CHART OF DARKNESS: Who says you can't have a naturally occurring climb to number one any more? Shakira's managed it for the first time on her fourth chart week, aided by a TV video channel blitzkrieg and the very 1999 trick of featuring Wyclef Jean. The Shakira fans were moaning in recent weeks about her label only belatedly giving her a push after the decision to go soft on the non-English first part of Oral Fixation, so what they'll make of them now lord knows. Let's remind ourselves at this juncture that this is a reworking of one of Jean's own tracks about Shakira being all that and more. It's a record in which the lead artist spends three minutes declaring to an admirer how hot she is. Did the King's horse go down for this? The Pussycat Dolls and Ne-Yo make top five climbs with the Kooks barely breaking even to allow Luke to buy a new straw hat climbing only from 14 to 7. Two more download entries in the top 20, Lily Allen and Razorlight, mean the highest proper entry is from, hidey ho, Michael Jackson with Blood On The Dancefloor at 19. Hosannahs all round at this end as Guillemots get to 23 while the Long Blondes, who we've noticed are on the 2004 recording of Art Brut's Top Of The Pops, continue to do down that NME Best New Band award by entering at 28, although like Larrikin Love at 35 you wonder what's been holding the promotional arm of their label back on this single. Where did Cord come from at 34? Fatboy Slim's time officially passes by as his new single stalls at 39, which is six up on Belle & Sebastian, a release that it's possible not even Stuart Murdoch knew about.
Something of a surprise in the albums as the surely unassaible Keane are deposed after two weeks by the artfully restyled Lostprophets. According to their Myspace they're from 'All Boro, Any City, P-TOWN/THE DIFF/SA,MO'. That's a very odd way of spelling Pontypridd. Students of this sort of thing should be aware that Liberation Transmission must be a reference to the Refused track Liberation Frequency, as the Swedish noiseniks have been cited by Lostprophets as a major influence in the past. Then they should go and buy The Shape Of Punk To Come instead. The Pussycat Dolls make an unlikely 16 place climb to 7, Rihanna re-enters the top ten with her new single being media carpet bombed and Sergio Mendes makes an overdue top 20 debut ("that guy can't even go to the bathroom in South America!") Plan B reverses the tide of poor selling UK hip hop/rap with an entry at 30, All American Rejects and Billy Talent make a fine pair of emo-hoppers at 45 and 46 and among all the usual albums pretty much being given away in sales More Crazy Hits by Crazy Frog can only manage 64. The tracklisting includes Nellie The Elephant. What must that sound like?
FREE MUSIC: Blimey, the Electric Soft Parade are still going. As far as we can tell Tom White's spent the last two or three years attempting to record with every single musician in Brighton, on top of his and Alex's sterling Brakes work (new album being recorded at the moment, we hear), but the parent band is signed to the estimable Truck Records and are playing their festival in three weeks' time. Cold World comes from the recent The Human Body EP and sounds nothing like the Britpop-manque of their brief chart flowering. Think Skylarking-era XTC, Paul McCartney's early solo stuff, Ben Folds and the sort of thing that, again, would normally be all over radio if daytime radio sounded like this any more.
HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Languid wonderousness alert, as from Cardiff come Leave The Capital. The most obvious reference point, especially in Ben James' vocal timbre, is Elbow at their most gloriously windswept, but there's a definite overall widescreen grandeur even in just these demos, like a less bombastically playlist-charging Snow Patrol. Hear them before a major label decides they need to sound more like Morning Runner.
VISUAL REPRESENTATION: To be honest this quest for unique Top Of The Pops clips is proving more difficult then expected as among those near the top of our hit list the Inspiral Carpets/Mark E Smith clip is incomplete and Sebadoh doing Flame is nowhere. Robert Wyatt's I'm A Believer is here, though, famously nearly thrown off the show late on as the producer thought his wheelchair would scare young viewers, but let on with a backing band including Pink Floyd's Nick Mason and celebrated guitar experimentalist Fred Frith. Be warned that this is from TOTP2 so Steve Wright talks shite all over the slightly curtailed end, but it's still an experience.
VISUAL REPRESENTATION EXTRA: And as we're on the subject of Wyatt, here's a video we'd never seen before for one of the greatest songs ever written (and co-writer Elvis Costello's in it too), Shipbuilding. In fact, here's an Old Grey Whistle Test live version, Costello himself with the Attractions on The Tube and Suede recording it for the Help album.
FALLING OFF A BLOG: As we said last week, you only really need the bare bones. So: bytheseashore. Go and read it. (We found it via Ben off Silent Words Speak Loudest and our own Finals Fantasy, which as you'd imagine is coming to something of a head this week.)
EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Having spent three hours writing five questions for our last attempt at an interview, we're wondering why the approach favoured on 100 Musicians Answer The Same 10 Questions, part of Erasing Clouds magazine, didn't occur to us earlier. Good questions too, and already in the first ten they've clocked up Jonathan Meiburg of the excellent Shearwater and Casey from Camera Obscura.
IN OTHER NEWS: Odd things going on over in the J Xaverre camp, where Pete Gofton, who lest we forget made one of the most undervalued albums of 2003 in These Acid Stars, has formed a Tyne & Wear supergroup of sorts in Meet Eric Roberts, scratching a slanted powerpop itch alongside Maximo Park's Paul Smith, Field Music's Peter Brewis, cult Newcastle singer-songwriter John Egdell and, er, some bloke on drums. They've played three gigs together, and someone thought to take a digicamera to one of them, as observed here, here and here. Nice hat, Mr Smith.