The NME verdict on the singles released in the UK today, featuring The Strokes, Anna Calvi and Datarock.
The Strokes – ‘Under Cover Of Darkness’
With ‘King Of Limbs’ catapulting past popular culture inside fifteen minutes one Saturday afternoon, barely hanging around long enough to distract us from Final Score, thank heavens The Strokes are giving us something to actually look forward to. And if, as they claim, recording ‘Angles’ was about as much fun as teabagging an industrial mincer, it certainly doesn’t show in the comeback single. Albert seems to be doing cartwheels about getting the band back together, Nick’s doing some 50’s prom-style blue suede boogie and Julian sings a breathless ode of devotion to his old muckers: “Know how folks back out?/I’ll still call”. True, the rest of the lyrics appear to have been cobbled together from random lines chopped out of the script for The Hurt Locker 2 (“It’s a nightmare/So I’m joining the army… And they sacrifice their lives/And they’re lying about those odds”) and there’s a confusing bit where they seem to forget which song they’re playing and fill in with ten seconds of Frank Black’s ‘Adda Lee’, but otherwise it’s a classic Strokes romp played with the vim and gusto of men ten years younger. Um, by which we mean it sounds exactly like The Strokes circa 2001. But the album’s a bold stylistic step forward, right?
Banjo Or Freakout – ‘Idiot Rain’
Yeah, take that Kate’n’Wills! Idiots will reign, the peasants will rise up and the palace steps will run thick with royal bloo… oh, hang on. They mean, like, uneducated precipitation? Whatever, I saw these fellers the other week and they presented neither banjo nor freakout, but instead lots of sizzly sonic slinkiness such as this, resembling a microwavable cuddly toy version of Chapel Club. This rather lovely little shimmer of a song feels like being sung to sleep by candle-light in a boat lost in a sea squall which, let’s face it, is the last place you could do with a freakout anyway.
Anna Calvi – ‘Blackout’
Hands up, I just don’t ‘get’ Anna Calvi. She’s like the new Chrissie Hynde, right? Only goth. And a bit Blue Velvet. With a dash of Andrew Lloyd Webber. I mean, is she produced by Heston Blumenthal or something? Well, she must have something magical about her, since not only has she entranced the nation’s tastemakers with a trill like a stage school Karen O but she’s also summoned a choir of owls to sing the chorus of ‘Blackout’, a song so full of witchy atmospherics, clattering crescendos and warping timpani it sounds like someone’s doused the orchestra pit at Wicked with bad acid. And sure enough, like a swirly-eyed White Queen beckoning you from the other side of a mirror, with every spin ‘Blackout’ gets more intriguing and alluring until you hit upon her objective – to freak up fem-pop. She’s Siouxie And The Glam-Cheese! She’s Florence & The Obscene! Count me in!
Matt & Kim – ‘Cameras’
Previously US indie’s most notorious flashers, Matt & Kim here attempt to become its most notorious gangstas instead, looping playground N.E.R.D. horn parps and block party grooves into their delectable electro-pop delicacies to create something akin to the launch of Club NME Compton. Yet, as a story of a couple ditching modern life – their cameras, cars, computers, even their houses – in the ultimate act of romantic ‘slumming’, it is the antithesis of ‘bling’. Hip-hobo, anyone?
Datarock = ‘Catcher In The Rye’
Must kill Bruno Mars, must kill Bruno Mars, must kill… sorry, came over all Mark Chapman for a minute there. Must be the disorientating effect of finding that the once vital Datarock have turned in a comeback that slaps a tune that merges ‘Saturday Night’ by Whigfield with Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer Of 69’ over the kind of funk-punk dancefloor bassline that stopped being acceptable the day health & safety issued a compulsory demolition order on the rot-riddled House Of Jealous Lovers. This is what Electric Six thought the future would sound like. How wrong they were.
The Human League – ‘Never Let Me Go’
I suppose it’s some sort of achievement for a thirty-year-old band to only be fifteen years behind the times. But really, the Pet Shop Boys, St Etienne and Dubstar had perfected this sort of synthetic leftfield pop thing by the mid-90s, and haven’t you heard even Simon Cowell isn’t allowed to use Auto-Tune now? Further proof, then, that Phil Oakey is the Samson of electro. Nifty video though, which is funniest if you imagine you’re watching Embarrassing Bodies: Extreme & Uncut.