Saturday Flashback: I Monster – Daydream in Blue

“It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA.”

Tim: For no reason at all other than I heard it the other day for the first time in years and was reminded how brilliant it is, this underappreciated 2003 number. 

Tom: I… huh. Underappreciated is right, because I can’t work out if I’ve ever heard this exact version, or whether I just know that melody from… where did it come from?

Tim: It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA. Technically it’s a cover of the 1969 song Daydream by the Belgian band Wallace Collection, though it shares much more in common with the 1970 cover of it by the German group Günter Kallmann Choir. The genre in the verse is very different, but the underlying instruments are the same, and I’ve a feeling the chorus is a direct sample. All that’s kind of null and void, though, given that a fair amount of the melody originally came from multiple pieces by, erm, Tchaikovsky.

Tom: This is why I’m in favour of shorter copyright terms. I would love to see what could happen if this amount of creativity was just allowed, without fear of lawsuits or licensing agreements.

Tim: Yeah. Music’s good, isn’t it.

Louis Tomlinson – Walls

“You know, just once I’d like an ex-boy-band member to go into, I don’t know, hardstyle or bubblegum pop.”

Tom: He’s gone for Serious Modern Adult Contemporary Pop. You know, just once I’d like an ex-boy-band member to go into, I don’t know, hardstyle or bubblegum pop.

Tim: Hmm, I’m trying to think of an example to use as a “well, actually” here, but I’m really not sure I can – it’s always the ‘we don’t like being manufactured pop, we want to be serious instead’ narrative.

Tom: That first verse and chorus: guitars that sound a bit like Oasis, key changes that sound a bit like the Killers.

Tim: Yep: very much SMACP. The video’s weird, though: from that initial DIRECTED BY bit I was expecting a big fancy narrative from it, maybe even Alan Walker style. Instead: nope, just a few different scenes, chopping and changing between them with no real rhyme or reason. 

Tom: There’s a lot of good stuff going on here, but: fundamentally, it’s just not that good a chorus, is it?

Tim: No – it’s fine, decent enough, and I can still remember it a couple of minutes after the song’s finished, but I’ve no immense desire to press play on it again.

Tom: The fans’ll go for it, Radio 2 might playlist it for a bit, but I don’t think we’ve got the sort of all-time hit that an ex-1Der would be hoping for.

Tim: GO WITH THE BUBBLEGUM POP, LOUIS. 

Meja – Todays & Tomorrows

“Meja’s been going as a soloist for twenty five years now, and here’s her latest.”

Tim: Meja’s been going as a soloist for twenty five years now, and here’s her latest, and I pressed play on it and immediately felt Christmassy.

Tom: …it’s January. Is that a good thing?

Tim: Have a listen, you tell me.

Tom: Huh. You’re not wrong, but I can’t place why. Those aah-aah-aahs in the background do sound familiar, but even with the clue of Christmas, I can’t quite place it.

Tim: At first I thought it was the 12/8 time signature (though that helps), but no, there’s another reason and part of me doesn’t want to point it out because if you haven’t noticed it and you enjoy the song then it might spoil it for you, so I’ll leave it.

Tom: I do enjoy this — it’s the first track we’ve covered in a while that’s felt like it’d inspire a phone-torches-in-the-air moment if it’s played at a gig.

Tim: Yes, I thought you’d like it. So…

Tom: But I’m not worried about it being ruined for me. Go on, what have I missed?

Tim: Well, those aah-aah-aahs you mentioned, and indeed a large part of the underlying guitar melody, seem very similar indeed, to my ears at least, to one particular track I’M SORRY.

Tom: Oh no.

Tim: But even with that, it’s a nice song, with a good style that works for her, straight out of the nineties. I do have an issue with the lyrics, though, which is that they’re basically meaningless: is she criticising the person she’s singing at, or complimenting them, or being romantic, or just providing something to think about? No idea. Sounds nice, though.

Christopher – Ghost

“Successful musician, lovely hair, but just keeps getting abandoned.”

Tim: Poor, poor Christopher – successful musician, lovely hair, but just keeps getting abandoned. No option other than to write a song about it, really.

Tom: It’s worked for generations of misunderstood youth before him.

Tim: Mind you, the lyric “I know I said I need my own space” implies that actually he dumped her and now he’s playing the dickish ex who’s had a rethink but won’t accept she’s moved on, which is very annoying as otherwise it a good song.

