Monday, November 13, 2006

Weekender : rating the superhunks

CHART OF DARKNESS: You already know who's number one, right? 14 up for Westlife, which oddly it is now revealed was 143 last week on downloads. And they say nobody cares about when CD singles go on sale any more. U2 and Green Day are at 2, All Saints at 3, Sugababes 8, Madonna 9. Justin Timberlake might well be surprised, assuming he cares, to find he's only the second highest download entry at 14, with Akon, whose rise actually began roughly two years ago as Locked Up gradually climbed into the top 75 on import, goes for the safest option and hires Eminem to appear, somewhere, on his new single, getting him to 12. Infernal have a second top 20 single, which if they have fans will obviously act to prove the doubters wrong. They're just the new Alice Deejay, that's all. Paul Weller fans are supposed to be rabid about any new material, but his new single, not on the new box set or any album, only ends up at 22. It's probable many of them also picked up the Pigeon Detectives' single, which enters at 39 and is only worth any attention as it gives Dance To The Radio a third top 40 single. Plus they've outsold Paris Hilton (55) and, more surprisingly, Gnarls Barkley (60).
There's a record seven new entries in the albums top 8, and what a motley crew they are. Jamiroquai's hits, from the not bad first couple of singles (are we allowed to say that in polite company? We quite liked Space Cowboy too) to the water treading last few years, makes for a slightly surprising number one, which at least holds off Angelis, proof if it be needed, which it doesn't, that eventually we really would run out of names for pop-classical acts. These are six 11-14 year old choir members brought together under Cowell's auspices, the album description boasting that it is on "the label that brought you Il Divo, Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand". Yes, that'll be Sony BMG, then. To show what level they're aiming it, it also refers to a cover of "Eva Cassidy's Over The Rainbow". We bet the Cassidy estate can't wait for those royalties from that original work to come flooding in. Damien Rice shoots his load early in comparison to O at 4, Katherine Jenkins does her Katherine Jenkins thing at 5, McFly enlist two of A to little effect at 6 (track one's called We Are The Young! Somewhere Jimmy Pursey slaps his forehead), Weller's in at 7 with what we assume is the single CD best of rather than the all-encompassing four-disc set and Cliff's duets set is at 8. His partners, since you weren't going to ask, range from the inevitable (put Lulu down now, adult pop partner seekers!) to the credibility ruiners (Elton John) to the cheating (Hank Marvin). The Magic Numbers' second album campaign seems to have passed by unnoticed, such is the lot of the first album high flyers in a sector of the industry ever more obsessed with newness, which makes 11 decent enough. The six people without Abba Gold are catered for by a new hits collection at 15, ahead of those of Moby (23), the Charlatans (38) and 10cc's fifth (42). Now, we're not completely au fait with how plugging works, but we're taking a guess that Drag City cut their losses and didn't bother with selling the supermarkets on Joanna Newsom's Ys, meaning a midweek top 30 place ends up at 41. You know the Statler and Waldorf routine where they go from "that was wonderful!" to "Boo!"? Watch the Newsnight Review take on this album from Friday to see it recreated. The Long Blondes still fail to live up to, well, anything at 44, while we bet JJ Cale never expected to see the top 50 again, even if he is piggybacked by Eric Clapton.

FREE MUSIC: Tom Waits has a new album out. Or new in the sense that Orphans is in fact a three-disc set of out-takes and rarities, Bottom Of The World being from a 2003 documentary he scored. You should already know the Waitsian style, so suffice to say this is acoustic blues with what sounds like a mandolin prominent in the mix, plus a voice that appears to have gone right past 'grizzled' and actually be sung as if by barbed wire.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: The law of averages always suggested we were going to get round to Johnny Flynn sooner rather than later, given he's played with Jeremy Warmsley and Emmy The Great and is managed by the Transgressive duo. Luckily his musical worth transcends just clicking on whoever's in the top friends of people we've interviewed - it's lyrically aware and as breezy as this new strain of British anti-folk can ever be, not dissimilar in a way to a UK-parochial Beirut, if that makes sense. Only two tracks, though?

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: So it's all about New Rave these days, as bands who would have been post-Franz knockoffs this time last year buy a synth and a couple of glowsticks. But where will it all end? Lest we forget, old rave when it went commercial ended up going in some very strange directions. Oh, it started well enough, what with Injected With A Poison, On A Ragga Tip and Ha-ha-ha-Hardcore Uproar but then some decided that all this was too faceless. Unfortunately what that meant was the very definitely faced but not in a way you particularly needed Guru Josh ("1990s, time for the Guru" No it wasn't) and Altern 8. We like a band in matching uniforms, but it has to be chosen well. Then, in the wake of the Prodigy's Charly, came the ironic samples. Mark Summers' Magic Roundabout-cribbing Summers Magic we can live with because it was quite good, but Smart E's Sesame's Treet was the straw-camel interface made flesh and you can sense the desperation to get something, anything, in around A Trip To Trumpton. And then it died. And then Klaxons pretended they were reviving it and only went "nah, just joking!" a little too late. For what it's worth, here's a live recording, apparently without the aid of being able to pick up a bass sound, of their cover of The Bouncer to compare and contrast with Kicks Like A Mule's original.


FALLING OFF A BLOG: Angels Twenty is another of those blogs that scans not just whatever's hot off the leak but does the work for you with the less recent stuff too, and all with clear-minded writing. At the moment, savour Death In Vegas, Petra Haden doing Thriller, Basement Jaxx, Blow and Annie singing in Simlish. As one does.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: How to dress like Adam Ant. No, not the current fedora/shades/light beard look, the various stages of his proper dressing up phase.

IN OTHER NEWS: As bands and labels attempt to get to grips with the concepts of downloading, avant-funk outfit Superthriller are taking a new approach on new album Blank. It's a fully packaged blank CDR retailing for a tenner... but when played in a broadbanded computer the listener gains access to a site from where they can download whatever they want from a choice of more than thirty tracks ready for burning. It seems a long-winded way of attracting attention and we're not sure it'll catch on, but it'll be impossible to review.

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