This Week's Singles Reviewed - 25/04/11
Elbow, Death Cab, Everything Everything
Elbow – ‘Open Arms’
“THANK YOU COMIC RELIEF FOR SHOWING ME THIS FUCKING SONG/BAND!!!! God this is amazing,” writes one Youtube commenter, and to me, this is the sentiment that binds together all Elbow fans. The mistaken belief that what they are getting is something hitherto unheralded, when in fact what they are getting is something record-breakingly ordinary.
I realise this is the bit where I’m traditionally supposed to talk about how Guy Garvey is ‘the nicest man in rock’, whatever-whatever, but I mean, what would you think, if you showed me a set of car keys and I went “OH MY GOD A SET OF CAR KEYS!!! God, they fit the car door and turn over the ignition!!!!”?
Yet that is Elbow’s hoardes in micro: smug in the belief that they are part of a cognsocenti rewarding under-recognised British talent, when, well, they’re not.
Anyway, this song is basically ‘The Frog Chorus’, minus the sense that it is written with actual children in mind, and instead with a creepy sort of extruded-childhood element, like it’s been penned for adults who feel that indulging the occasional bit of one-dimensional la-la-la ‘reconnects’ them with some ur-child within. Me? I haven’t thought about my childhood since 1997, ta very much.
Death Cab For Cutie – ‘You Are a Tourist’
Eight years ago, rock marketers calculated that American rock demograpics could support an Elbow too. But American consumers can’t understand all that Mancunian jibber-jabber, so they had to re-make Elbow, as a sort of The Office: An American Workplace version. This they did, and re-dubbed it “Death Cab For Cutie”, because market research suggested the name Elbow was “too weird/too much to do with elbows”.
Here, on their 156th inexplicably-massive-in-the-US single, Death Cab really reach for the platitudes in the big jar behind the regular-sized platitudes: “When there’s an endless yearning in your heart, build it bigger than the sun”.
Really, Ben? I imagine all those college students wandering around their campuses piping Ben Gibbard’s simpering affirmations into their brains, and I worry whether we’ve raised a generation too bland to breed. Do Death Cab fans have sex, or do they merely flollop onto each other, like two yoga mats toppling over?
Everything Everything – ‘Final Form’
Ah, the musically ornate, lyrically-baffling, wang-just-fell-off falsetto-pop of Everything Everything – how we’ve missed you. This is the fourth single drawn from Man Alive in six months, and with lines like ‘take form/time as your figure becomes the stone the stone’ it’s probably still safe to predict that EE are never exactly going to write ‘We Are The Champions’.
But then again, I sat on a tourbus with these guys once, and they insisted on playing the sort of brain-melt acid-jazz that sounds like a man stuffing a trumpet into a water-buffalo, so this is pretty much ‘Touch My Bum’ in their terms.
Nero – ‘Guilt’
In 1996, there would have been skittering d ‘n b behind this. In 2000 they would have scrubbed those for trance kick-drums. In 2005, electro beats. But because this is 2011 there’s a nasty crab-skank of dubstep wobble, thereby proving that however much disposable dance-pop changes, is exactly how much it stays the same.
No, what unites every generation since 1990 is the central notion that a girl singing mournfully over a euphoric slab of trance synth is the most beautiful thing anyone could ever hear in a provincial town-centre nightclub. And it is. The sort of track you completely blank out the first 19 times it comes on the radio, then fall hopelessly in love with for the next 10, then never, ever hear again.
Sound Of Arrows – ‘Nova’
Apparently, The Sound Of Arrows is not a ‘swoosh’ followed by the throaty dribble of arterial blood from a favourite section of torso. It seems to be a scientific experiment to replicate the exact sound of holidaying with Kylie Minogue in a pink seaside pleasure-palace while eating pistachio ice creams shaped like tiny flamingos.
Record labels toss us at least four Sound Of Arrows a year these days, because A&R men love to rhapsodise about their love of pure-pop. They always want to build a pop super-weapon, those guys, and so generally end up contracting a bunch of angular Swedes with sweet synths and big IQs to do so.
But from Erik Hassle to Yes Giantess to Boy Crisis to Monarchy, they seldom make any impact because real God’s honest run-of-the-mill pop consumers don’t actually care about pop music as an alleged ‘artform’, so listening to this sort of thing always feels vaguely like being talked down to.