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Saturday, March 13, 2004

TM REVOLUTION - Albiero
Sweet Jesus, where has this song been all my life? Imagine if you will, the most hyper excesses of mid-to-late 90s Sudafed-snorting dance fused to the babbling of J-Pop and ALSO with a cheesy guitar solo, a hook in absolutely every bar and lots of thudding bits all over the place. You have this, my new favourite single of 2004 so far. Yet another song I'm glad I don't understand the words of, because as it is, it's just one long sugar rush, and impeccably structured at that.

Forget the breakneck pace and bubble-gum with steroids melody, there's even a fantastic pre-chorus, the aforementioned guitar solo in the middle-eight and this really terrific bit where the frenzied beat gives out a little into gigantic crashes announcing "Massive crushing, mindless body-thrashing chorus is coming up in three seconds!". It sounds like the sort of music that would give my brother (who likes proper dance music) nightmares, so I love it by default.
 
# 11:56 PM []
AGNETHA FALSKOG - If I Thought You'd Ever Change Your Mind
Yes, Agnetha. From ABBA. Not doing an uptempo disco stomper, but instead doing a restrained, respectful take on Cilla Black's career-twilight hit. And really, what else can one say? It sounds like a song from the 60s. She sounds exactly as you'd expect she would. There's absolutely nothing about it that's impressive or upsetting, and it's probably going to a) upset ABBA fans who were expecting something interesting, and b) upset the other group who will argue til they're blue in the face that this is a great song. Let's be frank - it's the closing credits music from a light romantic drama film and absolutely nothing else. Well sung (particularly the last line, where she hovers up and down in a lovely fashion), well arranged and no more essential than hearing the original and imagine it slightly tarted over and sung in a fairly blank fashion by her from ABBA. Looks good for her age, at least.

(UPDATE: As of Sunday, I actually quite like it now.)
 
# 10:09 AM []
THE CROSS-EUROPE CHART CHALLENGE... of Death! SWITZERLAND
I did this out of order, I did. Because the prospect of listening to the wet Swiss hit parade didn't appeal when I'm on a long weekend and demand pop glee rather than downer ballads. Still, duty called. Repeats: Black Eyed Peas (0), Britney Spears (10), Kevin Lyttle (9), George Michael (9).

1. MUSICSTARS - A Kiss Goodbye. Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart. As rearranged by Pete Waterman to include an uptempo chorus bit. But sung entirely by boy and girl group members that usually only sing during the choruses. And one who sounds a bit like Pink when she "rocks". 3

2. JAMELIA - Superstar. Conquering the world, one chart at a time. Love her while it's still OK - the song Chris Martin wrote for her is probably going to be the next single. 10

6. MUSICSTARS - Lost In Love. Oh for fuck's sake. Horrible mid-tempo ballad thing with horrible group vocals, over-the-top emotion that just sounds out of place with the Valium Chorus beneath it. Appalling in all senses of the word. 0

7. KAREEN ANTONIN/BONNIE TYLER - Si Demain/Turn Around. Nope, can't think of anything to add from last round. This remains a rather muted, if pleasant, rendition of the most massive pop ballad ever created. 6

8. PL√úSCH - Irgendeinisch. Sounds like it's going to push all the bile buttons at once, with the tasteful piano, a bit of wah-wah (I think) below and an all-too-MOR opening. But then the chorus comes in and there are proper guitars, proper hooks and, gasp, energy! Okay, it's not good in any real way, but it's agreeable enough. And the vocals aren't bad, really. 5

9. LIMP BIZKIT - Behind Blue Eyes. Cunts, as ever. 0

52. How'd that happen? No idea either. Nearly as much as they achieved in the first two rounds. So they're 119, and still very much the stragglers. Average is 39.667.
 
# 10:02 AM []

Thursday, March 11, 2004

THE CROSS-EUROPE CHART CHALLENGE... of Death! UNITED KINGDOM
Opening myself up to criticism that I only do this when I've run out of stuff to write about, here's another entry.

Britney Spears (10) is #1 - glee! For this is clearly her best single since the mighty Born To Make You Happy way back FOUR years ago - although there were some album tracks off Britney that I think are just as good. Oh and Outkast (9) are #9.

2. DJ CASPER - Cha Cha Slide. While I have long been in support of dance music that sounds like Livin' Joy coming back, it does not need a fecking aerobics workout above it. 0

3. PETER ANDRE - Mysterious Girl. This initially came out when I was trying to be an indie kid, and since Peter's first few singles were really annoying, I hated this as well. Unfair? Perhaps. I return to it in 2004, a reborn Child of The Pop, and it still sounds shit. Quelle surprise? 0

4. GEORGE MICHAEL - Amazing. What else, but a terrific uptempo pop song? 9

5. KYLIE MINOGUE - Red Blooded Woman. Apparently the mighty Chocolate is her next single. That shits all over this, although the "like a record" bit is great, the echoing "boy! boy!" bit is better and the backing vocals are very very very good indeed. 8

