This Week's Singles Reviewed - 23/05/2011
Blondie, Villagers, Jessie J
Every Monday we deliver our verdict on the new single releases. Here Dan Martin takes apart this week’s offerings, including the latest tracks from Blondie, Jessie J and Villagers…
Blondie – ‘Mother’
Make no mistake, the only reason this is getting Single Of The Week is that Blondie earned a free pass to win anything and everything they are ever involved in sometime around 1979. But it’s still kind of remarkable the way in which ‘Mother’ channels both the punk rock grime and the shimmery pop that earned them their legacy, in a way that not so many of their original songs actually managed to. So this ‘Maria’ pastiche does both quite well without doing either particularly geniusly, but it still comes out the other side infinitessimally better than it has any right to be. And Blondie remain punker than most bands a quarter of their age. Two questions though. Why, in her mid-60s, is the Most Beautiful Woman The World Has Ever Known a) dressing like a burlesque Dolly Parton and b) regenerating at the end of the video?
Villagers – ‘The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)’
This song is really annoying, because it’s so bloody beautiful and emotionally affecting that you can’t make up any cheap gags about it when reviewing it as a single. Its swirling pianos and gently-etched guitars and subtle-yet-devastating message about how the process of falling in love reduces a person to a hapless, pathetic screw-up of a coward demand the processing of emotions that vacuums the fun out of pop music. It might be single of the week / month / year in any era that Blondie were not releasing a new song. But then, having now been tainted with the establishment honour that is winning an Ivor Novello Award, it must surely be time for a backlash.
Young Rebel Set – ‘Lion’s Mouth’
And this is annoying for much the same reasons as Villagers. A brutal and beautiful Mumford upgrade that details in stark language and melody the existential horror of A Good Man Going To War. Except, you know, the whole thing is probably a metaphor about the process of falling in love being a battlefield, etc etc etc. You can’t make cheap gags about it in the way that you can with a Lady Gaga single. It demands you take it seriously, reflect on it with sombreness and intrigue. It ushers in a reality where Adele’s ‘21’ is never, ever going to be dislodged from the top of the album charts. Do you want to live in a world like that? If not, here is a band you should be vigilant over, the horrible geniuses.
Toddla T – ‘Take It Back’
Shola Ama is not a name any of us thought would be troubling our pop lives again, and with a Ms Dynamite comeback on the horizon, it’s only fair to flag up what might be turning into a worrying trend. Even so, this is the sort of song it’s very easy to be sneery over while making jibes about Bacardi Breezers, bottle-tanned girls in skirts, Ben-Sherman-wearing fat-necked metheads and Rohypnol down the local Ritzy. That would be snobbish and awful and we would never go there. Except for the fact that there’s something about Toddla’s house pastiche that feels a little too pleased with itself to the point where you suspect it’s probably thinking exactly the same thing.
Cosmo Jarvis – ‘Sure As Hell Not Jesus’
The fact that ‘Gay Pirates’, the best, most emotionally affecting, and probably only indie song about oppressed sexuality in the 17th century you will ever hear, couldn’t even make anybody like Cosmo Jarvis more famous, would suggest that maybe a curse is involved. Because as raggedy and charming an instantaneous as ‘Sure As Hell Not Jesus’ is, it’s sure as hell nothing approaching the genius of ‘Gay Pirates’. Which is to suggest that Cosmo must have upset some witch doctor along the way somewhere, and that it’s fortunate that his film career seems to be going rather better.
Jessie J – ‘Nobody’s Perfect’
We shouldn’t really hate on Jessie J just because she turned out to be basically a Manga Shania Twain rather than the cultural crossover renegade everybody thought she was going to be for about five minutes in the autumn of 2010. Sister still knows her way around a chorus, and while ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ is considerably less edgy than your average Eurythmics song, it still represents an upgrade in what UK pop music can be expected to achieve. At this rate, we might one day be as good at it as America and then maybe we can have a go at being as good as Sweden.