Archives for April 2010

Alicia Keys - 'Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:08 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

Alicia Keys

Oh no, you're not catching me out like this again, Ms Keys. Credit where it is due, you did a very good job of sneaking your way into the record books by putting out the un-hip hop version of one of the biggest hip hop hits of the year. And yes, what that did was to force cultural commentators such as myself (I've got a badge and everything) to either review the same song twice, or pretend it isn't happening.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me any more than three times, and you have to wonder if I'm deliberately pretending to be fooled because you're being filmed for Facejacker or something.

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Mini Viva - 'One Touch'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:12 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

Mini Viva

Oh blimey charlie, this will not do at all. Look away! Look away now!

The lyrics, the filthy filthy lyrics...well they're so rude they should not be listened to be anyone ever. I'm probably breaking several of the BBC's strictest rules by even talking about them. I've already said too much. Even now, the innuendo police are probably strapping on their highly-polished truncheons, shiny helmets at the ready, desperate to give me a really good seeing-to.

So you can forget reading any of the disgusting obscenities here on the blog. I'd be run out of town on a rail, and I don't even LIVE there. Don't even ask. I won't do it. No way. Nope. Nien.

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Pendulum - 'Watercolour'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I give in. I can't feel what other people feel when they listen to this band. I get why it's fantastic that a group with rock sensibilities should be so transparently in thrall to the wonders of drum 'n' bass. I get that this is a crossover which really works, a way of stepping on the toes of rockbores and geeing up a nation of thrill-hungry ravers who live for the rollercoaster ride, up and down those musical peaks and troughs. As a live act, you'd struggle to call it between them and Enter Shikari for sonic punishment and audience berzerkitude.

I even get why those damned vocoders are such an essential part of the band's arsenal. Crank this up, louder than it is possible for volume to go, and you will want to throw all four limbs in as many different directions as there are, including inwards.

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Sophie Ellis Bextor - 'Bittersweet'

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Fraser McAlpine | 08:26 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Sophie Ellis Bextor

Have you ever taken the time to appreciate what a spectacularly good pop star Sophie Ellis Bextor is? She's got all the human qualities we tend to admire in real people - can take a joke, doesn't seem to consider herself a tortured artiste, has a happy marriage - but it's all wrapped up in a certain...otherness.

That voice is kind of striking, for a kick off: frosty and cold on the outside, but boiling with passion underneath. She's an anti-arctic roll, throatally speaking. And while there's no doubt as to her beauty and charm, she also looks a bit like an oil painting which has miraculously come to life. Lovely to look at, but somehow troubling too. These are all plus points, by the way.

And unlike Lady GaGa, who has to really work with the costumes and makeup to create the same effect, Sophie's otherness is marrow deep. She's a naturally unnatural pop star.

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Roll Deep ft. Jodie Connor - 'Good Times'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:10 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

Roll Deep

I've had this CD in my bag for weeks: played it too. It's never been the first one into the ChartBlog CD player of a morning, and never the one that gets a couple of repeat plays before moving on to something else, but it does get played, it does get a warm reaction when it comes on, and this is why it has yet to be introduced into the Fruitbowl of Ruin on my desk.

This is no small achievement, and should be treated as the sincere accolade it clearly is.

(You can probably guess what the Fruitbowl of Ruin is for. Currently there's no fruit in it, it would have to be cut into VERY thin slices in order to fit in between all of the CDs. There's a lot of ruinous music around, sadly.)

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Taio Cruz ft. Ke$ha - 'Dirty Picture'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:41 UK time, Friday, 23 April 2010

Taio Cruz and Ke$ha

Two things before we get into the cut and thrust of whether this is a good song or not a good song. One relevent, one...less so:

1: Ke$ha needs to release 'Dinosaur' as a single. She's already got people's backs up about whether she's a great new pop talent or a pretend drunkard with personal hygiene issues as it is, so it's not like she has anything to lose. And putting out a Daphne & Celeste sort of song has to be the best kind of "stuff you, grandad!" stunt since the invention of punk rock. She would gain everything and lose nothing. Unless it's not a hit, of course.

