I've said this before, I'm sure, but IF you're in a band, and you're about to write a would-be hit single, and you want to avoid answering a whole heap of really idiotic questions when the time comes to promote it, PLEASE dont give your new song too interesting a title, eh?
Paolo Nutini must have been asked about when he last bought new shoes at least nine squintillion times by now, and Rihanna just plain WILL NOT talk about how she keeps dry in a downpour. These are the risks you take when you play games with being interesting in song title form.
The Trials of Being a Reviewer, Part 36: It's not always easy to separate a record from the drama that surrounds it. For example, if I were to try to review a Lily Allen single at this moment in time, I'd wonder if my opinion of it was skewed at all by her current spat with Cheryl Cole (especially since I'm totally Team Cheryl, just for the record). Likewise, it's quite hard to listen to the new Kelly Clarkson material objectively without remembering how this is the material that record label head honcho Clive Davis apparently wanted to chuck in the bin, and Kel had to fight tooth and nail to get released. I mean, I want to believe that Kelly was right, but that's a lot of pressure to put on a record, isn't it?
See this? This is the artwork for 'Puzzle', the new album by Biffy Clyro. Or Biffy Clyroid, as I can't seem to stop calling them. It just sounds like the kind of medical condition old people get, doesn't it? You can picture an elderly grandparent claiming not to be able to take a young child to the park today because "my biffy clyroid is playing up again...", can't you?
Just me then...ANYWAY, this is their new album cover. And as you can see, it's a picture which is crying out for a comedy caption. Something along the lines of "Well, guess I'd better pull myself together and get dressed", or "The moment first Kevin realised he was falling to pieces" or my favourite... "The worst stag night prank in history"...
If someone was to bring out a new loaf of bread which was a mild variation on the good old sliced-white, you'd expect it to sell pretty well, wouldn't you? And Breadmaker's Weekly would write a considered piece about just what it is that sets this new loaf apart from its yeasty brethren. Is it the texture of the slices, is it the soft malty aftertaste? Well whatever it is, it's certainly based in the butter-sponge realm of Things Which Are Bready In Form, right?
NOTE: Destroying McFly would be a terrible thing to do. Think about it, you destabilise the power-base at the top end of the boyband food-chain, and that just leaves room for the twin perils of a plague of Bel's Boys, or the re-emergence of the lesser spotted Westlife. But should your McFly infestation become overwhelming, well, you know what to do, OK?
Much as it will appall the rocksnobs to hear this, the Queens are always at their best when they garnish their swampy robo-rock with pretty pop melodies. Their last album 'Lullabies To Paralyse' was not over-blessed with such things, and so, even though it had riffs and 'tude, it had no spark, and was like being forced to eat nothing but bread and gravy every day forever.
Well, while she was there, Amy took the opportunity to...well...torture Andy. She blindfolded him, cruelly mocked him, and then forced him to identify a variety of random objects using only his sense of touch (and, in some of the grosser moments, taste and smell). And all in the name of a pop interview. Oh, the humanity!
Ah, the art of seduction is wonderful thing. You see someone, and they appear not to have really registered your presence. They're just getting on with their day, looking nice, but not OMG! HOTTIE nice, y'know? OK maybe there's a moment where eyes meet and twinkles are exchanged, but apart from that, it's just two people going about their business, entirely unaware that Cupid's minions are at that very moment using their internal organs for a dartboard. And yet before long, magical sparkles are appearing inside.
Have you ever been in a shop and thought 'I want ALL of these things. NOW,' and had to spend the next ten minutes deciding what item it is you're actually going to take away because money, unlike Truly Awesome Stuff, doesn't just appear in front of your eyes and then spent the next few days lusting for what you had to leave behind? Aside from being how a corrupt capitalist society is created, this is basically how Calvin Harris feels whenever he walks down the road.
In fancy eating circles, the sorbet is a deliberately sharp-tasting dish, a citrus-heavy, milk-free frozen dessert, which was created originally in France, to be served between the starter and the main course. The idea ran that the astringent zestiness would cleanse any lingering strong flavours from the mouth, in preparation for the gastronomic delights to come. It's a bit like eating a Skittles sour in between your onion rings and your burger, only much swankier.
