Drifters – Sha La Lie

Utterly delightful.

Tim: You have almost certainly not heard Ik Ben Verliefd (Sha-la-lie) by Sienke, the rather jolly and pleasant Dutch entry to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest that entirely failed to qualify for the final. This is not important; what is important is that you now hear the cover of it by Swedish dansband Drifters, which is even more jolly and even more pleasant, to the extent of being utterly delightful.

Tom: Oh, that deserves to be played at every wedding disco in Sweden. Does Sweden have wedding discos?

Tim: I think if any country can do a good wedding disco, that country is Sweden.

Tom: It’s proper 80s-Eurovision, that is. It’s even got the plinky-plonky piano improvisation going on in the background. But it was rightly rejected – the contest isn’t about that any more. (Are you listening, BBC?)

Tim: That deserves repeating. DEAR BBC: EUROVISION IS ABOUT DECENT MUSIC. NOT PETE SHITTING WATERMAN.

Tom: Yes, that is his middle name.

Album Review: Darin – Lovekiller

Tom’s unleashed Tim to tell you everything about it, vaguely quickly.

Tim:Tom’s let me loose on this fine Sunday to tell you all about this album, because we love Darin here. His only condition was that it be vaguely quick, so here’s a crap gimmick to show how modern we are here: every track review is less than one tweet long. Let’s see how it goes.

Darin - Lovekiller

1 – Microphone: Excellent and vibrant start. Could work as a good career launching track, which vaguely makes sense given the change of direction he’s made. 9/10
2 – You’re Out of My Life: Less extravagant but very enjoyable. Comes with a key change that, if sung on the X Factor, would trigger spark fountains. 8/10
3 – Lovekiller: In case enough hasn’t been said already, this is sodding awesome, and is what all future pop songs should be judged against. 12/10
4 – Only You Can Save Me: Continuing the energetic theme, with an unsettlingly sudden bridge. Part of me is now hoping the album will calm down at some point. 8/10
5 – Drowning: Well, it’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s beginning to sound a bit formulaic. Good formulaic, but still a bit tiring. 7/10
6 – Viva la Vida: The first thing that’s stood out as different. Very dancable with a great chorus, although it goes on quite a bit longer than it needs to. 7/10
7 – Endless Summer: Ooh, this is proper different; a bit like Westlife’s musical evolution compressed into three minutes. Still plenty of Darin, though. 6/10.
8 – OK (Dangerous Game): Is to the first few tracks what new Mcfly is to old McFly. Odd use of stereo; ‘Ooh, this is fun’ quickly becomes ‘Oh God please stop it’. 8/10
9 – Can’t Stop Love: Written for a recent Swedish royal wedding, but quickly leaves ballad territory and becomes, well, pretty much like the first five tracks. 7/10
10 – I’ll Be Alright: If each track’s a runner in a race for best tune, here’s the quadriplegic the producer took pity on and allowed to enter. AWFUL FINAL TRACK. 2/10
11 – Lovekiller (Acoustic, iTunes bonus): They chucked out the backing singers, but forgot that after the bridge they’re the only singers, so he’s howling all alone. Doesn’t work. 3/10

tl;dr: Largely formulaic, but in a very good way. 8/10 – would have been a 9 if they’d lost the last two songs.

If this has tempted you, you can get it on iTunes if you’ve got a Swedish bank account or 7digital if you live in Sweden (or can find a Swedish proxy).

Saturday Flashback: Guenta K. – Das Boot 2008

“It’s stuck in my head, and I think it sounds like a CBBC theme tune.”

Tom: Here’s an odd one for you. This is a 2008 cover of U96’s 1991 hit Das Boot – which was itself a reworking of the theme from the 1981 German submarine movie. I bring this to you for two reasons: one, because it’s stuck in my head, and two, because I think it sounds startlingly like the theme tune from CBBC’s Incredible Games and I want to know that I’m not crazy.

Tim: Oooookay…

Tim: Don’t worry, you’re not crazy – they do sound quite similar. Dance remixes of movie themes are tricky things, and I sometimes get a bit nervous before listening to them. When they’re done right, and convey the same tone as the original piece, they can be brilliant (see Tiësto’s Pirates, DJ Sakin’s Braveheart, Airbase’s The Rock).

