Painful intra-band break-ups have served the Subways well, as Kevin Core finds much to love in their new offering while veterans Portishead, Paul Weller, Nick Cave and Scousers The Maybes? and Pop Levi get the treatment in our singles round-up.
The Subways: Alright – Single of the Week
Top catchy stuff that infects your head and won’t leave, perfect for the summer, this is a peach. It kicks off like Sugar and with ace harmonies but there’s a headnodding bass and piano workout at the end to get into. But following up 30,000 downloads of Girls and Boys with a single called Alright? There are a lot of song titles out there guys – what next, Inbetweener?
Coldplay: Violet Hill
I distinctly remember Coldplay promising us a radical change of direction influenced by world music. For a band with the cash to match their aspirations they’ve changed their minds judging by this.
Or they’ve ran out of air miles. Or they’ve looked at the world and decided it’s rubbish and not worth bothering with. All the pieces are present are correct here and it’s Coldplay.
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Town Topic
Kicking off with Ice Cream Truck Owen Ashworth‘s lo fi alternative to an aborted film-making career is hard not to like. The opening track does indeed sound like a Mr Whippy van and the fragile instrumental and fuzzed out ditties fill you with same summery nostalgia. Sweet.
Hercules and the Love Affair: You Belong
Dance with ambitions this is a cool team up with Antony (of Johnsons fame). Best described as a bit like Soul II Soul with a white dude hollerin’ on it, it never really lets rip in the way you want it too, but it’s a million miles ahead of the norm, innovative in a genre that needs it.
Portishead: The Rip
Dance around your handbag! Hands in the air! It’s Portishead! Beth Gibbons comes over as Leonard Cohen‘s slightly disturbed sister in this bleak acoustic track, but there’s a tonne of atmosphere. The guitar arpeggios swell into a synthy background that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear on a BBC schools’ science programme.
It flips the track on its head and Beth’s always top for an emotive vocal, so while it’s not one for your toddler’s birthday party, it might be one for… drowning your sorrows after a particularly nasty divorce.
Paul Weller: Have You Made Up Your Mind Yet?
Looking increasingly like Rhys Ifans‘ dad, Weller turns a bit more Style Council but there are no major changes.
Full marks for a bit of musical adventure, but there’s a chord at the start of the chorus here that made me wince like I’d sucked a lemon. There’s more fun to be had with a Noel collaboration, Echoes Round the Sun, which could be set to a car chase in a ’60s crime caper. That’s Noel Gallagher by the way – not Noel Edmonds.
Accomplished but never rising above the pleasant, this debut single cruises along at a nice driving pace – but reveals a trad band set in a vein of MOR that never quite gets the heart going.There’s a decent melody here but it’s not the strongest vocal performance and the jury’s out.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: More News from Nowhere
Specially commissioned by the book shop on Bold Street (this is a lie), Cave’s new single comes across as a laid back relative of Zappa‘s Trouble Every Day. Resolutely refusing to go anywhere chord-wise, it’s a sleazy, rocky jaunt but oddly, lets itself down with some predictable lyrics.
The Fratellis: Mistress Mabel
The rhyming dictionary may have fallen open at ” – able” but there’s a welcome move away from the pub chant singalong here. The whole thing moves up to a pretty irresistible chorus with a nice swagger – and it rocks out to with a bit of My Sharona style spangly fretwork. Solid stuff, better than the old.
Johnny Flynn: Tickle Me Pink
Raw, rootsy folk that would sound just right in a pub after a fishing expedition. And I’ve just read that this guy was in fact a fisherman. Cool.
Minimal percussion and a strangely pleasant ‘When You’re Dead‘ singout at the end adds up to tuneful, warm, and thought provoking stuff, delivered full pelt. He’s got a great voice perfectly suited to the material.
Handsfree: If You Hold My Hand
Big summery retro dance tune this, the sort of thing Tarantino might dig out for a film – it’s been beefed up in a JXL style, remaining pretty true to a soulful original. It’s a pretty straight version and the brass will definitely wake you up when you hear it on the radio. Which you will. A lot.
The Maybes?: Boys (pictured above)
Cool, angular guitar work buzzes away madly here, proving there’s more to these chaps than the oft mentioned jangle factor. I prefer the Wire-style riffing here to the chorus, which in comparison to the tightly worked verse sounds a bit back of a beer mat.
Dare I say the chorus is in fact a bit camp compared to it? Maybe it’s because if I here a chorus about boys I think of Bowie and Boys Keep Swinging. Still love the verse.
Sliding effortlessly from a pensive, dark mope to an madly edgy jumping piece of pure twang, this is all tight drumming over a Spectrum game soundtrack – but with guitars. It’s dead interesting too, full marks for the full engagement of the ears. This is complex stuff and it asks for a close listen as there’s tonnes going on.
Pop Levi: Dita Dimone
This squelchy funk strut about the eponymous lady Dita has a nice groove but almost outstays its welcome. Although the song is fun and it isn’t long, the effect of constant repetition of the title in a simple poppy riff is it drives you a bit nuts.
Nuts enough to listen to it again and count how many times he does it. I kid you not, he says her name 37 times in this song. No joke.