“Slightly shouty vocal on top of the simple piano line”
Tom: So I’ll be honest, Tim, I’m sending this to you despite not being sure what it is. I’m on the road right now with very little internet connection and time, but you asked for a Flashback — and this is a song that, apparently, I thought it was good enough to ask SoundHound to remember when it came on the radio in the car the other day.
Tim: Well, if we’re talking ‘sounds like’, I’m going with My Chemical Romance – specifically, the stellar Welcome To The Black Parade, with the slightly shouty vocal on top of the simple piano line, later replaced by an electric guitar. And for what it’s worth, back when it came out and I was in uni, I played that entire album many, many times over, so I think that’s no bad thing.
Tim: You might not remember the name, but you’ll probably remember his song Riptide from a few years back, as it went top 10 basically everywhere and has been a staple of chill out playlists ever since. Our reader, Henrik, sends this in as his latest, describing it as “a song that is just pure drama.”
Tom: That’s a bold statement, and I’m not sure it’s a good one. Is it pure drama?
Tim: He’s not wrong.
Tom: I’ll be honest, I misheard “put it in my coat” in the first verse as “put it in my cock” and I was very confused. Anyway.
Tim: Quite the builder there, but it’s odd, as it’s a build that I didn’t really notice until it had basically entirely built – more a sort of gradual growing through childhood than the teenage growth spurts most songs come with. That’s fine, but it did mean that I slightly faded out at the start, and got a sudden shock when I heard the big brass blast at the chorus.
Tom: Yep, that’s about what happened to me. This sort of jaunty brass-pop isn’t really my thing, but I can appreciate how well it’s put together, and that middle eight — when the backing singers come in — is admittedly pretty damn good.
Tim: Listening a second time, paying attention to it properly, I discover that actually it’s beautifully crafted, and a joy to listen to. And “pure drama” is an excellent way to describe it.
As far as the video goes: I’m sure it’s lovely, but I’m too distracted by the fact that he’s the spitting image of that guy off Game of Thrones and Iron Fist, and all I’m really wondering is why his hand never starts glowing yellow. But that’s just my problem.
Tim: All me today – well, me and our reader Drake (probably not that one) who sends us this, on the basis that we’ve reviewed their track Moscow a few years ago and liked it and we might like this one. Fair assumption. It’s the second track off their upcoming second album, so have a listen.
Tim: And it took me a couple of listens, but I think I’m on board with this one as well. Very gloomy vocally, most notably in the verses – almost overly so – but two things save it. First, that melody in the chorus, which I absolutely love, though I dearly wish I could think where I recognise it from. Second: the synth line that starts during the middle eight and then keeps running throughout the closing chorus. For those two reasons, I am IN.
Tim: Dodgy pun in the act name, yes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that’ll pan out across the inevitable future “you suck”-style tracks, but to start out with they give us this chirpy number, so let’s go with it.
Tom: Well, that’s pleasantly chirpy. I really… I didn’t expect to like that as much as I did.
Tim: Normally, a ukulele is something that would put me right off a track, and the phenomenally ridiculous ions metaphor might in some situations have me chucking my iMac out of the window. Right now and with this track, though: it all fits together, absolutely fine.
Tom: How on earth did they manage to make this sound endearing rather than cringeworthy? I wouldn’t have thought it was possible!
Tim: I mean, I’ve got no idea what a ‘Taylor Swift crush’ is – my best guess is ‘I like you right now but as soon as you’re a dick I’ll write a not remotely subtle song about it’ – so I don’t know how that’s meant to be romantic.
There’s also a hefty element of self-aggrandisation going on – I’d sure as hell love to see 106 reasons why I should date either one of the two singers. And all in all, this song is more or less a textbook definition of jaunty.
Tom: You say that, but there’s a couple of jess-jaunty notes in there, on that lovely “know I’m a good catch”. I think that’s a good summary of the whole song: it balances the twee with just enough strange things to make it palatable.
