Thursday, 31 December 2009

Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé 'Barcelona'

Chart Peak: 2 (8 in 1987)


And what better way to follow a duet by a dead man and a woman who's still alive than another one? Although this is one of two tracks duplicated from earlier albums in the series, this is one I've written about before so there's no need to say anything much more about it in this post, except to note that its reappearance was due to its originally intended use as theme of the 1992 Olympics. The BBC also used it extensively in TV coverage of the Games, and somewhere between this massive publicity and some sentimentality in the wake of Mercury's death less than a year before, it managed to chart higher than it had the first time.

Instead, I'll take the opportunity to reinvent the conclusion posts I used to do in mentioning that this track seems almost too perfect a summation of the Now 23, which seems exceptionally heavy on secondhand material. It's fair enough that some tracks are repeated over the history of the series, as new generations of buyers emerge, but this is one of four old tracks re-issued here (defined as records from previous decades), plus four re-workings (from Was Not Was, Erasure Heaven 17 and Roy Orbison) and the posthumous Bob Marley track. Throw in another five cover versions and you've accounted for nearly half the album already. It mightn't matter so much were it not that so few of the new acts who feature here seem to have made all that much long-term impact. If this were the only evidence you had of pop music in the second half of 1992 (er, and January when that Simply Red track came out) you'd have to conclude that things had gone a bit wrong somewhere.

Freddie Mercury also appears on: Now 9, 25.
Available on: Barcelona

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Roy Orbison and kd lang 'Crying'

Chart Peak: 13


Another track with a movie connection. As eny fule kno, 'Crying' was originally a 1961 hit for Orbison (though a surprisingly minor one on the UK) and ultimately topped the chart when covered by Don McLean. This duet was recorded for the 1987 film Hiding Out (me neither, but it sounds awful) and I can't really remember why it was reactivated in 1992. Surely not because of Only Fools And Horses?

Anyway, this rendition has quite a good reputation but I have to say that for me it's never really clicked. It's better than some versions of this song out there, but to me it undersells the drama of the Orbison original. It does have a certain weight that some of this album lacks, however.

Roy Orbison also appears on: Now 14, 22
kd lang also appears on: Now 24
Available on: King of Hearts

Monday, 28 December 2009

Enya 'Book Of Days'

Chart Peak: 10


Thinking about this post over the Christmas break, I thought I could vaguely remember how this song went, or at least the chorus. Then it dawned on me that the song I was thinking of was 'Book Of Dreams' by Suzanne Vega. As it turned out, though, I still know this one as the song from Far And Away (or, to be strictly accurate, from the trailer; I've never seen the film). Apparently the song was re-written with English lyrics for the occasion, and this supplanted the Gaelic version for the single and subsequent pressings of the Shepherd Moons album [naughty shepherd!] so I presume that'll also have been the version featured here. But I've got to admit that at the time I never even noticed it was in a language I could understand. Sorry Enya.

I'd always been under the impression that people didn't listen to Enya for the lyrical content anyway. It seems to me that you listen to Enya if you want to hear something that sounds like Enya, and this track certainly delivers on that score. What it doesn't seem to me to have, for all the success, is the obvious crossover appeal of hits like 'Orinoco Flow' or 'Anywhere Is'. Tom Cruise or no Tom Cruise, I wonder how many owners of Now 23 listened to this track every time.

Also appearing on: Now 20, 33, 59 [with The Pirates, Shola Ama, Naila Boss and Ishani]
Available on: The Very Best of Enya

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Peter Gabriel 'Digging In The Dirt'

Chart Peak: 24


One of the more unlikely tracks to show up on a Now album, not least because of its lengthy running time, 'Digging In The Dirt' was Gabriel's first new single in five years. Perhaps it was because his last proper album So had been such a big success that this comeback was thought worth including here, but in the event it was only a minor hit - no wonder given its rather dark nature, apparently inspired by a relationship breakdown. The obligatory state-of-art video is pretty creepy too.

In its way, it's actually a really good record. The disturbing atmosphere is quite convincing and there's just enough melodic interest to make it enjoyable. At the same time, though, it's not his most obvious crossover hit, and indeed not the biggest hit off the album. It's hard to imagine what the kids who are the stereotypical Now audience would have made of it, or for that matter how many of the people who would appreciate it were prepared to sit through the Mario Brothers record to get to it.

Also appearing on: Now 7, 8, 24
Available on: Hit

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sophie B. Hawkins 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover'

Chart Peak: 14


It stands for Ballantine, you know.

Actually, my one abiding memory of this track is from a decade after it was released when Radio 2, in a seeming moment of desparation, selected a compilation called The Sex Album as album of the week. One day that gave Ken Bruce the chance to make the legendary introduction, "Today's track is from Sophie B. Hawkins, who's so excited she'll swear at you". I've got to admit that sort of ruined the song for me.

At any rate, it seemed to crystalise the awkwardness about this song. It's obviously not wholly accidental, but there's something about songs that try very hard to be sexy which I find quite off-putting, much credit as it gets for at least steering well clear of the most vomitorious cliches. Perhaps I just saw too many Carry On films at an impressionable age to react to that stuff about "coming into my Jungle Book" with anything other than a giggle. It's probably a really good record but I can't really enjoy it somehow.

Also appearing on: Now 29
Available on: Best of Sophie B Hawkins

Monday, 21 December 2009

Betty Boo 'Let Me Take You There'

Chart Peak: 12


A few years on from the time when I actually remember her being a pop star (and yes, I know she wrote loads of big hits as well), the only Top 40 hit from her second album proved to be more of a slowie than I'd expected, built upon a sample of 'It's All In The Game'. Over this she raps in mildly annoying way about how it's "so hot 'cause my ice-cream's melting" (other way round, surely?) which must have seemed a bit out of place by the time Now 23 showed up in October. I'm not surprised I don't remember this, if I even heard it at the time.

Also appearing on: Now 18
Available on: Grrr!...It's Betty Boo

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Vanessa Paradis 'Be My Baby'

Chart Peak:


A reviewer of the album where this track first appeared calls it "The best Lenny Kravitz record ever, coz he only sings on one song..." and I think that's a pretty fair point. At the risk of giving too much away for future posts, I find Kravitz quite irritating (though I may not have been very aware of him at the time; his only major hit before this was 'It Ain't Over Till It's Over'). Whilst he co-wrote and produced this track and apparently contributed several instruments too, his presence isn't immediately apparent here so I can judge it more on its merits.

