Saturday Flashback: Cascada – How Do You Do

“It makes me smile every single time.”

Tim: And now, for no reason whatsoever other than “well duh, why not?”, let’s have some beautifully textbook mid-’00s Eurodance.

Tim: Not a lot to say about it, really – it’s a cover of Roxette’s (rather more successful) original song, and it makes me smile every single time it pops up on my phone.

Tom: There’s a lot to be said for a good cover like this: yes, Cascada could basically be any session singer, and yes, it’s a by-the-numbers remix — but in a style that I grew up with. Now I’m older, I’m aware that “repeating the chorus with one particular Eurodance synth patch” is not an objectively great bit of music: but that doesn’t stop me liking it. And let’s be honest, the talking bit does not fit in this song. But…

Tim: …it has a ludicrous dance beat, lyrics that are great to sing along with, and all in all I just love it. Unapologetically.

Tove Styrke – Mistakes

“Until I get used to this I’m just going to get grumpy at it.”

Tim: Just as you reported yesterday there wasn’t much around from Europe, YouTube threw this up in my recommendeds, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you take the pre-chorus as the chorus and the chorus as the post-chorus, at least for the first half of the song.

Tom: I actually swore out loud at that chorus.

Tim: As well you might, because just like yesterday, that’s a great pre-chorus section with a sudden dip.

Tom: Right. I know that pop’s going more experimental at the moment, and I guess that’s to be commended, but until I get used to this I’m just going to get grumpy at it.

Tim: That’s fair, although the second part, with the title in the lyrics, is still pretty good, as we’d hope for with it being the official chorus. It’s more than capable of holding up the song on its own in the closing section, with the built-up instrumentation underneath it.

Tom: Nope. Don’t like the simplistic synths — they’re like chiptune, but bad — and I don’t like the style. It’s just… not enjoyable.

Tim: MI don’t know, I can just about take it. But much like Kygo & Selena Gomez, though, for me it’s the pre-chorus that wins it, and wins it well.

Macklemore feat. Kesha – Good Old Days

“Basically four minutes of musical blueballs.”

Tom: As there’s not much in the way of good European pop music being released at the moment, I thought I’d take us over and have a look at what’s coming out of the US. And I’ve picked this one, not because it’s representative of what we usually talk about…

Tom: …but because it could be so much better if it were a bit more European.

Tim: Oh yes?

Tom: Because I’m listening to it through our pop-music lens, that’s basically four minutes of musical blueballs. Slow start. Great intro verse from a brilliant singer. Military drums starting to build. And then…

Tim: UGH. Kesha’s singing is nice, but by the end of the first verse I wanted something more. Macklemore came on, the drums started, I thought YES, let’s BEGIN…but then nothing. Just a massive anti-climax.

Tom: This could be (should be?) a banger. Instead, it just drops down again for the hook, every time. And I realise that’s a deliberate decision, and it’s all emotional, and it’s probably the point, but in my head this should have CHOIRS and BRASS SECTIONS and VIOLINS and basically a WHOLE DAMN ORCHESTRA.

Tim: Oh God, now I’m imagining this with a massive choir behind it, and DAMN YOU Tom now you’ve made me realise even more how much better it could have been. DARN IT.

MD Electro feat. Maria Marcus – Postcard

“What’s with the timing?”

Tim: I’ve long since given up trying to work out why beach dance music still gets put out well after summer’s over, but I do still find it weird. Here’s one example.

Tom: This is good! I wasn’t expecting this to be good.

Tim: I mean, in MD Electro (off Germany)’s defence, it’s a perfectly decent beach dance number – say, second or third release from an ATB album quality – with a good melody, decent production, vocals that hold up nicely, but damn, what’s with the timing?

Tom: Or that “postcard” echo in the instrumental chorus. Or that “you got me like oo-ooh” lyric. But you’re right: this is a good summer dance track, but it’s mid-September. Were they just procrastinating?

CHVRCHES – Call It Off

“There are some absolutely beautiful parts in here.”

Tim: This got sent in anonymously, and might need a bit of back story: ten years ago, Tegan & Sara released The Con, their first album to go big, and now want to celebrate that. As such, they’re putting it out again, but this time with other artists recording the tracks. Lengthy blog post here, example here:

Tim: It’s very, very different from the original, which was less than half the length and a completely different genre. This is…I want to say interesting, but I’m also aware that there’s an argument to be made for dull as well.

Tom: The two aren’t mutually exclusive. There are some absolutely beautiful parts in here: that steady build out of the middle eight into the final section is genuinely uplifting. It’s somewhat out of our remit, really; there’s an argument that this isn’t pop music at all.

Tim: It sounds like it would go on a typical CHVRCHES album, not as a song that would ever be released as a single, but as a nice closing track to round the album off with. For that, I quite like it (not least because it is the closing track on the album). Really don’t get the abrupt ending, though.

Anna of the North – Someone

Tim: Anna’s off Norway and has just released her debut album; here’s the lead single for you, which comes with an incredibly familiar intro.

Tom: That sounds like a lot of synthpop — both in terms of style and in terms of the exact synth patches used. But if you’re going to be inspired by any genre, this is a pretty good choice.

Tim: And right now I can’t place it exactly, but damn, if it isn’t just so recognisable. Regardless of that, though, and the fact that it’s a (deliberate or otherwise) second hand hook that permeates the vast majority of the song, I like the whole entity a lot – nice vocals, almost soothing and relaxing, really, and I’ll take that. A decent debut.