Tom: You’re right about all those except Tiesto’s Pirates, where all he’s done is create an entirely new song and then jam a messed-up version of He’s A Pirate in there somewhere. The great thing about all those tracks, though, is that if you don’t like one particular mix – the vocals in Sakin’s Braveheart really annoy me, for example – there’ll be another one along in a minute.

Tim: On the other hand (which is, unfortunately, a much larger hand), they can be absolutely horrendous. One example is DJ Stef’s version of Titanic, where the guy shouting ‘Freeze’ as a vocal really doesn’t help.

Tom: You know, it used to be that aspiring dance producers (or, in other words, “teenage kids on their parents’ computer with a pirated copy of FruityLoops”) had to go out of their house with a CD, attract the attention of a DJ, prove they were half-decent, and steadily work their way up the ranks. Now all they have to do is pick a vaguely popular song, remix it badly, quickly jam a video together, lob it up onto YouTube where it’ll be played in low-bitrate mono to most users, and presto: half a million listeners.

Damn kids. Get off my lawn.

Tim: Das Boot 2008, I think, belongs nicely in the first group, although I don’t get the counting to ten bit. U96’s had ‘one, two, three, techno’, which made a vague sort of sense (I’d have preferred ‘eins, zwei, drei’ but that’s just me), whereas this just counts to ten and then… nothing. Come to think of it, it’s a bloody odd cover – aside from the same source material, they’re quite different. The U96 version is much darker, even though that’s a weird way to describe a dance tune, what with all the clanking noises*, and it has far more vocal. If Guenta K. hadn’t used the small amount of vocal that he did, it would just be another redoing of the theme music, focusing almost exclusively on just the bit of the theme that people know with just enough background variation to keep it interesting, and it would probably be better for it.

* I am well aware that this is an appalling word to use to describe it, but I honestly can’t really think of a better one, and I think it describes it well enough for you to know what I mean.

Ace of Base – All For You

The good thing about this blog is that we can be all judgmental.

Tim: Following your Vengaboys comeback song, you may be tempted to listen to the single that marks Ace of Base’s return. If so, here it is.

Tom: That is a textbook Ace of Base song, isn’t it? I was expecting a ‘Don’t Turn Around’ somewhere in there.

I think the problem I had with the Vengaboys comeback is the same as the one I have now with this Ace of Base comeback. And the Aqua one, now I think of it. They’re all album tracks. If they’ve been away for this long, they’ve had years and years to come up with something absolutely brilliant. Instead, it just sounds like they’ve taken something from the rejects bin of their last album.

Tim: Now you mention it, that seems to be the same with most comebacks. Aside from Take That (who I think were the first of recent times, and whose success is probably largely to blame for the recent spate), I don’t think I can think of an artist/group that has actually done well.

A lot of them probably think that all their old fans are out there, and that once news gets around they’re coming back the fans will lap up everything they can throw at them. They can therefore put out a vaguely good single with a promise that an album will forthcoming and assume it’ll be fine. The problem is, of course, that it isn’t, and if a vaguely good single doesn’t sell because the fans feel cheated there’s no way an album will.

You might get a few gigs out of it, or a full tour if you’re lucky, but no more.

Tom: Let’s not forget: Take That’s second comeback, this time with a certain Mr. Williams, is on the cards. Admittedly “Greatest Day” was pretty damn good – if they can pull it off twice that it basically means that Gary Barlow is the greatest songwriter of modern times, which is not really something I’m comfortable with saying.

Tim: This Ace of Base one is like so many – no real effort. It’s not particularly bad – catchy enough, with a decent hook – but there’s just nothing to get excited about. The chorus always feels like a not very good post-bridge chorus, and isn’t enough to make me want more. To have a better chance of success, artists should write a whole album (or even just an EP) and then choose the good songs off it to release, because they’d then have a good idea of what the overall quality of the work would be, and we’d have a proper idea of what we could expect.

That’s not particularly realistic, of course, given the much increased time and effort it would involve, but it might help. I don’t know – the good thing about a blog like this is that we can be all judgmental without having to pretend we know anything about the music business at all.

Inna – Amazing

A lovely summery bit of dance music.