2: I've finally figured out what was bugging me about Katy Perry's 'I Kissed A Girl'. Y'know the bit where she sings "don't mean I'm IN love to-NIGHT", and the stresses fall in all the wrong places? That's so easy to fix. All she'd have to do is add an extra syllable, and sing "don't mean that I'M in LOVE to-NIGHT". You might not be able to get what I'm driving at from the text alone, but trust me, it works.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, Taio Cruz...

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The Big Pink - 'Tonight'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:16 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Big Pink

ChartBloggerers, you join us at a very delicate moment; things are in balance, choices are about to be made, important choices that will change (some) people's lives forever more. There's no doubt about it, things are about to change, and it's not clear which path fate is going to decide to saunter along, whilstling giddily like a sailor on shore leave. The times are pregnant with possibility, and we don't yet know if the baby's gonna be a boy, or a girl, or a warthog.

I'm not talking about the election, you understand, this is FAR more important than silly old politics. I'm worried about how the Big Pink are going to survive in the big world, now they've shot their TV-ad bolt.

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Adam Lambert - 'For Your Entertainment'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:21 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert is someone for whom the expression 'don't judge a book by its cover' takes on so many layers of meaning it might as well be a trifle. So far, the Instant Damning Judgement buttons he has hammered include: being an American Idol contestant (THE NERVE!), being a pop star who likes the classic rock music (HOW DARE HE?) being unapologetically, comfortably gay in public (WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE KIDDIES?) and hitting the dressing up box in a manner which can only be described as 'shameless' (DID EMPIRE OF THE SUN DIE FOR NOTHING??).

And now he's re-released a song which, on first listen, should probably be retitled 'I Kissed A Womaniser', and once again it's up to us, the sensible-minded, slow-to-judge, thoughtful people to work out whether he's a genius or an affront to all human decency.

I mean to say, you can cosy up to Kiss and Slash all you like, fella, but you mess with Britney at your PERIL!

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Timbaland ft. Justin Timberlake - 'Carry Out'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:33 UK time, Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Timbaland and Timberlake

I know it's just a loop, I know it's just a 2-second thing Timbaland put on the track to lift it a bit, and give that heartbump bass a bit of a lift, but I have two things to say on the subject of the go-go bell that this song has running through it like the veins in a stilton.

The first is that, while it's true that if you concentrate on the bell you'll end up feeling a bit frazzled and irksome, it's the grit which forms the pearl of the song. Take the go-go bell out, and it's just another Timbaland production. A cut above most of his recent output, but nowhere near the astonishing brilliance of 'Give It To Me'. Plus go-go bells are COOL, ask Run DMC.

The second thing is just a helpful piece of advice. If you do find yourself unable to enjoy the plush velvety goodness of the song because of that bell, do what I do: imagine it's not a loop, and that some poor soul had to bash out a solid four minutes, bell-whack after bell-whack, until Timbo got that looped, robotic feel. Picture the bloodshot eyes, the blistered hands, covered in plasters, the thousand-yard stare, the beads of perspiration and the slight facial tick as Tim asks for just one more take.

HOURS of amusement, I'm telling you.

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Marina & the Diamonds - 'I Am Not A Robot'

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Fraser McAlpine | 12:33 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

Marina and the Diamonds

Life sometimes has a way of telling you things you didn't know you needed to know. More often than not, the lessons are not good ones. They're usually things like "make sure you leave earlier next time" as you wait forlornly at the bus stop, or "don't ever say 'I thought we were ALL going to make an effort'", when you arrive at a swanky party and see all of your best friends dressed in what they believe are their finest clothes." The lessons arrive too late to be of any damn use.

However, a strange thing happened this morning while I was playing this. It's an ode to the frailty of human emotions; a song declaring that hiding behind a machine-like dispassionate front is not a very healthy thing to do. It basically implies that we're sometimes a bit too reliant on modern technology as a shield to hide our finer feelings behind, in case we get hurt.

And this morning, while Marina was singing her heart out, there was a power cut.

