By popular demand from oooh…….. nobody, the VPME review is back in the house, reviewing the hottest new tracks in town with some very special guests. Climbing aboard the musical express this time around are:
Dogwood: If common sense were made flesh it would wear a Cagoule, Farah slacks, carry a flask of hot Bovril and bear the name Oliver Gordon Dogwood . He’s Cheambeat Communications Radio’s secret weapon. And he’s hear to tell the young pop types a thing or two!
Rebekah Delgado: Rebekah is singer guitarist and songwriter with ace band The Last Army, her drink is, on ocassion, spiked with vitriol and Jimmy Pursey from Sham 69 has been moved to make public declarations of love.
Rachael Kitcheside: Our chum Rachael sings and writes music with Run Toto Run who will furnish your ears with slightly unhinged folk tinged electronica. Shes not too good with stage times though, but we forgive her 😉
Jonny Cola: Jonny Cola and the A-Grades released a Christmas single last year which sounded like Noddy Holder kicking the shit out of Damon Albarn. We approved. They have a new EP out too, including one of the most suprising covers you’re likely to hear.
Von Pip: Me, Myself and I
Intros over on to the songs
Winter Hill –Doves
Rachael : I imagine this will go down better with your male reviewers as in my experience my male friends think they’re amazing and my female friends think they’re dull. I love the instrumentation, I think the production’s great and also feel like I’m betraying them as a fellow Manc, but I just don’t think they’ll ever do it for me personally. It’s when his voice kicks in that I really turn off, to me he just sounds a bit like a man singing in a pub.
Von Pip: Christ, where’s that Samaritans phone number, this is stylised whinging at its most profoundly dull and stone me but it looks like Jimi Goodwin is finally winning the “Most Circular Face In Music” competition he’s been having with James Dean Bradfield. This track is a turgid muddy affair which reminds me of a typical English summer, all wet sausages, soggy burgers, abandoned deckchairs fused with the bleak loneliness of a wet seaside town when your girlfriend’s ran off with that muscular tattooed bloke called Wayne who spins the waltzers, because she “wants to feel alive again” Pffft ! …erm….ahem.. yes it’s a fairly depressing affair. I didn’t mind the single prior to this one, it had a bit of a tune, although admittedly I could never quite work out why this lot inspired such adoration on the radio, I mean that song they did “Pounding”? Dear lord, “Plodding” would be a far more apt title. Doves are essentially a car-boot sale version of Elbow, worthy, earnest, talented but dare I say it, just a teensy bit dull. Blokes like them though, and they turn Edith Bowman into a whimpering weak kneed teenager so they must have something. I like Bowman, I reckon we’d get on famously, I can’t see her running off on me with a tattooed ape. If she was reading this I’d pretend to like The Doves, but she isn’t, so I won’t! …4/10
Jonny : Doves are one of those bands that I’ve never really got, to be honest – apart from “Pounding”, which is magnificent. Didn’t their guitarist do some stuff with Saint Etienne? They can’t be all bad then. But this song just doesn’t seem to go anywhere or have very much point, which is a shame because they seem like nice guys. Didn’t Coldplay have a song with “Hill” in the title? Kind of says it all. Mauro, my eminent guitarist, says he was “too bored by this to have much of an opinion on it”, which sadly pretty much sums it up. I do quite like the last 20 seconds though, which sound a bit like an illustrated children’s book.
Dogwood: Doves? That’s the lot with Mark Addy on bass isn’t it? There’s an old saying in Preston , there’s trouble down Mill when body mass and beard gets together. In other words, brawny lads with facial hair are a Graham Taylor ‘do I not like that’ situation. This song sounds neither brawny nor hairy but it drawls in a couldn’t care less attitude that says ‘Chicken Pie? Steak Pie? Whatever…’. Releasing a song called ‘Winter Hill’ in the middle of an English summer tells me that these lads like taking a risk with other people’s cash, i.e. the record companies. Now, some might say that record companies deserve that sort of coco and I’m not going to get all Pete Murray on that one but for every throwaway dingy scraper like this we will have to suffer another Mika or Sam Sparro in retaliation. And for one who likes to get his retaliation in first I’m going to say this: brawny barrel chest+facial hair+inappropriate seasonal references=the square root of nothing.
