The Dirty Dozen - August, 2009
This month's CD stack runs the gamut from East Neuk folk to South London hip-hop. Nick Mitchell packs his earphones for the journey
Having exorcised his inner crooner with The Last Shadow Puppets, Alex Turner returns to the day job as Arctic Monkeys frontman with Crying Lightning (***, 17 Aug). But while this Josh Homme-produced track is built on meaty guitars and a lolloping beat, Turner’s voice still clings to the smooth glamour of the Puppets when some of his former snarl would have done the trick. One band who thrive in smooth mode are London soul kids The xx, who make a return to this column after their debut single was praised in April. The follow-up, Basic Space (***, 3 Aug), is another distinctively lo-fi R’n’B jam, although this time their languid singing style is an inch too close to posturing apathy. The reissued single rears its head again, and this month’s déjà-vu moment comes from Team Waterpolo. Over a year ago they received a generous three stars in this column for Letting Go (**, 18 Aug). One less this time, because it hasn’t aged well.
6 Day Riot, the London folk-pop act fronted by Glaswegian Tamara Schlesinger, have been attracting some hype lately. While the trumpet-led O Those Kids (**, 3 Aug) is a breezy toe-tapper, its appeal is fleeting at best, so that by its end you’ve almost forgotten what it sounds like. James Yorkston takes a more scholarly approach to folk with his new collaborators The Big Eyes Family Players. The two songs chosen for the double A-side Martinmas Time / I Went to Visit the Roses (***, 3 Aug) are both trad standards that Yorkston adopts in his own understated but mellifluous way. Underlining the Fence Collective's experimental abilities, Yorkston's old mate King Creosote does something very different with his own single. He was so impressed by London DJ Bullion's funky remix of No One Had It Better (****, 17 Aug) that he's released it as a single, and covered the remix of his own song for the B-side. A preposterous idea that, like most preposterous ideas, actually works.
It's difficult to know what to make of English band The Heavy. On the one hand, their swaggering rock take on 1970s American funk is hardly groundbreaking. On the other, new single How You Like Me Now? (**, 31 Aug) is undeniably good. But for me the lack of fresh ideas is a real drawback. In contrast to The Heavy’s full-fat sound, Lovvers aim for unrefined minimalism on OCD Go Go Girls (***, 3 Aug). This no-frills punk clatter sounds like it was recorded in a cold, cramped garage, and it's probably just a bit too lo-fi for its own good.
If you wiped away some of the synth gloss of Little Boots' latest chart-bound single Remedy (**, 17 Aug) and gave it a nastily cheesy beat, it would sound like late-80s Kylie Minogue. It's really is just brainless, bubblegum sentiment coated in glitter, but then I suppose that's what pop music is. At least she doesn’t have to deal with the kind of shuddering typo that graces the press notes that accompany the new Metric CD. I quote: "the latest, sleekest electro poop gem from the Canadian band". While Gimme Sympathy (**, 3 Aug) isn't exactly faecal, it certainly is sleek. Whether that means they’ve managed to do the impossible and polish a turd is anyone’s guess.
This month’s Dozen is rounded off in true urban style. London DJ/remix duo The Nextmen have recruited long-term accomplice Ms Dynamite to rap in her finest Jamaican Patois over Lion's Den (***, 3 Aug), a taut, brutal electro-dub track. Whether it has much currency north of the M25 is another matter. But move over Dy-na-mit-ee, because there's a new, female conscious rap star on the block. Speech Debelle is a 25-year-old South Londoner who combines her slick rhymes with a sinister ambience on Better Days (****, 10 Aug). A guest vocal from Micachu only adds to the track's dark allure, edging it across the Single of the Month finishing line.