Tom: Yep, there’s definitely a stalker-reading to this song. I’m going to choose to ignore it, though, because the rest of it’s pleasant enough, isn’t it? It’s an odd rhythm in that chorus, which feels a bit like he’s emPHAsising THE wrong sylLABles sometimes — but it seems to work for the track.

Tim: Nice and strummy with a decent beat and some vocal samples here and there to make it sound modern, and really if the lyrics weren’t so annoying I could really like this song. UGH, DAMMIT.

Fickle Friends – Pretty Great

“You know that synthpop style where it’s been inspired heavily by the 80s, but made with modern tech and dropping unexpected F-bombs?”

Tom: Indie-pop from Brighton here: the sort that sells cassettes and logo-printed bum bags on their merch store. Basically, you know that synthpop style where it’s been inspired heavily by the 80s, but made with modern tech and dropping unexpected F-bombs?

Tim: Ah, yes, that style.

Tom: I can’t tell whether the music is catchy, or whether it just sounds like a lot of things I’ve heard before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s just that after listening to it a couple of times, I found I wasn’t actually humming the chorus afterwards. Instead, I was humming something that sounded like the chorus, with a completely different rhythm, and I cannot place it.

Tim: Yeah, I was like that as well – parts of it the melody, and partly the instrumentation in the middle eight reminds distinctively of a Sound of Arrows track (speaking of whom, HURRY UP PLEASE WE’RE WAITING). Like you said, though, that’s no bad thing – it’s entirely listenable.

Tom: Shame about the video, which feels like someone watched a couple of episodes from third season of Black Mirror while really drunk.

Tim: Yeah – that reads to me as distinctly standard.

Victor Leksell – Svag

“I was really hoping the title of this was ‘Swag’, but it actually translates as ‘Weak’. Ah well.”

Tim: Here’s a song for you that stylistically I’d typically consider far too damp to suggest, but have a listen because it just kind of…gets me.

Tom: I was really hoping the title of this was “Swag”, but it actually translates as “Weak”. Ah well.

Tom: Bold choice, there, just making the album art a black square. It “gets you”?

Tim: Not sure why, really, because there’s not a lot happening there, and when the drop into the first chorus entirely failed to materialise I was thoroughly disappointed.

Tom: Yep, same here. I can see why you described it as “far too damp”: the title fits it. And yet?

Tim: It just has a something about that I like, though, which has got me bouncing around a little bit on my sofa typing this, and ever so slightly humming along to it.

Tom: The thing is, you’re not wrong. There’s a lot to like here: it’s traditional, as slow guitar-pop goes, even down to switching to the harmony line for the final chorus.

Tim: It may be that it just reminds me of several other songs, because I’m fairly sure it does, or it may be that nice gentle back and forth guitar line it’s got going on, but whatever it is – I like it.

Saturday Flashback: Matthias Reim – Tattoo

“I have to admire the chutzpah of a man in his sixties who’s still rocking the boy-band haircut and denim jacket.”

Tim: Last October Matthias brought out a new album, MR20; why, exactly, he didn’t leave it until this year just for dating’s sake is beyond me, but hey ho. Eiskalt was the fabulously unnerving lead track; here’s the second single, that got released with the album.

Tom: I have to admire the chutzpah of a man in his sixties who’s still rocking the boy-band haircut and denim jacket. Germany continues to be, as far as I know, the only nation where it’s possible to pull that off, ironically or not.

Tim: Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way first and say that it’s no Eiskalt, a song I still listen on a frequent basis; it is, on the other hand, still a pretty good Matthias Reim track, right bang in the middle of the schlager rock groove he’s carved out for himself, and I like it a LOT.

Tom: I can see why: it’s exactly the sort of Europop we like here.

Tim: Now I mention it, in fact, the whole album’s worth a listen if you get a chance; I’d recommend some highlights but that’d imply there are some lowlights, and, no.

Incidentally, there’s a German person I work with, and when I mentioned Matthias to her she was initially surprised he was still going, and then just looked at me with a sense of mild disdain.

Tom: I did wonder what Germans in general think of this: with a million views on YouTube, there’s clearly an audience — but then, there’s an audience for a lot of things that the world in general holds in poor esteem.