Rebekah: Some of the instrumentation of this song is quite beautiful; hypnotising. Reminiscent of Hoppipolla by Sigur Rós but on more ermmm… caffeine. It quickly descends into indierock by numbers though, plodding along (the grassy track to the top of Winter Hill) with unimaginative lyrics that don’t really fit the sometimes soaring soundscape. 6.5/10
Von Pip: I’ll keep this simple, “f**k off and grow up.
Dogwood: “ I do not need to listen to this one to know that it’s going to upset me in every way imaginable and the opening ten seconds more than confirms this instinct. Who are the Hollywood Undead and do I care? My answers are I don’t know and no in that order. This has American ponce stamped all over it, and images of mass zombiefication wandering up Hollywood Boulevard neither entertains nor intrigues me. There’s a time and place for all this gothic malarkey and this isn’t it, try half past ten on Sunday morning in a quiet corner of Luton , only keep the volume down. It reminds me of those techno bores Innerpartysystem who sound not unlike Hollywood Undead who in turn sound like they would like to be Innerpartysystem only with Halloween masks on. I’ve for a suggestion for this lot, try wearing Tor Johnson face masks , it might give you an air of sophistication that is sadly lacking here. At a time when my seasonal piles are at their raging worst, I need this like I need sandpaper bog-roll.
Jonny : You know, I’d have danced to this when I was 17, in some grim Croydon rock bar. It reminds me a bit of White Zombie, but without the style, or mid-period Faith No More without the tunes, wit, invention, you name it. And Mike Patton wouldn’t have used the word “faggots” with such abandon and without a trace of irony (unless I’m missing something here, but I seriously doubt it). A bit sad, really. Mauro reckons that they’re copying Eminem’s vocal style and the riff from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”, but I think he’s just being kind. Who are these guys? Why are they so angry? I blame Schwarzenegger.
Rachael: I’m not sure I’m the right person to be reviewing this. I feel like as a whole genre screamo metal is a bit redundant and this track’s no exception: embarrassing, dated and juvenile. Lyrics such as“I nearly died for this music” and “what the fuck you know about being a gangster” have no sense of irony and only indicate just how seriously they’re taking themselves. This is their album début, I think they’ve come a little late to the party, that is not to say that America will realise that.
Rebekah: Industro-synth-goth-rap. It strangely makes me think of ‘Steal my Sunshine’ by Len (please don’t tell them I said this, as it’s the polar opposite – they will cut me) though the LA backdrop is all these songs have in common (someone mash these two songs up it works hilariously my head). They are white gangsters, they are original because they preach rage, are materialistic, hate ‘faggots/fags’ and hate women (yes I just watched the video). They are ugly like Limp Slipknot so cover their faeces. And they don’t give a f*ck apparently, so much so they say the word f*ck over twenty times. It is controversial to say the word f*ck and it’s controversial to show big fake boobies and unconvincing lipstick lesbian action in your videos while saying the word f*ck. They also inform us in their song that they don’t follow the rules. I’m afraid they do, every single one. Faceless industry fodder. They are angry men. Someone give them some good sex, please. 6.5/10
To their credit, at least they can craft words a bit. Unlike…
Symphony- Dan Black
Rebekah: Hate this. Some lazy, lame rhymes: ‘Seen it, there, been there in the mirror/ Totally focused, no hocus pocus’ or ‘Higher, fire in my guts/ In a rut, but what I’ve got/ Is in a can, no other human/ But I do get lonely, scared I’m phoney’
You should be scared that you’re SHITE. I have re-written your chorus-
“ Gimme GIMME a disease
So I don’t have to listen these
Awful lyrics, they are cheese etc.”
Some people will like this song. Just like some people like seedless jam and garden centres on a Sunday. That is all I have to say on the matter. 4/10
Jonny: The first time that Mauro and I ever went out socially was to see The Servant, Mr Black’s old band. They were marvellous, and so is this. I wasn’t sure it was that strong actually until I found myself humming it on the Bakerloo Line. He opens his eyes and beams come out, he claims, and I believe him. I would happily take the full force of those beams. Mauro isn’t sure it’s actually any better than The Servant, and maybe he’s right, but sometimes you just have to keep plugging away until somebody pays attention. His album’s on posters all over the Tube, so fingers crossed.