Tim: Here’s a lovely summery bit of dance music for you from a Romanian. More than a little reminiscent of ATB, but in a good way.

Tom: You’re right, that’s a perfectly competent bit dance track. Nothing wrong with that. It’s also a fine example of the theory that if you want to film a cheap video very quickly and your vocal talent is female and attractive, put her in a bikini on a beach and you’re sorted.

Tim: Don’t forget the nicely ripped guys for the singer to, um, interact with. Or, in the case of Sunblock, a car they can get all soapy with.

But why does everyone who’s against the sky in the video – the guys with the ice cream at 1:52, the people embracing at 2:19 – have white halos around their heads? Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished reading Scott Pilgrim, but I think there’s something sinister going on there.

Tim: Hmm. I’m going to say that the halos are there because it’s actually a musical version of Sixth Sense, and the big twist, to be revealed in her next video, is that the guy who saved her life and gave her mouth to mouth is also dead. Anyway, as is traditional with such dance songs, the lyrics mean absolutely nothing whatsoever, although I think the line ‘It’s just the meaning of being alone’ does give extra credence to my theory, especially since her singing it coincides with the first appearance of the life-saving corpse.

Saturday Flashback: Eric Saade – Manboy

You know what else no-one’s doing? Raccoons.

Tim: This really, really, really should have been Sweden’s entry to Eurovision 2010.

Tom: It’s Womanizer by Britney Spears, isn’t it? When he started his vocals, I muttered “Superstar, where you from, how’s it going”. Decent choreography though, although he seems to forget where the audience is half way through.

Tim: Perhaps, but this is Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s (vastly superior) version of Your Country Needs You, so he just needs to remember where the camera is. Also, you need to wait ’til after the key change before you can properly judge the dancing.

Tom: Ah, he’s been to the George Sampson school of stage performance then. (Not Daz Sampson, thankfully.)

Tim: Apparently, ‘everybody does fire’ and it’s quite boring.

Tom: He’s got a point there. You know what else no-one’s doing? Raccoons. No-one ever unleashes a hundred ravenous raccoons to attack the singer on the key change.

Tim: True, although raccoons would probably poo everywhere. Just not practical.

Tom: Neither’s rigging up a power shower above the stage, but they manage that.

Tim: Ah, but he practically had to beg them to. (Really, he did.) He probably wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about unleashing rabid animals to munch on him.

Tom: Not sure about these lyrics either. “You can call me manboy” sounds like an odd way of saying “I have learning difficulties”. Can I do that joke?

Tim: Yeah, why not.

Tom: Hmm.

Manboy, manboy,
You can call me manboy,
I don’t care, I’ll show you how to love.

I’m not an expert, but I’d guess most women would prefer ‘man’ over ‘boy’. There’s not a whole lot of ‘showing how to love’ when your entire experience of love is the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Or, if you weren’t born in an 80s sitcom, the internet.

Tim: Well I think that’s it. He pretty much is only a boy (19), so he wants the man to shine though. And, after all, what better way is there to prove manliness than stand in the pouring rain?

Tom:Raccoons. Fighting raccoons.

a-ha – Butterfly, Butterfly

It seems, weirdly, almost noble.

Tom: a-ha are releasing their last ever single. This isn’t a comeback – it’s more that they’ve just been trundling on in Norway all these years, while not many people in the UK noticed. They’ve decided to call it a day now, and this is their slightly melancholy last hurrah. It’s called “Butterfly, Butterfly”, and while it’s not going to make anyone dance like an idiot, it does make a rather nice coda to their quarter-century in music.

Tim: Right from the start you can tell it’s going to be slightly downbeat, but it’s nice. There’s not many bands that say, ‘this is it,’ so it seems, weirdly, almost noble. Like, yes, we could keep releasing records, but it’s going to stop at some point, and we’re all getting old, so we may as well quit while we’re still going fairly strong, and thanks for everything.

Tom: I’d bet on a comeback tour in ten years’ time though.

Tim: Good lyrics, as well – they say goodbye, but not in such an obvious way that someone listening twenty years from now will immediately know this was their last single. Only criticism is that is does go on a bit at the end, though, as though they can’t quite bear to let it go.

Tom: Still, after 25 years, I think they’re allowed one more chorus.

