Tag Archives: The King Blues

August in singles: Punks, divas, has-beens and a will-be

Nacional

[Nacional: recipients of August’s single of the month award. But there is no award… more like an accolade actually.]

Punk is all the rage – on the evidence of the first two singles this month anyway. The King Blues are a London act who project a renagade, guerilla-gigging image. Let’s Hang The Landlord (*, 4 Aug), however, is just punk caricature, with its talk of scratching tattoos with safety pins and living in a squat “forever without a care”. The Vivians may owe their image to the Sex Pistols – and they have moved to London – but at least the Edinburgh band don’t truly believe it’s 1977. A Human Angle (**, Out Now) is a bit of a disappointment of a debut single though: as tight as their skinny jeans, but oddly generic for such an act.

Talking of generic rock, Biffy Clyro just can’t hold back the plastic these days. No sooner have they turned their attentions from last year’s Puzzle than they’re flooding HMV again with free-standing single Mountains (**, 25 Aug). “I am a mountain, I am a sea,” sings Simon Neil. Huh, never would have guessed it to look at you. The schlock don’t stop with Feeder. They are one band who’ve happily lost any punk muscle under a layer of soft rock puppy fat. Tracing Lines (*, 11 Aug) is another stultifying slice of meh. How do they get away with it? If you want a more authentic serving of the dark stuff, look no further than Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Midnight Man (***, Out Now) is another late-night, organ-soaked shadow play, but not one of the moustachioed one’s finest moments.

It’s time to leave the badasses behind and step into the sunny glare of upbeat indie-pop. Sussex-based duo Les Valentine are a good place to start in this respect, but Nervous (**, 18 Aug) is like sub-standard Turin Brakes. And who remembers them? Maybe the same folks who remember Delays‘ debut album Faded Seaside Glamour, which promised much from this Southampton band. But Keep It Simple (**, 11 Aug) does exactly what it says on the sleeve: basic, easy-listening guitar pop. Red Light Company don’t fare much better. Meccano (**, 11 Aug) is more rainy day rock than knobbly-kneed beach pop, but it merely takes the component parts of bands like Editors and British Sea Power and fails to add anything new. So can ex-Bluetones man Mark Morriss brighten up this Scottish summer of a singles round-up? He does at least provide sunny intervals with Lay Low (***, 11 Aug), a homely country-rocker that builds to a string-laden climax.

No sooner do we get the rays than some diva’s reaching for her Gucci shades. Lights Out (***, 4 Aug), the latest offering from Brooklyn’s polymorphous popster Santogold, is another case of album track posing as single: a hummable melody but ultimately unexciting. By now we’re usually into four-star territory, so why  do The Parlotones choose this moment to stick their oar in? They got a solitary star back in February and that’s all they’re getting now, with Here Comes The Man (*, 18 Aug). Say no more: it’s just bad. On cue, Nacional come to the rescue of a damp squib month with Telephone (****, 4 Aug). The latest signing to the Art/Goes/Pop label (who’ve also supported Scottish up-and-comers Popup, Isosceles and The Low Miffs) could do with the full producer treatment, but the raw ingredients are there for a great band – and single of the month.

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February – A month in singles

Alice McLaughlin of Alice & the Majesty

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.

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