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Friday, January 23, 2004

SIA - Don't Bring Me Down
Really, it's like the late 90s never happened. That was when, you recall, that teen pop and hip-hop began to own everybody's collective booty, and it was no longer sufficient to mumble over songs, making it the most significant era of modern pop ever really, and artists who were that little bit more chilled or restrained started following the red line on the chart downwards.

Except for Sia, who basically ruins a very pretty song by not doing enough with it. When her volume goes up, she sounds very effective, there's a hauntingness in the delivery (especially the pre-chorus) and its interplay with the music, which is one part 90s commercial trip-hop and one part of whatever the Martina Topley Bird album was. What's frustrating is that just after singing a line with a bit of force, she fades into the background and she might as well not be there (the chorus being particularly guilty of this), and one's left begging for someone with a bit more presence to have turned this into the gorgeous heart-tugger it was surely intended to be. I'm still not inoculated against the charms of a well-placed bit of string over a downmixed guitar and a slow beat, but seriously, that hushed, sleepy vocal trick is a bit played.
# 9:35 AM []

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Been a while, eh? But new MP3s. Firstly, my favourite track off Melissa Auf Der Maur's debut album is Would If I Could which sounds like Melissa's band ate the Bangles and Veruca Salt. As you'd expect, there's lots of lovely bass on the album, and the overall feel of this track would make you think Melissa had momentarily been in Zwan, not Smashing Pumpkins. Also, the silly but enjoyable cover of Poison by Groove Coverage is there, waiting for you to hear it and then tell me how rubbish it is. Nothing on the Franz Ferdinand album is as stomp-tastic as the big single, but 40ft has a sly, creeping riff, a nice airy, sing-song melody with la-la-las and is generally very pleasing. And, lest you think that I've gone soft on rock, In Your Eyes is hotly tipped to be the Lithuanian entrant in the 2004 Eurovision song contest. I like it. It's not fantastic, but the not-riff at the end of the chorus is a bit catchy. There will be more like it.
# 7:54 PM []

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

NOVASPACE - Beds Are Burning
Even casual readers of this blog would know that I am in no way averse to cheesy dance makeovers of hits from the past, and in fact think they are quite peachy. But this, oh, maybe it's time for a drastic rethink on the matter. I'd always wondered if this song was known worldwide, and I see that Midnight Oil indeed took it to #6 in the UK, so it's well known enough for Novaspace to have a crack at it - they are perhaps best known for their rubbish but inoffensive take on Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time.

This, though is in another league of awful. No, it's not because it's ruining some classic rock song. It's not because Novaspace bods and the chick singer (whoever she is) couldn't possibly convey how deep and important it is either, because that sort of thing doesn't matter. Politics don't have to be sincere if the beat kills, and what does matter is that this is a hugely limp cover. In all senses of the word. You can't just snap your fingers, make a woman sing a song and make it a dancefloor belter. Often there needs to be a fundamental shift in musical arrangement and structure, but Novaspace were clearly a bit lazy or inept to bother with anything of the sort.

If you're going to dance-ify something, at least have the guts to do it properly. None of this sugary guitar all over the place as some kind of nod to the original's sound. That's just weak-kneed stupidity. Those things that don't matter - they also happen to be true, which is a convenient entry point for giving this song the panning it deserves, but the wrongs go far deeper than just bad intent. You can't even dance to it.
# 11:31 PM []
Sigh, yet another boring one. It's nearly all repeats, people. Black Eyed Peas (1), Limp Bizkit (0), Alexander (0), Evanescence (8), Outkast (10), Sarah Conner/Naturally 7 (3) and No Doubt (9).

4. Seal - Love's Divine. And to rub salt into the wounds of boring, this one was around last time. It's like a horrid stench that won't go away. No, it's not really that bad. If it came on the radio I wouldn't turn it off, but fortunately I can't ever see that happening unless I begun listening to easy listening radio. 3

8. Zeichen Der Zeit - Du Bist Nicht Allein. I accidentally downloaded another song with the same title, easy to understand as the title means "you are not alone" and as such there'd be dozens. This one probably stands to be a good one, having two seemingly disconnected guitar bits bridged by a bit of drumming. Promising. It's then rendered a bit crap by a faint woman who, to my ears, doesn't fit the music at all. Then a guy comes in, and I question why I bother trying to explain why boring songs are boring. Gets a point for the intro sounding a little bit like the A*Teens' A Perfect Match. 3

10. Groove Coverage - Poison. Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh yes, a dance cover of Alice Cooper and it's craptacular. I love Alice Cooper, I think it goes back to his good-natured showings on the Muppet Show, as featured on an old Beta compilation called The Muppets Rock or something. Much, much better than Daphne & Celeste's take on School's Out. S Club Juniors need to get cracking on a version of Department Of Youth right this minute. It's got a really lovely menacing bass noise in the intro which turns into some bass farts underneath that prechorus (you know, "I wanna love you...") , which sounds fantastic, and there are stomping drums and nice backing vocals in the chorus. Inasmuch as being a dance remake, it's fairly faithful, and at 3 minutes it's been trimmed a bit. Anyway, as far as these sorts of things go, it's a belter. 9

Well after 26 in the last round, this was bound to be an improvement. 47 is respectable, but this is still a very, very soppy chart, and an average of 36.5 is not good.
# 8:39 PM []
Okay, normality is back, baby. France is a little more interesting this time than the Netherlands, at any rate. Star Academy 3's double A-side recurs (4), as does Helene Segara (7) and The Rasmus (8) which surely makes that particular Finnish group the biggest rock band in Europe that nobody outside Europe or inside the UK has ever heard, and that they're ripe for launching on the rest of the world, right?

