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.

September – Resuscitate Me

I think it’s slightly excellent

Tim: Now, this was never going to be as good as the UK radio edit of Can’t Get Over, so I set my sights deliberately low, but overall I don’t think that was needed – it’s easily on a par with Cry For You, for a start.

Tom: She’s now got a recognisable voice and style – something that I’d recognise as ‘September’ even if it just turned up on the radio. I think it’s the similar synth lines – it’s an interesting way to build a musical brand, but it works.

Tim: But what is it as a song on its own? I think it’s slightly excellent – the ‘don’t you let my heart die boy’ lead into the chorus works very well as a ‘get ready to dance’ warning, and there’s plenty of energy lying around all over the please.

Tom: Except in the bridge. That bridge goes on far too long.

Tim: Hmm, maybe – I think think it works. I do have a couple of issues (the high pitched vocals being almost impossible to decipher, the idea of ‘love CPR’ which is just as ridiculous here as it was when JLS invented it a while back*), but overall this is a stonkingly good effort.

* And that’s actually the title of her new album. Why. Just, why.

Tom: Stonkingly?

Tim: Yes, I said stonkingly. Live with it.

Tom: You are an 80s commercial radio DJ and I claim my five pounds.

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.

Disco Rapido – We Play The Pipe

THAT’S RIGHT! It’s new Daz Sampson.

Tim: It was mentioned last Saturday that Daz Sampson crops up in all sorts of unlikely places. Since then, he’s got in touch* with another one, because THAT’S RIGHT! It’s new Daz Sampson.

* For any readers who may still be interested, he also informed us that Ben O’Brien was his manager who dreamed of being able to get taxis everywhere – Daz’s shout-out was a way of promising him that the money would soon flood in, and that he would be able to do just that.

Tom: And now, we’ve recorded the Ben O’Brien reference for posterity. Excellent. Right – what’s the new one? I’m bracing myself.

Tim: Well, this time, there’s a twist – he’s decided that enough is enough, and that with this one it’s all or nothing: if this doesn’t make the Top 10 he’s calling it a day. (And he’s also said that unlike Lisa Scott-Lee, he actually means it.)

Tim: So, basically, he’s calling it a day.

Tom: Now, don’t be quite so cynical. It doesn’t take much to get to the top 10 these da—hahaha, okay, I just heard it, he’s calling it a day.

Tim: Now, sorry Daz, but why couldn’t you have had a decent last stand? I have no idea, but the Facebook page says that acts they* like include Yolanda Be Cool and Riva Starr, which suggests to me that what they’ve really done is look for weird stuff that’s done well recently and tried to copy it.

* There’s another bloke involved – no idea who.

Tom: I don’t want to be too harsh, because the guy’s actually emailed us and seems like a decent bloke. That said, it’s blatant style-copying. A retro sample, a beat over the top, an occasional vocal sample, and a stupid cut-price video. Although, fair credit to them, the Blackpool Illuminations bit at the end did actually make me smile a bit.

Tim: Only problem is: the song’s more than a little bit crap. But, to be brutally honest, so were the others, really. They only succeeded because they were novelties, it was the right time of year for unusual dance tracks and people got caught up in the mood. Now, however, it’s the middle of November and it’s cold and wet outside; if people want to dance to unusual music they’ll wait until Slade or Wizzard comes on the radio, rather than listen to what Pete Tong’s got lined up for them on a Friday night.

Tom: There’s the inevitable slew of crap novelty Christmas cash-in records coming, isn’t there? Damn it, ever since downloads started counting for the chart the race for Christmas Number One has been a horrid race-to-the-bottom bunfight. Well, apart from last year’s Rage Against The Machine bit, of course.

Tim: Farewell Daz – it was good while it lasted. Well, slightly good. Ish.

Tom: He is the UK’s number 4 MC. Never forget that.

Tim: Hang on – I’ve just reread his e-mail, and he’s actually said the reverse, albeit slightly confusingly what with the Lisa Scott-Lee comparisons. If this is a hit, he’ll walk away. I guess we’ve got another fifteen years of Daz to come.

Tom: How has he not done a soap powder sponsorship yet? I mean, the link is obvious.

Tim: BANG! And Daz is gone.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

Pet Shop Boys – Together

The new one isn’t a classic.

Tom: I listened to this – and then immediately went and listened to ‘Go West’, which is actually good.

The Pet Shop Boys have the same approach as Pink – put loads and loads of stuff out, eventually you’ll have enough classics to do a medley at the Brits. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a good approach, but it does mean it’s a bit disappointing when the new one isn’t a classic.

Tim: True. However, I think one problem here is the whole absence makes the heart grow fonder thing, because I’ve just listened to the rest of their previous greatest hits album from 2003 – Since when they’ve apparently released two new albums and five singles. Nope, me neither.