Von Pip: This song conjures up images of speedboats, bay side sushi bars in Miami populated by poseurs in white suites with their jacket sleeves rolled up and oily slick backed hair. Despite the fact that in about nine months time this tune could end up being deftly employed by Dulux to advertise their new shade of magnolia, “Insinuation O’ Beige” I really like it. The slightly off key synth driven chorus becomes somewhat hypnotic after a while and ok so the lyrics owe more to “Little Miss Muffet” than they do to W.B.Yeats, but it does have a certain atmospheric, erm …atmosphere and does something to the old emotions, it kind of shimmers… Dan Black could be what the world has been waiting for, a cool Jan Hammer. 7/10. PS/ I adore seedless jam and try keeping me away from garden centres on a Sunday..I’m a wild one me!
Rachael: I’m not just saying this because we’re supporting him in a few weeks and I want to keep the peace. Maybe it’s narcissism as we’re obviously similar enough musically to be asked to play with him, but I’ve genuinely a real soft spot for what Dan’s been doing. This is my favourite of the tracks. I love the production on the drums, his vocal, the very subtle use of harmonies and the places he takes the melody. I like the crispness of the track juxtaposed with the ethereal backing and the chorus is underplayed but lovely.
Dogwood: From the feller who wrote the Da Vinci Code we have a bit of Sam Sparro type fluff which actually doesn’t offend the ears as much as I thought it would. It’s a bit ‘listen to me, I’m a right lovely bit of stuff I am’. Well Hollywood Undead you may not be – and thanks for that – but there’s someway to go yet before I’m putting this onto my “Walkpod”. Still it’s a tad easier on the Chalfonts and for that I’m grateful. I don’t do nancy boy disco as a rule, I find it asks me questions that I don’t want to answer. This, however, is a bit more polite and doesn’t probe in unseemly places. I won’t say that I’d go all baggy trousers over this, but I might extend from two pleats to three. It’s going in the right direction – away from Burnley – but could do with ditching the Fiat Uno and going for something with a bit more in the bollock department.
“Radar”- Britney Spears
Rachael: I have have no issues with pop, I love nothing better than a perfect pop song. Britney’s “Toxic” for example was a phenomenal pop tune. However, I think this track’s no different from the last single “If U Seek Amy”, which wasn’t a great pop song either. It has very similar melodies and the vocal production is predictable and grating.
Dogwood: I very much doubt that bloody Britney Spears is an expert on radar as I am. It always irritates me to find irksome pop types taking a serious piece of security detection technology and start talking about them in sex terms. Doesn’t she realise that if it wasn’t for radar then the flaming Luftwaffe would have had us at sixes and sevens during the summer of 1940? No, she probably thinks that Luftwaffe is some designer pair of knickers and that the Isle of Wight Radar Defence, some form of hip hop collective from Knoxville , Kentucky . What do you get when you get trailer trash philosophy combined with songwriters who gather a few random words, chuck them up in the air and see how they land? This song. Calling it diabolical doesn’t do it justice, I’ve just wasted three minutes of my life by listening to this. Someone should tell the girl – go and get a job in Woolies.
