The Vaccines – Post Break-Up Sex

Like Pulp, but a bit crap.

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 of the 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. There are.

Tom: And all of them from Scandinavia.

Tim: Problem?

RPA and the United Nations of Sound – This Thing Called Life

This is beautiful.

Tom: Tim, this is beautiful.

Tom: “RPA” is short for Richard Ashcroft, who – to refresh your memory – was the lead singer of the Verve, best known for Bittersweet Symphony. Despite just being released as a single, this isn’t a new track: it was on the band’s moderately-successful album back in 2010, but it’ll have bubbled under after that and won’t have been heard.

Which is a shame, because this record’s gorgeous. I hate to say this, but it’s an X Factor’s winner song here – provided they took the bit of swearing out. I started clicking my fingers along with the bridge, on the quiet ‘my brother / my mother’ bit. No reason. It just happened.

It’s five minutes of life-affirming major-key smile-inducing alternative pop. There’s even a little whistling dubbed in during the outro. It doesn’t sound like commercial bubblegum music – and that’s because it isn’t.

It’s gorgeous, and – for the first time in a long while – I’m so enamoured with a song that we’re reviewing that I’m going to go and listen to the album. I don’t think I’ve ever given higher praise.

Tim: Hmm. That’s quite a bit of enthusiasm you’ve got going there, and I couldn’t really bring myself to interrupt it. But I’m afraid I have to say: not really sharing it. The first time I listened, I properly listened to it, as is appropriate, and just as the bridge hit I though, ‘Wow, it’s finally ending.” It just seemed too long – it’s a full fifty percent longer than three and a half minutes, long defined as the proper length for a piece of music, whatever your genre. For me there was anything that kept me really wanting to hear more, and so I got a bit bored.

Having said that, I gave it another go and put it on while I was putting away my laundry, and I did enjoy it. Moral of the story: if you’re going to make good music, don’t make it too long if you want me to enjoy it.

Tom: Remind me never to show you any prog albums.

Mohombi ft. Nicole Scherzinger – Coconut Tree

This song is undeniably enjoyable.

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.

Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me

How about we take a quick break from the usual?

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.

Emma’s Imagination – This Day

It does go on a bit.

Tom: So this cheery singer won Sky’s “Must Be The Music” – no, I didn’t watch it either – with a lovely under-two-minute acoustic number.

Tim: It is quite nice, although it doesn’t help that my brain keeps interrupting with Hey There Delilah every time the guitar takes the focus.

Tom: The producers have added a few session musicians with strings and percussion and turned it into a proper single, and…

Tom: …well, it’s lovely but I wish it was still under two minutes. It does go on a bit.

Tim: Blimey, it does and all, doesn’t it? For me it’s the backing drum – once it starts it almost never stops or even varies from the same two second loop. There’s just too much instrumental in general – let’s have some lyrics, dearie.

Tom: It’s rare for me to outright call for this, Tim – but I want a remix. I want Almighty Records to take this and run with it and turn it into a key-change blasting pop spectacular. Because this is lovely, it’s wonderful, but there’s just not quite enough there. And no, dubstep doesn’t bloody count and it sounds awful. Like all dubstep.

My Chemical Romance – SING

They keep producing bloody good music.

Tom: I shouldn’t like My Chemical Romance, but I do. The overblown videos, the concept albums, the teenage demographic… I should be rolling my eyes and trying to get the damn kids off my lawn. But, inconveniently, they keep producing bloody good music.

Tom: This is the second single off Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, the second concept album. If you actually care about the concept, Wikipedia (of course) has a decent write-up.

Tim: I don’t normally like concept albums – they only really work if all the songs are quite good, or at least listenable, and often they’re not. Fortunately, though, My Chemical Romance don’t seem to have a problem making this so. Hurrah! This track in particular, I like a lot – it’s not quite Famous Last Words good, but it’s on a par with Welcome to the Black Parade, the song that first got me into them.

Tom: The video is, of course, part of the whole mythos they’ve invented. The plot will almost certainly never attain any kind of coherency.

Tim: No, but then it’s not really meant to – just needs to fit in with the rest. And actually, I love it. I am slightly wondering how the next video will work, though, given that they’ve killed off the lead singer.

Tom: With laser gun battles and Stormtrooper-quality aiming in this one? A resurrection’s almost certainly on the cards.

Talk about your rousing choruses, though. They’ll play arena shows, and everyone there will be chanting this chorus along with them. It’s not catchy, tinny Europop, but it doesn’t have to be: this is music that teenagers are going to listen to in their bedrooms while they write bad poetry and pine over unrequited love. If you don’t feel your fists clench a little on the final chorus, you have no soul.

Cheryl Cole – The Flood

It just kind of… washes over you.

Tom: So, she’s releasing a track with the same name as Take That’s latest single. That’s a brilliant idea, well done Cheryl.

Tim: And unlike Take That’s, it’s not good. It’s not terrible, but it just kind of… washes over you.

Tom: “Turn the lights out / in the lighthouse”? You’re a menace to shipping, Cole. I’ll ruin this song forever now for you, Tim, by saying that judging by the title, this should really have been a song about her menstrual cycle.

Tim: I don’t know how to respond to that.

Tom: It’s better than the damned ‘alouette’ refrain from the last one, I suppose; it’s at least musical.

Tim: It couldn’t really be worse than that, though. Unless it really was about her period.

Tom: How many times does she blow that damned candle out in the video?

Tim: Maybe it’s one of those magic relighting candles you get on birthday cakes.

Alexandra Burke – The Silence

Vastly better than many of her previous offerings.