Fame, she is a fickle beast. And she is no respector of talent either, being far more interested in wafty flim-flam like charisma and chiselled cheekbones than how brilliant you may be at playing your guitar. How shallow. And it's not like the fans are there to make you feel better either, they're even more obsessed with your sexy lead singer or your tormented songwriter or whatever. And here's you, years spent leaking blood down the fingerboard of your 'axe', getting your shred on in front of a full-length mirror. It's enough to make you very very grumpy, and no mistake.
Hey, what's that smell? Is it...it IS...it's sunscreen! And that bloke at the bus-stop was sneezing, and dabbing his runny eyes...and he was standing next to a lady with skin like a prawn cocktail, and great big white shoulder-stripes where her vest-top had been the day before...something's going on. Wait, what's this tune on the radio? It's that bloke who had that cold song about his fridge, right? But it's different, warmer, brighter, it casts long shadows late into the evening...wait a moment! IS IT NEARLY SUMMER? AT LAST!
This is Captain David Cole. He is not one of the Libertines' dads, nor is he wearing that uniform because military jackets are still really IN with the indie kids. No, David is dressed up like Jack White's butler because he's a member of the Central Band Of The Royal British Legion.
You may not be aware of the Central Band Of The Royal British Legion (or CeBanRoyBriLeg, to save space) and their many mighty works, but if I said they're a very good wind band (that's clarinets and oboes, not what YOU were thinking) and that they're the flagship band for the Royal British Legion, you'd be impressed, right?
Dance videos are amazing things, aren't they? Sexy ladies doing stuff, monkeys with human faces doing scientific experiments, weird rabbit-people doing...er...other weird rabbit-people...there's a lot to take in. And the music is often fairly easy to describe. SO, rather than another dance review which makes heavy use of the words 'dancefloor' and 'loop' and 'beats', here's a quick roundup of what is going on visually for two of the biggest dance *cough* 'choons' of the moment (made by two of the most mis-spelled choon-makers of the moment).
Step forward Mr Sincla(i)r, Mr Van Halen, the world is watching...
It's widely accepted now that 'Umbrella' is the finest example of a pop song that we have seen in many a long, Mika-riddled month. It's got poise, it's got class, it's got sadness, it's got warmth, it's got highs, lows, and it's got a bit where Jay-Z challenges Snoop Dogg's work with the Pussycat Dolls for the title of 'Most Can't Be Bothered Guest Rapper Ever Ever'.
So, you can imagine the excitement, earlier on this week, when ChartBlog unearthed some lost words down the back of the internet, claiming to be extracts from Rihanna's* studio diary. As you will see, none of the amazing things which are in this amazing song were there from the start....but, oddly enough, Jay-Z WAS...
This is Pete Doherty - you're aware of Pete Doherty, right? - back in 1997. He was queueing to buy a copy of Oasis's third album 'Be Here Now', and was caught by a film crew who wanted a Young Person's view of this Britpop phenomenon which was sweeping the nation at the time (and which would collapse and crash within seconds of this footage being shot).
There was a rumour circulating a while ago that the Arctic Monkeys songs weren't actually written by Alex Turner, and in fact were put together by this shadowy figure called The Reverend. The logic ran that a fresh-faced 19-year-old couldn't possibly be blessed with the sophisticated wordplay and vinegary eye for detail in the Monkeys tunes, and that such lyrics are clearly the work of the a older and wiser man. This, therefore, would make the Monkeys little more than an indie boyband and somehow spoil the goodness of their records.
Us music interviewer types are a hardy bunch. Come rain, shine, collapsing buildings or flying boulder attack, we will always be ready, always eager and always alert - microphone in one hand, list of stupid questions in the other - for the call to immediate interview action. How else could we get such Earth-shattering exclusives as 'What Lily Allen Said About Cheryl Tweedy That Time', or 'The Day Nelly Furtado Laughed Like She Is Mad', or 'Hey, Johnny Razorlight, You're Quite The Mirror-Kisser, Incha?'. In many ways we are like Trivia Ninjas, only without the years of training, or the ability to kill people without leaving a mark.
