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.

Ulrik Munther – Boys Don’t Cry

A harmonica and a flat cap… and puberty.

Tim: Here’s a kid that looks about fourteen, which is probably because he is about fourteen.

Tom: He sounds about twelve.

Tim: Anyway, possibly due to recent playground bullying he has discovered that boys shouldn’t cry, and has decided to write a song about that.

Tom: Oh no.

Tom: I know we’ve established that I’m getting old, but I’m officially classifying this under the “get off my lawn” department. It’s like a teenager whining about how they’ll never love anyone again after a breakup. Yes you will, billions of people have done it before you, get over it.

Tim: Musically, it isn’t bad. It’s a bit dull to start with, and I got a bit bored and moved onto other things, but a couple of minutes later I realised that was I was vaguely listening to was actually alright, so I decided to be charitable and give it a second chance. And yes, it’s still a bit boring at the start, but it does pick up eventually into something quite good, and that I wouldn’t mind listening to a few times.

Tom: It’s a bit bizarre, isn’t it? A harmonica and a flat cap almost make up for the fact he’s still going through puberty. If it wasn’t for the lyrics, I’d really like the last minute of this. Only the last minute of it, though.

Tim: It really ought to go without saying, though, that taking two minutes to make a three minute song sound decent is Just Not On. Sorry, Ulrich, but you’ll need to do better next time if you want to pass your music whatever-the-Swedish-version-of-GCSE-is.

Antti Tuisku – Hyökyaalto

Unnecessary double handclaps.

Tom: Some Finnish electronic Europop for you now, Mr. Jeffries, suggested by reader Laura.

Tom: Hyökyaalto means ‘tsunami’, and he’s using that as a metaphor for love.

It’s a very listenable track, if not all that catchy. That “woah-oh-oh” breakdown before the chorus is great, and I’m always a fan of unnecessary double handclaps. It’s almost a bit U2-ish – add The Edge doing some electric guitar over the top and I think you’re basically there.

Tim: The intro got me nodding approvingly, and that feeling continued throughout, really. I slightly wish they’d done a bit more with the higher-pitched woah-oh-oh from the intro, through. The first time I heard it I did think it went on a bit after the bridge; the second time I also felt that, but didn’t mind at all.

Tom: Translated into English, I reckon this could be a hit over here.

There’s a curious disconnect between the video and the audio: in the video, his mouth putting so much energy and emphasis into every word, while the version of him in the studio seems to be singing quite calmly.

Tim: Sure, but if you put that amount of energy into a normal recording studio he’s going to end up knocking through the walls with his arms.

Tom: Not sure about the cuddle-party during the bridge, though.

Tim: Yeah – doesn’t really fit with the whole love idea.

Christmas Saturday Flashback: Basshunter – Jingle Bass

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tom: It’s Christmas Day, and it’s a Saturday – which one of the many options do we choose for our Saturday Flashback? Well, really, there’s only one choice.

Tom: When he released this one back in 2006, it didn’t have the fancy video. That was added much later. He wasn’t a big international star then; he was a Swedish dance music producer who’d just released a slightly-novelty record about the internet. The only folks paying attention in Britain were people who lived on the internet. People like me.

Tim: How times change – fast forward two years and he’s got three top twenty singles under his belt and Scott Mills championing his track to be Christmas number one. (Needless to say, it didn’t quite take off Rage Against the Machine style, although a chart peak of 35 is perfectly respectable.)

Tom: So, here’s a little known fact for you: I was the first British person ever to interview Basshunter. November 2006 on University Radio York. There were no listeners, and I wasn’t a competent interviewer. (Drinking game: take a shot every time I unnecessarily say ‘mm-hm’.)

In this clip, he apologises for his music.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tim: Thank you for that, Tom, and for the game (which I must admit currently has me mildly intoxicated), and so a very Merry Christmas to you too.

The Lonely Island feat. Akon – I Just Had Sex

Great key change, or greatest key change?

Tom: I’m going to open this with a simple question, Tim: great key change, or greatest key change?

Tim: I think greatest, purely for the fact that it makes initially regretful girls incredibly happy that they gave themselves willingly to these appalling* stereotypes of men.

* Although sadly not entirely inaccurate.

Tom: Is that John McEnroe? Yes it is. Is that Jessica Alba? Yes it is.

Tim: And is that Serena off Gossip Girl? Yes it is.

Tom: By the time this appears on Europlop!, of course, everyone on the internet will already be singing along to this. There will be two hundred cover versions, thirty badly hashed together parody replies, and at least one version redone shot-for-shot using kittens.

Tim: And if the person who chooses to make the kitten video leaks an unfinished copy with only half the shots replaced we can all scream ‘YAY bestiality!’

Tom: Er… quite. Anyway. The Lonely Island have been a proper band for ages, not just ‘those guys off Saturday Night Live’ (and before that, ‘those guys off the internet’). One full album featuring a dozen guests; another on the way; and performances on MTV and the late night shows.

And here’s the thing: the music’s actually good. Well produced, catchy, and funny at the same time; I think, in the history of music, perhaps only Weird Al has managed that before them.

