tigre – After Dark

Never mind all this talk of early 1980s revivalism – more and more, I’m picking up strains of early Britpop in the air. Specifically Blur – and in this case, specifically “Girls And Boys”, whose chugging electro-pop dynamic is inescapably evoked throughout. This is slighter and poppier than the shouty didacticism which I know and like the best – and if its a stab at cracking the charts, then it’s doomed to failure – but having seen them play possibly the best small club gig I have ever witnessed, I can still forgive Le Tigre just about anything. (6)

Ludacris – Number One Slot

Yes! That’s much more like it! In stark contrast to the half-hearted mumblers of the last few weeks, there’s a refreshing vigour on display here, as Ludacris declaims with bombastic good humour over an inventive, jerkily staccato cut-up rhythm which will wrong-foot all but the slickest of movers. (7)

Mortiis – Decadent & Desperate

Huh? But I didn’t think they allowed proper card-carrying Death Metallers to use synths and drum machines? I dunno, first Nine Inch Nails go pop, and now this. Is nothing sacred? HERETICS! BURN THEM! BURN THEM FOR THEIR EVIL LIMP-WRISTED PRODIGY-INFLUENCED REVISIONISM! WE MUST STOP THIS CANCER! (5)

Raw Bud vs Roni Size – Rise Up! (The Punk Rock Anti-Mix)

Raw ragga toasting (from Sweetie Irie) PLUS clattering junglist drum patterns PLUS squalling rock guitar thrash EQUALS – well, one unholy racket if I’m being honest. “Ten out of ten for sheer exuberance and energy”, as my jolly old music teacher might have said in one of his more charitable moods – but I’m deducting five points for the recuperative Nurofen afterwards. One question remains: who exactly is this being aimed at? The thrash-rockers will take against the ragga; the junglists and ragga-heads will take against the thrash-rock; so who’s left standing? (5)

Rooster – You’re So Right For Me

Clean-cut boyband pop in 1974 hairy boogie-rock drag, and about as convincing as Melanie C in a Motorhead T-shirt – but proficiently done, and not without a certain redeeming sense of spirit and purpose. (Warning to well-meaning dads everywhere: this is NOT a cue for you to get your Thin Lizzy albums down from the attic. Your kids still won’t thank you for it.) (6)

Snoop Dogg ft Justin Timberlake – Signs

Ooh, Justin says “fuck”! Every single time I hear the opening bars of this sharp, sassy, slinky, sexy, immaculately funky piece of star-spangled disco-pop heaven, the sun comes out and the world instantly feels like a better place. Having been all over everywhere for the past God knows how many weeks, this already feels like a huge hit – and if it doesn’t dislodge Tony Christie after six weeks at Number One, then nothing else will. (10)

The Tears – Refugees

One of the great qualities of those early Suede singles was a sense of necessity – that somehow, they had to be made. There’s a sense of necessity here, too – but it stems not from youthful urgency, but from a tangible sense of mid-life desperation. For what else is there left for Anderson and Butler to do, other than stage that longed-for reunion, with its attendant promise of a return (for all concerned) to the glory days of 1993? Thus it is that “Refugees” dutifully reprises all the key elements of the classic Suede sound, in a proficient, workmanlike manner. And yes: Anderson hits the usual notes, and Butler trots out some of his characteristically tasty licks, and there’s a suitably anthemic quality to the proceedings – but I just don’t buy any of it, not for one moment. This is a pragmatic re-marriage of convenience, between two people who have merely swallowed hard and formed an acceptable working accommodation with each other – but without that crucial synergy, borne out of tension and friction, that has fuelled some of this country’s greatest songwriting partnerships, The Tears are doomed merely to create elegant but hollow facsimiles of their shared past. (6)

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