The Dirty Dozen - April, 2009
Disco-pop, DIY indie and Dundonians all clash in this month’s round-up. <b>Nick Mitchell</b> sorts through the debris
Another month, another New York band taunt us with a musical peek into their impossibly glamorous lives. This time it’s The Virgins, with Rich Girls (***, 6 Apr), a tale of broken mirrors and idle afternoons set to a Studio-54-meets-DFA beat. With our minds wandering across the Atlantic, just as well The View are on hand to haul us back to dreary Scotland. Temptation Dice (****, 13 Apr) is the best single to be plucked from their second album so far, because it plays to their limited strengths: bright guitars and Kyle Falconer’s enunciated Dundonian yowl. Zooming down the M90 and along the M8, we find ourselves on the doorsteps of Scotland’s other indie chart-stormers, Franz Ferdinand. No You Girls (***, 6 Apr) finds Govan’s biggest style icons hitting the dancefloor again, albeit in a rather superficial manner.
The xx are the newest alumni of the London comprehensive that gave the world Hot Chip, Burial and Four Tet, but the good news is that they’ve managed to forge a sound all of their own. Crystalised (****, 27 Apr) is hushed, lo-fi indie with an R’n’B feel, thanks to the honey-coated vocals of the boy/girl lead singers. Ill Ease (aka Brooklyn multi-instrumentalist Elizabeth Sharp) adds noise and attitude to a similar DIY template. But The Whole Sha-Bang! (***, 13 Apr) probably pushes the too-cool-to-sing-properly nonchalance a bit too far, like an especially languid Karen O.
So, apparently over there in the Land of Pop, someone called Lady Gaga had a hit this year called Just Dance. And I can only assume that Poker Face (*, 13 Apr) is the massively commercial follow-up to that massively commercial hit. Real music fans: move along now, nothing to see. After that manufactured monotony, it's refreshing to hear a band like Metronomy taking pop in a more interesting direction. Radio Ladio (***, 6 Apr) is the robotic chant-a-long single from one of my favourite albums of 2008; not their finest moment perhaps, but it’s electronically nourishing nonetheless.
Most famous for that eerily corporate chill-out sound that graced post-millennial hits by the likes of All Saints and Madonna, über-producer William Orbit now returns with solo material. And, you guessed it, Optical Illusions (**, 20 Apr) is more of the same wankadelic elevator soundtracking. Taking Orbit’s cue, Jon Hopkins also makes meandering, ambient electronica. Light Through The Veins (*, 27 Apr) won him the support slot on a recent Coldplay tour, which is quite appropriate, since this track is a bland, sleepy waste of nine (yes nine) minutes. Coming to a Travelodge lobby near you.
What’s happened to dodgy dancer/nu-skiffle pioneer Jack Peñate in the past year? Evidently sensing a critical backlash against his wide-eyed, loose-jointed pop, he’s only gone all Latin on our asses. But amazingly, Tonight’s Today (****, 30 Mar) actually works, in its Balearic-slash-samba way. Someone who could take a leaf out of the Peñate book of reinvention is Londoner Geoff Smith, who goes by the stage name Loner. I’m Not Sorry (**, 6 Apr) is a wistful, piano-led number that suffers from sounding like a million other plaintive loners. Which only leaves the coronation of King Creosote as maker of Single of the Month. Coast On By (****, 27 Apr) would probably have ended up as just another acoustic folk number from the Fence collective heid honcho, were it not for the cut ’n’ paste antics of ex-Beta Band frontman Steve Mason, who adds snarling synth to the cosily melodic KC blueprint.
King Creosote plays his own Homegame festival, which takes place in Anstruther, Fife, 17-19 Apr. Tickets available from www.fencerecords.com.http://www.kingcreosote.com