Saturday Flashback: McFly – Mr Brightside

“Interesting alternate-universe version, isn’t it?”

Tom: This is one of the bravest covers I’ve ever heard: but if anyone can pull it off, it’s the band that managed a decent shot at covering Don’t Stop Me Now.

Tim: Yep, I’m listening.

Tom: Important context: this was in 2005, when Mr Brightside was only about a year or so old, and before it had truly settled into the pantheon of Songs Everyone Knows. Plus, this was just the B-side of a single, back when singles had B-sides. So while this isn’t quite as bold a move as it seems, it’s still going to be an interesting listen for anyone who knows every note of the original.

Tom: Interesting alternate-universe version, isn’t it?

Tim: Yeah – it sounds…weird. I don’t to say ‘wrong’, because I guess it isn’t, but definitely weird, although that’s likely just due to over-familiarity with the original.

Tom: The only thing that I think falls down here are the vocals. Not because they’re bad — but because they’re McFly, and those voices and accents are suited more for their regular style. “It was only a kiss” just doesn’t sound right: it’s not a patch on the melodramatic original, it’s just sounds a bit like someone’s recounting a night out to their mates down the pub.

Tim: Hmm. I think the could perhaps work if the original hadn’t been heard and hadn’t been such a big hit, because it can work like this, even with that feeling to it. It’s just, like you said, it’s not a patch on the melodrama that the Killers give it.

Wolfgang Carter – Supercars

“This is the least predictable track I’ve sent over to you in a while.”

Tom: This is the least predictable track I’ve sent over to you in a while.

Tim: In that case I shall press play, and read ahead no further.

Tom: I know, American dance producers aren’t really what we’re “supposed” to cover here, but did you see any of that coming? Casual guitar intro isn’t normally followed vocoded lyrics. And then it turns into something that sounds a bit like Daft Punk if they turned the “bass” setting up to 11.

Tim: Yeah, it’s certainly interesting – and as for comparisons, it’s no coincidence that three of the recommended videos next to it for me are deadmau5, and two more being Porter Robinson.

Tom: And… it’s good! Like, it’s easy to make comparisons to Daft Punk, there’s a lot in common here, but what’s usually missing from folks doing that shtick is actual songcraft: making something catchy, making something that people actually want to listen to.

Tim: And yet this manages it. Well, sort of – I’m not saying I’d choose to listen to it, it doesn’t really do anything for me, but I know that people absolutely would.

Tom: Yes, it probably outstays its welcome a bit: perhaps a few different chords in the back half or a bigger final chorus wouldn’t have gone amiss. But then, that’s applying pop logic to dance. I’m just happy this turned out to be both novel and good.

Tim: And I am, in turn, happy for you.

Alphabeat – Sometimes 2020

“I don’t think I’ve heard a track this good from them since that first album.”

Tim: Sometimes, an entirely decent album track from last October’s excellent Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore. Now, updated for the summer, by dialling it up. Everything up.

Tom: That’s lovely! That piano sounds like it’s coming out of a solid piano-dance track, but instead it’s backed by some properly uplifting Alphabeat harmonies. I don’t think I’ve heard a track this good from them since that first album.

Tim: Blimey, that’s a hell of compliment, and while I’m not certain I’d agree it’s definite up there with the best. Thing is, I don’t know if it’s just the wooden backing on the artwork here, but right now I’m imagining them standing on a big stage leading a barn dance. The twanging from the guitar helps, I think – the original had a slight country vibe to it, just about coming in at the end, but here it’s right in from the opening verse.

Tom: The production is spot on, the melody’s lovely. You can sing the chorus after one listen, but it’s never been irritating. This is a really good song.

Tim: I’m writing this immediately after seeing yesterday’s garbage dumpster of a video, but OH MAN this has put me right up there in a fantastic mood. Talk about ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’, this knows exactly what it’s doing, and does it so so well.

Tom: Right! I actually went back to listen again, which is high praise from me, and was surprised by that opening chorus: I don’t know why. Of course you lead with it, obviously you lead with it. Give the public what they want.

Tim: SHINE A LIGHT. SHIIIIINE INSIDE. COME IN THROUGH MY WINDOW KEEP ME UP ALL NIGHT. That positivity’s right there from the off, and hangs around like a much needed…I dunno, something that we all need. This track, say. This track hangs around like this track. Nope, that doesn’t work, I don’t care, I’m too busy shouting along. SHINE A LIGHT etc.

Hedda Mae – What Do You Want From Me

“Okay, new site policy: as of tomorrow, a total ban on videos with VHS filters applied.”