And it's an enjoyable slice of self-consciously retro pop, with a much lighter touch than Kravitz seems to display on his own work. Coming back to it now, it's held up surprisingly well (especially compared to her other big hit, 'Joe Le Taxi') and doesn't sound as dated as I feared it might, the pastiche still outweighing any sense of the 1990s. It's not quite as good as I thought at the time, although my 14-year-old head may have been turned slightly by that bit in the video where it looks a bit like she's naked. Still a good track though.

Also appearing on: Now 11
Available on: Vanessa Paradis

Friday, 18 December 2009

Björn Again 'A Little Respect'

Chart Peak: 25 (Erasure-ish EP)


Well, how else could you follow Abba?

Possibly the world's most famous tribute band, almost to the extent of inspiring their own tributes; they seem to have become a sort of franchise operation which says something about the power of the name. And of course their 21 years in the business means they've greatly outlasted the original group. Their only Top 40 success came with their own response to the Abba-Esque EP (as mentioned in previous post, but actually heard on Now 22), although the concept was stretched to an entire album of non-Abba covers and a Christmas single.

Because the whole point of this record is in its existence, there's not a lot to be said about the music itself, but it's better than I feared, and certainly not the worst version of 'A Little Respect' ever to appear on a Now album. That said, I can imagine the cod-Swedish accents getting irritating and the apparent unavailability of this track now isn't that massive a loss.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Abba 'Dancing Queen'

Chart Peak: 16 (1 in 1992)


As this is possibly the most famous and most-discussed track that I've ever written about on here, I have to admit a definite temptation to duck the whole question and just link to some slightly embarrassing adverts they did. But that'd be wrong.

So, 'Dancing Queen', then. A transatlantic Number One single and a record many people genuinely believe to be the greatest of all time. Now, I can't realistically claim to be one of them, but I can see their point. I suppose I have a bit of an awkward relationship with Abba really; I'm not quite old enough to have been aware of them when they were together, so I lived through that whole period when it was laughable to like them but by the time I started really caring about music, we were well into the period ushered in by this release when it became totally socially unacceptable ever to say anything negative about them. Couple that with VH-1 starting in the mid-1990s and seeming to have Abba Weekend every two weeks and the seemingly ceaseless cavalcade of self-consciously broad-minded cover versions and you've pretty much exhausted my expertly-produced Swedish pop patience. I'm still prepared to stick my neck out and say that all the ballads are rubbish, but even if I can never love this record I can certainly appreciate what impressed people about it - the crucial blend of joy and sadness as the narrator looks from afar at the Dancing Queen who seems to be having so much more fun than her. And yet the Queen herself is an oddly haunted figure too. It seems like an icy wind is blowing through this record (or maybe it's just December) and aren't sad upbeat songs better than sad slow ones? Even the luxuriant production feels like a coat to keep the chill out, with that much-imitated descending piano line to try and keep the mood up. I'm also rather fond of that little string riff that comes in over the fade-out. Maybe there should have been more of that.

And that's probably as much as I need to say, because it feels like everybody in the world (or at least the UK) now owns Abba Gold, as a trailer for which this song was re-issued (with the slightly re-edited video above). Some attribute this success to Erasure's summer hit with the Abba-Esque EP, although the album was probably released for the more prosaic reason that the UK rights to the catalogue had just reverted to Polydor. Perhaps we should gloss over the fact that 'Dancing Queen' was only 16 years old in 1992, and that that year itself is now 17 years behind us?

Available on: The Albums

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Roxette 'How Do You Do!'

Chart Peak: 13


An apt title, I suppose, because I don't think I've ever met this song before. Oddly, despite the fact that I clearly remember the existence of Roxette and what I thought was a substantial tally of hits, I keep finding out about other ones I've never heard of.

'How Do You Do!' (their punctuation, not mine) was the opening track from their odd album Tourism, a mish-mash of studio tracks, live versions and apparent outtakes. Notably, even both the people who gave that album good reviews on Amazon dismissed this track as pretty tacky, and they had a point. It's also notable for featuring a more prominent vocal role for Per Gessle than most of the Roxette songs I know, which I have to admit I don't count as a strength here.

Although this album has a habit of sequencing related tracks together, there's only a coincidental link between this and the previous cut: Roxette later contributed a song to the soundtrack of the Super Mario Bros film. Which is apparently even worse than this record.

Also appearing on: Now 15, 18, 20, 21, 42
Available on: Tourism (Songs from Studios, Stages, Hotelrooms & Other Strange Places)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Ambassadors of Funk and MC Mario 'Supermarioland'

Chart Peak:


And if that wasn't enough for you, we get a second helping of pseudonymous video-game "fun" from Simon Harris of the less shameful 'Bass (How Low Can You Go?)'. Now, I've got to admitthat gaming was never a big deal, and whilst I have been known to play the odd game of Tetris, I never touched this Mario stuff at all, so all I know is that there are two stereotypical Italian blokes with moustaches who have to, er, run around or something. Einstein's relatively (geddit?!!) poor rapping doesn't do a lot to entice me into this. I can well believe that the cheap-sounding bleepy noises did feature in the game, but this about as interesting to me as somebody I don't know showing me their holiday snaps.

Still, it's not as painful an experience as it could have been. Just as long as the next track's not Sonic The Hedgehog, OK?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Dr Spin 'Tetris'

Chart Peak: 6


When I first started doing this, part of the appeal was to try out the Now albums as snapshots of the times when they were released. My thinking was that they might be more effective than the "official" histories of the years, which have a habit of concentrating on the notionally important. Here's where I feel I've struck some sort of gold, with a record that really could not be more of its time: a novelty dance version of the music from the eponymous Game Boy game, which is of course based on the old Russian song Коробейники, as I would obviously have known without looking it up on the internet. The sound effects are obviously referring to the club hits of the time, and even the name Dr Spin has a sort of early-1990s topicality about it.

It wasn't publicised at the time, but this was of course a pseudonym for Andrew Lloyd-Webber and his long-serving musical director Nigel Wright. Well, I say "of course" but actually it's not instantly obvious to me what the Llord does contribute to this track, unless it's those "comedy" Russian accents. This sort of reminds me of the long-standing tradition of supposedly uncool acts releasing music anonymously to see how much more seriously they're taken without the association of the name (not very, most of the time) or supposedly cool ones working under pseudonyms to avoid embarrassment. But this seems a bit too pointless for its own good.