So, when the chance came up to interview Orlando Weeks from arty-indie boffins the Maccabees, I jumped at it, even though I had had very little sleep the night before (hey, the world of pop never sleeps, so why should ChartBlog, eh? Eh? Zzzz)
Twin mystifications are buried deep within the fabric of this song. That's not one, but TWO mighty puzzlements for seasoned pop-watchers to scratch their grizzled chins over. Which, in many ways, makes this song the musical equivalent of a really fiddly jigsaw puzzle, or a sex-heavy edition of one of those 'Where's Wally?' books (poor Wally..he looks ever so shocked...peeking out from behind the bed there...he's seen too much, really...quick, someone shout out "There's Wally!" and put him out of his misery...oh, he's crying now..)
PUBLIC SERVICE NOTE: It is well known that Matt and the boys have the benefit of all the latest technology, and are probably all timelords or something. However they are not DEFINITELY timelords, so should you ever need to rid the universe of this supermassive band of brainiacs, why not get friendly with a dalek? Be warned though, daleks can be a little grumpy, and just a touch kill-happy, so maybe just point the murderous pepperpot at Muse and then run like hell, OK?
Anti-climax is a terrible thing, isn't it? I mean we probably all WANT to believe that this lot are in some way the future of music...hell, there are those of us who would settle for them being the NOW of music. But everyone's fragile emotions have been stirred up by certain music publications (clue: En. Em. Y.) who can't possibly be seen to say that a new band are just alright, not when they could claim that their music could call the very heavens to rain down joy upon the earth for now and ever more.
I tell you what, I know exactly what Mims is on about. I'm hot all the time, me. Not hot like SEXYHOT hot (although, y'know, I have my moments...probably), or hot like 'suddenly massively fashionable' hot (what? move along, nothing to see here), but hot as in constantly too warm. I don't know what it is, some internal thermostat thing, but I'm literally ALWAYS a bit too warm, even when it's snowing.
Ah, Marilyn Manson, soundtrack to a generation of slightly confused teenagers, some considerably more confused than others. Still at least, you know where you are with him - half a foot off the ground in platform heels and screaming your elaborate make up right off. Sometimes you are in the '80s doing covers, sometimes you are in the mid-to-late-'90s scaring people's parents and sometimes you are going through a slightly uninspired period in the last decade but people like you anyway, just because. Sometimes you're married to a burlesque artist, sometimes you're dating a girl half your age, sometimes you're a director and sometimes you're an artist but mostly, you've just got to know where your eyeliner is. That and y'know, not actually take it all too seriously because it's just possible there might be some IRONY involved.
History is littered with examples of things which are a bad idea. The Nazi invasion of Russia, trench warfare, hang-gliding over live volcanoes, Chico...as a species, we humans revel in our own imperfections and mistakes, right? Well, break out the champagne and crack open a box of Maltesers, we've got some SERIOUS revelling to do, people!
It seems that in their finite wisdom, Maroon 5 have unveiled a hitherto hidden nonsensical side to their nature, as they've elected to call their new album 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long'.
Let's just take another look at that, it's a little hard to take in, first time around.
The new Maroon 5 album will be called 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long'...
There will always be certain things about the record-buying public that confuse me, like how Rihanna achieves global superstar status while Rachel Stevens is sitting at home waiting for someone to invite her to the opening of a new jar of coffee, when they both appear to have taken the same career path - pretty, nice-but-dull girl sings amazing songs with slightly underwhelming voice. But then, perhaps this is an issue stemming from my disappointment that 'Unfaithful' could've been so much better if sung by someone like Kelly Clarkson who has the vocal chops for it, rather than making us aware of Rihanna's vocal limitations.
Earlier this week I spoke to the very talkative Ryan Jarman from indie firebands the Cribs about a number of exciting things. What it's like to have a video banned in this day and age, how hard it is to make a video with a nude lady in it without seeming sexist, and how rubbish it is to make a video just so that you can get it banned (which they did NOT do, OK?).
What's standard protocol upon leaving a hugely successful girl band? Oh yeah, make everyone forget about them by bringing out a MEGA comeback single, followed by a MEGA comeback album, plus MEGA tabloid coverage, achieving global success in the process. That's the Robbie way. Shame Mutya's sticking to the Sugababe plan of action, following in Siobhan Donaghy's footsteps into the realm of 'should-be-bigger former girlband star'...