Tom: I’m not sure what’s going on with that… key change?… into the middle eight, but sure. It’s a good start.

Saturday Flashback: Peter Maffay – Nessaja

“A little green dragon called Tabaluga”

Tim: Now, until I flicked back through Scooter’s history for Wednesday’s post, I had absolutely no idea that their follow-up to The Logical Song, and their only other UK top 10 track, was a sort-of cover. Now, press play, sit back, and please allow me to educate you – the history is fascinating.

Tom: I knew this was a cover – and there’s a KLF sample or two in there as well – but I did not know there was a long history.

Tim: Oh, yes. You see, Peter Maffay is a German musician, and was well known in the 70s & 80s – his first single, Du, was 1970’s biggest selling track in Germany, and he holds the German records for most million-plus selling albums (14) and most number one albums (16). Now, in 1983, he decided to get a bit experimental. He began a series of musical fairy tales, all starring a little green dragon called Tabaluga, which so far span five albums.

Tom: Right. Okay. Well, I guess everyone has a hobby.

Tim: The first (which contains this song) was called Tabaluga…or The Journey to Reason (but in German), and since then there have been tours, books, cartoons, a full size musical and even a long-running TV game show in which contestants win prizes that they donate to schools and children’s homes.

Tom: And Scooter decided to come along and cover it, along with a video containing a lot of scantily clad women. Well, it was the early 2000s.

Tim: Oh, and you might be wondering why it’s called Nessaja. Simple: Nessaja was Tabaluga’s mentor, a giant turtle who here is singing about how he never wanted to grow up, but that Tabaluga has his whole life ahead of him. And you know, typing that last sentence almost got me a bit tearful – no wonder Scooter wanted to honour it.

Steps – Neon Blue

You think “How on Earth can a song called Neon Blue be a ballad?“

Tim: You press play, you think “How on Earth can a song called Neon Blue be a ballad?”

Tim: Well it turns out it can’t. They did perhaps leave it a little too late to develop – thirty seconds in I was wanting a 7th Heaven remix, and I was within a few seconds of giving up when that build came along.

But then, oh, there’s even a sort of dance routine.

Tom: And full marks for what appeared to be a genuine bit of laughter during the middle eight. It’s been a long time since a music video made me smile like that.

Tim: Yes, I want it a bit bassier, a bit more banging (so, actually, maybe I do still want a 7th Heaven remix).

Tom: Agreed: it’s almost like someone’s put a high-pass filter on it or something. It needs just a bit of bass drum in there or something… ah, there we go. Although it still seems a bit weedy somehow, but maybe that’s just my headphones.

Tim: Ah, yes, that is what I wanted. But even without, “come on, come on, and dance with me” is a message I can 100 BILLION per cent get behind. I’m so happy that they’re not only back but also making an actual proper effort with it. So so happy.

Hurts – Ready To Go

“One of the best bands of the decade”

Tim: In which we are reminded that Hurts are one of the best bands of the decade, and also that extended music videos are rubbish, as you’ll miss precisely nothing if you skip straight to 0:35.

Tim: See, when they started way back when, they had their own sound, a sort of melancholy electro-rockish vibe, and since then they’ve maintained pretty much the exact same level of standing ever so slightly out of phase with whatever’s in vogue at the time (though I’m ignoring the abomination that was their second album).

Tom: I do miss that melancholy electro-rock, if I’m honest, but bands who don’t change end up… well, they either end up dying out, or they end up being KISS.

Tim: Here, you’ve your distorted vocal samples, your steady and repetitive chorus loop and the vague post-tropical vibe. And yet even with all those, it’s still distinctly them. And it’s good. Yes, the repetitive chorus loop is perhaps a bit too repetitive, and maybe I’d prefer a slightly more structured ending…

Tom: Both of which I was going to mention.

Tim: …but otherwise, it’s a positive sign for their next album.

Scooter & Jabroer – My Gabber

Tim: The other week Scooter released their nineteenth (NINETEENTH) studio album; here’s one of the first tracks from it, which comes with a couple of rude words (and Jebroer’s a Dutch producer, by the way).

Tom: Please tell me Scooter have actually gone gabber. Please.

Tom: Oh wow they actually have for the… chorus? One of the choruses? One of the… look, I don’t know what this is, I just know I haven’t heard distorted bass like that in a long while and it’s amazing.

Tim: Yeahhhh…thing is, it’s hard to judge Scooter’s songs by any normal standard, really, because most of them aren’t really comparable in any way at all – not because of quality, more just in the way they exist.

Tom: In the words of HP Baxxter: YES.

Tim: But we can compare them against each other – God knows there are enough. The best ones typically have a decent hook (either original, or standard covers, or theme tunes from a 1960s series of murder mystery films), maybe a guest vocal and plenty of shouting. Here, I think we’ve got all three, and while it loses its way for twenty seconds towards the end, it picks it up again, and finishes nicely. I’m in.

Tom: Let’s be honest: the hook’s really not all that great — and given that it’s an English translation of the original, it also feels a bit low-effort for a first album track. Have Scooter actually supplied anything other than some shouting here? I’m not sure.

Tim: Huh – see, I though it might be a cover but couldn’t see an original. You’re right, there – although the first track off the album was actually Bora! Bora! Bora!, which didn’t seem to be much more than trying for an updated version of the Maria (I Like It Loud) chant.

Tom: And to be fair, there’s a reason that the world never saw many gabber tracks in the Top 40. But I can’t fault them for still going, still trying, and still SHOUTING LOUDLY.