McBusted – Air Guitar

Tom: Astonishingly, this is their debut single.

Tim: YES.

Tom: Firstly and most importantly: it is annoying me SO MUCH that the Rock Band-esque plectrums aren’t matching up to the actual notes.

Tim: YES to that, and also to “the lie they TIHINK I’M LIVING get’s me high”. It’s weird – so much effort has clearly gone into that, which almost makes me think they’re trying to annoy people.

Tom: “Definitely Busted lyrics, not McFly lyrics,” says Matt, our Radio Insider. He’s right, as well.

Tim: Oh, see I DISAGREE most vehemently. It struck me as I was listening to it that the best Busted songs were all telling silly stories: getting off with an air hostess, or a great-great-great-granddaughter, or Miss McKenzie, or just being superheroes. Though I suppose it’s closer to that than the standard romantic lyrics that McFly go in for either, so maybe.

Tom: The trouble is, if this is the lead single, I’m a bit worried about the rest of the album.

Tim: Yeah?

Tom: The track feels a bit cold and clinical to me, like there’s something missing. There’s not much of the old spark there, until the middle eight.

Then it finally kicks in — after that, it’s recognisably their sound, and the final chorus sells it, complete with the “silence the guitars and do two beats a capella in tight harmony” bit that always works so well. But the rest of it just doesn’t seem to match the standard that they’ve had in the past.

Tim: No – there’s the sense of fun that’s not so much there. I’m not sure I’d describe it as clinical, but you’re right there’s something missing. Listen to the second verse – “I know I’ll never make it but tonight I’m good enough to fake it.” Lyrics are fine, but they’re not smiling when they’re singing, and I WANT THEM TO BE. However, despite that, I have no real problems with this musically, and the chorus is great, and singalongable, and shouty, and great.

Tom: And what’s with that ending? You’re ripping off Rock Band in the video, you’re doing your big first debut single as a group — where’s the Big Rock Outro? Hammer the guitars, go crazy on the drums, do a big final blast instead of ending it coldly.

Tim: Hmm – it’s enough for me, but I certainly get where you’re coming from.

Tom: Don’t get me wrong, I reckon it’s an okay album track, maybe even a third or fourth single — but the lead? It’s not quite there.

Tim: I’d say B-, and it hasn’t stopped me being excited about the album.

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BBC Music – God Only Knows

Tim: You may or may not remember Perfect Day, the Lou Reed cover that the BBC put together back in 1997 that had just about every artist in the world in it.

Tom: Remember it? I think it was the first single I bought. Charity and all.

Tim: Well, they’ve gone and done something similar with this Beach Boys track seventeen years later. This got broadcast on every channel and station last night (except Radio 3, who were busy playing Brahms) both to promote the new BBC Music thing and to raise money for Comic Relief. Shall we?

Tim: Hmm.

Tom: “Hmm” is right.

Tim: Well, I think the first question we should all be asking is what on Earth is going on with Louis and Niall’s hair –

Tom: I was going to mention that.

Tim: – but musically I’m going to say…ehhh. It’s a track, certainly, and it’s musical, for the most part it’s very enjoyable.

Tom: But it’s not Perfect Day. Am I looking back with rose-tinted spectacles? Possibly, but I can remember being absolutely blown away by Perfect Day when it first appeared on TV — here, they seem to be dazzling with ridiculous CGI rather than just good music.

Tim: The only criticism I have is that I’m really not sure the orchestral/chorus break sounds right. I get that they want to indicate that it’s about all types of music, but I think if you want to do that, make it longer.

Tom: Right! Yes! Perfect Day is busy, but it never approaches anywhere near “cacophony”. There’s not room enough to breathe in here. The instrumental break of Perfect Day was one very good solo: here, we’ve got loads of instruments and vocalists, and each one gets a pause to itself. And Brian May crowbars his trademark guitar sound in. It doesn’t work.

Tim: I’m usually the first to complain that a track’s too long, but you’re barely pushing two and a half minutes there, and I don’t think anyone’d begrudge you an extra minute to fit it together better.

Tom: Also, let’s be clear about that video: Brian Wilson has the haunted look of someone who has no idea what’s going on.

Tim: Still, gets the point across, and it’s good enough to listen to. Makes the right point about how important music is to them, and at a time when people are having a go at the BBC right, right and further right, it’s nice to have them showing off what they can do. And beg for our support, which I suppose is a more cynical and probably unfair way of looking at the lyrics. So I’ll close by saying: great idea, not quite so great execution, but good enough for me.

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Benjamin – Underdogs

Tim: Another Scandinavian kid with an aversion to surnames, this is Benjamin, and in an attempt to trigger your “get off my lawn” reflex, I’ll tell you that he rose to fame via Instagram.

Tom: Oh, for crying out loud.

Tim: Not really sure how that works, but anyway, here’s his first track.

