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October in singles: lad-rock veterans, zingy pop tarts, local upstarts


Another month, another instalment of my singles round-up for The Skinny

If this was the mid-90s and Oasis were in their pomp, The Shock of the Lightning (**, Out Now) would be an album track at best, and certainly not the lead single from a new album. But that says more about what Oasis have become than it does about the track, which tries to hide daft lyrics (“love is a litany, a magical mystery”) behind Noel’s bludgeoning guitar barrage. At least Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner knows when people are getting tired of the same-old. The Last Shadow Puppets, his side-project with the Rascals’ Miles Kane, attempts to recapture the lush orchestral pop of the 1960s with some success, yet My Mistakes Were Made For You (**, 20 Oct) is still strangely underwhelming. Another band with an eye on the past are Attic Lights. Wendy (***, 6 Oct) is further proof of these Glaswegians’ harmony-heavy talents, but it doesn’t quite hit the dreamy heights of July single of the month Bring You Down.

Following in Noel and Alex’s footsteps before them, the Ting Tings can lay claim to being the most hyped band of the year, but will they sustain the adoration of the mainstream with this fourth single? Well, probably, and it doesn’t matter that Be The One (***, 13 Oct) is nothing like as brainlessly infectious as their preceeding efforts. It’s easy to see why Fight Like Apes are currently supporting the Ting Tings on their sold-out UK tour, because Jake Summers (**, 20 Oct) is just the kind of disposable, sugar-rich indie-pop that their audeince digs with a JCB. CSS were sorta like the Ting Tings of 2007: their dumb-but-fun electro-pop injected a shot of colour into our cloudy British summer. But judging by the frankly rubbish Move (*, 13 Oct) it looks like Brazil’s best musical export since Os Mutantes have misplaced their former charm.

You can’t beat a good song title, and Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants (****, 13 Oct) is a classic. It’s a pleasure to hear the singer of the band responsible, Wild Beasts, strain his falsetto around this tongue-twister, so who cares what it means? Edinburgh’s Kid Canaveral meanwhile prefer to focus their energies on crafting old-fashioned indie-rock. Second Time Around (***, 27 Oct) keeps it simple, down to the chugging beat, ragged riff and chorus of (something like) bah-bada-bah-bah-badaaa-bah-bah-bada-bah. Ace.

In the history of unlikely cover versions, Tricky taking on Kylie Minogue is up there with Johnny Cash doing Nine Inch Nails. Slow (***, 13 Oct) isn’t as disastrous as you might imagine, with the Knowle West Boy’s custom growl adding a layer of menace to the Minogue gloss. Staying urban for a second, we turn our attention to hyped Chicago hip hop duo The Cool Kids. Mikey Rocks (****, 20 Oct) is a good snapshot of their crystal-clear beats and inventive rhyming.

One of the best things about sifting through a pile of circular plastic every month is when you come across a sublime little tune from a relative unknown. Moscow State Circus (****, 27 Oct) by young Liverpudlian Eugene McGuinness is one such tune, packed full of haunting Midlake-style chord shifts and priceless lines like “I’m as subtle and as playful as a hammer-headed shark.”

Lastly Dananananaykroyd, Glasgow’s best syllable-heavy thrash-pop act, who can already retire happy having met Bill Murray on a plane recently, and also finally winning the coveted Dirty Dozen single of the month. Pink Sabbath (****, 6 Oct) is a full frontal assault of sinew-stretching shouts and finger-bleeding guitars. Oh, and B-side Chrome Rainbow might just be even better.

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July in singles: a bored actress, Pammy’s ex, and the next Arcade Fire?

Attic Lights
[Attic Lights: recipients of July single of the month]

To look at bespectacled Glaswegian Ross Clark, you might expect him to be a modest, sensitive, home-spun folkster. But, au contraire, Silversword (****, Out Now) is a raucous, joyous, full-band-with-horns blitzkrieg, taking the populist bent of The Fratellis and filtering out all the bad stuff. Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences almost use up their entire word quota with You Can’t Make Somebody Love You (***, 7 July). Which only leaves me to say that this Nick Cave-inflected rock’n’roller is worth a listen. This month’s ‘Next Arcade Fire’ award goes to Californian art-popsters Port O’Brien, with I Woke Up Today (***, 7 July). Chanted chorus? Check. Scrappy folk aesthetic? Check. Ye olde world charm? Check. Sticking with upbeat West Coast (of America, that is) tunesmithery, She & Him‘s debut single This Is Not A Test (**, 7 July) is pleasant, inoffensive guitar pop. Just what you might expect from a collaboration between actress-turned-singer Zooey Deschanel and Portland singer/songwriter M Ward.

At the risk of ‘not getting it’, I have no time for Hadouken! The hoodie-clad, Nintendo-referencing Northerners may set some kind of record for genre agglomeration, but the result, Crank It Up (*, 7 July), sounds like a 15-year-old Liam Howlett’s demo-tape. Officer Kicks are a much more straight-up proposition. But Pictures Of Me (*, 9 July) is attention-sappingly homogeneous rock: not only stale, but well past its sell-by-date. Back in May I praised chipper Londoners The Thirst for their Enya-erasing single ‘Sail Away’, and they stay on form with follow-up My Everything (3stars, 14 July). Sure, the lyrics scream of Radio 1 ambitions, but the musical quality wins out. The Brute Chorus aren’t quite as tight as their Cockney neighbours; just as well the charm of Grow Fins (***, 14 July) lies in its ramshackle, bar-room vibe then.

As a fashion choice, White Denim should be avoided. But as a band, this Texan outfit receives a firm seal of approval. All You Really Have To Do (****, 7 July) is a manic 138 seconds of psychedelic blues-rock. While we’re on the subject of unpretentious American rock, let’s have a listen to The Hold Steady. New single Sequestered In Memphis (****, 7 July) is possibly the best single these Church of Springsteen elders have given us so far – blaring horns, a drum solo and a lesson in legalese to boot. He is just as overtly American, but Kid Rock is American in all the wrong ways. All Summer Long (*, 7 July) is a cringe-inducing Lynyrd Skynyrd pastiche, but what else would we expect? As the shivers of disgust recede, it’s back on home soil for July’s single of the month. Attic Lights are the latest purveyors of jingly-jangly pop to sprout from the fertile West Coast (of Scotland, that is) music patch. Bring You Down (****, 7 July) has more than a hint of Teenage Fanclub; not surprising really, since it was produced by Fannies drummer Francis McDonald.

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