The Dirty Dozen - November, 2008
This month sees the return of Razorlight, the lesser-spotted five-star rating, and practically everything in between. Nick Mitchell dons his headphones.
And November’s single of the month goes to... Razorlight. Sorry, wrong envelope. I meant to pick up the one for 'Most nauseous, mock-sincere rock ballad of the month'. That one goes to them for Wire to Wire (*, Out Now), Johnny Borrell’s latest rectum-dwelling soliloquy. Presumably the misspelling of Isle of Man band Loverman's debut single, Crucifiction (**, 17 Nov), is deliberate. At any rate, they're trying to be the new Bad Seeds but veer far too close to Jet-style rock-schlock for their aim to be taken seriously. Employing a similar low-wave distortion frequency, The Hold Steady do a much better job of keeping blue-collar rock’n’roll alive. Stay Positive (***, Out Now) is a brazen, fists-in-the-air chant-a-long (insert other masculine rock clichés here). A very different proposition, Haunts open London’s Burning (**, 17 Nov) with a gothic, kitsch, Hammer Horror intro, then break into a much sunnier indie-pop chorus, which they alternate throughout the song. Interesting? Yes. Enough to sustain a career in the music industry? Perhaps not.
With newcomers like Gavin Gordon, Alex Cornish and Rob St John, the Scottish singer/songwriter scene is blossoming, and now we can add another name: Brendan Campbell. On Burgers and Murders (****, Out Now) the Glaswegian Campbell sings evocatively about a summer walk through his native Pollock, in all its dubious glories. In this respect it’s a bit reminiscent of the Paul Weller song Stanley Road, which brings me neatly onto the Modfather’s latest effort. The double A-side Sea Spray/22 Dreams (***, 3 Nov) reveals nothing new from him, but it's still good enough to warrant his eternal presence on the covers of the nation’s dad-rock magazines.
I have so far managed to live my life in complete indifference to Tracy Chapman. And after a swift spin of Sing For You (**, 3 Nov) I'm happy to remain undisturbed in this respect. Can Gabriella Cilmi, the just-turned-17 Aussie songstress, follow Chapman’s path to MOR success? If she keeps churning out Radio 2-ready songs like Sanctuary (**, 10 Nov) it’s quite likely. Lykke Li, on the other hand, is the real deal. The Twilight Sad voted her single of the month in their anarchic Dirty Dozen takeover in June, and Little Bit (****, Out Now) is another stripped-down gem.
There really isn’t enough electro in this column. So Mr Beasley (not a man but a boy-girl duo) has attempted to right this wrong with Right As Rain (***, 10 Nov) which, if there were electro calories, would be twice your recommended daily intake.
The battle for single of the month comes down to two of the most hyped bands to break this year. Friendly Fires have put the funk firmly back into, er, punk-funk, their debut album a pulsating onslaught of slap bass and cowbell. Paris (***, 10 Nov), though, is let down by a rare burst of Hallmark schmaltz: “And every night we’ll watch the stars / They’ll be out for us.” In truth there was never any contest. Late of the Pier couldn’t fail to win in this or any month with Bathroom Gurgle (*****, Out Now). Let me break down this extraordinary four-minute song: a long intro of Sparks-esque electro; slows, stately stadium rock guitars crash in behind soaring falsetto chorus; double-speed with vocoder backing; stadium rock bit; speeds up again; stadium rock again; falsetto soars off the scale; ends. Bands take note: that’s how you win single of the month.