Tom: UNNECESSARY SHIRTLESS SHOT. And heaven knows why they decided to film a video for a Scandinavian pop star in the east end of London.

Tim: Now, call me a cynical bastard if you like, but a tiny part of me has the feeling that someone at Warner got bored of listening to music demos one day and just thought “hang on, that guy’s getting famous, let’s have him.” Find a songwriter who can give you something that doesn’t require a huge amount of singing ability, stick a microphone in front of the photogenic one, film him jumping around a bit and bingo, you’ve got a hit, right?

Tom: Quite possibly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the song’s any good.

Tim: No, it certainly doesn’t, and let’s be honest it’s not the greatest. I’d like to think that’s not the case. I really would. But I can’t quite shake the feeling that it is. I don’t know. Maybe his album, out next year, will convince me otherwise. But otherwise: formulaic, by the numbers, cheap, almost lazy, just no.

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Summer Heart – Sleep

Tim: Okay, how about something a bit relaxing for you?

Tom: Hmm. “Relaxing” usually means “I’ll fall asleep at some point”. The title doesn’t help. Who’s behind it?

Tim: New Swedish bloke, known to his mum as David Alexander but to the rest of the world as Summer Heart.

Tim: And there you go. Pleasant enough, I think you’ll agree?

Tom: I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy that as much as I did. Just one catch: I don’t like the chorus. And that’s weird for me; normally the choruses stand out for me in any song, but here I think they let the side down a bit.

The verses are bloody lovely, though.

Tim: Nothing loud, nothing intense, just a nice track to sit back and relax to, maybe in a park on a sunny May afternoon. Which makes it slightly odd that it’s being released in November, but maybe he’s got an Australian audience in mind, or maybe he’s banking on recalling happy memories. Either way, it’s a pleasant if slightly uninspiring track, nicely suited to lying back and doing nothing. I’ll take it.

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Saturday Flashback: Doctor Spin – Tetris (Radio Edit)

Tim: It’s 1992, we’ve pretty much reached ‘peak Tetris’, and a producer calling himself Doctor Spin has taken it upon himself to release to the world a dance version of the ubiquitous theme tune.

Tom: Crikey, that opening synth isn’t ripped off 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready For This” at all.

Tim: Well, that’s barely a part of it – this really is entirely awful, with its vast lack of effort and originality, and so it’s hardly surprising that Doctor Spin is in fact a pseudonym. But for who? Let’s play a guessing game; here are some clues:
– he’s quite definitely one of the most notable names in music of the past few decades
– he’s the face of several TV talent shows
– he’s not traditionally (or indeed at all) known for having anything to do with dance music

Tom: Simon Cowell?

Tim: No, so let’s have another: the same year as this was released, he was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and five years later he received a peerage for services to music (apparently despite this).

Tom: You are kidding me.

Tim: Oh, we might be getting there, but one more: two of his other works are based on biblical stories; another revolves around a ghost, and one more was made famous by Madonna.

Tom: Andrew Lloyd Bloody Webber?

Tim: There it is, and yes, that’s right! Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber, created this abomination, and got to number 6 in the charts with it, so well done everyone. My respect for both him and the record-buying public of 1992 has now diminished considerably, and to make up for it I think we should all have a history lesson, because that there is how a Tetris adaptation should be done.

Tom: That is exactly the link I thought it was. Well done.

Tim: Well, it’s the only one it could be, really.

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Sval – Fasitsvar

Tim: Last time we talked about Sval, you mentioned you were ‘a sucker for a well-placed “heeey” sample’. Assuming the same hold true for a “heeeyo”, this one may well hit the spot.

Tim: And what a horribly abrupt ending that was.

Tom: What? That was a brilliant ending. In fact that was a brilliant track. And an astonishing video. In fact, all of that added up to one of the best tracks we’ve covered in weeks.

Tim: You’ll recall she’s Norwegian; the title means “definitive answer”.

Tom: And the chorus translates, roughly, as “we are in the midst of everything and we are nothing, and we are here without any definitive answer”. I’m not quite sure what that’s about.

Tim: I don’t care, though, because aside from the first verse that sounds too quiet after the hefty intro, and the aforementioned ending, this is a lovely track. She has a lovely voice, the instrumentation underneath is that lovely but not hugely common combination of drum-led and listenable. I’ve said lovely a lot there, but never mind.

Tom: That pretty much sums up my thoughts: more like this, please.

Tim: This is a very, very good track, and one that’s really got me hoping an album’s not far behind.

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One Direction – Steal My Girl

Tim: Previously we’ve covered new One Direction tracks as soon as they’re out; this year, though…

Tom: We missed them releasing a track?

Tim: No, but I thought it’d be more fun to wait for the inevitable plagiarism allegations to hit, and see which slightly-past-it musician wants to get in the headlines by kicking up a fuss.

