Mike Atkinson

Stylus Singles Jukebox, 17th January 2006

Posted in singles reviews, Stylus by Mike A on January 17, 2006

Arctic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down 

Yeah well I wouldn’t expect a bunch of smartarse Heard It All Before Darling clapped-out soft-as-shite arty-farty PONCES to understand the TOTAL FOOKIN KICK-ARSE GENIUS of the UK’s BRIGHTEST HOPE IN YEARS blah blah authentic sound of the streets blah blah telling it like it is in Tony B.Liar’s Nightmare Britain blah blah we don’t need no fat cat record labels blah blah the kidz are all-REET etc etc (cont’d next week’s NME, pages 1-94). Oh, look here. Spontaneous grassroots movement or tightly orchestrated conspiracy: I really, truly couldn’t give a shit. At least, not when the end product is as powerful and as pure as this raw-as-fuck kitchen-sink mini-drama, spinning its tale of a Sheffield prostitute and her leery “scumbag don’t you know” punter to maximum effect. Because when all is said and done, some young UK guitar bands have just Got It, and not having to sit down and analyse WHY they’ve got it is all part and parcel of their appeal. (7)

Mark Owen – Hail Mary

Although, on one level, it’s kind-of admirable that Little Marky has managed to sustain a tolerably successful solo recording career over the ten year period since the demise of Take That, one really has to wonder why, with the big reunion tour only three months away, he still feels the need to bother hawking such pedestrian fare as this. The big fat cheques are as good as written, dammit! So go brush up on your dance routines, and spare us this risible, James-Blunt-sings-Coldplay, Gustav Klimt referencing turgidity! (2)

Ashlee Simpson – L.O.V.E. 

Hang about, wasn’t Ashlee supposed to be the “edgy” Simpson sister, all pouts and sulks and Keeping It Real’s and This Is Me’s? In which case, why has she suddenly regressed from Goth Teen to Sleepover Party Girl? I thought Ashlee’s thing was all about Evolving And Growing As An Artist, not desperately hammering the pre-teen demographic because everyone else saw through her the last time round. Frankly, if I was a pre-teen Sleepover Party Girl, I’d feel a little insulted. Anyway, by far and away the worst feature of this would-be anthem to latter-day Girl Powah is its infuriating speak-and-spell chorus, of such desperate inanity that it would disgrace the compositional skills of a four-year old. I mean, does anybody—even the girlies dumb enough to sign up for Ashlee’s Gang in the first place—really need to be prompted with the letters L and O twenty-eight times in the space of one chorus? What is this, remedial class? Educational and fun, in the same way that a Krispy Kreme is nutritional and tasty. (1)

The Veronicas – Everything I’m Not 

Bloody Hell, it’s “Since U Been Gone” Part Two! Same stuttering one-note guitar figure underpinning the verse, same quiet-loud-quiet-loud dynamic, same vocal timbre, same defiant end-of-the-affair, screw-you-Jack, I-will-survive sentiment, same general Avril-does-Interpol stylings… how DARE these CHARLATANS get away with it? Possibly because “Everything I’m Not” was written and produced by Max Martin and Dr. Luke—the same team who were responsible for, er, “Since U Been Gone”. So that’s all right then? No, not really. While Clarkson’s effort felt refreshingly formula-busting, and in some sense (however artfully contrived) personally liberating for Clarkson, this merely feels like reductive I’ll-buy-me-some-of-that hackwork: re-casting last year’s smart breakthrough as this year’s dumb orthodoxy. (2)

Cat Power – The Greatest 

There’s something about the arrangement of this stately, gently regretful ballad—the strings, the little touches of tremolo twang, the overall sense of space—which puts me in mind of an Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack for a David Lynch film, sometime in the early 1990s. Julee Cruise or even Chris Isaak could have performed this, positioned in front of an old-fashioned radio microphone, shimmering in gold lurex, caught by a single blue spotlight, with a backdrop of crimson velvet, on the stage of a half-empty supper club in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, this has the sort of elegantly classy soulfulness which I hadn’t previously associated with Cat Power, and it would be good if it found an audience beyond her customary indie-folk niche. (That KT Tunstall, she could spare a few for starters.) (8)

Belle & Sebastian – Funny Little Frog 

Ten years ago, this breezy, brassy, infectiously chirpy little ditty would have slotted in perfectly between Baby Bird and the Boo Radleys on the Radio One Breakfast Show. (“Holly Hotlips, is that not a great record?” “It’s a great record, Chris.”) Its trajectory would have been clearly defined: teatime slot on TFI Friday, straight in at Number Eight on Sunday, bosh slap wallop, job’s a good ‘un. What simpler, happier times. Ten years on, we look through a hall of mirrors: at a bunch of reformed indie shamblers in their thirties evoking 1996 Britpoppers in their twenties, in turn evoking the sort of British bubblegum which would have held sway while they were all in infancy. In other words: two fondly re-imagined Golden Ages for the price of one. Thus, for all the charming optimism on display, it’s difficult not to feel a certain wistfulness: for a time when this truly would have been Pure Pop for Now People, rather than Meta Pop for Ipod People who still feel a bit guilty about tuning into Radio Two at the weekend. (7)

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