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A Brief Lesson From Professor Green

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:44 UK time, Saturday, 17 April 2010

Professor Green

These pop stars and their made-up job titles: who do they think they are, eh?

Mumford and Sons? Not a real shop. Lightspeed Champion? Normalspeed Person Of Mild Interest, more like. And the less said about Super Furry Animals the better (although they are pretty super...and quite furry I suppose...and their table manners are revolting, so...).

Where was I? Oh yes, it's a fine upstanding tradition in the world of music to give yourself a performance name based upon a rank or title. Sir Mixalot, for example. Or Saint Etienne. And now here's Professor Green, who hip hop fans will know for his mix tapes, impeccable freestyle skills and for winning more battle raps than most MCs put together.

But is he a real professor? And of what? We sent Anna Nathanson to find out.

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Selena Gomez & The Scene - 'Naturally'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:43 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

Selena Gomez

Try as I might, I just can't manage to create the right combination of circumstances for which this is the perfect soundtrack. I've tried climbing to the top of a very high hill and letting the wind whip around me while I punch the air dramatically. I've tried a midnight blast in the middle of a loud and sweaty club. I've tried headphones at dawn, ringtones in the park on a sunshiny day, a darkened room in the middle of the night, all sorts.

No matter what mood I'm in, no matter where I am, no matter what is going on around me, the reaction is always the same: a tut, an eyeroll, and a whispered "sheesh, calm down love, it's only pop music".

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Kelis - 'Acapella'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:03 UK time, Thursday, 15 April 2010


Now here's an irony: here's a song about being swept up in a new love, and transformed by the giddy thrill to such a degree that everything that happened before seems drab and grey by comparison. It's also a song which is itself so sparkling and loveable as to make other pop songs seem un-inspired and un-glorious, even the really good ones.

It is, therefore, a song which could very easily create the very same feelings about itself that it is trying to describe in song form. A clash of subject and effect which, if it fell into the wrong hands, could spell the end of reality as we know and breathe it.

Or it could just be a nice song to have in your mind as you go about your business.

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The Courteeners - 'Take Over The World'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:09 UK time, Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Liam Fray of the Courteeners

Liam Fray is one of the best indie front-men there is. He's all puffed-up hair, cocky attitude, and withering one-liners dripping from his snarky lips. He's got verbal dexterity to spare, and crucially, isn't afraid to drop his guard and appear soppy. That's how hard he is.

And his confidence is backed up by a legion of ardent fans, fans who've ignored the moany reviews from people like me. Heck, Morrissey's one of them, and he's a legend. So what could some no-mark music hack have to say that could dent Liam's rhino-tough hide?

Well how about this: once again the Courteeners, the band he leads, the band who play his songs, the band he could make sound like anything his fertile brain desires, have JUST failed to meet the potential in Liam's finger-pointing swagger.

I don't want to have to say it, but it's not healthy to hide your feelings.

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Chipmunk ft. Esmee Denters - 'Until You Were Gone'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:37 UK time, Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Chipmunk and Esmee Denters

Chipmunk is not an artist whose work can be said to carry a lot of despair, is he? Everything about him, from the happy tone of voice to the cocky strutting dance he does, is an expression of extreme contentment. Contentment with his talent, contentment with the way he looks, and extreme contentment with the fact that the world has caught up with his way of looking at things. And when I say things, I mean the artist known as Chipmunk.

You've got to love someone cocky enough to pen a line like "you took off quicker than my career" in the middle of what is supposed to be quite a sad, apologetic song about a breakup, haven't you?

I'm not even having a pop at him about it. Being incredibly into himself is kind of what Chipmunk does, and he does it well.

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Diana Vickers - 'Once'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 12 April 2010

Diana Vickers

Music is a messy place, don't you think? There aren't too many cast-iron certainties, and the ones which do seem to exist only do so by common agreement, rather than as a rule of law which can be applied to every situation.

Here's an example: suppose you hear a song by an artist you don't know, and it does something marvellous to your insides. And then afterwards you find out it's by someone you've never approved of in the past. Then you hear/read/see an interview with them and they're just as annoying as they always were. Where does that leave you with regard to that marvellous feeling? Confused? In denial? Guilty?

