Tim: Do you remember Castles in the Sky? Of course you do – it was the early 2000s, as far as I’m concerned a Golden Age of music in Britain, with Eurodance colonising the charts every summer, and that song epitomised it.
Tom: Oh, that takes me back. Specifically, it takes me back to the upper floor of the Nottingham laser tag centre, defending the red base from anyone who tried to make it up the stairs.
Tim: Fast forward a few years, though, and utter tripe has largely taken over.
Tom: I quite like Disturbia, thank you very much.
Tim: Seriously? Huh. Anyway, regardless of the popularity shift, Ian van Dahl are still going, albeit with a different name, and they bring out this, get no airplay because it’s not cool any more, and fail to chart anywhere except their native Belgium.
Tom: Ah, Hard2Beat Records. They know their target market, and they aren’t afraid to pitch to them.
Tim: That failure to chart is a great shame, really, because this is good.
Tom: Now that’s where you’re wrong. It’s competent. It’s not good.
Tim: Well, I’ll accept that it is fairly generic, and does very little to challenge the ‘all dance music sounds the same’ bull that my parents like to put out there every now and again, although it does at least stay away from the snare drum buildup cliche* (by replacing it with a synth buildup instead).
* Related fact: Ayla’s album Nirwana is quite possibly my favourite dance album of ever, vying for the top spot along with Dario G’s Sunmachine, Rank 1’s Symsonic and Darude’s Before the Storm. Three years ago I spent almost six months on eBay, Amazon and the like trying to track down a (reasonably priced) copy before becoming very, very grateful to kevayreski72 for wanting to get rid of his.
Tom: That synth buildup may be the only original thing in the song.
Tim: You know what? I don’t care about originality – I like it, and it reminds me of a better time. Although it isn’t as good as Castles in the Sky.
Tom: Well, of course it isn’t. For a start, it doesn’t make me want to play laser tag.
Tim: …by drying himself off – sorry Tom – and putting the first single off his next album up on YouTube.
Tim: Unfortunately, but not too surprisingly, it isn’t as good as Manboy.
Tom: He’s gone all plodding and emotional, hasn’t he? So much for having enough enthusiasm that you have to shower on stage.
Tim: If we’re honest, it could probably do with losing about thirty seconds somewhere along the line, and the first few seconds sound a bit like Day & Night. On a more positive note, if you don’t do some sort of involuntary dance-type movement after the bridge there may be something wrong with you, which makes it a winner in my view.
Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you there, and then I went and subconsciously nodded my head along after the beat. That technically counts.
Tim: Musically it’s a surprisingly decent mix of several genres; lyrically it seems slightly weird and almost pointless – you’re annoying me but keep doing it – but never mind that, because I still like the chorus and the closing bit very much indeed.
Tom: It’s a proper lighters-in-the-air moment at the end, isn’t it? It’s no Manboy, but it’ll do.
Tom: I think “like Pulp, but a bit crap” basically sums this up. Or alternatively “the London Pulp”, which basically says the same thing.
Tim: I don’t know, I don’t mind it – the music I can take or leave, but part of me likes the the lyrics, which are basically ‘yeah, we had sex, now sod off,’ even though I’d often just hate them. Somehow the barefacedness of it seems to work – maybe with the music – and doesn’t just make the singer seem like a misogynistic twat.
Tom: The Vaccines won third place in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 competition, which really doesn’t make me hold out music hope for the British music scene this year. And the single’s competent, I suppose, but it’s just whiny 90s Britpop – and without Jarvis Cocker at the helm, is it really worth bringing that back?
Tim: Depends if it’s better than what else is around. And looking at a couple ofthe songs we’ve reviewed previously, I would say yes. Although it would be nice if there were other options around that they could choose instead. Oh,wait. Thereare.
I watched it all the way through almost without blinking.
Tim: No, don’t worry – it’s not Ne-Yo, it’s NEO, an all-round better musician, although sadly not very lucky when it comes to exiting nightclubs.
Tom: I really hope this video explains that joke.
Tom: I have no idea what that video was about, but I watched it all the way through almost without blinking. That was brilliant.
Tim: Wasn’t it just? The music as well is very good, and in my view better than the sort of stuff that was on his first album – darker (much), but somehow better, even though I’d normally prefer the Mika-esque style. There’s a level of emotion and feeling to it that just didn’t seem to exist before, and the music’s very much better for it. The high-pitched voice isn’t used as a novelty this time round, but more as something that just belongs and doesn’t seem out of place.
Tom: Through the first minute, I was waiting for the chorus. I was thinking “this is a hell of a build, this had better be a blinder of a chorus.” And it was. By the final repeat, it’s almost an Andreas Johnson blinder of a chorus. And you’re right, the falsetto doesn’t seem out of place.
