Phil Collins – Going Back

It must be getting near Christmas.

Tom: If a royal wedding, a recession, and the Tories in power wasn’t enough to convince you that it’s the 1980s again – it’s a new Phil Collins album, this time of Motown covers. It must be getting near Christmas. Here’s the lead single, and… damn it, I hesitate to say it because it’s Phil Collins and hating him is almost de rigeur, but this is pleasant.

Tom: Is it fast-paced dance music? No. Should we really be reviewing it on this blog? Not really. But I’m surprised enough by this track that, damn it, I’m putting it up here. Whatcha think, Tim?

Tim: It’s… dull. It took 80 seconds for anything remotely interesting to happen, and even then it was nothing special. And that isn’t easy to say, because if I’m honest I quite like a few of his songs, but there is absolutely nothing to get excited about here whatsoever. It’s pleasant, yes, but only in the same way that My Family is pleasant – it’s just satisfying enough that turning it off isn’t quite worth the energy required to do so.

Tom: Hold on, what? My Family is still going?

Tim: Yep – ten series now. How? Who actually watches it? I don’t know – probably people that can’t be bothered to switch off after The One Show.

Tom: This is, he says, likely to be his final single – and so the video is filled with flashbacks and shots of the man himself either emoting or staring directly into your soul. (It depends on the camera angle.)

Tim: Just a shame it can’t be a memorable one, really.

September – Resuscitate Me

I think it’s slightly excellent

Tim: Now, this was never going to be as good as the UK radio edit of Can’t Get Over, so I set my sights deliberately low, but overall I don’t think that was needed – it’s easily on a par with Cry For You, for a start.

Tom: She’s now got a recognisable voice and style – something that I’d recognise as ‘September’ even if it just turned up on the radio. I think it’s the similar synth lines – it’s an interesting way to build a musical brand, but it works.

Tim: But what is it as a song on its own? I think it’s slightly excellent – the ‘don’t you let my heart die boy’ lead into the chorus works very well as a ‘get ready to dance’ warning, and there’s plenty of energy lying around all over the please.

Tom: Except in the bridge. That bridge goes on far too long.

Tim: Hmm, maybe – I think think it works. I do have a couple of issues (the high pitched vocals being almost impossible to decipher, the idea of ‘love CPR’ which is just as ridiculous here as it was when JLS invented it a while back*), but overall this is a stonkingly good effort.

* And that’s actually the title of her new album. Why. Just, why.

Tom: Stonkingly?

Tim: Yes, I said stonkingly. Live with it.

Tom: You are an 80s commercial radio DJ and I claim my five pounds.

Paramore – Playing God

Five singles from one album. Really, Paramore?

Tom: Five singles from one album. Really, Paramore? I mean, I know you’re popular, but surely you’re getting into album tracks by now?

Tom: Yep. Album track. Although to be fair, I’ve thought that about most of Paramore’s singles. Not even the ‘attractive woman with pink hair’ factor’s saving this one in my head.

Tim: On a scale of album tracks, though, it’s at the higher end. Not so good that I want to write a huge amount about it, mind, but equally not so bad that I feel the need to write a huge amount about it.

Tom: Also, she really needs to learn how to tie knots properly.

Tim: And get on to her insurance company about her missing paintings.

Josh Groban – Hidden Away

Being bought for a lot of mums right now.

Tom: Now, I have a sneaking respect for Josh Groban. He knows his audience, he knows what music they like, and he’s not afraid to lampoon himself – see his appearance on Buzzcocks or his cameo in this, the best mock-charity-video ever.

It’s the run-up to Christmas, which means – of course – new album and new single to promote it.

Tom: So, here’s the Groban checklist:

  • Slow intro.
  • Steadily rising verse.
  • Vaguely positive lyrics.
  • Occasional breaks to falsetto.
  • Heartfelt but ultimately incredibly superficial music video.

Five for five. And I’ll bet the new album is being bought for a lot of mums right now.

Tim: Well, indeed – he fits in a not particularly large group of singers who pretty much exist to have their CDs bought for elderly relatives. Similar acts include Susan Boyle, Il Divo and Michael Bublé (although he’s become a bit more mainstream recently), and it’s a fairly good place to be: the people who buy your music probably won’t realise if you stopped being good three years ago, so you can’t really go wrong.

Europlop’s Sunday Remixes: Vol. 1

We can’t deny that we’ve featured more than a handful of not very good tracks.

Tim: We can’t deny that we’ve featured more than a handful of not very good tracks. Fortunately, there are people out there who Take Steps to rectify such issues with what people in the musical business call ‘remixes’, and here are a few. First up, the Kardinal Beats Remix of JLS’s Love You More.

Tim: The original was boring and didn’t really deserve to be playlisted on any radio station ever, but foolishly was by BBC Radio 1. This, on the other hand, deserved to be playlisted by every popular radio music station ever, and sensibly was by BBC 1Xtra (which does, it seems, have some redeeming features). It has vibrancy, excitement – it even sounds like the guys are putting some effort into it, which is nice when it’s a charity single.

