The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
This Week's Singles Reviewed - 7th March 2011
R.E.M, The View, The Naked and Famous
R.E.M. - ‘Uberlin’ (Warners)
How did we get to a place culturally where a new REM release feels so damned insignificant? REM are an important constant in our collective lives, like Oprah or Sherlock Holmes or cheese. And ‘Uberlin’'s jaunty chime-chime is by no means whatsoever a bad song. By anyone else’s standard it’s pretty great. But it all just feels so deathlessly familiar. There are inert gases that announce themselves with more gusto. And even then, there are certain inert gases that it’s possible to pass an electrical current through. I have no insight on whether it’s possible to pass an electrical current through an indie rock single but if you can, it’s unlikely that this would be the one to do it through.
The Naked & Famous - ‘Young Blood’ (Polydor)
Somehow, with all the fuss and fury cascading around the bawdy likes of Brother and Mona, it managed to escape a lot of people’s attention that it’s The Naked And Famous who are by far the most exciting members of the Class Of 2011. The gorgeously celestial ‘Young Blood’ has been knocking around for a few months now, but really, it’s got a chorus so glacially perfect that it deserves to skate around the higher reaches of the chart for just as long a time. In short, it’s basically the sequel to ‘Time To Pretend’ by MGMT. Now let’s just hope that they don’t retreat from pop by album two and screw the whole thing up. That would be a shame.
The View - ‘Grace’ (1965)
While professor Brian Cox pontificates on the unlikelihood of our universe having made it this far, gossip journalists pontificate on the unlikelihood of The View having made it this far alive. We've saved our pontifications for how, three albums in and no evolution whatsoever, The View still sound this great. ‘Grace’ feels a lot like what it must do to get go into an unexciting marriage out of fear of loneliness and then finally find each others’ G-Spot three years in. As in, thrilling in a really unsettling way.
Cloud Control - ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’(Infectious)
Now here’s a thing. One week, two rather excellent indie singles from the states of Antipodea. Could it just be that Rock Isn’t Dead after all, but has merely shuffled off to the southern hemisphere where it’s having a whale of a time inhabiting the bodies of sun-dazzled stoners like these? Like The Temper Trap but with better chat-up lines (not to mention harmonies), this sunshine-slacker pop jam pulls off the rather neat trick of being completely laid back and mellifluous while effortlessly nagging and addictive. Cloud Control, we reckon, can probably stay.
Plan B - ‘The Writing’s On The Wall’ (Atlantic)
One day somebody is going to come up with a defensible reason for Atlantic Records to release yet another single off ‘The Defamation Of Strickland Banks’. And that will probably happen during a dream sequence when Ben Drew writes his next genre-swerving concept-odyssey. Because after all those record sales and awards, there can’t be anyone relevant who hasn’t heard this faintly amazing, low-slung, torch-breakup tune. Maybe they’re going for the 'Thriller' model. Us, we’d rather them hurry up and agree to release the long-rumoured hip-hop companion piece so we can all move along. Still, lovely song though.
Tinie Tempah feat. Ellie Goulding - ‘Wonderman’ (EMI)
‘Wonderman' is an inherently disingenuous title because, while this is Tinie’s 'boast' song, the whole point of him is that he’s subverting the hip-hop paradigm by generally being quite nice and non-boastful. It isn’t even the second most obvious choice for the next single from ‘Disc-Overy’ (the first is clearly ‘Let Go’). However, as Ms Goulding has become belatedly popular following those John Lewis ads this was kind of inevitable, even if she is perhaps the least hip-hop ready female singer this country has produced since Annie Lennox. Not his finest hour, but definitely not slack enough to slow down Tinie’s trajectory toward world domination a single iota.
The Cocknbullkid - ‘Hold On To Your Misery’ (Universal)
Anita Blay is neither edgy and street like Katy B or Yasmin, nor boring enough to sit among the racks of female singers who soundtrack John Lewis these days. So it’s not hard to understand why she might have fallen through the cracks last time round. That would be a shame if it happened again, because ‘Hold On To Your Misery’ is lovely, a quietly subversive pop curio that sounds like a nursery rhyme while plumbing depths of psychosis usually reserved these days for 90s college rock revivalists. It’s really rather ace.
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