Still a lot better than Undercover though.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Undercover 'Never Let Her Slip Away'

Chart Peak: 5


Follow-up to the not-very-good dance version of 'Baker Street' that was kept from topping the chart by The Shamen. I don't know whether they were originally going to be a one-off project and only continued because the first hit had been so big, but either way there was never going to be an original song. Wisely, Pete Waterman settled on Andrew Gold's 'Never Let Her Slip Away', a Top 5 hit in 1978 (at the same time as the original 'Baker Street' indeed) but probably somewhat forgotten by 1992; I certainly didn't recognise it when I heard this version.

Any praise I have for the song choice is just recognition of the commercial nous though. Now that I've lived long enough to hear the music of Andrew Gold, I can't stand it and this is a decidedly joyless rendition. At least they didn't do 'Lonely Boy' I suppose. Although there was only to be one more hit ('I Wanna Stay With You', which was in a bold new direction a cover of a song from 1976) they did manage to build another connection with The Farm by returning in 2004 with a tacky football record, 'Viva England'.

Available on: Check Out the Groove

Friday, 11 December 2009

The Farm 'Don't You Want Me'

Chart Peak: 18

YouTube {sorry, cuts off early but it was the longest version on there}

Actually, maybe I shouldn't be apologising too profusely, because this really is quite a bad record. I have to admit I'm no fan of the original version anyway, but this version makes the Farm's previous assault on 'Stepping Stone' seem like Jimi Hendrix's 'All Along The Watchtower'. Not only is Peter Hooton's vocal impressively uncharismatic, he doesn't even manage to convey the menace that was obviously intended in the original.

In fact, the strongest sense I get from this track is that they didn't really want to be doing it and were just desperate for a hit. Fair enough, we've all got to pay our gas bills, but this is too cynical to be enjoyable. Fortunately for them, it's not the record they're remembered for despite being their only Now appearance; of course they had the big hits with 'Groovy Train' and 'All Together Now' and a Number One album; perhaps unsurprisingly, they haven't troubled the album chart since.

Available on: All Together Now The Very Best Of The Farm

Thursday, 10 December 2009

East 17 'House Of Love'

Chart Peak: 10


Heaven 17 followed by East 17? Surely no accident!

This was in fact the first hit from the band who were supposed at the time to be the Rolling Stones to Take That's Beatles; you can see the record company didn't want to risk too much of a video budget (they did make a more glamorous version later, presumably for the US market). It predates my awareness of the group but I had heard it subsequently and remembered the chorus. It turns out that's about all there is to remember about this odd blend of rap, rave and pop. I don't think I was ever supposed to like ths record, and that's just as well.

Also appearing on: Now 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 33, 35, 36, 41 (as E-17)
Available on: Around the World: The Journey So Far

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Heaven 17 'Temptation (Brothers In Rhythm mix)'

Chart Peak: 4


And so, for the first time in the history of this blog, we meet a track I've written about before. In fact, I've warmed even more to the original of 'Temptation' in the last 51 weeks or so. But I still think the best thing about it is the juxtaposition of the "Temp-ta-tion!" chant with the more restrained verses, and that's rather flattened out by the remix here, even if they do spell it out in the video. It's still slightly more interesting than some of the more generic dance of the time though. The orchestral track from the single is an interesting little find too.

Still, a big commercial success for them, thanks to heavy promotion work and it even did well enough for the following remix of 'Fascist Groove Thang' to take that song into the Top 40 for the first time. Only just though, which shows just how much this song seems to have overshadowed the rest of their career.

Also appearing on: Now 1 [original version of this track], 4
Available on: Temptation: Best of Heaven 17

Monday, 7 December 2009

Bizarre Inc featuring Angie Brown 'I'm Gonna Get You'

Chart Peak: 3


Not for the first time on this blog, a song that I recognised by not from the title. If it had been called 'You Know You're Gonna Be Mine' things might have been different.

This was the follow-up to the rave anthem 'Playing With Knives' and proved to be marginally the bigger chart hit. It's a more conventional club track, with a full vocal by one Angie Brown, and actually quite pleasant to hear but a little lacking in drama. Possibly best heard on a Friday.

Available on: Club Classics

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Rage'Run to You'

Chart Peak: 3


This clip is better quality but cuts off the end of the track.

Anyway, by 1992 rave had got about as mainstream as it was ever going to: a big flurry of re-issued singles charted late in 1991 and amid the tabloid press hype that seems a lot longer ago now than it really is, it caught the attention even of kids like me, too young to go to warehouse parties even if we wanted to. This might be why the venerable tradition of dance covers of non-dance songs seemed to be so overground for a while. And yes, this is a version of the first UK hit for Bryan Adams.

I think the original is probably the most tolerable thing Adams has ever done, but unfortunately the things I like most about it are the ringing guitars in the intro and the percussion. Take those out and you've got a very generic rock record or, in this case, a very generic soul/dance record. It passes the three minutes OK, but doesn't attract a lot of interest. This charted higher here than the original, but all Rage seem to have ended up getting out of it was a lawsuit from the metal band of the same name.

Available on: Amazon Club Anthem

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Shamen 'Ebeneezer Goode'

Chart Peak: 1 (4 weeks)


Perhaps I led a bit of a sheltered life, but even at the age of 14 I didn't really grasp what this song was meant to be about. At least, not until I heard John Humphrys on The Today Programme saying "E's are good, E's are good". Enough people got the joke for a month at the top of the chart, coinciding with a BBC drug awareness week apparently.

In my defence, I never really thought this song was about anything else either. I paid even less attention to dance than to other music back then and it was something I just looked down on. Since then, I've grown to have more of an appreciation of the style (and I've also spotted the "oh what a carry-on" in the fade, so I know the Sid James impression was intentional). Perhaps deservedly for a record that was such a phenomenon in its day, though, it sounds completely of its time now.

Also appearing on: Now 22, 26
Available on: The Shamen Collection

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Erasure 'Who Needs Love Like That (Hamburg Mix)'

Chart Peak: 10 [55 in 1985]


Once upon a time, Erasure were just the latest Vince Clarke project, and their debut single was a song called 'Who Needs Love Like That', which peaked at 55: not a great success compared to the Top 10 debuts of Yazoo and The Assembly, but still outdoing 'One Day' by Vince Clarke and Paul Quinn, which only spent one week at 99. Seven years later they'd proved themselves to be Clarke's most durable partnership, and marked the occasion with the first of many hits compilations and this remixed version of the song; pedants will note that the title becomes 'Who Needs Love (Like That)' on the cover of the 1992 single.

The record industry being what it is, I can't be sure that what I've found actually is the remixed version. Still, it's indentifiably the right song and it sort of confirms my recollection; one of the catchier Erasure songs (one of the few written by Clarke alone) but not one that dissuades me from making the obvious 'Who needs Erasure" joke. I've developed something of a grudging respect for them over the time I've been writing these posts, not least because I've been returning to the early tracks which I like more than their recent material. Still, they're not an act I've ever really been charmed by.