Similarly, there are artists whose work should be right up your street. People you love, love them. Other acts cover their songs. They come across brilliantly in the press, and are pretty hot too. It's all good. Except their music leaves you as it finds you, unchanged and a bit frustrated.

Don't be afraid, this happens to everyone.

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Lostprophets - 'For He's A Jolly Good Felon'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:10 UK time, Saturday, 10 April 2010


I love it when serious rock-type bands start to get a bit silly. It shows massive confidence on their part, and an understanding that the work they are engaged in, while terribly important to everyone involved, is also collossally daft. If you can maintain the feeling of importance, while tipping the wink that it's all a bit of a lark, you're on to something pretty special.

It's partly why people fell so hard for the Arctic Monkeys in the first place, for all that they were steel-eyed observers of gritty northern reality, they threw in a few gags here and there, and even wrote a funny song about rubbish bands thinking they're all that.

The Prophs, with their comedy song titles and superintense choruses, have hit that silly patch beautifully. They are now fully-fledged pun rockers.

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Jay Z - 'On To The Next One'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:03 UK time, Friday, 9 April 2010


A prediction: This, while being a perfect description of how Jay-Z does that thing he does, and yet another example of why he is the best at doing it, will not linger around the upper reaches of the Top 40 in the same way that certain other songs from his ridiculously successful last album have.

It's nothing to do with the quality of the music: 'On To The Next One' manages to be both brash and eerie at the same time, and Jay is officially so obviously Good With The Words that mentioning it only makes ME look foolish. By rights, this should have a similar chart life to 'Empire State Of Mind (Part I)', but there's a problem. Some 30-odd years since it was first invented, some people still can't quite handle hip hop.

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Professor Green ft. Ed Drewett - 'I Need You Tonight'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:38 UK time, Thursday, 8 April 2010

Professor Green

The first and most obvious thing to point out is that this is the song which samples the chunterfunky '80s hit 'Need You Tonight' by INXS. That is how you will already know it even if you think you do not.

It's not the most interesting thing about the song though, that's the good Professor's voice and demeanour. He raps like some kind of helium duck, and yet, possibly in order to compensate for this, he puts on a very confident front. He's a living, breathing, quacking example of the idea that if you walk tall, people will act as if you are tall.

It's just as well he has chosen a career in UK hip hop, really. I doubt he'd get much call-centre work.

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Shakira - 'Gypsy'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:28 UK time, Wednesday, 7 April 2010


In some ways it's too easy to poke fun at the lyrics to Shakira songs. English isn't her first language - she speaks four, apparently - and cultural idioms are different from country to country in any case. That said, there's an interesting moment in the chorus which could stand a closer look:

"I'm a gypsy, are you coming with me?
I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me"

And that's what people of Romany extraction do, is it? Steal clothes? Chu-HARM-ing.

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The Futureheads - 'Heartbeat Song'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:44 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Futureheads

Brevity is fast becoming a lost art. Everything is getting longer: films, TV shows, games, books, songs, albums, explanations...which is odd because the one thing everyone knows about the modern age is that no-one has much of an attention span. So there is an awful lot more stuff out there to skim over, whole libraries full of unfinished books, warehouses of unwatched DVD extras, a universe of cyberspace crammed with saggy, overlong creative endeavours that no-one will ever get around to experiencing in full, despite their best intentions.

I doubt you even bothered to read that sentence, did you? I can't say I blame you. It was way too long. And a bit pompous. These shorter ones are better. Nothing too taxing. Easy, sweet little thought-nuggets that slip into the stuff-befogged brainial cortex like warm honey on a sore throa...sorry, I did it again, didn't I?

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Kate Nash - 'Do Wah Doo'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:44 UK time, Monday, 5 April 2010

Kate Nash

When it comes to pop stars who really bring out the worst in people, Kate Nash is up there with Mika, Westlife and (more recently) Paolo Nutini. To some people, it's as though her very existance is an affront to human decency. Because she had the NERVE to write some songs which are not quite as witty or barbed as those of Lily Allen, and which did not seek to make more sense of the world than your average teenage diary.