Rebekah: I’m ashamed to say it but this is easily my favourite. Great hook. Points deducted for the use of the word ‘soul’ in something delightfully soulless though, and the horrible spoken word bit (‘I got my eye on you and I can’t let you get away’ – STALKER ALERT – sounds like she’s more inclined to use monitoring devices than a aforementioned radar). This is well-produced and well-written. Good pop. My approval etc. 8.5/10
Von Pip: Will the real Britney Spears please stand up? Who actually is Britney, what does she represent? Yes we have all seen various carefully crafted Britneys over the years, the stage school Mousketeer, with that curly headed lass Justine Brillopad, the coquettish jail-bait school girl, the rather unconvincing leather clad rock chick, the pole dancer and the bi-curious snogger of Madonna etc etc but she doesn’t really seem to have a personality, even a fake one. It’s as if a vacuum has been given a fancy dress box to play with. I can’t think of a single quote from her that reflects the real Britters and this “tune” just sums up that gaping personality void . Sadly the most exciting thing she’s undertaken in recent years is to go all Yul Brinner and alas this song isn’t going to reverse that view. It’s as blank as the poor lasses increasingly vacant stare and like Britney it has nothing to say. These days you get the feeling Britters and her management are trying too damn hard to be sexy, which only contrives to make Britters antics look rather staged, unnatural and distinctly unsexy. Worse still, it’s not even a good pop record. 4/10
Jonny: I’ve never forgiven her for “Born To Make You Happy”, pretty much the most offensive record ever made, so we’re starting from a bad place here. I guess this is a bit more interesting sounding than some commercial grimy faux R&B, and it’s mildly catchy, and the thing which sounds a bit like a Casio keyboard approximation of a harp keeps the momentum going. But what does she really want? Will we really ever hear one single line which illuminates anything at all about Britney herself? I’m not saying that pop music should be a big glitzy confessional booth, but there’s just nothing about this which rings true, and that detracts a little from the enjoyment. Mauro just reckons it’s got an odd, annoying hookline, which is true. I should probably take things a little less seriously.
Rebekah: I like her voice. This song just does what you expect it to though – mid-paced synth-pop. The refrain doesn’t work. Probably not her strongest song but then I don’t know any of her other songs because I’m not her biggest fan (haha sorry). 7/10
Dogwood: For a minute I think I’m back in Britney Spears caravan trying to concoct a tune out of an empty KFC bucket. This is gormless, not quite as gormless as Spears, but getting there. It has those annoying bleepy keyboard things that look to emulate a scene from Dr Who and the Vengeance from Varos but only lets you down when you realise that this hasn’t been anywhere near the BBC Radiophonic Work shop. It’s a rather listless affair of repeated phrases, half-hearted squawks and no doubt an ill advised boob tube that you’d do well to keep away from a naked flame. I don’t get this current obsession for quirky females – Sandragold, La Roux, Ladysquawk, Flo and the Transit Van – it’s a load of hysterical female thoughts glued to a bontempi organ, cranked up to ‘Cats Chorus’ level. It gives me indigestion just to think of it all, not to mention what it’s doing to my Farmer’s. Take it away and never bring it back.
Jonny: Oh, God. This is awful. What am I missing with Lady Gaga? “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me” – I mean, that’s just scary, surely? There are laws against this. Under protest, I shall quote Mauro here: “Am in favour of Lady Gaga cos I think she has star quality, a good ear for a pop hook, and seems to actually have a few ideas, even if one of them is recycling the tune from Berlin’s Take My Breath Away.” I just don’t hear any of this, I’m afraid – even the Berlin reference – and I can think of very little to say about the song, apart from it having one of the most brutal fadeouts I’ve heard in a long time, which at least means it’s over with fairly quickly. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and stalk Dan Black. We’d be so fantastical, or something.
Rachael: I recently saw Lady Gaga perform this one at Glastonbury (on the iplayer sadly as I wasn’t there this year). I got half way through this one and started skipping, it’s a little more sombre than her previous offerings and I wouldn’t say it was obvious single material, it doesn’t really go anywhere and doesn’t have the slap-you-in-the-face obvious hook the other singles have had, I think it suffers for that omission.
Von Pip: When I first saw this young laddie, I thought fair play, transvestites are still a fairly under represented group in pop and he’s got some balls to prance about on stage like a freshly waxed Borat after a Gok Wan makeover. Then someone kindly informed me that he was in fact a she, and in my moment of clarity I realised how Dorothy must of felt when she peeked behind the curtain in the Emerald City and instead of finding Oz the great and powerful she is confronted with little Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmanuel Ambroise Diggs. And so it transpires that Lady Ga-Ga is actually Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, an NYC stage school kid and not Trevor Healy, a mentally ill former spot welder turned transvestite from Stoke on Trent, très disappointing eh ?