Also appearing on: Now 09, 10 13, 14, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 28, 29, 54
Available on: Total Pop!: The First 40 Hits

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Crowded House 'It's Only Natural'

Chart Peak: 24


A comedy sound effect, but we stay in Australasia for the final track on the first disc. 'It's Only Natural' was the fifth single from the UK breakthrough album Woodface and their last hit to feature Tim Finn; he'd already left by the time the single was released, as the video shows. As well as co-writing the song, he's especially evident here thanks to the shared vocal with his brother; I presume it's the combination of high and low voices that my dad had in mind when he said this reminded him of Squeeze.

Like much of the best Crowded House material, it sugar-coats a potentially dark lyrical message, delivered by a protagonist whom you can "read like a book that's fallen down between your knees", yet the effect is more pathetic than scary. I presume that's what the Finn brothers intended all along, they seem like nice enough boys really. It's possible to ignore that aspect anyway, so impressive is the craft of this track, the chiming guitars, the subtle vocal arrangements. In fact, the only problem is that slightly drifty fade which makes for a bit of an odd end to the first disc of the album.

Also appearing on: Now 21, 22, 26, 34, 35
Available on: Woodface

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

INXS 'Baby Don't Cry'

Chart Peak: 20


Well, I sort of remember INXS releasing the album Welcome To Wherever You Are, (their only one to top the UK chart) and I sort of recall the different covers on the CD and cassette versions. I don't remember ever hearing any songs from it though, so here goes...

'Baby Don't Cry' was the second and biggest of four UK hits from the album. It's a big, brassy production of a song that sounds slightly half-baked. The verses feel like afterthoughts hidden between choruses; which makes the chorus sound worse too, because there's nothing for it to contrast with. The ultimate effect is just hollow to me.

Also appearing on: Now 14, 15, 18, 19, 20
Available on: Welcome to Wherever You Are

Monday, 23 November 2009

Genesis : "Jesus He Knows Me"

Chart Peak: 20


This one I knew and rather liked when I was 14, as Collins and colleagues take aim at the (with hindsight rather soft) target of phoney televangelists. Now I'm no longer a teenager, it impresses me less as a piece of satire, especially with the heavy-handed middle-eight, but as I've hinted before I find pop Genesis more appealing than the prog end of their repertoire and I have to give Phil Collins credit for having the sense of humour to wear a comedy wig in the video. In fact the pastiches of low-budget God channels might be the best thing about this.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 7, 8, 9, 21, 24
Available on: We Can't Dance

Friday, 20 November 2009

Richard Marx 'Take This Heart'

Chart Peak: 13


Another song I can't remember hearing or even hearing of at the time. And indeed 24 hours or so after first hearing it, I still can't remember a thing about it. I suppose I'll have to listen to it again then....

Wow. That is so amazingly bland I'm genuinely struggling to find anything to say about it. No wonder the Wikipedia article is all about the video, and how it wouldn't be possible in real baseball. In places it reminds me slightly of the Baywatch theme. Not good.

Also appearing on: Now 16, 22, 27
Available on: Greatest Hits

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Little Angels 'Too Much Too Young'

Chart Peak: 22


As musical subgenres go, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal wasn't one that really attracted my attention much at the time. Indeed, I don't think I heard any of it, as it was so swiftly overshadowed by grunge before it really touched the mainstream. My main experience of the Little Angels before this week was seeing what looked like almost their complete back catalogue donated to one charity shop, the plethora of limited edition formats, boxed 7" singles and free posters that were the stuff of chart success for ambitious rock bands in the early 1990s. It worked up to a point, as the parent album Jam was a surprise chart-topper in early 1993, although it does share the record for shortest total chart-run by a Number One album.

Anyway, NWOBHM seems to have been painted as an attempt to break away from the supposedly dead hair-metal scene (although these guys do actually seem to have a lot of hair) and produce something a bit less macho and cliche-ridden, possibly returning to the sources of early AC/DC and stuff. Well, possibly. This certainly seems less knuckle-dragging than a lot of hard rock before and since and it's fairly catchy, at least until you realise that the chorus is a bit like 'Footloose'. And if it's true that Bryan Adams is on backing vocals, then extra points are awarded for his inaudibility. So, yeah, I feel positively disposed towards this record but I wouldn't say it really convinced me of anything, or made me want to listen to it again.

Available on: Little Of The Past

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Billy Ray Cyrus 'Achy Breaky Heart'

Chart Peak: 3


"Before country was mainstream" claims one wrong-headed online commenter, and certainly before his children started inflicting awful Disney pop on us, the elder Cyrus proved that he was eminently capable of making awful music himself. Don't think I haven't tried, but I can't find anything to like about this record at all, and there's a faint hint of cynical targetting about it. I try not be a snob but this is just rubbish.

The video, which I'm pretty sure I'd never seen before, makes it seem even worse. Still, at least the related videos tab pointed to some Hank Williams.

Available on: Achy Breaky Heart

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

John Lee Hooker 'Boom Boom'

Chart Peak: 16


Just in case anyone thought Erma Franklin's track was the oldest on the album, 'Boom Boom' dates back to 1961 in its original form, although given the large number of different recordings on YouTube I can't be absolutely sure I've found the right one. I remember the song itself well enough though, as like the aforementioned 'Piece Of My Heart' it was brought back to the national consciousness by a jeans advert. It was Hooker's second Top 40 hit in the UK, a mere 28 years after 'Dimples'.

As it happens, my Latin teacher at the time was a big blues fan, an amateur guitarist who sometime did a blues show on a volunteer radio station. Lessons with him were always pretty freewheeling and when the subject came up, he seemed glad to have this song to use as an example of the emotional directness of the music. I don't know whether that totally convinces me, and I tend to feel that you have to make a decision to become a blues fan or not, but the fact that I didn't doesn't preclude me from liking the odd blues record here and there and this one hits the spot just right, somehow. The fact that it's barely a couple of minutes long is an advantage, evading the self-indulgence that puts me off a lot of the blues music I've heard. Also, it doesn't have the burden of self-conscious authenticity that modern-day blues can too often be ruined by.