Tim: Okay, new site policy: as of tomorrow, a total ban on videos with VHS filters applied. This here is why.

Tim: Decent enough song, right? Happy and chirpy, though admittedly there’s that godawful middle eight and the lyrics don’t entirely fit with the tone.

Tom: The talky part of the middle eight is genuinely awful, although the recovery back into the final chorus might well be the best part of the song. There are a lot of good things in here! Overall, well, I can see what they were going for.

Tim: But that’s nothing important really because OH GOD that filter.

Tom: Random timecodes in the bottom! A fake “Play” icon that wouldn’t actually appear after the first couple of seconds of playback! Footage degradation that’s way beyond what actually happens on VHS tapes! We get it.

Tim: Like, you’re even showing us from the main camera that the handheld one you’re using is digital! It says HD in big letters! What is this fashion, who first came up with it, and can we shoot them please because GOD. Like, if you really really want us to think this is home footage, stick a red circle and a REC in the corner. Don’t just pointlessly degrade the footage, it adds LITERALLY NOTHING. IT’S SHIT. I HATE YOU. IT MUST STOP. PLEASE.

Becky Hill, Sigala – Heaven On My Mind

“I expect a Sigala track to have an element of joy in there”

Tom: I briefly thought Sigala was going to cover a song from Jesus Christ, Superstar. That’s “Heaven On Their Minds”. This is, obviously now, different.

Tim: Yes, yes it is.

Tom: Anyway, Becky Hill’s off the first season of The Voice UK.

Tim: Oh yeah, forgot that about her. Nice how it hasn’t stood in her way, mind.

Tom: And I can’t help feeling this needs a bit more Sigala. To me, he’s always associated with Big Happy Summer Tracks, and this doesn’t quite hit that mark for me.

Tim: Hmm, that’s fair – recently he’s betting getting a bit Galantis-y in his style, and you’re right that this isn’t quite as upbeat as you’d expect from that.

Tom: There’s nothing actually wrong with this; it’s a more-than-competent dance track, and I don’t think it’d empty the floor in a club. But it feels like it’s missing something: I expect a Sigala track to have an element of joy in there, and this just seems like… a regular song. Any ideas why?

Tim: No, actually. And particularly once you’ve got the titular heaven in the lyrics, maybe you’d be right in expecting something higher pitched, with less dark intensity to it. As it is…yeah, doesn’t quite feel right.

Victor Crone – Yes, I Will Wait

“Remember when Avicii largely ditched the electronic dance stuff and went all drum ‘n’ brass?”

Tim: Remember when Avicii largely ditched the electronic dance stuff and went all drum ‘n’ brass? Here’s Victor to continue the good work.

Tom: It took me a few seconds to realise that you said drum ‘n’ brass, there. You’re right: it’s very Avicii. There’s just something in the instrumentation and vocal techniques he uses.

Tim: I don’t think there’s any one song in particular it reminds me of, but it’s certainly got me thinking back – and, indeed, it’s not dissimilar to his Melodifestivalen entry where you made a similar comparison.

Tom: It’s an odd choice to take a style that is so associated with one artist: but he’s managing to pull it off.

Tim: And isn’t it just a great song to have to trigger the memories? Drums, brass, good vocals, good melody, good everything. It’s fabulous.

Saturday Flashback: Euroband – Fullkomið Líf

“I just got to that high-pitched bit in the middle eight and it completely distracted me”

Tim: So, here’s a fun thing I discovered when coming up with suggestion for the new work Pride-themed playlist – was looking at This Is My Life, stone cold banger from Eurovision 2008, and turns out: there’s an Icelandic version as well! It was performed at their national selection, and…it’s different.

Tom: Solid “2000s daytime TV game show” vibes from that introduction, there. Actually, from the instrumentation through most of it. You’re right that it’s different, though.

Tim: Isn’t it just? It’s not just the instruments, and basically genre change, though – the lyrics are something very different. If you want to go back and hear the English version for yourself I won’t blame you, but the lyrics are, basically, I AM GAY LIVE WITH IT. Yes, there are other interpretations, but put it up at Eurovision with that backing, those outfits and the lines like “I spent my days in vain just waiting / for happiness to come my way” and “There’s no denying all the heartaches”, followed by “I opened my eyes, finally I realised” and then the massive THIS IS MY LIFE I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE A THING, and you might as well put out a parade of rainbow flags on stage.

Tom: I suspect, from the way you’re leading into this, that this isn’t quite– sorry, I just got to that high-pitched bit in the middle eight and it completely distracted me — the Icelandic one isn’t the same?