So on to the song, surely she’s not troubled by the Paparazzi ? We’ve seen everything there is to see haven’t we ? Unlike poor old Britters I’m sure Ms Ga isn’t plagued by that foul legion of midget up-skirt photographers who seem to provide much of the “content” for “Celeb Shitestyle” magazines. I suppose the only logical step for Ms Ga in terms of increasing her exposure is to perform with an endoscope shoved up her jacksy, the resultant images could then be beamed onto the stage backdrop as she sings from the bottom of her heart whilst her adoring fans view the heart of her bottom. After seeing her pert tush and nether regions which were thrust all over this years Glasto I feel I know her body more intimately than I know my own, but I have to admit she was certainly bonkersly entertaining. The songs not really up to much is it? Chorus is reasonably pleasant and would be acceptable in the 80’s , it’s very John Hughes ( God rest his soul) … “Mannequin 3”, anybody ? 6.5/10
“Can You Give It” -The Maccabees
Von Pip: Maybe in Richard Curtis’s magical world Orlando, Hugo, Felix, Rupert, Samuel and Rupert are quite acceptable names for members of a rock n roll band but not in my world matey. With names like that they should be fagging out under Flashman’s watchful eye before giving poor Tom Brown a roasting by the fireplace. Mind you The Maccabees are based in Brighton, a place where such names are nothing unusual and even considered a tad uncouth and a bit “council estate”, why it’s possibly the only place in the country were scaffolders are called Farquhar and doorman are called Tarquin. I’ve never really taken to The Maccabees, maybe the fact that they look like they could be the surly offsprings of the Primrose Hill set, playing at being “indie” before they get jobs in corporate finance has put me off this lot of fops in the past, however previous single “No Kind Words” was really rather ace, and my opinion was starting to change. Alas this one isn’t as good, after a rather insipid start it builds up quite nicely, yet it’s all a little too fey and considered, too “arch” and knowing, I keep thinking the chorus is going to morph into “Swords Of A Thousand Men” By Tenpole Tudor, but essentially it seems to lack the very thing Lady Ga-Ga clearly has .. …testicles ….. 6.5/10
Dogwood: Hmmm, chugging start, followed by bright guitars and then it goes all coy on you but you know what – I’m going to persevere here and yes, my patience is rewarded. It’s not often that I say this about young folk but sometimes they get it right and this has a sprightly air, mixed with some clear instruction (a quality woefully lacking in the other contenders in this review) and a no nonsense attitude that says you can use me as wallpaper, confident in the knowledge that I won’t bubble and peel. When a song talks to me in those terms then I’m inclined to trust it. Music, essentially, is like shopping at B&Q, you can buy your value screwdriver for a quid but if you buy Stanley or Dewalt, you know your more likely to avoid a flaky Phillips head that shears the heads off all your screws within a couple of go’s. That’s what we have here, a robust tool for a robust job.
Rebekah: The production is the only redeeming feature of this song – that and the breakdown that vaguely sounds like Adam and the Ants (the singer even says deliver, so it must be true). His voice sounds too mournful for the upbeat music and it keeps sounding like it’s going to run into a White Lies song to me. Relies on a chorus line which doesn’t mean anything – that and being vaguely danceable. This is a (tiny) bit of a grower unfortunately. Like a hairy wart. More indie-by-numbers. 6/10
Jonny: The first disagreement between my chief string plucker and myself here. You see, he just thinks it’s anthemic Simple Minds-esque festival fodder with a ropy chorus, but I feel strangely moved by this song. I can’t exactly say why, because I can hear what he means about Simple Minds, but there’s also a whopping great slab of Talking Heads in there. There’s something very natural about this, and very nostalgic in an unpretentious way. Maybe it’s just nice to hear a take on the ’80s that isn’t akin to a bad Human League B-side. Whatever, I can tell this is going to be in my head for days.
Rachael : I didn’t think I liked the Maccabees, that was until I started hearing tracks from the latest album, I had a realisation that they actually are a proper band. I think Orlando’s vocals have loads of character and the track is intense and emotive in the same way an Arcade Fire track would be. I’m giving them a fair chance now.
And the winner is … oh wait ….I dont actually think we have one…….. so Lady Ga-Ga can have it .