Singles Review – April 7th

In these troubling times it’s good to have something to take you away from all that’s wrong with the world.

 

Atomic KittenUnfortunately, all I’ve got is Atomic Kitten, which is only going to make things worse. “Love Doesn’t Have To Hurt” might be a new song, or maybe a cover. Perhaps they’ve just put out one of their old ones again. I’m really not sure.

There’s some breathy spoken bits, some session singer singing, same old story. Still, it’ll be a reasonable success and the Kittenrobots will have another chance to look not quite right on Top Of The Pops. Jesus, they make Appleton seem the future of music.

And so on to another girl band, the beautiful Donnas. The Donnas have been making albums for Lookout! and getting thrown out of venues for being underage for years, but now they’ve made it! Tours with The Strokes, MTV rotation, appearances on Channel 5 – could life get any better? Somehow the crazy wheel of coolness has rolled round to include them, and “Take It Off” is all-girl pop-punk piss-take fun. Why now? Who cares? The Donnas don’t, and as long as they have fun, so can we.

Jesse Malin. Now there’s a man who lives up to his name. “Wendy” is about a girl called Wendy, who ‘liked Tom Waits, sixties Kinksand Kerouac’, and was pretty dull, but Jesse was still too much of a, well, jesse to approach her. Ryan Adams took Jesse along as support on his tour recently, and that gives you a good indication to what this sounds like, if you bear in mind that the only reason Ryandid this was to make his acoustic ramblings seem comparatively interesting.

And while Ryan tries to make himself exciting by mouthing off at something every now and again, Jesse can’t do this because no one cares what he says. And rightly so.

Agent Blue, with a name like a brand of toilet cleaner, appropriately cut the crap with their debut single “Snowhill”. Pounding heavy metal drums and rumbling bass introduce the song politely to your ears, before the guitars kick in and the relationship is cemented. Agent Blue are all about building tension and then letting it rip, but rather than going the Mogwai instrumental epic route, “Snowhill” is more like a less alienated The Cooper Temple Clause, but with the requisite screaming and falling over still in place.

If rock rampage isn’t your thing, you should check out Mankato to see why it should be. “Flesh & Bone” sounds like The Electric Soft Parade, which may be a good thing depending on how desperate you are to recover those days before Britpop went bad and Genewere cool (they were for at least, oh, a couple of seconds), but if you have a shred of dignity you really should avoid it.

B-side “Safe as Houses” is far more intriguing, standard singer songwriter fare mixed with some random burbling electronica noises, with an excruciating prog guitar solo thrown in for good measure. Intriguing then, but not good.

Sharko appear to be from Belgium, but you shouldn’t hold that against them. After all, Belgians have brought more to the world than waffles and chocolate. For those of you who have never had the good fortune to visit Brussels, the main tourist attraction is the accurately named Mannekin Pis, an extravagantly shit statue of a small boy urinating. If it weren’t for the hordes of Japanese surrounding Monsieur Pis, clicking away, this seeming lack of cultural heritage would be derisory, but the canny Belgian tourist board long ago realised that people like nothing more than going to a foreign country and laughing at how stupid it is.

But I digress. “I Went Down” starts off like The Coral at their most morose before leaping into an chorus that would be great to sing along to if you could understand the words. So far I’ve managed to pick out ‘Night and day / I’m Michael Jackson’, but I may be wrong. Now, excuse me while I kiss this guy.

‘There’s a concept that works / 20 million white punk bands with stupid made-up names emerge’, as Eminem might have rapped had it not scanned so badly. OK, so The Agenda! are only one band, but to be fair, Marshall didn’t mention many white rappers either.

The Hives are kings of Middle America and Tom Hanks’ new favourite band, and The Agenda! take the smart clothes and punk snappiness and add an organ to create “Crash! Crash!”, a bouncy thrash in a similar vein to Hot Hot Heat’s “Bandages” but with less faffing about.

The Agenda! like to keep it simple (and overuse exclamation marks wherever possible!), and satisfy themselves by shouting, ‘Do the Crash! Crash!’ excitedly a few times, then stop. The downside to this is that a single consisting of a one-and-a-half minute song and a ramshackle cover of “Teenage Kicks” is not fantastic value for money, so don’t! get! too! excited!

On a slightly more melancholic tip, I’m strangely attracted to Magnet. “The Day We Left Town EP” is truly a wonder: if Tom Yorke lived in a Norwegian forest with only Bjork’s “Vespertine” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” for company, this is what he would sound like.

Despite having received Mark & Lard’s reverse Midas touch last year, Even Johansen continues to produce beautiful music without a hint of smugness. In the title track he stands and watches as his house burns to the ground, desolate elation pouring over him, as a David Lynch film plays behind him. Backwards. The other tracks are equally as elegantly bewildering, which is why this EP is great. While straightforwardness has its place, confusion is a good thing. The trick is to not let it scare you. Embrace confusion and welcome Magnet into your heart.

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