Tag Archives: the enemy

March in singles: the good, the bad, the Blunt

M.I.A - Third World copper vixen

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.

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random playlist – volume one

random playlist - volume one

Because there are no rules for how music affects us, the way we listen can be pretty random. It’s not like we decide to listen to nothing but Canadian indie one week, then nothing but conscious hip hop the next. Instead, it depends more on the way we feel at the time than the style of the music. Sometimes I like nothing more than to put on a Prince record. Other times I just can’t be arsed with the nymphomaniacal glam-funk of ‘the vertically challenged one’. But the point I may or may not be getting to is that musical taste is something that’s constantly changing, from day to day and month to month, just like us. So here are a few tracks that could happily occupy my headphones at this precise moment in time (but not next week of course!)…

Brian Eno/David Byrne – Help Me Somebody

I just finished reading a Talking Heads biography, which turned me on to the underrated Eno/Byrne collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981). It’s an astonishing record – ambitious, ethnic, pulsating, haunting, and hugely influential on later dance music in its use of sampling. This track is pure visceral rhythm, sounding more like the green jungle of Africa than the concrete one of its inception.

Best heard: in a dark basement club, or through a bass-heavy PA system in a disused church. Yeah.

Hot Chip – One Pure Thought

From the eagerly-awaited new LP Made in the Dark, this quirky number is one of the best of the batch. It begins with a very un-Hot Chip intro of chilly, ragged guitar, followed by a stormy synth. It then takes a thoroughly unexpected direction when a booty-shaking Jamaican beat kicks in. It may be too stylistically wayward for some people’s tastes, but it is proof if we needed it of the London band’s genre-mangling creativity

Best heard: on a bus, gazing blankly at the rain-soaked streets and dreaming of summer.

The Enemy – You’re Not Alone

I know I know I know. At the risk of holding a lighter and an aerosol can to the last shred of credibility this blog may or may not have, let me state the case for the defence of this much derided, hugely derivative band. When I first saw The Enemy on TV I was not ennamoured. The singer looked like a drowned rat, the average age of their audience was about 14, and their sound is a lawyer’s baw-hair away from The Jam’s Greatest Hits. But then I bought this single on 7″ for 99p (there aren’t many records I won’t buy for that price) and took it home for a quick spin before work. Ok, so it’s basically the same football-terrace, angry-yoof posteuring of primitive lad-rock. But there’s something about that yelled chorus ‘you’re not alone’ that’s also completely valid and thrilling and exciting in its own right. The kids love it, and I can kinda see why. If you’re willing to suspend your chin stroking for three minutes and forty-five seconds, you might too. [If you still hate it, you must explain why you’re right – and I’m wrong – below.]  I’ll probably regret its inclusion in a month’s time of course.

Best heard: at one of their gigs, too wasted to care what your peers think of you.

Rob St John – Tipping In EP

I have to apologise to Rob St John for not getting round to this sooner, as he alerted me to his debut EP a month or so back. I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned it already, because this three-track release from the Fife Kills label has been on my MP3 player a lot. The Edinburgh songwriter is a rare talent, his hushed, melancholy songs full of timeless character (especially The Acid Test). With his finger-picking guitar playing, cello/accordian accompaniment and fireside voice, the obvious comparison is James Yorkston. I don’t know if he’s already tiring of this reference point, but it’s a huge compliment in my opinion.

Best heard: lying awake in the wee small hours.

Digitalism – Pogo

Their album Idealism has really grown on me. Their vocoder-led electroclash may be a bit obvious in an age where Daft Punk are the biggest dance act on the planet, but it’s still pretty fucking enjoyable, uplifting music. Pogo is perhaps the most human track – the only one that doesn’t sound like the bastard lovechild of Stephen Hawking and Nintendog.

Best heard: when you’re in dire need of a holiday.

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December singles round-up

(Originally for The Skinny magazine

Part I – Indie.
Maxïmo Park switch down a gear from their usual breakneck post-punk for Karaoke Plays (***, 3 Dec), another razor-edged but same-y track from Our Earthly Pleasures. Next it’s down to Alan Partridge country with Norwich’s Bearsuit: Foxy Boxer (***, 3 Dec) is a bit of fun – nothing more, nothing less. A lesser known band from Sheffield, Arctic Monkeys‘ Teddy Picker (**, 3 Dec) finds Alex Turner as acerbic as ever, but could this mark the beginning of their uninteresting demise? They may be heirs to Turner’s crown, but The Enemy‘s We’ll Live And Die in These Towns (**, 3 Dec) is bare-faced plagiarism. Halfway through I had to stop myself reviewing a reissue of The Jam’s That’s Entertainment. Seriously. To continue the Arctic Monkeys theme (tenuously), Undercut‘s Hot in That (**, 10 Dec) is pitched somewhere between New Yorkshire and BRMC: scuzzy, catchy, but cumbersome. Original monkey man Ian Brown (pictured, of course) trumps them all with Sister Rose (****, 3 Dec). Not quite as tight as past glories, but with its sweeping strings and Bible-black guitar line it’s another swagger-some listen.

Part II – Singer-songwriter.
Jesse Malin‘s Tomorrow Tonight (**, 3 Dec) is all-American, full-fat folk-rock. His intended destination is Springsteen-like dusty wisdom, but he forgets to pack his subtlety … Sorry, did I nod off? Must have been Kate Walsh sending me into a stupor with the silky-smooth, cocoa-clutching Tonight (**, 3 Dec). Zzzz.

Part III – Christmas.
For the uninitiated, Shaun the Sheep is an Aardman animation from kid’s TV who has enlisted Vic Reeves to sing Life’s A Treat (***, 10 Dec), a woolly assault on the Christmas chart. Impossible to criticise, surely. Not strictly a festive song, but Hilli (****, 10 Dec) by Icelandic girl group amiina, who adapted music to Lee Hazlewood’s last ever recording, has the quality of velvet snow on some winter morning. Who’d have thought post-modernism had a place in the Christmas single? The Black Arts‘ Christmas Number One (****, 3 Dec) is the evidence – self-mocking, but glam, of course. But what better to warm your Scrooge heart this Noël than Malcolm Middleton‘s We’re All Going To Die (****, 17 Dec)? It’s officially a 500/1 shot (at the last count) for the Christmas top spot, so heed our advice: bet now, buy a few hundred on the seventeenth.

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