Saturday Flashback: Girls Can’t Catch – Echo

They possibly had potential.

Tim: You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head, but then you can’t remember the name of it no matter how hard you try? Yeah, well this isn’t one of those.

Tom: When the video starts, it looks like they’re performing in front of the first second of the ‘Futurama’ titles on loop. I expected the Planet Express ship to crash into their blatantly-not-on-the-Cliffs-of-Dover stage. They also appear to be sending out dangerous blasts of light towards France – which, despite the title of the song, never echo back. Opportunity missed there, video director.

Tim: Fifty per cent of the cost of the video saved there, video director. But part of me wants them to be shot out to sea by the shockwave effect they’re going for.

Tom: “Whoops, sorry love, mistimed that one. We’ll get the lifeboat for you, just hang on.”

Tim: This group existed for about a year, had two singles, broke up the day after after being dropped about six months ago, and have an album due out on 13th December (the logic presumably being that it’s a shame to waste all the stuff they’ve recorded). Bit of a shame they split up, because I very much enjoyed this song, and they possibly had potential.

Tom: They are Another Girl Group, and there’ll be another one along in a minute.

Tim: Well, quite. They will in all likelihood never be missed, especially given that they wrote practically none of their material – even their name was second-hand, after The Saturdays rejected it.

Tom: Surely there’s a whole line in vaguely sexist band names? How about “Men Never Want To Cuddle After Sex”? that could work.

Tim: I would definitely buy a single by Girls Who Spend Money On Clothing. Mind you, we could just rewrite some recent tracks, like OMD’s Sister Marie Says Get Out Of My Kitchen, perhaps, or Robyn’s Indestructible (My Love For These Shoes).

Tom: It’s all right, folks, he’s being ironically sexist.

Katy B feat. Ms Dynamite – Lights On

I’m sorry, is it the 90s all of a sudden?

Tom: I’m sorry, is it the 90s all of a sudden?

Tom: We need a name for something, Tim, and that something is “the feeling you get two minutes into a song when you realise no, it’s not over yet, and you haven’t even heard the bridge yet”. I got that feeling so strongly with this track.

Tim: Me too, and so much so that I can’t really think anything other than ‘why hasn’t this finished yet?’ It’s just seems so pointless.

Tom: Yes, we get it Katy, you’re drunk and you don’t want to stop dancing. Now stop embarrassing yourself and head to the cloakroom, the bouncers are starting to look at you funny. No, the floor isn’t tilting. Just… walk with me, okay, just over here. Okay, great.

As for Ms Dynamite: when did mid-90s half-singing half-rapping come back into fashion? It was a bit embarrassing back then, and it definitely is now.

Tim: I believe we can attribute that to Alesha Dixon’s The Boy Does Nothing, which wouldn’t really have happened without Strictly Come Dancing; as such, I blame Bruce Forsyth.

Tom: Yes, but you blame everything on Bruce Forsyth.

Tim: Look, I don’t care what you say about my tripping over that bucket – if it wasn’t for him and that bloody catchphrase we’d never have come anywhere near to getting caught and you know it. I might still have most of my hair as well.

Saturday Flashback: Basshunter – Boten Anna (Instrumental)

Just a bit calming, really.

Tim: What? What on Earth is the point of me suggesting this? Which sensible person doesn’t know of the excellent Basshunter and his signature tune Boten Anna? Well, indeed. However, this version came on my generic nano-sized music player a while back and 50 seconds in I suddenly had absolutely no idea what was going on in the world. I kid you not, there was a part of me thought I had somehow taken some sort of drug without realising it.

Tom: The dancey bits are doing that thing that Basshunter usually does – where the loud part of the synth line happens on the off-beat. I swear that’s designed to make less-musical clubbers lose their timing and look like idiots.

Tim: Tiësto‘s quite good at that as well. The guitar part in this took me a while to get used to it, but I think I actually prefer it, outside of a clubby/dancey environment. It’s unusual, it’s not as aggressive as the other instrumental version I’ve got, and it’s just a bit calming, really.

Tom: I wouldn’t go so far as ‘calming’, but the acoustic guitar and choral synth patch bit in the middle is almost like the soundtrack of a cheesy sci-fi movie. If any readers have skipped over listening to this because they ‘know what it sounds like’ – they’re wrong.

Not sure about the trio of vaguely-threatening Basshunters in the bottom right of the video clip, though.

Tim: To me it looks a little bit like the scrawny drug-dealer in the middle being protected by two hardcore goons on the outside. Or the nerdy kid who gets protected by the big guys because he does their homework for them.

Robyn – Indestructible & Call Your Girlfriend

Do they suffer the same problems?

Tom: We’ve harped on about Robyn’s songs for a while, and our complaint is always the same: they start at a moderate level of enthusiasm, the end at the same level, and they go nowhere in between. There’s no rise and fall, just a constant electronic beat and her singing.