Barbarellas – Body Rock

Do you ever get lonely playing with your toys?

Tim: Now then Thomas, let me ask you – do you ever get lonely playing with your toys?

Tom: No, but some people say I look like me dad.

Tim: Ooh, you do a bit. But anyway, at least you got where I was coming from before revealing any unfortunate hobbies. Sadly, though, B*Witched haven’t got back together, but half of them have joined up and formed a slightly smaller girl group.

Tim: So, if their debut single is anything to go by, they’ve ditched the cheeky innuendo and have made it their mission to put out songs with good choruses and slightly tiresome verses.

Tom: But… cheeky innuendo is all they had.

Tim: Is it a fairly decent single, aiming to be liked by the people who liked Bad Romance and suchlike? Yes, and yes. Will they last? Almost certainly not, because there is next to nothing unique about them.

Tom: I know this is a slightly cruel thing to say, and I apologise, but from a distance the one in the black wig looks like Noel Fielding in drag. You know, him out of the Mighty Boosh.

Tim: Ouch. You’d better not say that too loud, mind – if you’re not careful she’ll huff, she’ll puff, she’ll huff and puff and blow you away.

Sonohra – There’s A Place For Us

They actually seem to be enjoying themselves.

Tim: Chances are, you’ve heard that the third Chronicles of Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, has just been released.

Tom: The third? I missed the second entirely. Anyway, if this has spawned anything half as good as Lazy Sunday, I’ll be happy.

Tim: Well, this song is from the soundtrack. Sort of. It’s slightly odd: the official recording artist is Carrie Underwood, who put together a not altogether bad version, but alongside that various other acts from around the world have recorded their own versions, presumably for the noble cause that is selling more copies of the soundtrack. These acts include Sweden’s E.M.D. (who actually managed to perform a very good live version, if a little shaky on the vocals), Britain’s Joe McElderry (who decided that one song wasn’t enough for him and did a somewhat better second one as well, especially if you quite liked the weird auto-tune fake backing singers effect on Ambitions) and Germany’s Victoria S (who, appropriately for the season, decided to dress up as a Christmas tree decoration).

Tom: Five versions of the same song? That’s a challenge even for me. Particularly with a song like that.

Tim: Yes – by and large, unfortunately, it’s not all that great. Somehow all of these separate groups/singers have taken what could (and indeed should) be a very emotional song, and seemingly stripped it of almost all feeling whatsoever.

Tom: Well, it’s a kids’ movie song. It’s not going to make adults that emotional. Apart from the ending of An American Tail. That can floor anyone and it is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE to cry at it, okay?

Tim: Um, yes. Yes Tom. But even if this is a kids; movie, when the lyrics are ‘We could be the kings and queens, of anything if we believe’, I want to be made to run to the kitchen, grab some tin foil, and make myself a crown.

Tom: You don’t need a song to do that, Tim.

Tim: Anyway, Sonohra, an Italian duo, did better than most.

Tim: What is it about this one that I like? I don’t know. Their voices work well on it, which helps – it seems to work better for me in a lower register – and the instrumentation’s quite a bit louder and especially noticeable in the re-entry after the bridge, which helps create a song you can properly nod your head to. Most of all, though, they actually seem to be enjoying themselves a bit, which always comes in handy.

Tom: It’s the rocky-bit during the first half of the chorus – the ‘kings and queens’ bit – that stands out for me. The rest is generic movie-soundtrack rubbish, and sadly one awesome bit of melody isn’t enough to save the whole song for me.

Tim: Hmm, fair point, I suppose, but I like it.

Tom: And I’ve just realised why I like it – it’s almost exactly the same as the good bit from Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend. “The only way her heart will mend”, and all that. It’s a sudden descending major-key bit that stands out. At this point, I which I knew more about music theory.

Tim: Ooh, it is and all, isn’t it? Anyway, sod this – you’re right, I don’t need a song. Now where did I put the Pritt Stick? And has anyone got a throne I can borrow?

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.

Saturday Flashback: Mike Posner – Cooler Than Me

What a dick.

Tim: This one’s been suggested by Vanessa, who writes:

“I like the bass line and the vocals, but after a few repetitions it becomes rather trite.”

Well, that basically sums up most of the things we review here, so let’s have a look.

Tom: I think I can sum the video up as ‘what a dick’.

Tim: Now now, don’t be nasty – just because he likes to wear a lot of glasses and write songs reassuring women that he is in fact cooler than them, he’s not… actually, no, you’re right. He is.

Tom: Vanessa’s right, though. The vocals are competent, with a slight breathy quality that seems to work despite the fact that half the time they don’t actually seem to be hitting any note. The bassline’s catchy, too – and the brief mid-song pause with ‘shh’ works really well.

Tim: It’s alright – for me it just seemed to go in one ear and out of the other. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing to really make me want to hear it again.

Tom: It’s a pity that, as I mentioned, he appears to be a dick. On the plus side, the 3D bit of the video really is filmed in 3D – the concept’s excellent.