JellyBack! This is actress Sallie Toussaint, who some of you may know from the Leonardo Di Caprio film The Departed. She's got something a way with words, particularly when discussing Justin Timberlake, and her talents are such that one regular ChartBlog contributor was moved to comment "I have no idea who this woman is, but I want her to be my new best friend"...
She told Smooth magazine: "After the Janet thing where he didn't step up, I stopped liking him. He could have helped tremendously by just being a man, but he didn't. He ripped her top and ran.
Timberwuss is quite the fairy. He needs to man up!"
Yeah! Less Sexyback, more HairyBack, right girls? Girls?
So, you're sat on a park bench with your mates, or in a pub garden, or on a bus, or on a long train. Everyone's gone a bit quiet and no-one can think of anything good to talk about. It's boring, innit? Well, this is when the ChartBlog Chocolate Ready-Reckoner comes into play - a must for any awkwardly quiet social occasion.
Way back in the history of what we now call modern music, a good way to test whether a new song was any good or not was to play it to someone over 20. If they screwed their face up, held their ears and started moaning on about how it was too loud and you couldn't really hear the words, or mention something about a nice tune that you could whistle...then the song was a definite hit and 'The Kids' would all break into their piggy banks and then rush out and buy it (as soon as the shops opened).
OK, so I'm a day or two late with this...but sometimes you need to mull things over a bit before you commit finger to keypad, and anyway, stuff's happened since...
There's been a load of what your gran would call 'hoo-hah' on the web and in the press about Lily Allen and how she seems to be following Robbie / Britney / Lindsay down the path of becoming too self-conscious to live. She put up a posting on her MySpace blog a couple of days ago, in the midst of having read a bunch of nasty comments about herself on the web (one of which was from Cheryl Tweedy). It wasn't a long posting, but it made for disturbing reading...
Sometimes, life can be very complex in terms of likes and dislikes; you know there are things which you don't have any good reasons for liking but you do anyway. Sometimes these things are very, very wrong and not at all the sort of thing which Chartblog would condone but sometimes they're completely harmless pastimes that are, for whatever reason, socially unacceptable. For instance, peeling PVA glue off your fingers - you shouldn't like it, it ought to be annoying but it's got a strange fascination to it that essentially makes it completely ace. In this sense, this song is the PVA glue on the hands of the music world.
New horizons in showing off have been reached this very afternoon with the news that anyone who has made a YouTube or MySpace video of themselves doing 'talented' things can put them up on a new site set up by the rapper Mims.
The site - thisiswhyimhot.co.uk - is a thinly-veiled promotional affair for the new Mims single, also called 'This Is Why I'm Hot' (ChartBlog review coming soon), but it's kind of fun in that there's a Top 5 of rated videos, just like the REAL Top 5, only in video form...and it's all next to a really big picture of the man himself.
Plus, some of the videos they've got up and the moment are RUBBISH, so yours is definitely going to win.
Yep, you read that right. In the week Scooch scored 12 points in Eurovision, they're Top 5 over here. Well, at least you can't accuse the British public of failing to support our pop troops in a conflict situation...
Only an idiot would call their song 'Everything Is Average Nowadays' if it was anything less than brilliant. The artists that give themselves the right to pass a lofty judgement such as this must be in possession of a mighty song indeed. Standing on high with their trousers down, preparing to drop the MOTHERLOAD on the mediocrity that lies beneath.
With an opening riff that you wish The Strokes could still write, The Cribs' first offering from their third album negotiates a conundrum that's been around since time began - the differences between a man and a woman. And not just the biological ones either, even though there's a naked lady in the video (and some unconvincing cartoon violence too).
I can't pretend there's any great inspiration or art that goes into writing questions for pop interviews. Sometimes all that needs to be done is to sit for a while, letting an artist's name or the name of their song roll over your tongue a few times while you think of puns. Where there IS an element of expertise is in making sure you're not asking questions which make you look bad to the person you're interviewing. This is especially true when the band's name is as explicit as Booty Luv. Anything that suggests sexual malarkey or an appreciation of back-end curves - while hilarious in theory - could be kind of hard to explain away when your star interviewee wonders aloud what kind of pervert you are, and if you're setting a bad example for any teenagers listening...