Tom: To be fair, Best Song Ever did sound really like Baba O’Reilly.

Tim: Well, possibly. But we should probably hear the new track first, so here it is.

Tom: Strong piano riff. I’m sure I’ve heard it before.

Tim: Possibly, at least according to Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory, who may or may not have an album coming out next week. He reckons they’ve stolen the intro from his 2006 track It’s Not Your Fault, which charted precisely nowhere. Hmm. Admittedly there’s a similarity, but he curiously declined to answer the question of whether he in turn ripped off Journey’s considerably more successful 1983 track Faithfully.

Tom: That’s where I’ve heard it before! There’s a whole lot of new stuff over the top of it though.

Tim: Chad did, though, go on to say that “Music influences music. No one cares.” Who’d have thought it?

Back to the track that matters, though, and if it is a deliberate ripoff then the writers must have been incredibly confident they wouldn’t get sued, because that is basically the track. Over and over and over, with a few words thrown on top for good measure. Fortunately, that piano riff is a very good one, which means we can do our best to ignore the incredibly narcissistic and almost disturbingly possessive lyrics which don’t have anywhere near the same sense of fun and enjoyment they had a couple of years ago.

Tom: “I don’t exist if I don’t have her.” I’m not sure those lyrics work any more in a world where Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and dozens of others are more at the top of the charts and out in the public consciousness. Let’s have less of the possession, hm?

Tim: Still, very catchy, very clappy and very enjoyable – I’ll take it.

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Nico & Vinz – In Your Arms

Tim: I was entirely wrong when I predicted Am I Wrong wouldn’t be a hit in the UK, what with it ending up being one of the biggest tracks of the summer.

Tom: Heavens, I was actually right about that. I still think chart predictions are basically a lottery, though.

Tim: Probably, yes. But here’s their follow-up, actually a re-release of a track from four years ago, because they reckon it’s good.

Tim: Despite my previous failure, and your point that it’s a lottery, I will happily make another prediction: this will have no trouble at all being a hit.

Tom: And again, I’m going to disagree with you: it’s pleasant, it might pop its head into the top 40, but I can’t see this being a Big Tune.

Tim: It’s a great track, even if it does feel broken a bit by the second part of the middle eight. It’s a lovely part, especially if you’re watching the video.

Tom: The video’s just as pretentious and credit-filled, I see.

Tim: Well, it’s a bit of fun. It does at least show they put some effort into this release rather than just “shall we put that one out again?” “yeah”; that middle eight does create a fairly heavy disjoint in the track, though. Unless it’s just one of those bits they stick in a music video that isn’t in the main track, in which case: all great, no problems at all.

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Dotter – My Flower

Tim: Bit of Motown-y track for you today, from a new Swedish singer. Up for it?

Tom: Swedish neo-soul. This should be fun.

Tom: Oh, that intro’s very good, isn’t it?

Tim: It is, and I’d say that there are a number of good bits in there: from the nice stringy intro and outro, the chorus with its enthusiastic and unashamed desperation, the chanting that follows that, and her general singing voice, a perfect fit with the music here.

Tom: Yep, it’s all very good. I have an odd complaint, though. During that chorus, there’s far too much going on in the high frequencies: the strings, the tambourines, her voice, even most of the percussion. There’s almost nothing in the low frequencies. If they’d drop the strings by an octave or so, it’d all sound so much clearer and fuller. But yes: it’s a song full of good bits, particularly that middle eight.

Tim: In fact, there’s very little that couldn’t be described as a good bit – it’s a very enjoyable track, and I look forward to hearing more from her.

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Pixie Lott – Break Up Song

Tom: Our regular reader CB sends this one in, and since we had a run of “morose” songs last week, it seemed like a good fit.

Tom: Well, “let’s have sex one last time” isn’t a standard song template, that’s for sure.

Tim: No, but it’s not a bad one. Better than “let’s not have sex one last time”.

Tom: I reckon this is a good example of making a sad song still enjoyable to listen to.

Tim: I reckon that’s exactly what this is.

Tom: There’s enough light to balance the darkness: the gospel organ chords and soulful voice work really well. Even with the rather emotional video.

Tim: A fun video, though. But yes, a bit emotional.

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    Tim Jeffries was born in the UK a good few years ago now, and regularly dreams of a Busted reunion.

    Along with good music, things he appreciates include the use of correct grammar, well-made banana daiquiris and shampoo for men that smells nice (which he still hasn't found). His favourite colour is what Dulux call 25YY 49/757, and his favourite member of the Felidae family is the snow leopard.

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    Tom Scott is a techie with extremely questionable taste in music. In his spare time, he has too many plans and a worrying tendency to make them happen.

    His greatest achievement was getting five gold runs on Blockbusters, which he still harps on about to this day.

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