1. Tragedie - Sexy Pour Moi. Very minimalist, a beat a bass and some tracked vocals, but rather impaired by that fake record wicky-wicky noise and the fact that I can't seem to remember the tune. At all, seriously. 4 because it could have been rather great.

3. Lorie - Weekend. Right, what we have hear is a collossal clusterfuck between the Steps songs where H sings (just the backing vocals), the Spring song with the fake rock sound and Hilary Duff. In parts, we have an insanely hooky chorus delivered with brattish charm by a young woman under a highly excitable backing. Which is good. 7

5. Antonn Kareen/Bonnie Tyler - Si Demain (Turn Around). Right, now this is a bit of a strange one. As you might have guessed, this is a cover of all-time classic mega-power-ballad par excellence Total Eclipse Of The Heart sung in French and English. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it - the song is a classic (except Nicki French's version, yes), mixing languages within songs can work extremely well, but something is not quite right. It doesn't sound really massive like the original. You know, you hear it on the radio or see it on TV (on a "classics" show or something) and it almost bursts out of the speakers and distorts, and this one doesn't stretch or strain at the sweeping majesty of the original. Still, it's a great song and it's not ruined per se, so 6

6. Star Academy 3 - La Bamba. Was mentioned only last round, so is now ripe for another slagging. If this were known outside of Europe, there would be dozens of people saying that it's one of the most gutless, needless cover versions everywhere. And they'd be damn right to, because I hear this lifeless retelling and my stomach churns. I feel embarassed for these people singing here. 0

8. Hilary Duff - So Yesterday. Unusually, what I said last round is still true - her delivery isn't clipped or obnoxious enough for this. The song's at fault too, wasting a title ripe for a naughty but precious kiss-off, but this is far too sweet when it would have been better done sour. 5

9. Garou - Reviens (Ou Te Caches-Tu?). Structurally, at least, this isn't a world away from the sort of thing that gets played on classic rock radio. I like the first half of the chorus, particularly at the end with the low-mixed but nicely placed brass. That said, not very exciting. 4

10. Singuila - C'est Trop. Such a simple base for this song - a riff of piano and a beat repeated over again, and it works very well. The melody strikes me as being from a song of another era. It has lovely melodic but wordless things going on in the chorus and in the breaks to the verses, and it's generally very pleasant to listen to. It'd be perfect for driving down the French coastline on a sunny day - of course I have never been to France. 8

That makes 53, quite an improvement on last time, would have been competitive if not for those pesky Star Academy twats. Or if the fantastic Pearl single hadn't just fallen out of the ten this week. Bugger, etc. Total is 91
# 10:37 AM []

Monday, January 19, 2004

Yes, France is supposed to come next, but the Netherlands is full of repeats, and since I'm barely recovered from moving, I shall have to stick to something within my means.

Those repeats then. Marco Basto (7), Aventura (3), Black Eyed Peas (1), No Doubt (9), Evanescence (8) and for fuck's sake, Limp Bizkit (0). See what I mean? That leaves....

2. Frans Bauer - Heb Je Even Voor Mij. I think I have this a 7 last time with sort of ambivalent comments. That may have been some kind of defense mechanism because I suspected the song was rather uncool and liking it would tar me. Now I've found my own voice I reject that and admit that it's rather great. The carnivalesque atmosphere is just irresistable, particularly the bit in the middle where most of the music cuts out which is just good pop fun. Totally disposable, mind. 8

8. Nelly Furtado - Poweless (Say What You Want). You know, it's nice, this, that after bombing in the States, Nelly is doing quite well for herself in Europe, particularly with a track whose charms are so subtle. I can certainly imagine this sounding like a breath of fresh air after a Europop assault, and this sounds lovely and spacious, the banjo is terrific and the vocal hooks might take five or six listens, but they work. Plus, there's a strong sense of her identity in Nelly perhaps for the first time. Rest of the album a bit crap, mind. 9

9. Girls Aloud - Jump. Right, now I've consigned myself to the fact that Girls Aloud are going down the pan this sounds even better, it's probably going to be their last good single, and it really is still sounding terrific. I even saw the video in what'll probably be its only screening on Australian TV. Yes, this has a spring in its step and couldn't give two shits about being clever or ironic - a very respectful cover. 9

10. Sugababes - Too Lost In You. This song is also a cover. The original version is in French though, and is nowhere near as good. For today, my favourite bit is the lyrics in the second verse. But it changes all the time, which is why this is a great song. Can't be arsed writing more as it was in my top 25 of last year and there's a perfectly good post about it in the archives. 10

Yes. That would be 64, wouldn't it? Making a total of 133. Menacing, eh?

And nothing to do with charts or The Netherlands, I'd like to plug the fact that So This Is Love is now posting Mp3s. Nice.
# 11:08 PM []
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