Erik Hassle – Standing Where You Left Me

There are many things right with this song.

Standing Where You Left Me by erikhassle

Tim: There are many things right with this song – the intensity of it going perfectly with the emotion, the high-pitched electric violiny type thing just before the bridge, the instrumental pauses beneath the first line of the chorus and the ‘oh my God’, to name just a few.

Tom: The drum fills in the middle of the verse, too – and the synth backing line.

Tim: However, I do have one complaint, and that is his treatment of the word ‘me’ at the end of the first line of each chorus. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s very good, but I think he missed a trick there: if he’d lowered it a couple of notes, he’d have then be able to jump up an octave for after the bridge (à la Backstreet Boys), which would have been brilliant.

Tom: Hold on. So you think that…

Tim: He should go down on ‘me’? Yes. Yes I do.

Tom: Get out.

Tim: Now, you may be wondering, ‘Did Tim really come up with a point and go on about it for a whole paragraph, complete with YouTube references, solely to make a fairly lame joke? Well, yes. Problem?

Actually, I do think it’s a slightly valid point, but that aside, however, I think the song’s great. Although don’t go on YouTube looking for a live version – you’ll spend the whole time trying to work out why he’s got a large hamster living on his head.

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.

Sunday Girl – Stop Hey

Use your lungs, Sunday Girl!

Tim: Now, something British. To be more specific, ‘Stop Hey’ by Sunday Girl.

Tom: Ooh, that starts well.

Tim: Indeed – the intro for this is very very promising. Unfortunately, the rest isn’t quite as great, although I still like it. I prefer it to a lot of the other Eliza Doolittle/Diana Vickers/Lily Allen stuff that’s around at the moment, mainly because there’s still quite a bit of energy to it, for the most part.

Tom: A decent bit of synth work in the background, as well. Unlike Eliza Doolittle and her ilk, though, she’s doing the ‘high pitched breathy’ voice – and with very rare exceptions, that just seems frustrating to me. This is not one of those exceptions. Use your lungs, Sunday Girl!

Tim: Three things about the video:

  • it’s not for cat people
  • that umbrella looks ridiculously flimsy, and doesn’t she know it’s bad luck to open one indoors?
  • you can distract yourself from the boring bit before the bridge by imagining what it would sound like if she inhaled the helium from every single one of those balloons.

Tom: My word, that’s a sad looking dog. Must have listened to the record a few times.

Shakira feat. Dizzee Rascal – Loca

They’re going through the motions rather than actually having fun.

Tom: I saw the artists’ names and immediately thought “hell yes”. The woman who sang the best-selling song of the 21st century so far, and the best British rapper ever? (Don’t argue. I’ve seen him live, and I’ve never seen a crowd get quite so excited.)

Tom: It’s a typical Latin-influenced track, with singing from Shakira and verses from Mr. Rascal (as he’s formally known).

Tim: He actually is.

Tom: That’s what you’d expect from a collaboration like this – and there’s even a point where they trade lines as well. But what’s missing seems to be the energy. It almost seems like they’re going through the motions rather than actually having fun recording it.

Tim: One of the problems is that for the most part, Shakira’s getting through so many words that she’s practically unintelligible, so I have no idea what the song’s about. That was particularly the case when Dizzee was talking about feeling ‘el presidente’, and I spent a good couple of minutes wondering what orange juice had to do with anything, before I realised I was thinking of Del Monte.

There’s one time you can definitely understand her though, and it leads to a question I have long wanted to know the answer to: what is it with rappers and wanting to be called ‘daddy’ (or, in this case, ‘papi’)? It’s just plain weird, but it’s all over the place – Usher’s particularly guilty of it. Since when did incest become attractive?

If I was a girl, and my boyfriend said that to me, I would say to him, ‘Okay, I’ll call you daddy, but only if you call me mummy,’ and then I’d watch him run screaming from the room.

Tom: That’s a mental image that’s going to stay with me for a while.

Anyway, the lack of enthusiasm’s the same in the video – him and her have blatantly been filmed separately, perhaps even on different continents with the help of some bluescreen.