Tim: Although it should perhaps be said that in some songs, such as Hang With Me, the moderate level is enough to enjoy the track if it’s on in the background.

Tom: Indestructible has been out as an acoustic version for a while, but the full synth-backed version is being released as a single soon. The question is, of course, is it the same as all the rest?

Tom: Yes, yes it is.

So, rather than say anything further, I suggest we use the rest of this post to discuss what the hell the bridge bit sounds like. Something from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, perhaps? The opening theme to Treasure Hunt? I can’t quite place it.

Tim: Haha, it is a bit like Treasure Hunt, isn’t it? However, I feel that instead of moving on we should provide properly constructive criticism, rather than just ‘make it louder’. For this song, I have two recommendations:

  • The ‘let the bad ones in and the good ones go’ before the chorus is nice and sway-y, but that is spoiled by the ‘but. PAUSE.’ that happens next. I suggest losing those and instead having a ‘good ones go-o-oh’ leading gently into ‘I’m gonna…’
  • The parts of each verse that first occur with ‘not alone’ and then ‘don’t let go’ should have at least an echo, if not proper backing singers. Although this is optional for the first verse, there is no way the second verse and later should not have it.

Tom: Sorry, what was that? I was busy watching Anneka Rice.

Tim: Well, actually, stop that and pay attention. Because this just in, from fan of the site Gerald: a track from the new album (a culmination of 2010’s Body Talk trilogy) entitled Call Your Girlfriend. Now sit down and brace yourself: it’s actually really good. (In his words: “12 times in one day good”.)

Tim: If we’re being honest, and looking back at what we’ve said above, we’ve always been a little bit harsher on Robyn than she deserves – we’ve said that the songs, when heard just as songs, have not been great, for one reason or another. While all that is true, and I stand by it, we’ve not really mentioned that the music itself is quite good – it’s danceable, especially when mixed into other tracks, and if you hear it in the background of a shop of something you will likely think ‘Ooh, I like this’.

Tom: Believe it or not, that happened to me yesterday when a remix of ‘Hang With Me’ got played at an event I was at. And I liked it. Rewatching it now, even the video seems charming.

Tim: But, there have always been problems. And yet here, no. From when the synth first hits after the initial ‘Call your’, the melody is strong and the verses vibrant. The chorus is energetic with a healthy beat, and I like the way it flows straight back into the verse afterwards. The first part of the bridge is a bit bonkers, in a very good way. The second part of it is proper emotional singing, which is unexpected but great. The ‘caaaalll…’ even comes perilously close to a previously unimaginable Robyn post-bridge climax. Yes, it’s possibly a chorus too long at the end, and the two lines following each of the early choruses are a bit weak, but other than that I just can’t fault it.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you and say it was another boring track, but then the chorus kicked in and I decided that you’re exactly right. “The only way her heart will mend” did the musical equivalent of hitting me in the face… in a good way.

Plain White Ts – Rhythm Of Love

I like this, and I don’t know why.

Tom: You’ll recognise the Plain White Ts from their one big hit, “Hey There Delilah“.

Tim: Actually, no.

Tom: This one sounds very slow and similar to start off, and I was in the middle of writing a couple of paragraphs on how they haven’t deviated from that formula – and then the energetic bit kicked in.

Tim: Well, when I think of them I think of their more usual music style, exemplified by tracks such as Our Time Now and Hate (I Really Don’t Like You), which they’ve used for just about every other song they’ve done – part of me thinks Hey There Delilah was released as a bet, because I can’t see any other reason for it having been so different. Having said that, this is also entirely different, so I guess I was surprised as you were but coming from the opposite direction.

Tom: I like this, and I don’t know why. Handclaps, tambourine, and acoustic guitar – I should be complaining about damned hippies, and instead I’m happily bouncing around in my chair. Help me, Tim; remind me why these guys are crap. I’ve forgotten.

Tim: Erm, no, but I can help you identify what’s good about the song – it’s basically everything that was good about the Olly Murs song with a delightful lack of arrogant and badly rhyming lyrics. It’s right there in the video – it’s beach party music, and a soothing antidote to November.

Phil Collins – Going Back

It must be getting near Christmas.

Tom: If a royal wedding, a recession, and the Tories in power wasn’t enough to convince you that it’s the 1980s again – it’s a new Phil Collins album, this time of Motown covers. It must be getting near Christmas. Here’s the lead single, and… damn it, I hesitate to say it because it’s Phil Collins and hating him is almost de rigeur, but this is pleasant.

Tom: Is it fast-paced dance music? No. Should we really be reviewing it on this blog? Not really. But I’m surprised enough by this track that, damn it, I’m putting it up here. Whatcha think, Tim?