Available on: Legend - The Best of John Lee Hooker

Monday, 16 November 2009

Simple Minds 'Alive And Kicking'

Chart Peak: 6 (7 in 1985)


I suppose it's kind of a neat coincidence that a song later to reapper in the Now series is followed by a track that had already shown up once. 'Alive And Kicking' was of course a Top 10 hit in 1985 but re-emerged as part of a double A-sided reissue with the somewhat darker 'Love Song' in order to promote a compilation album. In theory, using the other side might have reduced the duplication, but this unlikely to have been a significant consideration - whilst I've discovered over the years that there are such people as loyal Now collectors, the albums don't show much sign of being assembled with them in mind; and that's probably no bad thing.

But am I rambling about this digression just to avoid saying something about this record? Apparently so. 'Alive And Kicking' pushes the right buttons and as stadium rock anthems go, is one of their better attempts, with a chorus that rises in the expected places. Unfortunately stadium rock anthems are one of my least favourite musical forms so I still don't get a lot out of this.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 5, 6 [this track], 7, 14, 15, 30
Available on: Glittering Prize 81/92

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Brian May 'Too Much Love Will Kill You'

Chart Peak: 5


If you missed this track at the time, you got a second bite of the cherry when a version sung by Freddie Mercury was released as a Queen single in 1996 (that rendition shows up on Now 33). It may be that May's decision to release his own recording of the song represented some doubt as to whether Queen's version would ever see the light of day but in any case the song is clearly quite a personal one for him; reportedly it relates to the break-up of his first marriage, in which case he evidently waited some years before putting the song out at all.

Somehow, though, even the burden of this knowledge doesn't entirely enable the song to connect with me. As might be expected, his composition and performance (on all instruments) are thoroughly competent and it's clear that a lot of work went into the arrangement and recording but the pursuit of perfection seems to have been at the expense of grit and drama. This is a problem I have with a lot of Queen records, especially their later ones, but it can be counteracted by Freddie Mercury's innate theatricality. May is a solid, hit-the-right-notes singer but not really a convincing frontman.

By the way, Wikipedia informs me that the original booklet of Now 23 misquotes the chart peak of this single. I'm only too happy to set the record straight there.

Also appearing on: Now 21
Available on: Back to the Light

Friday, 13 November 2009

Erma Franklin '(Take A Little) Piece Of My Heart'

Chart Peak: 9


As the single cover makes plain, this is another case where the Now series doesn't live up to the first word of its name, but rather an 25-year-old track revived after its use in a TV commercial. This was obviously a common phenomenon at the time - to some extent it still is, but of course the instant availability of downloads allows many a featured track to trickle sales over a long period rather than showing up more dramatically when the record company are persuaded to reissue a single.

Anyway, this proved to be the only UK hit for Aretha's big sister (or, indeed, for anyone called Erma) and rather a belated one at that, but if you're only going to have one hit, it might as well be a classic, and this is a brilliant example of how to make soul music, every note exactly where it needs to be. Franklin and the producers are confident enough in the song's own drama not to keen banging you over the head with it. Respect is also due to whoever played the key piano line on this track. There have been many versions of this song and will doubtless be many more, and several are good - but for me none has ever beaten this original. By far my favourite Now 23 track so far.

Available on: The Pop Years 1992-1993

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Simply Red 'For Your Babies'

Chart Peak: 9


The chances are that if you're at all interested in Simply Red, you already have the Stars album from which this was the third of five hit singles - it had already been the biggest-selling album of 1991 and was to be the top seller of 1992. If the song title doesn't ring any bells, well, that's what the YouTube links are for, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend actually looking at the screen, because the video is an annoying parade of clichés and pomposity. The song itself drifts rather in the direction of the sanctimonious too; a fairly typical example of the sentimental song of a new parent but for the fact that Mick Hucknall didn't as far as we know become a father until more than ten years later.

Mind you, this doesn't sound anywhere near as bad now as I thought it might. Perhaps it's the knowledge that Simply Red got so much worse than this but there is a decent if slight tune buried under the self-consciously tasteful production and Hucknall could still sing then. It's not something I'd want to hear too much of and I'd hardly say it deserved the success it had, but it slips down easy.

Also appearing on: Now 5, 7, 9, 20, 21, 24, 32, 33
Available on: Simply Red 25: The Greatest Hits

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Arrested Development 'People Everyday'

Chart Peak: 2


It probably isn't really necessary for me to post a link to the original of 'Everyday People' but it was a good excuse to listen to it myself. That's all the more welcome as I prepare myself for the admission that I've never really got Arrested Development. At the time I was too young or at least too ignorant to understand them, and now I sort of feel like they're too much of their time to make sense if you didn't like them in the early years of the decade. To be sure, I appreciate the appeal of hip-hop that isn't about shooting people, and there are plenty of "daisy"-sounding tracks I like. The trouble is, I think, that this lot don't seem to convey quite the same sense of fun as Jurassic 5 or De La Soul or even the original, and the enforced positivism without that lightheartedness tends to drift into the realms of the preachy; the fact that the leader chose to call himself Speech hardly counteracts that suspicion.

All of which said, 'People Everyday' is a slightly different song from them, as the protagonist actually becomes genuinely irritated by some people grabbing their crotches and bothering his girlfriend. It's a trace of grit that makes this track more human and likeable, although the irritating backing vocals spoil the effect somewhat. I can admire this record from afar but I'm not sure when I'd ever choose to listen to it.

Also appearing on: Now 24
Available on: 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of...

Monday, 9 November 2009

George Michael 'Too Funky'

Chart Peak: 4


At last, a proper hit from a major act who was still alive in 1992! Indeed, the success of 'Too Funky' may have been something of a relief to Michael after the underwhelming chart performances of his previous few solo singles, although this was of course new material and a charity record to boot. Apparently the song was originally intended for a Listen Without Prejudice Volume 2 that never happened, and it does have a livelier sound than the mopey first volume (or so I've deduced from the singles, never having felt the desire to listen to a George Michael album with or without prejudice). Having pondered deep questions on his previous effort, this time around he just wants to get his end away, and isn't going to mince his words about it.

I suppose there are some people who might question whether such a single-entendre packed song ("I've got to see you naked baby" and so on) hits the right mood for a fund-raiser, but you certainly have to give him credit for supplying such commercially viable material at his own expense. A nice gesture indeed, but I can't be quite so positive about the record itself. It lacks the pompousness that puts me off a lot of his work, but that's an awkward disconnect between the animalistic directness of the lyric and the glossy sequenced accuracy of the production here. If he's as passionate as the words say, surely that's got to be either consummated or frustrated, but the dynamics just aren't there to convince me of that.
Also, that "I'm not trying to seduce you" sample at the start sounds maddeningly clichéed, although I'm more keener on the surprise ending, which Wikipedia attributes to Russ Abbott but other sources claim comes from Hancock's Half Hour.

