Tim: Tom, you said yesterday that everything seemed generic, and you couldn’t mind much to write about. Turns out the music gods paid attention, because: NEW ALPHABEAT!
Tom: Crikey, between that and Mika, it’s like my university years have come back.
Tim: First thirty seconds of that, I was “hmm, it’s okay for a second track, decent funky pop, I guess I can cope”, but then the CHORUS came along, and suddenly I’m “OOH YES it’s like the Alphabet of a decade ago”.
Tom: That chorus bassline reminds me a lot of Train from 2012, too. I’m not suggesting it’s a rip-off: it’s just another touchstone that puts this, well, as not being cool any more.
Tim: It’s fun, exciting pop, proving that either they truly don’t know what’s cool any more or that they just don’t care, because this ain’t mainstream music, with its gloomy synths and weird vocal samples and genericness. No. Instead, it’s happy, energetic, upbeat, joyous, celebratory, arms flailing in the air for that drum bit at the end, wonderful music.
Tom: I was going to specifically point out that drum fill! You’re right: it’s not the sort of thing we hear much these days.
Tim: I’ll be heading to Denmark to see them in November, and right now I’m more excited about that than ever.
Tim: Right – I’m on to a new bottle over here, how are you doing?
Tom: Considering taking it up.
Tim: You should, it’s wonderful. Now, I got to see this lovely band on tour last week, and they really do put on a stonking (yep) performance. There’s only one criticism I have: they didn’t play this.
Tim: Disappointing: the use of ‘X-mas’ in the title, and the fade out ending. It’s really not hard to write a convincing end to a song, so can’t you at least try?
Tom: Also, the synth is a blatant style-rip from Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”, which – let’s face it – is pretty much the worst Christmas song to rip off the style from.
Tim: Also notable about that song: “simply” is in the wrong place in that line for it to mean what he means. Think about it.
Tom: I’m not trusting your Drunk Logic, but now you’ve pointed it out: that “simply” is just meaningless in context. It’s not being compared to anything. It’s just there to fill in two beats. God damn it, McCartney, this is the “in which we live in” from Live and Let Die all over again.
Tim: But appointing (I know that’s not the reverse of disappointing, but it should be): the rest of it. Sleighbells and all sorts. It’s lovely. A traditional Alphabeat song – even if it’s not got the most upbeat message, it’s still sung in a very happy way, and for anybody listening casually all it’ll do is reinforce the Christmas spirit. JOYOUS.
Unfortunately, as I said, it’s not got the most upbeat message. We started this week with “I love Christmas” and (probably) “I love you lots, wait a sec”, but now we’ve a Pogues-style “our relationship kind of sucks but it’s Christmas so let’s not split up”. There are two ways to interpret that: the charitable way is “I know you’re about to dump me, but don’t, because this should be a happy time”. That’s all well and good – happy, festive, all that. Just what we want from Alphabeat. And what we’ve got.
Tom: That’s charitable? That sounds like a bloody awful Christmas to me.
Tim: Charitable if we’re discussing the singer’s meaning. Compare it to the alternative subtext, which I’m almost ashamed came to me: “I know you’re about to dump me, but if we stay together you’ll have to get me a present and I, knowing you’re about to dump me, will happily get you a crap one. I win.”
I’M SORRY. I’m sure that’s not how the song works. THE SONG IS LOVELY. I LIKE IT.
Tom: I think Tim’s starting to sob into his port now, readers.
Tim: Hey, they’ve covered The Who! Oh, wait. What?
Tom: OUT HERE IN THE FIELDS! I… huh. Yeah, you’re right, they’ve covered The Who.
Tim: Yes, but then it’s not just that, is it? I mean, have they turned into a multi-target tribute band with telling anyone? Because first there’s the intro, which is, as we’ve agreed, unmistakably almost identical to Baba O’Riley (which is here, for anyone who’s not heard it, in which case they should listen to it now because it’s brilliant), and then there’s the ‘come on closer’ line, which is straight from Whitney Houston’s How Will I Know.
Tom: The first two lines are almost the same as “It’s a quarter after one…” from Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now.
Tim: OH GOD, I hadn’t noticed those as well, but you’re right.
Tom: In fact, almost everything in this track reminds me of something else. It’s strange to listen to: there’s something to be said for familiarity, but this is just plain weird.
Tim: It is, and you reckoned that their last one, Vacation, had similarities to other tracks as well.
Tom: “One two three, you’re in love with me” is probably original, that’s just because all other bands would have rejected it for sounding like it was written by a six-year-old.
Tim: What I want to know is: how did this happen? No-one — but no-one — in the music industry could fail to recognise either of those, surely, so this can’t be accidental. But their first album, with tracks like 10,000 Nights and Fascination was so original and inventive that I just can’t see quite what’s going on.
Tom: Despite all that, it’s still a catchy song.
Tim: Oh, I agree – don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good track, as however unoriginal parts of it may be, it all goes together very well and sounds great. It’s just – what’s with the lifted stuff?
Tom: One, two, three, four! What? Sorry. I was counting in there. Not sure why. Can’t even play the drums, really.
Tim: I should explain: I’m in an unusually very upbeat mood at the moment (no idea why), so I’m having difficulty finding criticisms of songs. But I genuinely think there’s not a lot I could criticise here even if I wanted to.
Tom: Unexpectedly downbeat first verse after a very strong introduction? The fact that it’s basically a cross between Madonna’s Holiday and Kool and the Gang’s Celebration? The fact it’s a bit more of an album track than a lead single? Okay, I’m trying to be the pessimist to your optimist here, so perhaps those are a bit unfounded. Ultimately, it’s not “10,000 Nights”, but it’s not bad.
Tim: The verse isn’t downbeat – it’s just not as upbeat as the intro and chorus. But listen to that chorus – it’s great. “Leave your troubles way behind, we gonna have a good time…have yourselves a good vacation.” Add to all that the as-usual-great Alphabeat style, and who can complain about it? They even talk about nose-picking, which is a delightful first for a pop song, as far as I’m aware.
Tom: Wait, what? Delightful?
Tim: Oh yes. I’ve always though you don’t get anywhere near as many references to it as you should.