Tim: It’s… dull. It took 80 seconds for anything remotely interesting to happen, and even then it was nothing special. And that isn’t easy to say, because if I’m honest I quite like a few of his songs, but there is absolutely nothing to get excited about here whatsoever. It’s pleasant, yes, but only in the same way that My Family is pleasant – it’s just satisfying enough that turning it off isn’t quite worth the energy required to do so.

Tom: Hold on, what? My Family is still going?

Tim: Yep – ten series now. How? Who actually watches it? I don’t know – probably people that can’t be bothered to switch off after The One Show.

Tom: This is, he says, likely to be his final single – and so the video is filled with flashbacks and shots of the man himself either emoting or staring directly into your soul. (It depends on the camera angle.)

Tim: Just a shame it can’t be a memorable one, really.

Paramore – Playing God

Five singles from one album. Really, Paramore?

Tom: Five singles from one album. Really, Paramore? I mean, I know you’re popular, but surely you’re getting into album tracks by now?

Tom: Yep. Album track. Although to be fair, I’ve thought that about most of Paramore’s singles. Not even the ‘attractive woman with pink hair’ factor’s saving this one in my head.

Tim: On a scale of album tracks, though, it’s at the higher end. Not so good that I want to write a huge amount about it, mind, but equally not so bad that I feel the need to write a huge amount about it.

Tom: Also, she really needs to learn how to tie knots properly.

Tim: And get on to her insurance company about her missing paintings.

Josh Groban – Hidden Away

Being bought for a lot of mums right now.

Tom: Now, I have a sneaking respect for Josh Groban. He knows his audience, he knows what music they like, and he’s not afraid to lampoon himself – see his appearance on Buzzcocks or his cameo in this, the best mock-charity-video ever.

It’s the run-up to Christmas, which means – of course – new album and new single to promote it.

Tom: So, here’s the Groban checklist:

  • Slow intro.
  • Steadily rising verse.
  • Vaguely positive lyrics.
  • Occasional breaks to falsetto.
  • Heartfelt but ultimately incredibly superficial music video.

Five for five. And I’ll bet the new album is being bought for a lot of mums right now.

Tim: Well, indeed – he fits in a not particularly large group of singers who pretty much exist to have their CDs bought for elderly relatives. Similar acts include Susan Boyle, Il Divo and Michael Bublé (although he’s become a bit more mainstream recently), and it’s a fairly good place to be: the people who buy your music probably won’t realise if you stopped being good three years ago, so you can’t really go wrong.

Gorillaz feat. Daley – Doncamatic (All Played Out)

Generally un-notable electronica.

Tom: Ah, Gorillaz. Damon Albarn’s cartoon project is still going, and still producing generally un-notable electronica. Whatever the singles from ‘Plastic Beach’ were, I can’t remember them; and the only reason ‘Dare’ actually lodged itself in my head was because of Shaun Ryder’s vocals. So I shouldn’t have been disappointed by this, but nevertheless I was.

Tim: How on Earth has it managed to go on for longer than Blur did? Unjust universe, I tell you.

Tom: I hoped for another ’19-2000′ (and the Soulchild remix of it, at that). I set my sights too high. The instrumental bridge, with its two-instrument synth and percussion line, actually made me cringe as my ears tried to work out what was going on.

Tim: Yes. The first time I heard it, the first ‘Doncamatic’ made me think ‘Ooh, it’s Barbra Streisand’ all over again, albeit a not-as-good alternative. On the other hand, the chorus is quite nice, and a song made from the last minute or so might work quite well. It’s just a shame that the rest of it’s a bit pointless.

Tom: I’m going to go and listen to ‘Feel Good Inc’ again to try and get this out of my head. Wait… no need. It’s gone.

Erik Hassle – Standing Where You Left Me

There are many things right with this song.

Standing Where You Left Me by erikhassle

Tim: There are many things right with this song – the intensity of it going perfectly with the emotion, the high-pitched electric violiny type thing just before the bridge, the instrumental pauses beneath the first line of the chorus and the ‘oh my God’, to name just a few.

Tom: The drum fills in the middle of the verse, too – and the synth backing line.

Tim: However, I do have one complaint, and that is his treatment of the word ‘me’ at the end of the first line of each chorus. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s very good, but I think he missed a trick there: if he’d lowered it a couple of notes, he’d have then be able to jump up an octave for after the bridge (à la Backstreet Boys), which would have been brilliant.

Tom: Hold on. So you think that…

Tim: He should go down on ‘me’? Yes. Yes I do.

Tom: Get out.

Tim: Now, you may be wondering, ‘Did Tim really come up with a point and go on about it for a whole paragraph, complete with YouTube references, solely to make a fairly lame joke? Well, yes. Problem?

Actually, I do think it’s a slightly valid point, but that aside, however, I think the song’s great. Although don’t go on YouTube looking for a live version – you’ll spend the whole time trying to work out why he’s got a large hamster living on his head.