Edit 10th November - as I should know, since I have the DVD case on the desk in front of me, The Radio Ham is an episode of Hancock.

Also appearing on:
Now 22 (with Elton John), 25 (with Queen), 34, 35, 36, 37, 38,
Available on: Twenty Five

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Go West 'Faithful'

Chart Peak: 13


OK, I have to admit I'd never heard of this track before. I obviously remember Go West for what I think of as their big Eighties hits (although looking it up, 'King Of Wishful Thinking' was 1990) and I dimly recall Peter Cox's solo career, but both their Now appearances date from a period when I wouldn't have been sure they were even around had I not looked it up.

It's not totally impossible that I might have heard 'Faithful' at the time, but if I did it must have passed me by entirely. It kind of still does actually, another entry into the long category of "I'm going away but I'll be good, honest" songs, although the chorus lyric "I'll be faithful to my lover's prayer" has a slightly stilted un-English sound. The tune is slight and this strikes me, like a lot of music around this time, as decidedly ho-hum.

Also appearing on: Now 26
Available on: Aces and Kings: The Best of Go West

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bob Marley And The Wailers 'Iron Lion Zion'

Chart Peak: 5


Well, this is a track I certainly remember. Perhaps being at school with somebody called Brian helped. Of course, Marley had been dead for over a decade by this point, and because his death was so early in my life it felt like ancient history, although of course 1992 is longer ago now than 1981 was then. Ouch.

Anyway, 'Iron Lion Zion' was an unreleased track recorded circa 1973 and initially made available on a boxed set. Logically, it ought to be rubbish, and I start with the handicaps of not really understanding the Rastafarian imagery or indeed being much of a reggae fan at all. Actually, though, it's perfectly fine little ditty with a catchy hook and a nice brass section (I'm not sure how much, if anything, was overdubbed posthumously). I also don't entirely know why most sources seem to suggest a credit to the Wailers, when the original sleeve names Marley alone.

Also appearing on: Now 3, 44 (with Funkstar De Luxe)
Available on: Songs Of Freedom

Friday, 6 November 2009

Was (Not Was) 'Shake Your Head'

Chart Peak: 4


The first act on this album to have managed more than one Top 10 single (the other being 'Walk The Dinosaur') and indeed there are another couple of songs I remember in the shapes of 'Spy In The House Of Love' and a slightly iffy cover of 'Papa Was A Rolling Stone', but none of those ever made it to a Now album. Somehow, though, their highest-charting single in the UK passed me by utterly at the time, and even when I came to write this post I just sort of vaguely recalled having heard it a few years ago. Well, that and the unusual vocal line-up of Kim Basinger and Ozzy Osborne.

As people who know their Was better than me will already be aware, the original recording of this song dates back to 1983, and they even didversion with Madonna on vocals which remains officially unreleased. The version that finally became the hit is a remix by Steve "Silk" Hurley with the actress's vocal added. And yet for all the effort, re-workings and remixing it's a record that I find it hard to concentrate on, as if it's so busy being pleased with itself for its cleverness that it forgets to do anything clever, merely reciting a list of difficult or impossible tasks (shades of 'All You Need Is Love'? and heading for a chorus I've already forgotten. Certainly not unlistenable, but I don't think I'd care if I didn't hear it again.

By the way, as the video I linked to was posted by the record company, I have to assume it really does fade out that abruptly. Did they run out of budget or something?

Available on: The Collection

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Charles And Eddie 'Would I Lie To You?'

Chart Peak: 1 (2 weeks)


Another good pop record. No more than good, certainly; there's nothing unprecedented about it, but it pushes all the right buttons and you can tell why the record company were so pleased to have this song to launch their new act with: whilst both Charles (Pettigrew) and Eddie (Chacon) were songwriters, they didn't supply this one. They put their all into the performance though, although not in an especially intense way. The song requires and gets a cheerier, lighter-hearted rendition.

There are just a couple of problems. One is that the call-and-response vocal "Would I lie to you?" "Oh yeah" does slightly seem to undermine the intended message. The other different disadvantage is that it doesn't really establish much of an identity for the duo, which might be one reason why they too struggled to repeat anything that even faintly resembled the worldwide success of this number. So far, there's been a bit of a sense of the transitory about this album.

Available on: Original Hits: Number 1's

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Jon Secada 'Just Another Day'

Chart Peak: 5


Now here's one that sounds much more like 1992. A prime slice of radio-friendly pop with a slight Latin accent (it was produced by Emilio Estefan Jr, who'd long employed Secada before he launched his solo career). Much as this isn't the sort of thing I typically go for, I can appreciate this as a job well done and a little classier than some other records in this vein.

What it doesn't do, though, is make me want to hear any other Jon Secada records, and it seems I may not be alone there: like Tasmin Archer, he had more hits than you might have guessed but this is the one that's going to follow him around.

Also appearing on: Now 25
Available on: Jon Secada

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Tasmin Archer 'Sleeping Satellite'

Chart Peak: 1 (2 weeks)


Well, I'd been putting off Now 23 (my mum's favourite number!) for a long time, and it seemed like it was time to return to much earlier days after the slightly awkward experience of trying to cover 18-month-old tracks on Now 69.

So, we're back here with a song that perhaps feels even older than it is, somehow. Perhaps it's the fretless bass on the arrangement, perhaps the not-obviously-topical subject of space exploration - but I think something in the whole style of the lyric, which seems something of a meditation on a broad subject, has a decidedly old-fashioned feel to it. Perhaps this is why Archer, though not in real terms a one-hit-wonder, struggled to build a big career off the back of this.

Unfortunately, if this seemed out of place in 1992, it's even more so in 2009. It's not an enticing start to our visit to 1992.

Also appearing on: Now 24
Available on: Pure 90s Pop

Monday, 12 October 2009

Eva Cassidy and Katie Melua 'What A Wonderful World'

Chart Peak: 1 (1 week)


The success of Now 69 feels a bit like an anomaly - shouldn't compilation albums be an anachronism in the download era? Well, in one way this track gives the lie to that; its appearance here was the first time it had ever been available outside Tesco, since the original physical digital and physical singles were exclusive to that supermarket, producing as close to a surprise Number One as you seem to get nowadays.

That mildly interesting history doesn't make it a good record though. Of course it's for charity, but there's something about the whole concept of a beyond-the grave duet, especially since Cassidy's contribution appears to come from a lo-fi live recording. And she obviously sang with no expectation that anyone else would be joining in. Melua, who I don't actually mind as much as some people seem to, doesn't have much of a chance. Even so, we end up with a rather strained version of the overdone standard, which doesn't seem to convey any real joy or sadness. Of course it's unfair to criticise either of them, especially Cassidy, for being unable to supply the age that made Louis Armstrong's version so compelling; but surely they could have done better than this. Big hit though it was, it's a poor ending to the album.