Tom: I know it wouldn’t play well with the mums-and-daughters demographic that actually buys Children in Need singles, but I’d much prefer this to be the actual single. There does seem to be a bit of a disconnect between the hard beats and the soulful vocals though; I feel like I’m listening to a mashup, even though I’m not.

Not sure about the sleigh bell and whistle samples though.

Tim: Next up, there’s admittedly only so much you can do with a song described as fomulaic and less good than Nickelback, but the excellent folks at Almighty have had a pretty decent go at Shayne Ward’s version of Gotta Be Somebody:

Tom: Oh, Almighty, you wonderful people. You name the track, they’ll produce a danceable version of it. Even if they really shouldn’t.

Tim: The energy here has been pushed through the ceiling, the bridge has been made into something proper – the song as a whole has moved from ‘radio playlist crap’ to ‘dance floor choon’, and I think it’s much better for it.

Tom: I would dance to this. Probably quite badly.

Tim: I can imagine, although I’m not sure there’s much of a ‘probably’ involved. But moving on, you remarked that a dance mix of The Wanted’s Heart Vacancy would go down well in under-18 clubs. I think the DJs From Mars remix may fit the bill rather nicely.

Tom: Blimey, that opening’s brilliant. DJs From Mars have done some sterling work in the past, and this is no exception.

Tim: This is not a tune where the band members can just sit down in the video – or if they do, they at least need to move their arms around a bit. Energy-wise, it’s far more on a level with decent music that the original was, and while it’s not going to win any awards it is a significant improvement, and should be applauded.

Tom: The ‘in your heart, in your heart, in your heart’ bit doesn’t fit in, but that’s fine – it didn’t in the original either. When the beat drops, the dancefloor will fill up – although I’m suspecting that the dancefloor will be a teen club night somewhere uninspiring. Wakefield, say.

Tim: One of my cousins used to read this blog. He probably won’t any more, so thanks for that.

Saturday Flashback: X Factor Finalists 2008 – Hero

Lurking in the background.

Tim: It’s probably time we discussed this. We’ve referred to it briefly on a couple of occasions, and ever since then it’s been lurking in the background, waiting to rear its beautiful, graceful head.

Tim: Now, I think this is marvellous.

Tom: It’s not beautiful, it’s not graceful, and it’s not marvellous.

Tim: It is, though. The emotion of the original is all there.

Tom: Yes, it is. Maudlin, saccharine emotion. Only this time, just in case it wasn’t drummed into you enough by the song, it’s backed up with Ken Burns Effect-photos of soldiers emoting. The only thing it’s missing is a big block of scrolling text which says “FEEL SAD NOW HURRRR”.

Tim: Oh, I have no problems whatsoever admitting the video is appalling – it is, by far, the worst thing about the song. It is the music where it shines, though, such as the key change – fairly impressive already in the original, here it’s been turned up to about 27. The only bad part of it is the vocals from Rachel at 2:33, which are just nasty, but they can be turned down a bit.

Tom: Musically, there’s nothing wrong with it. I’ll agree with that. It’s just so goddamned syrupy that it sends me into the musical version of hyperglycaemia.

Tim: Everything else? Brilliant, and I challenge you to provide an actual reason otherwise.

Tom: There’s a comment on YouTube from “PeterKaay94”, which says “How can you dislike this video? It’s for the armed forces you dicks.” I had a whole riff here about other fund-raising efforts that said commenter would then have to approve of, but frankly it just got a bit disrespectful so I’ve cut it.

Tim: Well as far as I’m concerned the cause has got nothing to do with it, and Mr 94 is speaking out of his arse. A song should stand out on its own merits, and being for charity should be no excuse whatsoever for weakness – JLS proved that.

Tom: Yes, it’s for a worthy cause, and yes, musically there’s nothing really wrong with it – but it just makes my skin crawl. That’s a reason.

Idol Allstars 2010 – All I Need Is You

You will, I am sure, be familiar with the idea of the reality TV charity single.

Tim: You will, I am sure, be familiar with the idea of the reality TV charity single – two years ago Simon Cowell gave us a version of Hero (marvellous) –

Tom: No it wasn’t.

Tim: – and last year we had a cover of…actually, I cannot for the life of me remember, largely because I do remember it being terrible. I think it had ‘Everybody’ in the title. And this Sunday we shall be treated to this year’s offering, apparently a cover of Heroes.

Tom: The only good thing is that it has to include Wagner. Bonus.

Tim: Hmm. Well, perhaps. Needless to say, Britain’s not the only country that does it; here we have what appears to be an original song – All I Need Is You, being sung live on Sweden’s Idol a couple of weeks ago:

Tim: Now this, JLS and Children in Need people, is a good charity single. It’s got a nice hook to nod along to right from the get go, the song has a blindingly obvious happy message, and best of all – they’re smiling! Can you imagine! Having fun while making music.