Tim: All round, it just seems a lot more mature than his last album – as though he’s now decided what he wants to do with his music, as opposed to thinking along the lines of ‘this is what Swedish musicians do, I’d better do that.’ I think he’s made the right decision – he certainly looks the part, as part of me was expecting him to grow fangs at 2:57. Very glad he didn’t, though.
Tom: That’s a director’s error, sadly – it’s shot like a transformation sequence, where it’s actually some kind of timeline switch. The background needs to be in focus and twitching, not him. Never mind – as I said before, it’s still blindingly good.
Tim: And lastly, what with him being NEO and all if you didn’t think ‘He is The One’ at 2:43, there’s something wrong with you.
Tom: So, we have a group of attractive female singers in revealing outfits; a Eurobeat-style backing; simple key changes and occasional English lyrics. Textbook J-pop, right?
Tim: That starts off in a similar fashion to Almighty’s version of Never Ending Story and keeps going very well. I like it, verses aside. Well done Tom.
Tom: Well, you see, I showed you that song so I could show you this. Advance warning: this is definitely not suitable for kids, or for anyone who’s likely to have nightmares about being attacked by monsters made of erogenous zones.
Tim: Umm… Well, it still has a good start to it, I suppose. And the bits that detracted from the last track have gone. Um. That’s probably not what you were wanting me to comment on, is it? To be honest, though, I really can’t think of words to describe what I think of the video.
Tom: So what the hell happened? Well, first things first: E-Rotic aren’t really a group, they’re a “project”. That’s fairly common for Eurodance acts – the vocalists are disposable; what really counts is the producer.
In this case, the producer is a man called David Brandes, who’d came up with the idea of a group whose songs were all based around sex. (I’d say ‘innuendo’, but there’s no innuendo here at all.)
Tim: No. No there isn’t. And I’m guessing you’ve got a whole load more lined up to show me, haven’t you?
Tom: E-Rotic’s other tracks include the prequel to this one, “Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex”, as well as “Help Me Dr. Dick”, “In The Heat Of The Night”, and “Test My Best”. The latter includes some… interesting noises from the vocalist.
Tim: There me be something wrong with me, but I actually really like these. Musically, at least, although not so much lyrically.
Tom: Musically, they’re very good. E-Rotic – with a variety of singers – lasted from 1995 until 2003, releasing a half-dozen studio albums and a compilation called “Greatest Tits”. With them finished, David Brandes gets their existing songs rewritten in Japanese, with no sex in them at all, puts together a girl group and presto – a romantic song about fighting for love follows, which promptly gets into the German top 20.
Shanadoo are still going, as well. As for E-Rotic? …well, not so much.
They’re pretty much asking for a lightning bolt to strike them down.
Tim: Here, we have a former Eurovision act splitting up and pretty much asking for a lightning bolt to strike them down.
Tom: I do like The Ark (mainly for that one performance) and I’m a bit disappointed they’re splitting. All good things, though. What’s the track like?
Tim: This, Mr Collins, is what a goodbye song should be like – fun, exciting, a great aa-ooooh hook before we’ve even got started and with all sorts of strange lyrics.
Tom: That ‘aa-ooooh’ got me going straight away. No idea why, but it fits very well with this track. And that ramping return from the bridge is brilliant.
Tim: And those lyrics are remarkably odd – or at least the ones that are vaguely intelligible. We have Sword of Damocles references, which then turns into the shape of a cross, we have dancing the night away as a means to reach another life, we have a black and white world haunted by God, and then at the end he finds his own heaven in life.
Tom: It is a bit odd, isn’t it? This track – and other songs like Religious by Gravitonas – would never get major label airplay in the US; ClearChannel and the other media conglomerates would be too afraid of offending the Bible Belt.
Tim: Well, it’s not just the Bible Belt they’ll be offending – don’t forget the main man Himself. To be honest I do wonder about the wisdom of releasing this right before they split up to move in different directions, because surely sticking two fingers up at the Lord is not the best way to begin a new career.
Tim: You know Swedish-Moroccan person RedOne, or at least you certainly know his work. If we had one, he’d probably be Europlop’s Official Favourite Producer, due to his output consisting of work such as The Silence, Straight Through My Heart, Oui mais… non, Alejandro and many others. Now it turns out he’s even better than we thought, because he can make one of the Pussycat Dolls listenable.
Tom: Bloody hell, that’s a bold claim.
Tim: This song seems to be just about two people having fun lazing around on a beach, and to be honest I wouldn’t mind doing that right now, so I’m a little bit jealous really. Still, I won’t begrudge them a decent review, because this song is undeniably enjoyable.
Tom: “Under the coconut tree / you be chillin’ wi’ me”? Really? This isn’t the 90s, and this track isn’t sung by Peter Andre.
Tim: What – you won’t allow that but you’ll happily let Olly Murs off rhyming feet with beach? Back in the world of listenable music, though, Mohombi is half-Swedish and half-Congolese, and I think both sides come out in this track.