Eva Cassidy also appears on: Now 48, 53
Katie Melua also appears on: Now 57, 62
Available on: The Katie Melua Collection (CD + BONUS DVD)

Friday, 9 October 2009

Amy Winehouse 'Love Is A Losing Game'

Chart Peak: 46


Ah, what can you say about Amy Winehouse? Well, rather a lot by the looks of things, but I'm not sure I can be bothered with any of it. In fact I even take a certain perverse pride in not being entirely sure whether that man glimpsed in the video is Blake Fielder-Civil.

Anyway, let's ignore the whole soap opera, except to note that one possible explanation for the underwhelming chart performance of the single was that she wasn't available to promote it much around the time of release (it was reported that a planned video shoot had to be cancelled in her absence, hence the cutting-room scrapings that ended up being used). Another reason is surely that it wasn't really necessary to pull a fifth single off the already very successful Back To Black album; although a deluxe version of the album was released at the same time, this wasn't new to it. It's a slightly odd choice of single at any time, because whilst well-received it's not an obviously dramatic attention-grabbing track. That's more a strength than a weakness, in this case, and in a way it seems like a better justification for all the fuss than some of her bigger hits; but it doesn't inspire strong reactions. It does give the album a sense of winding down and might even have been a good place to end it.

Also appearing on: Now 65, 66, 67, 68
Available on: Back To Black

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Goldfrapp 'A&E'

Chart Peak: 10


Despite their theoretically different backgrounds, this track seems to fit surprisingly well after the Sugababes, with its similar mood and arrangement, although the lyrics could not be much more different. It's hard to imagine the 'Babes ever singing impressionistically about being admitted to a hospital after a non-specific near-death experience. It's reckoned to be a metaphor for a bad relationship, although of course all too many people in bad relationships find themselves all too literally ending up in casualty.

The tinkly arrangement and pastoral atmosphere of the track seem to represent a return to the style of their first album Felt Mountain after the electro leanings of the intervening two: not necessarily the most commercial decision they could have made, but one I welcomed. I didn't welcome it enough to buy the thing though: well-done as this is (it sounds good on headphones) it just doesn't seem to grab me the way a single should, especially a Top 10 single.

Also appearing on: Now 62, 63
Available on: Seventh Tree

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sugababes 'Change'

Chart Peak: 13


One of the most topical post titles you're ever likely to see on this blog, since I'm writing this shortly after the announcement that the last remaining original Sugababe has departed, with a fourth incarnation about to release a hastily re-recorded album.

But here we are at the end of 2007, with the title track of the third line-up's first album together. Though only the second single, it failed to make the Top 10 which seemed a bit of a flop at the time, but in a way it's not that surprising as there doesn't seem to be much song in there. It's obviously cut from the same cloth as other Sugababes slowies (which I admit I didn't like either) but all the little twinkly sounds in the world can't conceal the fact that it never seems to get anywhere, despite the title. Since the song seems to relate to some sort of bereavement, it's possible that there was some other motivation for releasing it as a single, but by normal standards it fails.

I think this is one of the few singles ever to be released as a USB stick, which somebody at Universal must have thought was a good idea. Also, what is going on with that video?

Also appearing on: Now 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 62, 63, 64, 66, 68, 70, 71, 74
Available on: Change

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Kate Nash 'Pumpkin Soup'

Chart Peak: 23


Full disclosure: Kate Nash is my boss's sister's neighbour's daughter.

But that didn't mean I liked 'Caroline's A Victim' or anything. And even when 'Foundations' first showed up, I was a bit unconvinced. It grew on me though, even if you allow for my bias.

One subject we can't avoid though: the voice. Living in Harrow myself, I know there are a lot of people round here who do sound like that, although I've never met anyone who sounds like Roy Stride from Scouting For Girls. Of course, it's a persona she adopts on some tracks and I can see why people dislike it, but I don't really have an objection myself. It's put to good use on the convincingly teenage 'Pumpkin Soup', where the colloquial performance lends the whole thing a sense of intimacy that helps the simple boy-meets-girl-girl-gets-confused story to ring true. It's also one of her strongest tracks musically, with credit due to producer and co-writer Paul Epworth. In places, the Made Of Bricks album suffers from a sense of confusion about which direction it's trying to go in, but in this one case they get it right, with a bubbly and instantly catchy backing track that supports the lyric without overpowering it.

Another of the few tracks from here that made it to my own MP3 player.

Also appearing on: Now 67
Available on: Made of Bricks

Monday, 5 October 2009

Amy MacDonald 'This Is The Life'

Chart Peak: 28


When this record first appeared, I have to admit I didn't really give it a very fair hearing. Instinctively cynical about any hyped new "singer-songwriter" I was deeply irritated by MacDonald's big hit 'Mr Rock And Roll', and hadn't much liked the preceding 'Poison Prince' either. Nor did I like the voice she affects on those two tracks, which seems rather forced as if she's trying to convince us she's more grown-up than the teenager that she was at the time of recording.

Eventually, though, I had to admit to myself that there was something insidiously catchy about this song, a major radio hit despite the underwhelming sales peak (and apparently an even bigger hit in other European countries). Whilst it's no masterpiece, the lyric offers some neat observational imagery, all the better for the fact that it doesn't seem to be trying to be the sort of social commentary that many of her other songs fail at. Even her voice appears a little more natural here. And so it is that, when I found Now 69 in that bin, this was one of the few tracks I moved to my own MP3 player, though I'd probably never have bought it with money.

Also appearing on: Now 68
Available on: This Is the Life

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Mark Brown featuring Sarah Cracknell 'The Journey Continues'

Chart Peak: 11


I don't know how many of the people reading this don't already know me well enough to be aware of this fact, but I haven't got a television at home. It's not a fact I'm always in a hurry to volunteer, because of come of the implications it seems to have for some people, but I mention it now to explain that when this record emerged, I seemed to be the only person in Britain who hadn't seen the advert that it's based on; I still haven't, in fact, although it's presumably online somewhere.