Actually, it's worse than that, it was as if she tried to say profound things but it all came out a bit awkward and weird, which probably reminded a lot of people of their own stumbling teenage poetry. And she didn't pronounce her words properly. People hate that.

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Darwin Deez - 'Radar Detector'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:58 UK time, Sunday, 4 April 2010

Darwin Deez

OK, here are a few things you're not allowed to say about this song:

You're not allowed to say it's the result of a quest for perfect pop music, because it's not. It's too crackers for that, too packed with personality. It follows its own internal logic on a quest to somewhere, this is true, but that destination does not involve a trip to anywhere perfect. Perfection is not the goal. The celebration of imperfection might just be.

You're not allowed to say it's just freaky and weird. It's not. Yes, Darwin is blessed with a meandering voice, and his song is unlikely to be covered by Girls Aloud anytime soon, but it's still clearly a well-structured song, aimed at the remembral receptors of the brain.

You're not allowed to say Darwin is rocking the Napoleon Dynamite look. I mean he clearly IS, but shhh. This rule is probably the least fair, but hey ho.

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Paramore - 'The Only Exception'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:33 UK time, Saturday, 3 April 2010


Honesty is a tough word to live up to in the field of modern popular song. The very act of singing your feelings instead of expressing them in the way your body most naturally would - crying, laughing, shouting etc - is a fundamentally dishonest thing to do. It might be cathartic, it might even count as a kind of therapy, but you're essentially putting a frame around your own troubled innards and inviting people to come and see the exhibition.

It's a layer of self-consciousness, a bit like that scene in Glee where Finn decides that the best way to tell his girlfriend's parents that they're about to become grandparents is to sing a song about it, to them, at the dinner table. It's a scene which came across as ridiculous and wrong, even on television; even on GLEE on television.

Try that in real life, and you'll probably find yourself having to eat a CD player. At carving-knife-point.

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David Guetta ft. Kid Cudi - 'Memories'

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Fraser McAlpine | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 2 April 2010

David Guetta

Is David Guetta going for some kind of filth award or something? The last single - the one with Akon - was so riddled with cusswords it had to be released with two different titles, and now here's Kid Cudi soiling an otherwise very perky re-tread of Fatboy Slim's 'Right Here, Right Now' with further trips around the English language's swearier back alleys. Is this sort of thing strictly necessary?

Well clearly yes. It's a bit like when Lily Allen's first album came out, and people were clamouring for a clean edit they could play to their children, who were hearing the sanitised versions of her songs on the radio and getting quite into her sugary pop confections, oblivious to the pool of warm vinegar under each one.

"Why, Lily?", concerned parents would wail "will you not release a special child-friendly version of your album? Especially that song about your brother doing unspeakable things in his room all day. My eldest does love it so!"
And Lily, being Lily (and right) would just say "I didn't make it for children." and that would be that.

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30 Seconds To Mars - 'This Is War'

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Fraser McAlpine | 09:12 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

30 Seconds To Mars

Sadly, my dream that this would be an account of what happened on the day the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were first introduced has not been realised. There are no details of what Death said to Famine on shaking hands ("wow, you're almost as thin as I am", probably) or what disgusting smear Pestilence left on War's armour.

There are also no lyrics devoted to the inevitable four-hour bickerfest in order to decide what to call their little troupe: a rite of passage familiar to anyone who's ever tried to get a new gang off the ground.

"how about the End of the World Four?", "No, that's too 'beat combo'. Apokkalips?", "I dunno, people might think we're a boyband", "or a metal band", "and what is so wrong with being thought of as a metal band?", "well it's alright for you, War, you look the part", "Pestilence, can you stop oozing on my sandwiches? You KNOW how hungry I am", and so on.

I don't know what 30 Seconds To Mars were thinking really, wasting a perfectly good title on some declaration of defiance. I mean, how ORDINARY...

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