Mike Atkinson

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 27th June 2005

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on June 27, 2005

Towers Of London – Fuck It Up

Ye gods, is no stone from the early 1980s to be left unturned? Clearly not, as Towers Of London remorselessly exhume the festering corpse of the “Punk’s Not Dead movement”, with a rudimentary, Gumby-voiced, four-chord clodhopper which leaves you longing for the delicate, nuanced touch of a Chelsea or a Sham 69. Praise the Lord and pass the Boots “Country Born” hair gel! Older readers will know of what I speak. (4)

Royksopp – Only This Moment

Oh, is that Erlend Oye sharing the vocals with the breathy chick? (Sorry, can’t be arsed to Google. It’s the heat.) As far as I know, this is the first time Royksopp have ever put out a fully fledged Song, with, like verses and stuff. Well, I say “fully fledged”, but this actually comes over as half-assed, underworked, and… sorry to say it… generically Habitat coffee-table. Which, for all their warm, accessibly melodic user-friendliness, is a trap which Royksopp have always narrowly avoided falling into. Until now. In a word: drippy. (6)

The Tears – Lovers 

If this had come out in 1993, when Suede were my favourite band, then I’d have given it 9, easy. However, all the admittedly fantastic guitar work in the world still can’t disguise the fact that The Tears are, essentially, a grudging marriage of convenience between two slightly desperate thirtysomethings, faking it for the early nostalgia market. Nevertheless, Anderson and Butler do carry this one off with a reasonable degree of verve and panache – and if nothing else, it has to be a distinct improvement on the curdling non-event that was “Refugees”. (7)

Charlotte Church – Crazy Chick

Considering what a big deal has been made of Charlotte Church’s desire to be seen as a contemporary young miss, with her finger on the pulse of today’s pacey teen scene, it comes as quite a surprise to find her paddling in such explicitly Shania Twain-esque waters with this, her début solo single. It’s a jolly enough little tune, with its nifty horn stabs and its knowingly tongue-in-cheek self-references, but it all sounds determinedly pitched at the mums and dads. In this respect, maybe the erstwhile “voice of an angel” hasn’t changed her spots as much as we might have expected. (7)

The Faders – Jump

“You say you need me… WHATEVER! WHATEVER! I’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!” With this agreeably bratty pop-rockin’ sugar rush, the follow-up to the awesome “No Sleep Tonight”, The Faders prove once again that they are a) a Very Good Thing Indeed, and b) the nearest we have to a home-grown version of Estonia’s mighty Vanilla Ninja. Whatever the song lacks in melodic variety, the inventively detailed widescreen production and the leather-jacketed, fist-pumping Quatro/Jett attitude more than make up for it. (8)

Sons & Daughters – Taste The Last Girl

I’m sorry that Sons & Daughters have seen fit to turn their back on the gothic country rockabilly of last year’s Love The Cup, in favour of a more straightforwardly rocking NME-friendly post-punkiness. A natural, organic development, or a market-influenced volte face? Either way, this feels like reverse evolution, and I’m left feeling let down by a band who, only a year ago, promised so much. (6)

Mario – Here I Go Again

This is going to hang around all summer, isn’t it? Goodness, what a depressing prospect. The equally all-conquering “Let Me Love You” was lame but liveable-with, up to a point. However, this freze-dried, vacuum-packed microwave ready meal of lyrical dreariness and wearying “rock influenced” stodge is going to have me reaching for the remote for weeks. (3)

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 21st June 2005

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

Michael Woods and Judge Jules – So Special 

Was there any manual human input in this at all, or did they just activate the randomiser on the trancebot? (2)

The Juan MacLean – Tito’s Way 

And I’m normally such a sucker for trendy shite. (5)

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 13th June 2005

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on June 13, 2005

Shakin’ Stevens – This Ole House 

Look: this man used to play left-wing benefit gigs! He physically assaulted a young Richard Madeley on live kids’ TV! He nearly co-headlined a punk/ted “stop the violence” unity gig with the Sex Pistols! To say nothing of his glittering career with Fulchester Rovers in Viz! In short: Shakey used to be HIP, dammit. So let’s show a little RESPECT, kids! Word to the Godfather! (6)