Is Sophie Ellis Bextor approaching music from a different angle to everyone else? I only ask because once again she has come out with a song in which the melody seems to run backwards, and I can't work out why. I mean it's not like there are strict musical laws which dictate which way a series of notes should run for maximum effectiveness, not ones you should take more than a passing interest in, anyway. And yet here's Sophie's latest, and it seems somehow to defy the fabric of reality itself.
When you go and see your favourite band or singer do their thing in the live arena, you'll have noticed that there's often a couple of pushed together trestle-tables, with a big softboard thing behind it. Well, you probably won't have noticed the tables and board as much as the T-shirts, badges, posters, support band DVDs, wristbands and general band-related tat someone has pinned up, next to little brightly-coloured signs with nice round numbers on, like '£15' next to a T-shirt, or '£25' next to a hoodie. This, younger readers, is the 'merch' stall, and it will allow you to feel really close to your musical heroes by wearing them upon your body.
HEALTH AND SAFETY ALERT! There are scenes within the video to this song which are frankly hazardous to anyone of a non-rock star nature, and as such should NOT be attempted, unless under the direct supervision of someone like Gene Simmons or that bloke out of Aerosmith. Put simply, playing your brand new rock epic in a leaky cellar is just asking for trouble...and standing under a burst pipe while wearing an electric guitar - albeit one which is clearly not plugged in - well there's foolhardy and then there's just plain stupid.
Something strange is happening. A vortex of attraction has appeared between two of the former members of *NSYNC, and the biggest, most iconic blonde-bombshell singer/actresses of the past 60 years. And it's all just a little bit Scooby-Do creepy, truth be told.
Ah, the party DJ – what a legend. There seem to be two key types that you’re greeted with at a disco these days. If you’re lucky you get the one that keeps you dancing ALL night, until you can’t feel the bottoms of your feet, and you lose your voice from singing along extremely badly to the cheesy, chart-friendly hits.
But then there are also the DJs that don’t get it quite right, ‘Love Actually’ springs to mind (‘Puppy Love’ at a wedding and all that). This is why I feel it is our duty to at least give them a slight prod in the right direction when it comes to picking a good-un.
They may like to dress in army cast-offs and swan about like generals in a mighty army of ROCK WARRIORS...but are our chart-bound guitar-swingers really any cop when it comes to the art of battle?
Well, duh! OBVIOUSLY not. Still, here's an idea of how a music-based skirmish could go, based on nothing but pure conjecture and the fun of mucking about with band names...
No. 5: Invasion Of The Manic Street Preachers
Well, every battle has to start somewhere, and who better to kick off Pop War than a bunch of mouthy Welsh agitators with a knack for annoying as many people as they entertain? Things begin to escalate when the powers-that-be receive the news that there are wild-eyed Celts in our towns, spreading their radical agenda to the nation's youth...even though the actual nation's youth are by actually far too busy dyeing their hair black and pretending to be Gerard Way to actually listen to whatever Lanky, Stumpy and Shouty Street Preacher have to say for themselves. Even so, Lord Sir General Twiddly of Moustache will have called an emergency meeting of the Old Guard Committee to discuss how best to see off this threat to our way of life. And the decision will have been unanimous. We need an enemy!
There are times when you can tell on first listen what effect a song is going to have on you for the rest of your life. Sometimes this is because you always get a bit weepy and sentimental when you hear one of those songs which promises to look after you when you're fed up, sometimes this is because extraordinarily loud guitars are always a pick-me-up, and sometimes it's because you've heard some songs in an artist's back catalogue so many times on the radio, you can just see how annoying their new stuff will eventually become.
See that? That's My Chemical Romance doing what they do best - rocking the house, causing mayhem and devastation, raising the roof and generally blowing up a storm. And that fella at the back with arrows on him, that's MCR's drummer Bob Bryar.
Now, the tale I'm about to tell you is perhaps a little hard to believe, and certainly the kind of thing that might make a hardened MCR fan want to smash up their computer screen with envy...but it is a true story. And it is a good story. And it goes a little something like this...
Okay, first of all, can we have a moment's silence as a mark of respect for arguably the best song title of the millennium? It's like all those overwrought emo song titles, except it's funny and cheeky and kind of wilfully non-sequitural - which is excellent preparation for the song itself. Shall we move on?