Tim: When Alexandra Burke won The X Factor two years back, most people who voted for JLS got all huffy and presumed she was going to be a Leona Lewis 2.0, especially what with the way her version of Hallelujah sounded. However, she came back with Bad Boys and a run of various other singles and proved them all decisively wrong. And now she’s done this and proved them right.

Tim: And that, actually, is no bad thing whatsoever, because I think this is great, and vastly better than many of her previous offerings (partially because it’s entirely devoid of references to masturbation). It is big, it is emotional, it is exactly what it wants to be – it is, overall, excellent. I’m not sure if it’s a proper change of direction or just a one-off; either way, I like it a lot.

Tom: We need to find a word for that feeling where a song’s predictable enough that you’re sure you’ve heard it before. That’s not really a complaint – the song is, frankly, a belter and it fits her voice perfectly. And what a key change!

Tim: Isn’t it just? And that’s another thing we need to find a word for – that bit in a song which exists solely to get the listener excited about the upcoming key change. Previously, I thought not much could beat Bellefire’s Perfect Bliss, but this four and a half second monster sends it flying right out of the water and into a tiny duck pond.

Tom: That’s a terrible metaphor, by the way.

Tim: It is, isn’t it? Oh well.

Tom: But that change-warning is longer than you think – from the start of the swoosh sound to when the new key actually kicks in is a full nine seconds. That’s got to be a record.

Tim: Is it an appalling musical device? Yes, definitely. But is it absolutely fantastic here? Yes, definitely.

Hurts – All I Want for Christmas is New Year’s Day

Oh my word, that’s lovely.

Tim: Now then, Tom. Imagine: you’re a songwriter, you’re not so keen on Christmas right now, for one reason or another, and you want to tell the world.

Tom: This had better be good, Tim. I don’t like new Christmas records as a general rule.

Tim: Do you (a) make a track about how life isn’t great and that hopefully soon the trouble will pass, or (b) make a track about how life isn’t great and that hopefully soon the trouble will pass that’s so incredibly festive that there is no way it cannot fail to bring back Christmas memories? Well, guess what Hurts did.

Tom: Oh my word, that’s lovely.

Tim: Isn’t it? I love it – partly it’s because I really like Christmas music, and if I had the power I would pass a law decreeing that chiming bells must be used in all music releases.

Tom: Don’t ever do that. It’d mean that the proper use of them, like this, wouldn’t be special any more. Normally in Christmas music bells are chucked in at the end, just to add the ‘right feeling’ in there, but they just fit so well here.

Tim: Fair point. Guess I may as well put my political career on hold, then. Anyway, I also love this because it fits with the Hurts formula that I think is superb: entirely contrasting moods of music and lyrics, massive chorus, and vaguely optimistic outlook – ‘I know there’ll be tidings of joy this time next year but happiness has never felt so far away’.

Tom: ‘And all I want for Christmas is New Year’s Day.’ As I write this, I’m tired, and so I’m likely to be a bit more emotional than my normal cynical dry-husk self… but that just hit me right in the heart. See? I just used italics, for crying out loud.

Tim: However, minor annoyance: ‘It’s only seven days till Christmas, six more till New Years Day’. LEARN TO COUNT. They’re even the same day of the week; how hard can it be?

Tom: I’m even willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this; there’s six days between the end of Christmas and the start of New Years’ Day, and I think that’s just fine.

Tim: I guess you’re right. It is a bloody marvellous song, though, so I will happily overlook it. Just this once, though.

Tom: This is going to be my Christmas song for this year. I’m not sure what I’ll be getting up to, but whatever it is, this song is always going to bring back memories of it. Well done, Hurts. Well done.

Tim: Absolutely. And you know what the best thing of all is? They’ve gone and been all lovely and have decided that, since it’s Christmas, for the next seven days anybody with an iTunes account can get it absolutely free.

Black Eyed Peas – The Time (Dirty Bit)

Is it music? Not really. Is it listenable? Not at all.

Tim: Now, what is this? Is it music? Not really. Is it listenable? Not at all. Why, then, are we featuring it? Because it’s too awful not to, and for some unknown (and to me utterly inconceivable) reason the normally fairly sensible British public have bought more copies of it this past week than of any other single. The thing is, I could cope with it if it was a Black Eyed Peas version of Time of My Life, and I might even enjoy it somewhat.

Tom: For the first minute, I was wondering what was so offensive about it – it sounded like they’d just covered Time of My Life, which wouldn’t be a bad thing in itself.

Tim: I could just about cope with it if it was just the other part of it, although I’d probably just dismiss it and forget about it. But as it is, it’s just appalling. The fact that part of it is a cover implies that it’s meant to be music, but I really can’t work out any form of a tune for much of the rest of it, which is surely a necessary part.

The one redeeming thing about it is that, for a five minute song, it seems to pass fairly quickly.

Tom: Not for me, Tim. Not for me.

Tim: Oh, and as for the video: full marks to the CG people, but boxes on heads? What? I’m also wondering what the criteria are for whether someone gets turned into bricks or not – are these the people that are too ashamed to be seen in this video? And also, at 3:26, is that actually a girl fellating somebody on the dancefloor? Because that’s what it looks like, even if he is made of blocks.

Tom: For a while I thought it depended on whether their voices were filtered or not, but… no. It’s just there because it’s there.

Tim: Although having watched the video I am tempted to go out and pre-order a Blackberry Playbook. Except NO. I’M NOT. BECAUSE SHIT PRODUCT PLACEMENT LIKE THAT IS HORRENDOUS. AND I HATE THE SONG EVEN MORE NOW.

Tom: I think we’re in agreement there.