Tom: But it’s not a cover! You can’t have a big group charity single that’s not a cover these days. Even Band Aid 20 was a cover. It’s like film sequels – they want a song that’s bankable because they can’t count on the performances to carry it.

Tim: I don’t know, I think they can. Admittedly, at times it looks like they’ve forgotten about the existence of choreography, and it would be nice if someone gave the bearded blond guy some heroin and put him out of his misery, but musically it’s spot on. And the best thing? There’s absolutely no Wagner.

Tom: As someone who doesn’t watch the X Factor, I am still amused by Wagner every time he appears on Harry Hill’s TV Burp. He’s brilliant. Well done British public.

Gorillaz feat. Daley – Doncamatic (All Played Out)

Generally un-notable electronica.

Tom: Ah, Gorillaz. Damon Albarn’s cartoon project is still going, and still producing generally un-notable electronica. Whatever the singles from ‘Plastic Beach’ were, I can’t remember them; and the only reason ‘Dare’ actually lodged itself in my head was because of Shaun Ryder’s vocals. So I shouldn’t have been disappointed by this, but nevertheless I was.

Tim: How on Earth has it managed to go on for longer than Blur did? Unjust universe, I tell you.

Tom: I hoped for another ’19-2000′ (and the Soulchild remix of it, at that). I set my sights too high. The instrumental bridge, with its two-instrument synth and percussion line, actually made me cringe as my ears tried to work out what was going on.

Tim: Yes. The first time I heard it, the first ‘Doncamatic’ made me think ‘Ooh, it’s Barbra Streisand’ all over again, albeit a not-as-good alternative. On the other hand, the chorus is quite nice, and a song made from the last minute or so might work quite well. It’s just a shame that the rest of it’s a bit pointless.

Tom: I’m going to go and listen to ‘Feel Good Inc’ again to try and get this out of my head. Wait… no need. It’s gone.

Disco Rapido – We Play The Pipe

THAT’S RIGHT! It’s new Daz Sampson.

Tim: It was mentioned last Saturday that Daz Sampson crops up in all sorts of unlikely places. Since then, he’s got in touch* with another one, because THAT’S RIGHT! It’s new Daz Sampson.

* For any readers who may still be interested, he also informed us that Ben O’Brien was his manager who dreamed of being able to get taxis everywhere – Daz’s shout-out was a way of promising him that the money would soon flood in, and that he would be able to do just that.

Tom: And now, we’ve recorded the Ben O’Brien reference for posterity. Excellent. Right – what’s the new one? I’m bracing myself.

Tim: Well, this time, there’s a twist – he’s decided that enough is enough, and that with this one it’s all or nothing: if this doesn’t make the Top 10 he’s calling it a day. (And he’s also said that unlike Lisa Scott-Lee, he actually means it.)

Tim: So, basically, he’s calling it a day.

Tom: Now, don’t be quite so cynical. It doesn’t take much to get to the top 10 these da—hahaha, okay, I just heard it, he’s calling it a day.

Tim: Now, sorry Daz, but why couldn’t you have had a decent last stand? I have no idea, but the Facebook page says that acts they* like include Yolanda Be Cool and Riva Starr, which suggests to me that what they’ve really done is look for weird stuff that’s done well recently and tried to copy it.

* There’s another bloke involved – no idea who.

Tom: I don’t want to be too harsh, because the guy’s actually emailed us and seems like a decent bloke. That said, it’s blatant style-copying. A retro sample, a beat over the top, an occasional vocal sample, and a stupid cut-price video. Although, fair credit to them, the Blackpool Illuminations bit at the end did actually make me smile a bit.

Tim: Only problem is: the song’s more than a little bit crap. But, to be brutally honest, so were the others, really. They only succeeded because they were novelties, it was the right time of year for unusual dance tracks and people got caught up in the mood. Now, however, it’s the middle of November and it’s cold and wet outside; if people want to dance to unusual music they’ll wait until Slade or Wizzard comes on the radio, rather than listen to what Pete Tong’s got lined up for them on a Friday night.

Tom: There’s the inevitable slew of crap novelty Christmas cash-in records coming, isn’t there? Damn it, ever since downloads started counting for the chart the race for Christmas Number One has been a horrid race-to-the-bottom bunfight. Well, apart from last year’s Rage Against The Machine bit, of course.

Tim: Farewell Daz – it was good while it lasted. Well, slightly good. Ish.

Tom: He is the UK’s number 4 MC. Never forget that.

Tim: Hang on – I’ve just reread his e-mail, and he’s actually said the reverse, albeit slightly confusingly what with the Lisa Scott-Lee comparisons. If this is a hit, he’ll walk away. I guess we’ve got another fifteen years of Daz to come.

Tom: How has he not done a soap powder sponsorship yet? I mean, the link is obvious.

Tim: BANG! And Daz is gone.

Oh, if only it were that simple.

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.