Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong may have a ridiculous name, but they’ve already been tagged as a band on the rise in 2008. No surprise on the evidence of Lonely Buoy (***, 18 Feb), with its Bloc Party pace and Cribs-y guitars. [Although they fairly divide opinion, as Ally shows in his hilarious rant.] With the exception of their last single, Biffy Clyro have been going a bit American of late, and Who’s Got a Match? (***, 4 Feb) is another barn-torching Foos-scale rock-out. I’m roughly a decade too old to appreciate angst-laden pop-punk – or emo, as the Daily Mail shrieks. But You’re the Designers We’re the Deciders (**, 11 Feb) by Southampton’s Not Advised is more likeable than should be advised. The market in girl-boy, minimal garage rock has been thoroughly stitched up, but Blood Red Shoes pick at the seams regardless. You Bring Me Down (***, 4 Feb) lacks no raw emotion, and yet still feels strained by its instrumental limitations.
What to write of a song with the Disneyland refrain, “You are all beautiful/ And you are all magical”? Well I can’t return the compliment, because Beautiful (*, 4 Feb), by South Africans The Parlotones is just creepy, like the evil cartoon empire. Damn the NME! Because its summation of Letting Go (***, 25 Feb) by Preston band Team Waterpolo as “like Franz’s Take Me Out played to the tune of Mamma Mia” is spot-on, and I would have surely said the same if they hadn’t beaten me to it. This column praised The Coral‘s comeback single last year, but their latest ’60s whirl Put the Sun Back (**, 11 Feb) is just too lacklustre to shout about. You wait for one bunch of melodic Scousers and two come along at once. Britney’s Tears (***, 4 Feb) by The Steeples has exactly the right sound for mainstream indie: breezy, upbeat, endearing – unlike the disastrous pop wench of the title.
Proving that ska never dies (it just hibernates in the winter), The King Blues bring a premature burst of sunshine with Mr Music Man (***, 18 Feb). The live buzz suggests a chaotic, renegade spirit, so it’s a shame that this is, at best, reggae-lite. You cool cats might be turned off by Eoghan Colgan‘s debut single That First Time (***, 4 Feb), given its Lenor-conditioned softness and Coldplay guitar, but the industry is about to gobble this sweet-voiced ex-doctor up and hawk him out in massive pre-packaged globules. Asobi Seksu‘s Citrus was a standout album of 2007, and with Goodbye (****, 25 Feb), the New Yorkers give us a wee nudge of a reminder – gorgeous, Electrelane-meets-Mary Chain guitar pop. On a first listen to I Could Love You (****, 4 Feb) by former Edinburgh native Alice McLaughlin, aka Alice and the Majesty, the thing that strikes you is her voice: unique, expressive, world-weary. The pared-down alt-folk only adds to her allure – single of the month.