Jem – Just A Ride

Zoe’s “Sunshine On A Rainy Day” … Soho’s “No Hippy Chick” … One Dove’s “Breakdown” … there’s something about this which evokes fond memories of a long-forgotten strain of early 90’s pop. Maybe it’s a certain sensibility in the melody. Maybe it’s the way that Jem’s summer-breezing insouciance is underpinned by that jiggling, rolling, midtempo groove. But whatever it is, I welcome it back with open arms. (8)

The Long Blondes – Appropriation (By Any Other Name)

An acquaintance of mine, who promotes small but carefully chosen showcase gigs up and down the country, came rushing up to me in a bar about four months ago, with the names of three hot new bands on his eager lips. Of these three, the Magic Numbers are already safely on their way to becoming this year’s Thrills, the unusually young Fear Of Music remain an unknown quantity – but on the strength of this cracking little tune (imagine Elastica fronted by a blend of Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux), the admirably precocious Long Blondes could out to be the pick of the bunch. I particularly commend them for being precocious enough to stuff “Appropriation” full with loads of slightly unwieldy Big Words, thus re-introducing a vocabulary which is well outside the range of most – if not all – of the current crop of young guitar bands. One suspects that Morrissey would approve. (9)

Patrick Wolf – Wind in the Wires

Oy! Give it a rest, Wordsworth! “Like a bird, in an ay-vyer-rrree”, croons Patrick, oh so earnestly, with a preciousness of diction which constantly teeters on the brink of absurdity. “Singing to the sky, just singing to be free-uh.” At which point, you wish someone would just revoke his Bad Poetry Licence, and bundle him off to a retreat for six months with a copy of the Antony & The Johnsons album. Because although there’s nothing wrong with pseudo-literary effeteness per se (indeed, I would defend it to the death), it really needs to be founded on something a good deal more substantial than this kind of vapid, swooning self-regard. (5)

Bark Psychosis – 400 Winters 

What sweet relief it is to stumble across a single which, instead of frantically trying to assert itself all over the place, is merely content to evoke. In this case, what is evoked is a kind of gauzy, shimmering midsummer haze: a vaseline-smeared lens, through which one might catch glimpses of veiled nymphs cavorting in lush, verdant meadows, or dragonflies buzzing above still lily ponds, or… well, look, why don’t you tell me what you see? Yes, let that be your creative writing assignment for this week. Four hundred words on my desk by Friday lunchtime, please. (7)

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 6th June 2005

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on June 6, 2005

JoJo – Not That Kinda Girl

Copyright question: with Jojo having nicked the “repeating the same two notes over and over again” trick from R.Kelly – even using the same intervals as the chorus of “Ignition (remix)” – is there a valid plagiarism case to answer, bearing in mind that we’re only talking about two measly little notes? Or is this an all-purpose “public domain” interval – a kind of freeware R&B plug-in – which can legitimately be bandied about as liberally as the generic two-note “toasting” interval of late 1970s roots reggae? It’s a moot point, but I’m leaning towards the “freeware plug-in” point of view. Which doesn’t mean to say that Ilike hearing it plastered all over the place – but least I can try to be fair-minded about it. (6)

Saint Etienne – Side Streets 

I’ve been deliberately avoiding going anywhere near the forthcoming Saint Etienne album, as the anticipatory buzz has been so overwhelmingly positive that I don’t want to spoil the treat. And if this glorious piece of work is anywhere near indicative of the quality of the rest of the album, then it really is going to be a very special treat indeed. “Return to form” doesn’t even begin to describe it; this is the best Saint Etienne single since “He’s On The Phone”, at the very least – and maybe even since “Avenue”. Yes, that good. Simply put: the world is a significantly better place with this single in it. Sorry, am I over-selling? (10)

LCD Soundsystem – Disco Infiltrator 

Look, I have been successfully avoiding Forming A Position on the LCD Soundsystem album for months, and I’m bloody well not about to start now, just because someone has bunged out a fresh new promotional tool. It’s not the second coming, it’s not the emperor’s new clothes, it’s just… there. If I went to Trash, or The Cock, or Horsemeat Disco, or wherever it is that the Wacky Hairdo brigade go to these days, then this would probably have picked up all sorts of accumulated resonances over the months – which is all right and proper, and just as things should be. As it is, I’m just left trying to place myself into a suitably über-hip milieu in my head, but failing to make it past the door whore. What do you do, when you can’t place primarily social music into its correct context? In my case, you just say “Yeah, that LCD Soundsystem album, eh? Hmmm. Yeah. Totally.” – and file it away, played three times, on the “spare room in six months time” rack. (7)