Tim: But I don’t care: my name’s Tim and I’m a Reimer. And if there isn’t a word for his fans, I’m having that one.

Static & Ben El, Pitbull – Further Up (Na, Na, Na, Na, Na)

“It’s been a long while since we’ve had one of our traditional “Pitbull, what the hell” moments, isn’t it?”

Tom: Do you remember Con Calma? Take a track from the 90s with a catchy chorus, remove anything controversial, change the lyrics, throw out a catchy single that’ll get airplay.

Tim: I did not remember it; I am more than a little irritated you chose to remind me of it.

Tom: Well, this Israeli pop duo have looked at that formula and thought: we can do that. And let’s get Pitbull to join in, too.

Tim: Oh no. Do we have to?

Tom: It’s been a long while since we’ve had one of our traditional “Pitbull, what the hell” moments, isn’t it?

Tim: And yet simultaneously not long enough. 

Tom: Everything about this is awful, except for the samples. The bragging about money. Rhyming “my friend Haim” and “count me in”. Literally telling the crowd to “put your hands up high and wave them from side to side”, which may be the greatest cliché in pop music.

Tim: Yeah, I’m normally okay to defend clichés – they’re clichés for a reason, they sound good – butI have literally no desire to even start defending this.

Tom: And all the actual melodies they’ve added are also… pretty bad. It’s a testament to how good that original, catchy, two-note melody is: it’s the only thing that carries this track.

Tim: Though let’s face it, it barely does that. 

The Fizz – The World We Left Behind

“In short: the odds are stacked against them.”

Tom: They don’t have the rights to the name “Bucks Fizz”!

Tim: And there’s the most incredible television documentary ever made to explain why!

Tom: The one that isn’t Cheryl Baker stood for the Brexit Party and got 384 votes! They’re still working with Mike Stock and bringing out a new album!

Tim: And their first comeback album was actually quite good!

Tom: Their Twitter mostly retweets praise! And they appear to mostly be doing the nostalgia circuit based on “still ripping off skirts”!

In short: the odds are stacked against them.

Tim: Oh, that chorus put right old smile on my face, that really did.

Tom: It’s like someone took an album track from the 80s, kept all the synth pads, but used modern production and mastering techniques. Which, given it’s Mike Stock producing, is probably about what’s happened. There are some catchy bits in here, but they’re hampered by the middle eight acoustic guitar solo, the odd transition into that middle eight, and — given how retro the track is — the distinct lack of a key change.

Tim: Yeah – can’t deny those things do hurt it, and there’s at least one chorus too many at the end there, however smiley it gets me.

Tom: It’ll do well on the nostalgia circuit.

Tim: But it’s certainly no Don’t Start Without Me.

Elisa Lindström – Ditt Hjärta i Min Hand

“Is it a cymbal crash you can hear in the background, or the sound of sparklers shooting off? Who knows.”

Tom: It’s always good when I can translate a title in my head.

Tim: Every year, thousands of songs get submitted for Melodifestivalen, and every year the vast majority of them get rejected. Most of them never see the light of day, and those that do get released are never spoken of as having been rejected, obviously. However, this is a lovely schlagery pop track, coming in at precisely three minutes, with a perfect “let’s get the Catherine wheels spinning” moment. Draw your own conclusion.

Tom: That could have been a Melodifestivalen track at any point in the last thirty years.

Tim: It certainly could, and wouldn’t it have been nice to see on stage? Probably start out with her in a nice white dress, a guitarist and a drummer in the background, nothing until the crash for the first chorus, BOOM the lights come up and we’ve some dancers jumping around and giving us the oh-woah-ohs that they’ve lifted from This Is Me.

Tom: That’s where I’ve heard them before! (I mean, it’s a Millennial Whoop, but you’re right, that’s basically This Is Me.)

Tim: Then, of course, that GLORIOUS key change, fireworks everywhere, probably risking burning down the stadium but never mind, because just LOOK.

Tom: Is it a cymbal crash you can hear in the background, or the sound of sparklers shooting off? Who knows. I almost physically facepalmed at that key change. Yes: I can absolutely see this on stage.

Tim: Mind you, it’d then crash out in fifth place, and we’d all be disappointed again, so maybe it’s for the best. No, who am I kidding, it’d have been BRILLIANT.