Tom: I can’t deny that – and you’re right that Nicole Whatsherface is actually listenable here as well.
Tim: The singing is full of energy, the music is vibrant, and if they don’t do something good with the video I’ll be very disappointed, because there’s certainly potential here.
Tom: It just seems like someone took a track from fifteen years ago and updated it with modern production – and my brain can’t quite get around the discontinuity. Even the bridge, lovely as it is, is definitely old-school. There’s even a bit of ‘Agadoo’ in there, I think.
Tim: Really? I can’t hear a problem, although I’ve got to admit I do have quite a soft spot for Agadoo. This is definitely the sort of song that would get me going if I was feeling a bit lethargic; for that it gets full marks.
It’s probably a good thing that most Biffy Clyro fans will never hear this.
Tim: For those that don’t know the story: about a year ago Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro came out with Many of Horror, which some fans liked and some fans felt wasn’t as good as the rest of their stuff, mostly because it was less rocky and too mainstream. Eleven months later, Matt Cardle wins The X Factor with a cover of it, retitled as the more family-friendly When We Collide, at which point all the Biffy Clyro fans remarked that it was in fact their best song ever and that Matt Cardle was the son of Satan.
Tom: True as that may be, it’s your typical hands-in-the-air winner’s song.
Tim: And now, as regularly happens with X Factor winners (and, indeed, manyothersongs) the good folk at Almighty Records have produced their own version, and to be honest it’s probably a good thing that most Biffy Clyro fans will never hear this.
Tom: Oh, Almighty Records, you wonderful people.
Tim: I’ll be honest: I’m a little disappointed.
Tom: Even with the…
Tim: Well, yes, it has the ridiculous and almost barely believable key change that we’ve come to expect, and I think the chiming bells work well, but something seems not quite right. For one, I think it would work better with a male vocalist.
Tom: Have Almighty ever used a male vocalist? I don’t think so. I’d like to hear what they could do with one, though.
Tim: Another thing is that it also seems to be constantly on the verge of fading out, at least whenever there’s an instrumental part. Then even the key change seems like it’s more of a formality than anything else – as though the producer thought ‘Oh, we’d better do that, hadn’t we? Erm, what can we do with it…tell you what, let’s put this effect here, turn that end up a bit, and that should do it. Anyone for the pub?’
Tom: Now you put it that way, I see what you mean – I don’t think I’ve ever heard them actually pitch-bend the whole bit of music before. It’s vaguely unsettling.
Tim: Don’t get me wrong – it’s not bad, obviously. But it’s certainly no You Raise Me Up, that’s for certain.
Tim: Well, the final version of the new Britney single got leaked yesterday and the whole music internet and his dog is talking about it – how about we take a quick break from the usual and have a look at it?
Tom: Go for it. What do you think, Tim?
Tim: CAN’T STAND: the dubstep bits, which sort of includes the verses and definitely includes the first half of the bridge, which is absolutely not my type of thing.
CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF: the rest of it. This includes the choruses and the second part of the bridge, which will have lasers and smoke machines and hands in the air in any self-respecting club, and everything later than that.
That is what I think, and because it ends on a high, the positiveness wins over.
Tom: I have yet to find a dubstep track that I like, which is strange – normally, even in genres I don’t like, there are a couple of tracks that I’ll still enjoy. Dubstep? Not one, yet. It completely kills the energy in the bridge: there’s even a ramp up to it and then it just dies. That second half of the bridge, though, with the sparse drum hits? That’s bloody amazing. I want to dance to that.
Tim: Oh, and apparently if you, like me, thought you knew how to pronounce ‘hazy’, you were quite clearly wrong.
Tom: Tim, I have a degree in linguistics, I know the International Phonetic Alphabet, and I’m not sure I could transcribe what she sang there. I’m not sure those vowels are used in any human language. Perhaps she’s signalling the mothership.
Tim: No soapy sailors this time round, as this is a free track off their website rather than an actual single – a present to keep their fans happy until they bring new stuff out in February.
Tom: Now, I really liked the bubblegum pop sound they had last time round – how much of that was due to attractive lead singers in low-cut outfits, I’m not sure, but I ended up listening to that track a lot of times. Hopefully this one’s similar.
Tom: Oh yes.
Tim: Not half bad, really, and remarkably different from The Killers’ original, in the backing instrumentation at least.
Tom: The first few notes of it gave me a bit of worry, but I needn’t have – it’s a great cover of a great song; when all the electronic gubbins kicks in on “Jealousy–“, I just burst out into a smile.
It’s basically into repeat-until-fade half way through, and – most disappointingly – it doesn’t use the “I never–” refrain to end it. I like that part, if only because every time I hear it I think Brandon Flowers is singing “PAELLA.”
Tim: Of course you do. Needless to say, fans of The Killers won’t like it much, but we’re not here for them. We’re here because we like happy camp music, and this is very much it.