The Dirty Dozen - May, 2009

Spoilt little popsters, soft rock poseurs and 12 stone toddlers. <b>Nick Mitchell</b> assesses a strange batch of singles

Feature by Nick Mitchell | 01 May 2009

Lily Allen’s continuing success is a mystery to this writer. Granted, when she first emerged with her headstrong girl-about-town shtick, she seemed a bit different to the gag-inducing American pop prancers. But latest single Not Fair (*, 11 May) takes the high school lyricism to new depths, with such timeless classics as “He’s not like all them other boys.” So what of the new ladies nipping at her heels? First up, the BBC-tipped Little Boots, aka 24-year-old Victoria Hesketh, must be aiming for some of Lily’s glory, given that she uses the same producer. But debut effort New In Town (**, 25 May) is a blandly commercial tale of her first visit to LA, set to cheap sounding beeps and squelches. Marginally better is Please Don’t Touch (***, 4 May) by quirkier-than-thou songstress Polly Scattergood. Again, it’s all fairly inconsequential and frothy, but at least she recognises the need for some semblance of originality.

I wasn’t holding out much hope from a double A-side penned by a band called 12 Stone Toddler. But they combine tight, boppy indie rock with an ear for a pop singalong on both sides of Batten Down The Hatches / Broken Hearts & Battle Scars (****, 25 May). The sound of a band having a good time. By contrast, everything about Goldhawks is carefully tailored to a 'we mean business' style, from the Bon Jovi-esque vocals to the overblown production. Where In The World (*, 4 May) receives the lowest rating, if only to slow their inevitable rise to stardom in my own tiny way. Like buses, you wait all day for one excremental soft rocker to pan and two come along at once. Co-written by ex-Neighbour Natalie Imbruglia (instant kudos then?), Apologise (*, 3 May) by London band Ben’s Brother is guff of the highest order, sorta like when record labels force a boy band to hold guitars.

With the rancid smell left by those two still wafting in the air, what better way of clearing it than with the musical Febreze that is Passion Pit? The Americans worship at the shrine of synth, and can rightfully take up the mantle of Giogio Moroder on the evidence of the giddily uplifting The Reeling (****, 11 May). Team Waterpolo practice a similar brand of innocently joyful pop, albeit with about six fewer synthesizers. They appeared in this column over a year ago, and while new single Room 44 (***, 18 May) could well catapult them to success, it’s not much of a step forward in musical terms. Another band who have been kicking around the periphery for a while is Glaswegians The Cinematics. But their time may finally come, because while Love and Terror (***, 4 May) is rather backward in its Interpol-meets-Arcade Fire sound, it contains more than enough kick to make a few radio playlists.

Unbeknownst to less savvy bands, the cool sound has apparently moved on from post-punk; or more accurately, moved backwards. As evidence, Atlanta hell-raisers Black Lips take on board the primitive hooks of 1960s doo-wop, which they hurl against their wailing garage rock on new single I’ll Be With You (****, 18 May). Another hyped American band, Grizzly Bear, herald a forthcoming third album with the bright and breezy Two Weeks (****, 18 May). Built on a stark piano line and meaty drums, its glorious chamber pop falls somewhere along the road between Brian Wilson and The Shins. We Were Promised Jetpacks, the latest Fat Cat-signed Scottish band, are about to unleash their debut album on the world, but before that comes lead single Quiet Little Voices (*****, 4 May). List its constituent parts and it appears ordinary: an incessant, rusty guitar line, rushed drumming and repetitive lyrics. But add it all together and the effect is exhilarating in an entirely charming way; a resounding single of the month.