Tim: And right now, I like that. I don’t know why, because objectively it hits all my wrong buttons, but I like it a lot.
Tim: Glorious Pop Middle Eights is an interesting theme for a playlist, but alas we are not privy to the whims and workings of the Apple Music people who served it up to me; nevertheless, this song was on there and I was reminded how flipping brilliant it is.
Tom: That… was there a middle eight in there? Because that doesn’t deserve to be on that playlist.
Tim: No, and to be honest, a lot of them don’t – certainly not when compared to some we’ve seen, but regardless of that: well, this is flipping brilliant, all of it.
Tom: You really think so? It left me cold: it’s a bog-standard indie-pop track, with not much to recommend it.
Tim: Oh, really? It’s just got so much to it – I think it’s almost the pitch of the lyrics more than anything. He’s got Donkeyboy style vocals going on, but with so much more joy to them.
Admittedly I had to look up the lyrics to work out what he was singing in the “part of her game” bit, but with the music, the lyrics when you work them out, and the Holly Valance in the video because why not, it’s just happy and great and joyous and everything. LOVE IT.
Tom: Side note: you know when TV shows do flashback episodes set in the ’80s, and it’s really easy to make everyone’s hair big so it looks suitably retro? Imagine how much trouble they’re going to have for flashbacks set in the ’10s. Good luck faking an undercut.
Tim: Also, he’s got a new album out in October, so look out for that why don’t you.
Tom: Technically, this single came out a while ago, but the album it’s from just got released — and it’s a damn sight better than the second single, so I reckon it counts.
Tim: Meh, semantics. Let’s hear it.
Tom: And not that I want to prejudice your opinion, but: a British version of the Killers?
Tom: Not as polished as the Killers, I’ll grant you, but they’ve not had half a dozen albums to polish it. There’s a lot of promise here, even if it’s not going to be the same euphoric response that came from early Killers tracks.
Tim: Hmm, potentially – someone once told me that the best thing about Mr Brightside was that every member of the member of the band played as though they were the frontman, and to be honest I’m getting a similar vibe here, at least after the break that comes at 2:14. If it was like that from the word go, I’d be right with that comparison.
Tom: “I know nothing ever really stared with a kiss” doesn’t exactly help the comparison, either, because let’s be honest, Mr Brightside was a much better track than this.
Tim: Let’s be honest, there are few tracks you couldn’t say that about.
Tom: And as for the video: well, again, we’ve got the same sort of thing going on. Essex isn’t exactly the same as Las Vegas, is it? When you sound so much like another band, you need something to set you apart: and I’m just not sure it’s here.
Tim: Oh come on, you can’t really knock them for that – there’s a budget to consider, and a small division of a big label won’t be handing out big cash to a new band. Whatever the video’s like, though, this has got me looking for that album, so I guess it’s done its job.
Tom: An indie musician this weekend, Tim, with one of the most interesting videos I’ve seen in a while.
Tim: Blimey, it really is.
Tom: Let’s talk about that video first. Because the first time I saw this, a year ago, I thought “oh, someone’s made a video out of GIFs”. Which, you know, was a good idea and fairly clever but didn’t seem all that much.
But look at those credits. Nearly all those GIFs were shot specially for this video. They’re the musician’s friends and collaborators. Some of them even had watermarks from completely fake GIF sites posted over them in order to make them look like they came from the web. That’s an incredible amount of effort to go to.
Tim: It really is, and it works very very well: it’s completely mesmerising, but not in a way that distracts from the sound, because it’s got thought put into it and it ties together well. You’ve got the mouth sounds on the first slow chorus, say, or the masterly punning on the re-entry from the middle eight.
Tom: And the music: well, I’m not sure quite what it is, but it very much works for me. The steady build to the distorted cry, the simple five-note chorus; they really stand out.
Tim: And for me, that MASSIVE build towards the end is fantastic, both visually and aurally.