Anyway, the internet says that the track 'Eliza's Aria' (with the repeated soprano part) was used in a commercial which was itself entitled For The Journey, which makes the title of this record based on the sample seem a bit of a cash-in, especially since it's obviously not reflected in the lyric. Still, that's no reason to condemn it out of hand (especially since a song that actually did have that phrase in the lyric would probably be awful) and this isn't without merit. Even the parts that are original to this version are quite memorable, and there's something pleasingly melodic about it. And yet, for all that, I can't escape an odd sense that it sould be better than it actually is, somehow: perhaps part of the blame lies with Cracknell's vocal performance which I often find pretty but somehow unexpressive.

Available on: Original Hits - Dance

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Utah Saints 'Something Good 08'

Chart Peak: 8


In one way, this was among the most up-to-the-minute selections on the album, since the physical versions of the single were released on the same day as Now 69, although it had been charting on downloads for some time - indeed people even downloaded remix versions from compilation albums before the main version was available.

In another sense, of course, this was anything but moders, being a re-worked version of a hit from 1992, and of course even the original was built around a sample of 'Cloudbusting' by Kate Bush (although, oddly, that doesn't seem to have been cleared for this version and is replaced by a re-recording). There seemed to be a lot of these revivals of old dance tracks around at this time and I didn't really see the point of this, but the video's OK.

Also appearing on: Now 22 [original version of this track], 25
Available on: Now Dance Anthems

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Bloc Party 'Flux'

Chart Peak: 8


Continuing the electronic-indie crossover of the last track, but perhaps from a different direction, 'Flux' was considered a bit of a surprising shift for Bloc Party, who'd made their name as one of the many post-punk bands in the middle of this decade. They were never straight-ahead rock band as such, but the wholesale embrace of dance music surprised some listeners, particularly I suspect the ones who only knew the band by their singles. The public loved it though; whilst not their highest-charting single, it's by far their biggest seller. Mind you, this might be partly because it was a new track, added to their existing album A Weekend In The City and we didn't want to buy the album again (the fact that they've done similar things with their other two albums might reduce first-week sales of their fourth).

In fact, it's only in order to write this post that I've tried listening to the album with this track at the intended point in the sequence, and it's a standout in more ways than one. Much as it doesn't quite seem to fit into the rest of the album, it's an excellent track that takes on pop at its own game, capturing the confusion of the modern world (the modern world is always confusing of course, because it's the one you have to live your life in) and yet still remaining danceable. A stand-out track by an act at the top of their game, although there's no getting away from the fact that it's an awful name for a band.

Also appearing on: Now 60
Available on: A Weekend in the City (Special Edition)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Hot Chip 'Ready For The Floor'

Chart Peak: 6


...Speaking of breakthroughs that didn't entirely go to plan. Around the time Now 69 arrived, Hot Chip seemed ideally poised for stardom; they had critical acclaim in spades, their album The Warning had been rather a sleeper hit and the single from it, 'Over And Over', was one of those songs everybody knew and liked but nobody bought. This first single from their third album was a record that people actually did buy, bouncing into the Top 10 and pulling that album along behind it. For reasons not instantly apparent, the return seemed to falter after that, and they've yet to manage a proper follow-up hit.

'Ready For The Floor' is not an instantly obvious hit, with its slightly nerdy combination of alternative and electronica which doesn't quite seem to have the strengths of either. That said, it grew on me even during the first time I replayed it for this post, and probably not only because I'd got beyond the slightly irritating "Do it, do it, do it" intro. It's undeniably catchy, but you have to wonder whether people would have thought it was as cool if it said Mike & The Mechanics on the sleeve.

Available on: Made in the Dark

One Night Only 'Just For Tonight'

Chart Peak: 9


As you can see from the YouTube comments, it wasn't only me who thought of the "One Hit Only" joke. After the Top 50 success of 'You And Me', this big anthemic track was issued in January 2008 with evident record company support to launch them as the stars of the year, and successful as it was they've yet to score another Top 30 hit; even a reissue of the first single ended up doing worse than the original.

In all honesty, this doesn't come as a total surprise on hearing the record itself. It pushes all the right buttons and has an easy familiarity about it, and it's pleasant enough to hear but almost entirely devoid of personality. It doesn't even have the Britishness of their previous 45, with the reference to "open plains" in that first verse, and really feels a bit too anonymous to build a career on. It was also tainted somewhat by the little-noticed chart hyping scandal. Still, it's likeable and feels like the sun coming out after the thorough awfulness of the previous track.
At the end of the song though, it seems to run out of steam even more than one of my blog posts and just stops.

Available on: Started A Fire

Monday, 28 September 2009

Scouting For Girls 'Elvis Ain't Dead'

Chart Peak: 8


Apologies for the lateness of that last post. I couldn't tell why I kept not having the motivation to write it and then I realised: as soon as I did, I'd have to do this one.

In fact, the chart performance of this record was mildly interesting, as it underperformed over the festive period at the end of 2007 but crept into the Top 10 in the new year; the sort of thing that used to happen regularly but was almost unheard of in the ten or fifteen years before this. It even returned to the Top 40 (albeit only from 44) when Now 69 arrived.

A YouTube commenter calls it "good for helping me kill more on call of duty." So many obvious jokes, so little time... It really is difficult to catalogue everything that's annoying about this record, but we can make do with the oppressively bright production, the chirpy "look at me" vocal, the single-finger piano and the fact that this sounds so similar to the other five singles they dredged off their debut album, as well as the seemingly endless number of other acts ploughing the same furrow - we've already met The Feeling and the even more similar Hoosiers. And just when it seems like it can't get worse, they add that predictable "Elvis has left the building" joke at the end. You can only envy him.

Incidentally, I did contemplate labelling posts about local acts, but so far it would only apply to these guys and Peter Andre. I think I'll leave it a while.

Also appearing on: Now 68, 70
Available on: Scouting For Girls

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Alphabeat 'Fascination'

Chart Peak: 6


I know it's not their first language, but I can't help being mildly annoyed by the way they pronounce the word "Fascination" during the verses.

There's a school of thought which praises ostensibly simple pop music as an antidote to the drive for authenticity in rock or urban music. And it's one I can understand, but the risk is that this can become as much of a pose as fandom of serious music, and still leaves the peer pressure problem. Inasmuch as I care at all, I'd be more afraid to be seen not liking this than on more conventionally acclaimed music.

Still, I've got to be honest. Although I admire the big stadium-sized drum sound, and I'm interested to notice the opening lyric "Easy living killed the young dudes" - which I suspect some buyers of the record might have missed - the total effect comes over as contrived, and that whispery bit in the middle is almost too annoying for words. Perhaps it's unfair of me to have so little patience with bands who look like they're enjoying themselves too much. But this reminds me too much of a song from a musical.

Also appearing on: Now 70, 71
Available on:This is Alphabeat