We Need To Talk About: the Tings Tings’ bizarre new drum’n’bass song. No, really

In 'We Need To Talk About...', the new weekly column from NME's Jordan Bassett, J-to-the-B vents his spleen on the topical issues that matter the most (or the least, if it happens to be a slow news day). This week: why the return of The Ting Tings should make us thankful for 2018. Okay, it's a slow news day

Hands up who remembers The Ting Tings?

Okay, I’m seeing a lot of hands out there. You were slow to raise those hands, though, weren’t you? That’s OK, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It was 2008 – it was a different time. A simpler time. A better time? No, not exactly a better time, but a time when happiness meant a shot of Sambuca, three VKs and a night down the indie disco, before – if you didn’t pull – you’d watch repeats of The Inbetweeners with your mates until five o’clock in the morning. OK, yeah, it was a better time.

Anyway, the Ting Tings are, unbelievably, back back back. And, readers, the Salford duo find the world a much-changed place. The country teeters on the brink of economic collapse. The Prime Minister dances like an ironing board and becomes a meme. Heat magazine could technically have the President as their ‘Torso of the Week’ (an honour once bestowed upon Barack Obama) but it would be all kinds of problematic. You’re still welcome to pick up a guitar and sound like Albert Hammond Jr. falling down the stairs, but you’re probably not about to be signed by a major label and hailed as your generation’s musical saviour (sorry). The indie landfill has been concreted over.

And comeback single ‘Blacklight’ is not The Ting Tings – aka 35-year-old singer and guitarist Katie White and 49-year-old drummer Jules De Martino – as we remember them. It’s not the funky disco strut of ‘Shut Up And Let Me Go’, nor the multi-coloured, perky indie-pop stomp of ‘That’s Not My Name’ (which sold a frankly improbable four million copies in 2008, causing anyone with sense to forget their own name after self-lobotomomy to erase the bloody thing). ‘Blacklight’ is, like, drum’n’bass… or something? I think? For some reason?

The track opens with marching synths, as White sings, “Tonight you got your blacklight on”, before a wub-wub breakbeat brings the whole thing kicking and screaming into 2009. It’s both unbelievably dated and completely alien, in a way that makes you wonder: What were they thinking? How did this seem like a plausible comeback? It sounds like stepping over spilled Sour Cream and Chive Pringles and laughing gas canisters in a student house at the tail-end of a sparsely attended party. There’s a new album, also named ‘Blacklight’, coming next month. At this rate, the band should reach 2018 sometime around 2030.

I saw the Ting Tings at the NME Awards Tour in an alcopop daze back in 2008, a fact that ages me almost as much as the lumpen D’n’B that lumbers through the diabolical new single. The band opened the shindig, which featured – if you’ll allow Granddad to get all misty eyed for a moment – indie never-weres Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and nu-rave also-rans Does it Offend You, Yeah?. Wakefield’s finest The Cribs headlined, which, to me, made the University of Leicester Student Union feel like Woodstock. Like I said, it was a different time.

Does It Offend You, Yeah played their final show in 2015. Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong never released an album. The Cribs are still doing their thing, as are – after a fashion – The Ting Tings. There’s probably a profound message here about the march of time and the ever-presence of the past, but my main take-home is: fucking hell, remember when we thought the Ting Tings were good? Thank God we live in the time of Idles and Brockhampton, Troye Sivan and Tove Styrke, all of whom received glowing reviews from NME this year.

Long live the present.