Tim: No – in fact, it’s almost entirely different: the title translates to Perfect Life, and the lyrics are not really alike at all. They’re singing to a person, chatting about how a perfect life will arrive once they’re here, and it’s really just a basic love song. And that makes me wonder what the plan was: was it originally written as a big gay anthem before being toned down for a domestic audience to vote for, or written like this and then beefed up for Europe? Either way, though, I know which version I’m sticking with.

Yello – Waba Duba

It’s really easy to say “well, this won’t be popular”.

Tom: They’re Swiss. They’re 75 and 68 years old. And you’ll know them from 1985’s Oh Yeah.

Tim: Tragically, or perhaps not, I’ve somehow gone this far throughout my life without encountering that one. Ah, well, let’s see what we’ve got now.  

Tom: It’s important to note: this isn’t a comeback or an attempt at a novelty single. This is just the same genre of electronic music that they’ve been doing for years.

Tim: Hmm – yeah, I can certainly see the link from Oh Yeah to this. In fact, listening to them one after the other they could almost be on the same album.

Tom: Thing is, sure, it’s really easy to say “well, this won’t be popular”. It almost certainly won’t. I almost clicked away after the first few seconds. But the exact same could have been said for “Oh Yeah”. Back then, it became popular because of its use in movies; now, all it’s take is one TikTok trend and this would be in the charts. It’s weird, but I don’t think it’s bad. I’m not adding it to my playlists. But I’m not ruling it out either.

Tim: Okay. Yeah, I see that, and I’d agree. These days, can’t really rule anything out.

Rico & Miella – We Are The Lights

“This manages to hit both “different” and “good”, which is a very rare skill indeed.”

Tim: Normally, I hate YouTube’s AutoPlay feature, as I do wth SoundCloud. On the other hand, I absent-mindedly left it on after yesterday’s track, and, well, this arrived. It’s not our usual, what with the duo being based in New York, but have a listen, would you? Just for me.

Tom: I was reminded of “My Heart Is Yours” by that introduction — and then it went in a very different direction.

Tim: Very different indeed, yes – and I think it’s a little bit good, isn’t it? The first verse is (at the very least) as good as your standard dreamy pop dance track, but then even as soon as we get to that vocal pre-chorus, it’s just wonderful, elevating it to a whole other level. The full chorus, when it hits, just sounds so impressive, both the bits with and with the choral vocal.

Tom: Yep, this manages to hit both “different” and “good”, which is a very rare skill indeed.

Tim: And throughout the track, from then on, it really doesn’t put a single foot wrong.

Tom: There’s even a Ministry of Sound-style euphoric build into that final chorus, which somehow manages to not sound cheesy.

Tim: I think, basically, that this is a really, really on point track. I don’t know exactly what genre I’d place in it – it wouldn’t be top of the league in ‘dance’ or ‘pop’ or even ‘dance-pop’ – but it’s sure as hell near the top of whatever genre it might be classified as.

NERVO feat. Frida – Hurt

“See, for the first verse, it’s a typical Frida Sundemo track.”

Tim: For some reason, ‘Frida’ isn’t getting a full name credit, so your average listener doesn’t necessarily have any real idea who it is. On the other hand, we intelligent and cultured people recognise the voice and know exactly who it is.

Tom: Yes. Absolutely. I can 100% remember the Frida we’ve talked about before. Sure.

Tim: 1t’s an interesting one, this. Or at least, that ‘feat.’ is. See, for the first verse, it’s a typical Frida Sundemo track.

Tom: Frida Sundemo! Right. Yes. I do actually remember her name now, although I don’t think I could have placed that voice.

Tim: Low on the instrumental, but very definitely a dance track, carried solely by her vocal. Chorus comes along, and again it’s a straight up Frida track – her vocal, good melodic dance beat.

Tom: Which is fine, I guess? I’ll be honest, there’s not much here that makes me feel… well, anything, to be honest. It is a Generic Dance Number with a good vocal.

Tim: But that second verse, that’s different, that’s not something we’ve heard before from her, with that darker backing. That’s straight up NERVO. That’s where the ‘feat’ comes in, where she basically does what they’re telling her to do. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind, but I will say I’m happy it doesn’t last all that long. Because after that? Again, that’s an energetic Frida track.

Tom: And if that’s your thing — which is seems to be — then I guess that’ll do nicely.

Tim: And so for everything except that second verse, that ‘feat.’ could be an ‘&’. And you know, I love that. Shame she doesn’t get full credit, really.