Attention all you closet Bryan Adams fans: was Everything I Do the soundtrack to your first game of school disco tonsil tennis? Then I’ll be kind. I Thought I’d Seen Everything (**, 10 Mar) heralds Adams as the new Bob Dylan. In a parallel universe where Dylan wrote infantile, wuvvy-duvvy swill, that is. On that note, James Blunt, the finest modern addition to Cockney rhyming slang, offers more saccharine pomposity with Carry You Home (*, 21 Mar). The thing that really irks me about Blunt – apart from his disgustingly awful music – is the fact that, by giving him a bad review, he’s making this column as predictable as he is.
Having nominated themselves spokesband for the Jeremy Kyle demographic, The Enemy present a more serious snapshot of pill-pushing pram-pushers with This Song is About You (**, 17 Mar). It’s determinedly real, innit, but too plodding to be a hit. Another poster-boy band, Panic At The Disco pre-empt their new album with Nine In the Afternoon (**, 17 Mar). The song takes some interesting turns, but the syrupy production and pathetically contrived singing leave a sicky aftertaste.
A product of that post-millennium slump of unexciting, grown-up indie that gave us Travis, Coldplay and Doves, Elbow made next to no impression on this scribe. But their bluesy comeback single Grounds For Divorce (***, 10 Mar) isn’t half bad. The rise of the equally earnest Editors has been extraordinary. Just three years ago they were unsigned; now they’re colossal, in an Interpol-gone-soft way. But Push Your Head Towards the Air (**, 3 Mar) finds them in anthem mode, and dull as dishwater. Another class-of-’05 alumni, The Futureheads were inexplicably dropped by their label in late 2006. Their self-released new single, The Beginning of the Twist (***, 10 Mar), sees them in defiant, fuck-you form, without reaching the career pinnacle that was their Kate Bush cover.
They may have grown up in the concrete wasteland of Cumbernauld, but that doesn’t seem to have dented The Dykeenies‘ spirit. Waiting For Go (**, 10 Mar) is bright but conventional indie-pop, and that seems to be the full extent of their ambitions. Glasgow-based Highlanders Cuddly Shark may sound a bit mid-’90s with their flat guitars and slacker ethos, but The Punisher of IV30 (***, 3 Mar) – a reference to their old Elgin postcode – is a likeable, quirky diversion from the serious world of mass-market music. Continuing the shark motif, Nottingham’s Swimming are an interesting proposition. Debut single Tigershark (***, 8 Mar) is a synth/guitar-led oddity that flits between the slightly cringey and the eye-openingly inventive.
The B52s put colour back into puritanical post-punk when they burst out of Athens, Georgia in the late ’70s. Now they return with Funplex (***, 10 Mar), the title track from their first album in 16 years. With its power chords, synthetic beats and snide lyrics, it sounds like The Offspring meets Peaches. But single of the month goes to the untouchable M.I.A. The world-pop doyenne has enraptured critics with her cross-cultural pick’n’mix beats for a few years now, and her latest, Paper Planes, (****, 3 Mar) is huge fun, with its playground rhyming, Clash sampling and gangsta gunshots.