Tom: I remember one album and one single. To be fair, Love Etc was a very good single.

Tim: Maybe, but the fact remains that the vast majority of their songs are nowhere near as good as Go West, and this song is in fact a lot better than most of them. Of course it’s not as good as Go West – the chances of that would be near zero. It is, on the other hand, still a good song and deserves to be judged on its own merits.

So, its merits. The song as a whole has a lot of energy and vibrancy to it – it’s somehow managed to stay in the style of music they’ve always been known for, yet not seem dated at all.

Tom: I’ll grant it that. It’s their style, and it doesn’t seem dated. But it also doesn’t seem to be much good: it just plods along.

Tim: There are elements of The Journey Continues to it, which was a pleasant enough tune, but one thing I’m not particularly keen on is the way it temporarily ends after the first verse.

Tom: I’m not keen on that either. The ‘temporary’ part, I mean.

Tim: Overall, however, I think it rates as perhaps not excellent, but certainly jolly good, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended up on a few people’s ‘Top however many Most Played’ playlists.

Tom: Somewhere near Pink’s latest track.

Saturday Flashback: Special D. – Here I Am

Quite what sort of thought process led to this I can only imagine

Tim: So then, Tom. What do you say to a good old fashioned Cold War political song reimagined as a mid-2000s dance tune? Check this, from 2005.

Tom: That is, indeed, quite special.

Tim: Isn’t it just? I was going to suggest Come With Me, but then I remembered this, which is (a) less well-known and (b) far, far, far more worthy of discussion. Quite what sort of thought process led to this reworking of Nena’s 99 Luftballons I can only imagine, but the tune is only half of it. The lyric “Here I am, my brand new track, I made it ’cause you want me back” suggests someone inundated with fan mail, rather than somebody who had a big hit two years previously and who since then had released a steady flow of mediocre and slightly appreciated tracks.

Tom: What gets me is that’s the main lyric. It’s not the intro bit, which would be just-about-acceptable, although perilously close to doing a Flo Rida. That’s the whole song. It’s a meta-track, a track that’s entirely about itself. I hate meta-tracks. It’s like Tamperer’s appalling If You Buy This Record – take a well-known song, add a louder beat and some different vocal samples, and churn out another track.

Tim: Then, given that everybody’s heard Operation Blade (even if they don’t know it), what comes out of his mouth at 2:25 is just brilliant.

Tom: “I haven’t heard that,” I thought. And then I realised that, yes, I had heard it.

Tim: The video of five hot girls in a car race is, well, just plain odd.

Tom: Not when you think about who the target market is. They know their demographics.

Tim: Oh, I’ve got no problem with that – as bland and usual an idea as any other dance video. It’s the details, though – their names, for example, start off vaguely logical, but then drop it completely. We have ‘Speederella’ being a bit like Cinderella, ‘Gasolina’ continuing a princess pattern, being a bit like (albeit considerably less pleasant than) Thumbelina, and then ‘Velocity’ is a bit like, um, a science lesson. Right. And the ‘Oh, you’re so funny, putting the turntable on the wrong setting’ exchange comes out of absolutely nowhere.

Tom: That just seems normal for me, and here’s why: I’m used to listening to long-form mixes, like Deep Dance – there’s an obscure Wikipedia article for me – where those get dropped in all the time.

Tim: Having said all that: I love it.

Tom: Annoyingly, I’ve got to agree.

Saturday Flashback: DJ Daz – The Woah Song

Enthusiastic but nevertheless slightly creepy.

Tom: You will recognise Daz Sampson. We could write an entire tribute article to his career, and his never-say-die attitude – that’s not sarcasm, the man’s been in more line-ups than a serial mugger. He turns up in the strangest places: on Eurovision, on Dance Dance Revolution games, and in songs with the most bizarre shoutouts I’ve ever heard. (“Jamie – shine the magic torch!“). And throughout all of it, he keeps the same voice and persona: that of the enthusiastic but nevertheless slightly creepy uncle at a wedding disco.

Tom: All that said, I’m not quite sure what he was thinking with this.

Tim: No. Umm…

Tom: Tarzan Boy by Baltimora? Twenty women in lingerie? A blue tracksuit? The shoutout to himself, “the old kung-fu star” – which is followed with a sampled ‘whoo-ha’, just in case you didn’t get it?

Tim: It’s…well, I mean, it’s a bit…sort of…maybe…right, I’ll admit – I have absolutely no idea. I am, however, grateful that it’s only 2 minutes and 44 seconds long.

Tom: Oh, and there’s a brief, horrible moment when he appears to be spanking himself. If you didn’t notice it, don’t go back and look. Just be thankful.

Tim: Believe me, I won’t go back.

