Monday, October 30, 2006

Weekender : optionless and turkey-free

CHART OF DARKNESS: Funny, isn't it, how while girl groups have by and large been allowed to freewheel and take their sound and style off in all sorts of directions boy bands are stuck on two default settings, The Jaunty Fast One and The Meaningful Slow One. McFly, who did quite well all told with the latter on their last album, are back to workaday Someone Thinks The Monkees Sound Like This power-pop on Star Girl, which debuts at 1 having notably not been preissued on downloads, something you'd think more labels would do. Fedde Le Grand's Euro-themed house, which now goth is allegedly back must be the land's least amenable genre, is at 2, Girls Aloud's chart jinx strikes again at 3 and Beyonce and Amy - the difference between American and British solo female singers there - climb to 5 and 7 respectively. Bodyrox are in at 11 on downloads with a track that sounds more rave than the whole of New Rave put together, needlessly added to with a vocal from one Luciana. We imagine the label would like you to believe that Luciana is a fresh new attitudinal dance-punk grrl. In fact, some years ago she was parachuted into Crush with Donna Air after the other Byker Grove girl left just as the track took off on American dance radio, and was later in hopeless MTV-advertised 'electro''punk' outfit Portobella. Cassie, who even her own family probably don't recognise, is at 12, The View (15) outdo the Kooks (20) in both position and uselesness, the new law of second album diminishing returns nearly strikes the Magic Numbers at 15, Rihanna runs out of steam at 17 and the Raconteurs have a second wind at 22. Now, let's again discuss the Long Blondes. As we said last week we don't quite understand ourselves why we don't completely fall for them, but regardless they're a band who were supposed to be huge by now - NME award winners at the start of the year, one time Best Unsigned Band In The Country tag, working their arses off up and down the land, Kate Jackson all over the place - yet radio hasn't gone for their hardly unsellable sound at all and the two Rough Trade singles have charted at 28 and now 30. We wouldn't bet against the album, especially given its word of mouth, but you wonder where this leaves their possibilities. MTV really must drop the Totally banner as after Totally Scott-Lee failed to get her back into the top ten Totally Boyband left Upper Street only six places above an absolute humiliation. 35 is one above the Cooper Temple Clause, and we had no idea they were back at all. The non-download lower entries are an interesting bunch, the osmosis-aware Mumm-Ra at 45, the still unlikely Folk Blunt candidate Seth Lakeman at 47, the much loved by the video channels Nylon at 64 and New Rave tailgaters Shitdisco at 73.
We bet Rudebox's sales of 147K - relatively some time after the single and tour, lest we forget - is used to demonstrate that Robbie has lost it. Obviously Robbie has lost it, or at the very least is playing a massive cosmic joke on us all under cover of 'he can do whatever he wants with that many sales' - you've heard the King Of The Bongo cover, right? - but we'd like to sell that many in a week. It's enough to see off a massively game field which sees entries at 2, 3 and 4 for My Chemical Romance, Meat Loaf (who also gets a spoiler Very Best Of at 23) and Rod Stewart's latest pointless covers album. He's moved on from The Great American Songbook, a nefarious concept in terms of Americans, let alone a bloke born in Highgate, to 'rock classics', a term now big enough to encompass I'll Stand By You and Father And Son. This actually sold 184,000 copies in its first week in America thanks to an appearance on Dancing With The Stars, and here was backed up with a slot on The X Factor. We think we've spotted how the label's running with this one. John Legend makes a surprise appearance at 10, five ahead of the Ordinary Boys' travelling showbiz freakshow. Lemar climbs 13 to 17 for no good reason. Mugs of the week, finally, are those who shelled out to keep the Kooks' Inside In/Inside Out at 18, days after Luke Thingy declared "listening to the first album reminds me how not to make the next one. We were just wrecked all the time and it shows... I wrote tracks like Naive when I was 16. I've improved so much". You degrade the quality of the album when you're heavily promoting its follow-up, not when shilling another single from that same LP, you stupid-accented pillock!

FREE MUSIC: Do remixes where the singer re-records the vocal still count as remixes? Surely then it becomes them covering their own song with someone else's backing, which isn't to say that the results aren't more often than not something really strong. For example, Spank Rock's remix of CSS's Let's Make Love And Listen To Death From Above, where the uberhipster strips the rhythm and bass back and away from each other, borrows a post-disco drumbeat and gets Lovefoxxx to calm down a bit.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Omnichords, then. A few years ago Sean Dickson from the High Llamas was much given to touting his around as if it was this wonderous thing he'd discovered, now every second sonic adventurer has one as a matter of course. It's what you do with it that matters, and what Pagan Wanderer Lu does with his, and the rest of his one man band electronic boxes, very much matters. Wryly seething lyrics are married to lo-fi keyboards that smash up pop melodies and attempt to wire them back together in a skewiff fashion, reminding at times of the long lost Experimental Pop Band or at least making sense of the claimed influences from Pavement, Aphex Twin, the Fiery Furnaces and Magnetic Fields. Also, Our New Hospital Sucks is surely pop's first song about PFIs.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Part two of our Salute To Indie, and now we're largely past C86 it goes a bit all over the place. Actually, McCarthy were C86, but their lefty-Motown-jangle is a real keeper, so here's Keep An Open Mind Or Else from 1989, when even one time post-ironists during the irony age the Pooh Sticks were going modern on the likes of The World Is Turning On. The Darling Buds even made it to Going Live. Of course the scene patron saints were still very much underground, cf the Wedding Present's Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?, the Pastels' Worlds Of Possibility and Heavenly's Trophy Girlfriend, but even Bang Bang Machine ended up on a major, Geek Love remaining glorious. A couple of strays to finish this selection, a Heavenly Records promo video from 1991 - watch for the rehearsal room Manics footage, and indeed Nicky Wire's hair - and, because we stumbled across it a couple of weeks ago and fondly remember Mark and Lard playing it to death on Radio 1 in 1999, the Zuno Men's Stay In With Me. For the record, this was found via Spearmint accomplice and current Scritti Politti Treacherous 3 member Rhodri Marsden's Livejournal, and their singer Keith John Adams is still going with good, wry stuff, accompanied live, we believe, by Ant of this parish's comments boxes. Be honest with us, is this more information than you ever needed to know?

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Trying to file away Baltimore/Austin based Instrumental Analysis as a straight mp3 blog or whatever is tricky. It is that, true, but the effort that goes into imagining and sourcing everything around the downloads explains why it's quickly progressed to a blog that turns up regularly near the top of The Hype Machine's referrers. According to their Myspace "Our absolute favorite (music) is your original band that we have not heard of yet." That's the spirit!

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: This week AKA Hands Off, Google! And also, Nice Movement, Mr Dangerfield! Demo keys on keyboards are of course magnificent, since when we were playing with them in music labs at school they were usually either programmed to Just The Way You Are or Rick Astley's Together Forever. Wonder what the proper shop-bought presets are these days?

IN OTHER NEWS: We'd never heard of MOG until the other day - it's a music-centric social networking site with elements of last.fm - and even then it was only because of Frank Black's presence. He likes a list, we'll say that for him. However, look under his name in 'My Digital Music Collection' and notice a surprising folder...

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