Tom: Not quite sure about the ending — it seems to tail off rather than reaching a conclusion, and I reckon it’d be better going out on a high or on a proper fade, not somewhere in between. But that’s a minor quibble: this is enchanting, and I really like it.
Tim: For me that works fine – a final reminder of what the song is about, a quiet soulful close after that build a few seconds earlier. Sounds perfect, to be honest.
“I can only assume they’re from the same place as CHVRCHES.”
Tom: I can only assume they’re from the same place as CHVRCHES. Musically, though…
Tom: …not bad.
Tim: Not bad at all.
Tom: Our resident Radio Insider sends us this one, saying they’re like a bit like a “rocky Kelly Clarkson” mixed with, as previously mentioned, CHVRCHES. And I can kind of see where he’s coming from.
Tim: Yes, it’s not bad at all, and a fitting description. I vastly prefer that chorus to the verses, mind, with the poppier music behind it, but yes, I can enjoy this.
Tom: The video’s straight from the Hurts playbook: desaturated, slow motion, dark clothing, moody walking.
Tim: It took me a few watches to work out what was going on with the baseball bats coming out of her Mary Poppins mirror.
Tim: I do, however, have one massive problem with this track, and it’s the chorus lyrics.
Tim: “Something to talk about, talk about / that’s not the s— in my…” — complete that sentence. My brain insists that it’s going to be a rhyming couplet, hears the vowel in ‘about’, and promptly completes it with ‘mouth’. I know that’s not the actual lyric. But every time, my brain goes that way, and frankly it’s just unpleasant.
Tom: Huh. I don’t remotely get that – for me the rhythm is different enough not to predict that, so I’ve no problem with the chorus at all.
“Sound the awkward first year film student video klaxon!”
Tom: We occasionally get anonymous entries to our little submissions box, and this is one of them. The comment with it just said “retro 80s”.
Tom: Sound the awkward first year film student video klaxon! I hope that’s a deliberate dodgy-80s video aesthetic. For a track that’s so well produced, they’d have been better off just making a simple lyric video than that odd mix of badly-framed, wobbly camcorder shots.
Tim: Hmm. It is a little odd, although some of the pointless shots of, for example, the river flowing under the ice, do remind me of crappy videos from the 1980s, so that may have been a target.
Tom: Oddly, all it would take is a fancy camera and some depth of field and that’d probably be a brilliantly arty video. Unfortunately, it… isn’t.
So listen without the video: how’s the track? Well, it sounds like an album track from the 80s. Not a bad thing, I guess, and that chorus melody is actually damn catchy even though the vocals probably wouldn’t get any chairs spinning on The Voice.
Tim: I really like it, and it doesn’t leave me with the same feeling that their last one did, that it needed more variation. As such, a marked improvement.
Tim: Indie pop for you, now, from London, but don’t worry – it’s not the boring type or the loud type. Just, the nice type.
Tom: Bloody hell, I don’t they could be any more “London indie pop” if they tried.
Tim: You see? The nice type. The happy, chirpy upbeat sounds of, according to the band, “the daft optimism of being in love, when you just want to run away with that person, dream about being together forever, the house, the dog, and nothing else matters.”
Tom: Yep, I can’t sum that up any better. It’s just genuinely nice. I was pleasantly surprised when it came back for one more verse and chorus at the end: it’d have worked without, but it didn’t overstay its welcome by any means.
Tim: There’s a fair political message in it for anybody in Russia, with the two blokes kissing in front of the Kremlin at the end; you can pay attention to that if you want, or alternatively you can just take Moscow for one of many potential romantic places to head off to.
Tom: Given that Putin has essentially banned being “out and proud” in Russia, I’d say it’s a message worth paying attention to anywhere.
Tim: Well, that’s very true. Either way, there’s no denying the ‘drum your hand on the table’ element of the music, which I often find a good test for music of this ilk, so I decree this to be good. Very good, in fact.