Hang on. I’ve just listened to that ‘shine the magic torch‘ track, and it suddenly got me in a fit of giggles. Why didn’t you suggest that one? Not only is there that shout-out, but there’s also the line ‘I’m the UK’s number 4 MC.’ It reminds me of the (sadly long now disbanded) Scooter tribute act Moped, although I doubt either of them would appreciate the comparison.

Tom: Isn’t that the best shout-out ever? The extended version, sadly not on YouTube, also gives shoutouts to non-existent people (followed up with a quiet ‘Who?’ in the background), and includes the enthusiastic line “Ben O’Brien – if you book your taxi, it will come“.

History does not record who Ben O’Brien actually is, or whether he failed to book his taxi.

Duck Sauce – Barbra Streisand

It’s catchy, and it’ll get people moving.

Tom: You’ll remember Duck Sauce – the code name for a collaboration between top DJs Armand van Helden and A-Trak – from last year’s aNYway, or at least from its glorious video. Here’s their new one.

Tom: I hated this on first listen, but I keep hearing it and it grows on me every time. First things first: this isn’t a track for the masses to download. This a track that’ll get people in dancing in clubs, that’ll get mashed up with everything under the sun, that DJs good and bad will chuck into their megamixes. I’ve already heard one mashup that throws in samples of Beat It and adds a ‘Michael Jackson’ voiceover in place of the titular Barbra.

Tim: I can imagine it going down well in a club – I thought the ‘ee-oo-ee-oo-blah-blah’ bit was a bit rubbish until it came back in at 2:50, when I realised the point of it, getting people oo-ing along.

Tom: And yet, somehow even the original is pretty listenable, before other stuff gets added in.

Tim: I disagree – I can’t really imagine ever listening to just this. Like you said, mixed in with something, maybe, or as a backing for something else, but on it’s own there’s not a lot to it. It’s catchy, I’ll grant them that, but for me not in an ‘Ooh, I’m glad this is in my head’ sense.

Tom: Well, it’s still catchy, and it’ll get people moving. And that’s all you can ask for from something like this, I reckon. There is an official video, but it agrees with you: it’s less of an official video and more of a travelogue with a consistent backing track and a massive rolling shutter problem.

Paul Harris vs. Eurythmics – I Want U

There are so, so many things wrong with this.

Tom: There are so, so many things wrong with this.

First of all: if you’re going to remix a synth-heavy Eurythmics song anyway, perhaps you could get a sample that people will enjoy listening to? Annie Lennox’s voice is amazing, but it’s out of place here. When that sample finally kicks in, it seems completely discordant with everything else that’s going on.

Tim: Do you know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a dull tune. Regarding her voice, however, it’s not as out of place here as it was on that cover of Shining Light she did, which was just plain atrocious.

Tom: Secondly: surround it with something decent, not just whatever you happen to have kicked out of FL Studio that morning.

Tim: Yes, and try to blend it in just a slight bit. We have three and a half minutes of sound, split cleanly into three separate parts. The first and last of those sound exactly alike, and the middle bit sounds more or less like the sound you’d get if you put the original song on one of those A-B repeat things you got in MiniDisc players. I think here there’s about twenty seconds of sound clips played again and again for ten times that amount. This is absolutely pointless.

Tom: Thirdly: the video. Actually, Tim, you should comment on the video. It’s difficult for me to maintain the right level of anger when I’m being distracted by what appears to be a preview for Babestation.

Tim: To me it seems less of an advert for BabeStation than for a Minority Report era HMV. Just…what is it?

To sum up: I don’t think I can ever forgive you for the past couple of days. Thanks to you, I have heard two of the worst pieces of music, if either of them can justifiably be called that, of the year so far in far too short a space of time. I am now going to cheer myself up, by listening to one of the best pieces of music of the year so far all time.

Riva Starr feat. Noze – I Was Drunk

“I found myself utterly terrified 22 seconds in.”

Tom: A truck just pulled up outside my building, delivering something to the hotel opposite. The strains of an accordion, loud from the truck’s radio, wafted in through my window, and for a minute I thought the UK was finally starting to get the hang of Balkan turbofolk.

But no, it’s this somewhat bizarre number, set for release on the 26th September. What is it with the British charts lately and sampling strange instruments? This is getting major airplay, and it includes a damn squeezebox.

It’s dancable, I’ll give it that, but it’s lacking something – it’s a perfect middle-of-the-set track for DJs, designed to keep the energy on the dancefloor going.

Tim: Hmm. The video is considerably more interesting than the song. I found myself utterly terrified 22 seconds in, and spent a good thirty seconds trying to work out just how he managed to get so much milk on his moustache when he was drinking from a baby’s bottle. When I listened to it without the video, not a lot happened and I found it difficult to concentrate on. Definitely dance-floor fodder.

Tom: Basically, remember that time ████ snogged someone on the dance floor for about half an hour and, when they came up for air, found a big group of us dancing a conga in a circle around them? Yeah. It’s the perfect song for that.