Tim: Actually, that is one heck of a distracting video, for a blindingly obvious reason.

Tom: Well, yes, I think anyone who…

Tim: …and that is Shakira’s attitude towards basic safety practices.

Tom: Wait, what?

Tim: She wears kneepads when she’s rollerblading in her very small amount of clothing – looks a bit odd, but it’s okay because it’s demonstrating good procedure for any children watching. However, then she goes on a motorbike without any real torso protection and no sign of any helmet (which is almost certainly illegal, by the way). Totally mixed messages.

Tom: How well will the American market react to “that girl is a nutter” being in there? No idea, but I hope it helps Mr. Rascal crack America. He deserves it.

Shayne Ward – Gotta Be Somebody

He clearly thinks he’s gone back in time five years

Tim: Shayne Ward’s BACK! apparently. Well, that’s what he said on The X Factor on Sunday, so it must be true. Here he is with his very own version of Nickelback’s Gotta Be Somebody.

Tom: Otherwise known as every Nickelback song ever.

Tom: The autotune on that is actually offensive. When used properly, it can be a decent effect. That’s just horrible.

Tim: Now, he clearly thinks he’s gone back in time five years, because let’s be frank: this is not just a song from an X Factor winner – it is an X Factor Winner’s Song:

  • Cover of a fairly well known song.
  • A quiet start then kicking in a little bit halfway through the first verse.
  • Good chorus, leading out to a second verse with considerably more energy than the first.
  • Nice bit of calm in the bridge.
  • Musical exposion to follow.

You may doubt this formula, especially parts two and three, but check any one you want. All it’s missing is Dermot in the video yelling his name.

As a winner’s song. it’s not bad. Decent source material helps, nice bit of synth work in the background brings it up to date.

Tom: I really dislike this, because it’s got the major-key chord structure that forces my brain to get enthusiastic about it. Like you say, it is a Winner’s Song, and for that reason I hate it.

Tim: As an actual song, well, it’s still not bad, but it sure as hell isn’t good. It’s just formula, and isn’t remotely exciting. Even in the loud ending he doesn’t seem particularly energetic – it’s as if he went into a studio and said, ‘This sort of worked last time, let’s have another go. It’ll be something to pass the time.’

Tom: I think that’s the damned autotune.

Tim: Normally, a song like this would have four months of two hour weekly TV adverts, and so success is a given, deserved or otherwise, because it’s been implanted in the nation’s brain. This hasn’t, and so doesn’t get a free pass.

Tom: I’m about to say something that I don’t think has ever been said before: the Nickelback version is better.

Tim: Problem with the video: there is no way Shayne Ward has a stalker willing to take 230 pictures of him.

OMD – Sister Marie Says

I didn’t expect to see a Catholic schoolgirl being beaten in the street.

Tom: Advance warning: this is not a happy video. I’d recommend listening to the song on its own first before watching the full video, because for once the pictures really do put the song in a different light.

Tom: Now, as I said last time we talked about OMD: I’m a fan. The overblown synth melodies, the production, everything. I’m still slightly bitter that I missed the chance to see them headline at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park a few months ago. When I first heard this, I thought “this sounds a bit like old OMD”, and it turns out that I’m right; this track was written in 1981, meant to be released in 1996 but scrapped, brought out as a free download in 2007 and now, finally, it’s the second single off the new album.

This one doesn’t have the triumphant overtones of ‘If You Want It’, and if I’m honest the loud whispering vocal line starts to grate by the end of it. The generic, religious lyrics I can take or leave too – but the operatic bridge and the exit from it are great, elevating it above regular ‘album track’ status.

Tim: My thoughts as I heard this:

0:03 – Ooh, I like this.
0:30 – Ooh, I really like this.
1:03 – Seriously? This is your verse?
1:28 – Hooray, the fun stuff’s back.
1:43 – Do we have to have another verse?
2:11 – Yes. Not long now.
3:05 – This build-up had better be worthwhile.
3:10 – Yes!…although it’s actually just the same as before.
3:22 – Okay, this is definitely Good.