Vengaboys – Rocket to Uranus

Oh hell no. There are so many things wrong with this.

Tom: Oh hell no. There are so many things wrong with this: Perez Hilton. The rip-off of “House of the Rising Sun”. Just the fact that the Vengaboys are attempting a comeback.

Tim: The first time I heard this, I thought, “Oh God, the Vengaboys are back, doing a rubbish song filled with cheap innuendo, where they want to say ‘Rock It to Your Anus’ but that would be too rude.” Then, however, I watch the video and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover I was wrong – it is actually a song about a real space mission! As their YouTube channel says, ‘it’s about personal freedom and interplanetary travel.’

I don’t think you can mention Perez (who, it seems, used to be the baby in the Teletubbies – who knew?) without also mentioning Pete Burns, who has an army of bikini-clad warriors trying to destroy a dance party but whose one weakness seems to be dance music – go figure.

It’s a slight shame that they resorted to really really tacky innuendo (a cock-shaped rocket? Seriously?) despite the fact that they managed fine without it 10 years ago, because it means a lot of their old fans now have a(nother) reason to distance themselves from it, but for me, this just about manages to fit in the guilty pleasure category.

Friðrik Ómar – I Want To Know

It’s the official song of Reykjavik Pride 2010, and for the first 15 seconds you’ll think you’re listening to Underworld.

Information for you:

Hmm. He looks like a Nordic version of Neil Patrick Harris, only less awesome.

There’s something about the chord progression in “to break the chain / and love again” that reminds me of Guru Josh’s Infinity 2008.

And special attention needs to go to the lyrics “kissing your lips / in a total eclipse”, there. That’s a particularly inspired kind of insipid.

Agreed, but I feel special attention should also be paid to:

“When I rest my head in an empty bed
Only memories hanging on my wall
I stare into space with the tears on my face
And I count them as they fall”.

Sort of what emo would be if it had been invented by Lazytown.

You do (I sincerely hope) recognise the oh-oh lead into the chorus.

Shockingly, I don’t.

Darin – Lovekiller

This is the new single by the guy that did that cover of Viva la Vida that you thought didn’t go anywhere. This, on the other hand, can safely be described as BANGIN’.

This is the new single by the guy that did that cover of Viva la Vida that you thought didn’t go anywhere. This, on the other hand, can safely be described as BANGIN’.

When the first chorus hits, you’ll think to yourself “hang on – is this not the type of chorus that would normally come after the bridge? What can he possibly do that won’t be a massive anti-climax?” Well. Just keep listening.

Blood and sand! It’s like they just took the last third of the song and stretched it out over four minutes. It’s not the Almighty version of ‘Evergreen’, true, but in terms of sheer What Do You Mean It’s Not Awesome it ranks among the greats.

I also love that the music alone couldn’t contain all the excitement in this song, so it’s had to spill over into the lyrics. He’s turned the person who was the love of his life (we presume) into someone roughly on a par with the Joker:

The knife is in your hands
Is that a smile on your face?

and later

You won’t stop until your victims crawl

I’m surprised that Marvel and DC haven’t cashed in on that, really. Batman belting out a power ballad about his dead parents would be a real moneyspinner

I actually did have a thought the other day, whilst in a remarkably camp mood, that they really should do musicals of superheroes. You’ve got all the necessary bits – downer song to begin with (parents or uncle killed vs Les Misérables’s Work Song), realisation that you can actually do good things (buy a load of cool stuff and make a cave vs Joseph’s Go Go Go Joseph), put in a sod of a lot of work (discover how to make a web vs Billy Elliot’s Electricity) and then a feel good song at the end (bad guys all dealt with vs Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop The Beat).

Textbook.

That’s genius – although surely some pretentious student group has already taken something similar up to the Edinburgh Fringe. A little research reveals “Dark Knight of the Soul”, and I honestly can’t tell if it’s a parody or not.

There was a musical episode of kids’ show “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” though, featuring Neil Patrick Harris as the villain.

Dark Knight of the Soul’s got to be a parody, surely – especally with the too-cheesy-to-be-true Meat Loaf references. Spider-Man on Broadway seems to be genuine though.

“Lyrics by Bono and the Edge”? Oh my.