Imagine a world where *NSYNC still existed. Now imagine that not only were they their usual amazing selves but that they had an army of indie kids buoying them towards amazing levels of fame and success. And that they had called their album 'Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!'
Poetry analysis is, to be fair, not the sort of thing you usually associate with brilliant pop records. As a rule, it's more what you associate with English Language GCSE and while there's nothing wrong with that per se, there are times when we all feel a little constrained by expectations to sample 80's hair metal on your pop music and not analyse the lyrics of 'More Than A Feeling' by Boston on your GCSE. Hurrah for Jamie T, then.
You know how sometimes you think you know someone, and you think you know all you NEED to know about them, and then they change something about themselves...it could be a new haircut, it could be a new hat...and suddenly it's like you've never even met them before, even though it's also clearly the same person you've always known?
Well, that's what's happened with Beverley Knight. She's always been an ambassador for British R&B, and possessor of a fine pair of singing lungs, and that seemed to be enough to be getting on with, right? Well, clearly not.
Oh what a RELIEF! If any band needed to try and spend a bit of time in front of a mirror working out what it is they do best, it's the Chili Peppers. After the monolithic weight of IMPORTANCE surrounding their 2-CD opus 'Stadium Arcadium', and a bunch of heartfelt, but slightly over-serious singles (with some REALLY drab videos), it was starting to look like they were suffering a terrible case of fun-depletion. Not so awful if you're, say, Keane, but this is the Chili Peppers...fun is their musical backbone. You could even say they're fun-da-mental...(sorry!).
Being a pop star is clearly a lot harder than it looks. It takes a special kind of person to look good while jumping up and down like a happy meercat on a hotplate. It takes an even more special kind of person to do that and sing at the same time, without getting puffed out or sweating too much. And it takes an EVEN MORE special kind of person to do all this and make it look like fun and not aerobics.
That's before we even factor in stuff like 'talent', 'charisma' and 'having the X-Factor'...
Strange times in the JoJo camp. Six months ago, you'd have been forgiven for assuming she was WAY over and headed for reality TV 'please love me again' hell. Then came 'Too Little, Too Late', a song which had a longer life than some family pets. So you'd think she'd be ready to back this up with something equally special, right?
Y'know that Gym Class Heroes song 'Cupid's Chokehold'? The one with Patrick Stump pretending to be a member of '70s pre-Feeling rock ledges Supertramp and singing about his girlf and that? Well, have you noticed that it's actually called 'Cupid's Chokehold (Breakfast In America)'?
This is because the original Supertramp song Patrick is singing is called 'Breakfast In America', see. Presumably there has been some heated discussion between Supertramp's legal team and GCH's about what you can get away with calling a song if you've nicked bits of another song in order to make it, and the brackets are what passes for an elegant compromise.
If nobody minds, I'd like to give you a quick breakdown of my initial reaction to this song, before I knew anything else about it: "Hmm, strummy strummy, this is pleasant enough...wait, that sounds like Nina Persson...this isn't the Cardigans, is it? No, because now there's a bloke singing. OMG, have they split? Aarg! Oh, it's the Manic Street Preachers. How interesting. Golly, Nina Persson has a lovely voice, doesn't she? Sigh."
You know how sometimes you read a quote in a news story, and you realise that it'll just have been some drunken moment, or worse, entirely made up, but yet it still makes your head throb with TOTAL RAGE and you want to SMASH THINGS into SMALL PIECES and them STAMP the SMALL PIECES into the CARPET and then NOT HOOVER THEM UP...yeah?
It's very simple. Music is an excellent way of conveying emotion from one person to another. But some emotions are easier to get across than others. Sadness is relatively easy to do, musically. But happiness is not. This is because the big themes of sadness are the same for all of us - rejection, failure, despair, the bit in Dumbo when his mum is locked up. But finding common ground for happiness is much harder. Some people find it in cuddles, some like making their friends laugh, and some like sitting quietly with a cup of earl grey and a macaroon. How is one song supposed to cover all that? Eh?
Rock controversy alert! Where previous FFAF releases dealt out equal handfuls of twiddle-riffery and yelping (newbies are directed to 'She Drove Me To Daytime Television' as a good example), this is a definite step away from the safety of metalworld and towards...what's the word?...classic rock?...tunefulness? No! Daytime radio play! That's it.
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