Just a shame about the verses, really.

Tom: The video, though. Well, I was expecting some religious symbolism in there, but after last time I was expecting dancers, high-powered lights and meaningless abstract themes. I didn’t expect to see a Catholic schoolgirl being beaten in the street.

Tim: Yeah, although to be honest it just confuses me – we see her getting beaten up, but it seems as though she started it, which slightly ruins it. Is the idea that an alcoholic mother and boyfriend who leaves her when she says no is enough to start a fight? I don’t know, really, and if I’m honest I don’t like it at all.

Carpark North – Burn It

I feel we may have to disagree here.

Tim: Carpark North are a Danish electro rock band that intended to call themselves Graveyard North but got the translation wrong (seriously), and this is the single release that accompanies their soon-to-be-released greatest hits album.

Tim: I’m not sure why, but I don’t seem to be able to write a normal sentence sentence new paragraph sentence and so on type review for this, so here are my thoughts:

  • There is a lot happening here.
  • The hook is one that you hear, and think ‘Oh, God, that’ll be in my head all day now,’ and, well, it pretty much is. If it isn’t immediately, as it wasn’t when I first heard it, it’ll appear out of nowhere four or five hours from now. Just wait.
  • I’m fairly sure that the intro/backing beat exists purely to screw with anybody trying to work out where the beat lies in this.
  • The dance backing that jumps in for the third minute is unexpected and thus rather pleasant.
  • The final thirty seconds provide possibly the most excited ending to a song I have ever heard.
  • There are almost certainly plenty of good remixes in here, if this gets the attention it deserves.

All in all, I think this is more than a little bit excellent.

Tom: You’re wrong.

Tim: I see.

Tom: Yes, there’s quite a lot happening, but it’s hardly overproduced – and having too much going on isn’t necessarily a good thing.

As for the song itself… it’s an unmemorable dirge. The hook just puts Axel F, the theme from Beverly Hills Cop, in my head. And an excited ending? Have you forgotten ‘Lovekiller’, if nothing else? It’s got some heavy drums, but that’s about it.

Tim: Fair point about Lovekiller – and you’re right, there are others – so maybe I should replace ‘possibly’ with ‘one of’, but I stand by my original sentiment – I think it’s a great energetic ending. As for your unmemorable, I guess we just remember different things.

Tom: I don’t reckon this’ll sit on many playlists – and I’d be surprised if anyone gets a decent remix out of it either.

It’s not bad. A lot of people will like it, most probably; it’s competent at least, and it’s no INJU5TICE. But it’s nothing special.

Tim: In that case, I feel we shall have to disagree here.

Tom: Okay. But you’re still wrong.

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.

Katy Perry – Firework

It goes somewhere mediocre.

Tom: All right, it’s new Katy Perry track time. She’s got a fine way with earworms, so let’s see if this one’s just as catchy. It’s called ‘Firework’, but irritatingly it’s not released until the 15th November, far too late for Bonfire Night. Sort it out, Perry.*

* Incidentally, I would watch a show called “Katy Perry Mason”. Probably just the once.

Tom: It starts well, builds and builds, and just as you’re thinking “this has to go somewhere amazing”… it goes somewhere mediocre. This isn’t a summer hit, or even a ‘Teenage Dream’, and no number of string instruments in the chorus will help that.

Tim: The main problem is that the build-up is actually part of the chorus, so it actually disappoints three or four times throughout.

Tom: Sounds like a girl I knew once.

She’s also doing that thing where she just sings syllables rather than words, which is now starting to irritate the hell out of me. And the bridge is appalling – “boom boom boom / moon moon moon”? That’s scarcely Vengaboys-quality.

Tim: It is something Olly Murs could do worse than to take as an example. Just saying.

Tom: If ever there was a song in desperate need of a final-chorus key change, this is it – because it runs out of ideas about a minute in.

Tim: True. However, the lack of ideas does lead to repetition, which means that by the end of the song, ‘fiiiiiiiirewooooooorks’ has worked its way in and is almost enjoyable.

Tom: I wouldn’t go that far.