6. JAMELIA - Thank You. When I first heard this last year I thought it was just Xtina - Fighter redux, but repeated plays have proved it to be a lovely, charming song, without those unpleasant, Whitney-esque rough edges of Ms Aguilera. Just lovely. 8

7. BEENIE MAN ft. MS THING - Dude. I don't like Beenie Man and I really hate the word "dude". Sorry. Maybe it's supposed to be all about the riddim. Instrumental, please. 1

8. BLINK 182 - I Miss You. I confess - before they became my most hated band in the world thanks to progressively more aggravating singles like Dammit, Adam's Song and, worst of all, Stay Together For The Kids, I liked a few of their earlier singles. This isn't too bad, the arrangement is interesting, and Tom DeLonge's off-kilter pronunciation is quite effective for once. Unfortunately, it's still Blink 182, so that ruins it. 5

10. WESTLIFE - Obvious. I'll give it an extra point because of goodwill. They're splitting up soon, obviously. 1

51. Quite a comedown. I blame Westlife... for everything else too. But yes, their attempt at murdering pop and cooking the corpse and eating it will not succeed. Their days are numbered.... 156 is the total, and 52 the average.
 
# 4:31 PM []

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

THE CROSS-EUROPE CHART CHALLENGE... of Death! ITALY
Of course, since Britney is going to be on every chart ever, she's bound to be repeated a few times, so just note that the mighty Toxic is #6, worth 10 points and she is very, very great, and this is an unshakeable opinion (unless she puts out Boom Boom as a single, in which case I am switching my allegiance to Xtina).

1. HAIDUCII - Dragostea Din Tei. Nobody is going to deny that this is deeply infectious stuff. Eiffel 65, eat your heart out. Repetitive vocodered stuff, with a very tacky, cheesy backing, big wibbling synths, a tweeting bird noise, "ha ha", upward-sliding vocals and in about 3 more listens the novelty will have worn off. In anticipation of this, though: 7

2. BLACK EYED PEAS - Shut Up. My other pop nemeses. Had an awful experience the other week with a group of kids singing this song but with lyrics about something else. It made me realise that it's not just their cloying, annoying, preachy words that give me the shits, it's the whole damn package. Fuck off already, you twats. 0

3. CAPAREZZA - Fuori Dal Tunnel. On the other hand, there aren't enough points in the world to describe how absolutely fantastic this remains, very possibly my favourite rap single this decade - if there is any justice (and there isn't) this will transcend language boundaries and do massive things elsewhere. 10

4. EVANESCENCE - My Immortal. This is actually quite a lovely song, but I can't help but feel saying nice things about it will result in the by-now quite tired tradition of always releasing the slow one with strings off an album (which has inflicted more than enough atrocities on the world) being continued ever longer. Enough already! Still, 8

5. THE RASMUS - In The Shadows. Still like this very much, but it's now been in this chart for 19 weeks, so someone is starting to take the piss a bit. 9

7. KEVIN LYTTLE - Turn Me On. Cannot imagine becoming wearied to this song's charms, thankfully. 9

8. OUTKAST - Hey Ya. Starting to get tired of this. It's still great, but one of the things I look for when evaluating a chart is its volatility and variety, and this one has also been here 19 weeks, and it's getting boring. 9

9. SEAN PAUL - Still In Love With You. Yes, all Seaned out by now. Sorry, although this is my favourite solo single he's done. 7

10. DIDO - Life For Rent. Beige beige beige beige beige beige beige. 2

Italy's best showing to date, 61. Even though it was a bit boring. 164 is the total, average 54.667.
 
# 9:47 PM []
SERTAB - Breathe In Deeper
This is really too perfect. Breathe In Deeper by Sertab, the Turkish winner of Eurovision 2003, is for all intents and purposes, a cover of Tuck Your Shirt In by Holly Valance, who of course came to prominence by covering a Turkish mega-hit.

The lyrics are different though, and the pulsing keyboard lines of the original - that probably most predicted Holly's later electro-rock direction - have been replaced by frenzied Turkish strings, the percussion has been touched up considerably and Sertab - who is the possessor of a much better voice, obliges with a similarly flighty performance, jabbing out sharp vowel sounds and, oddly, in excising the sexual nature of the original, makes it far more breathy and erotic. For a recasting of a cheesy (but enjoyable) pop song, the level of care is impressive, here a little piano, there a buzzing noise, and the hook can't be denied.
 
# 9:34 PM []

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

HiM - And Love Said No
HiM have a greatest-hits-style album coming out with two new tracks and nobody forewarned me? Damn you all. Anyway, this is the title track of it and it's alternately lovely, wistful, gleaming and brooding. It's also, and this is probably no accident, the most sonically playful single they've put out. While remaining po-faced and tortured, there's a whimsical keyboard line buried deep in the mix, and some quite charming jangly guitars at the start and, as you'd expect a big rollicking chorus, introducing itself and each major line with three big rhythmic thumps and riffs and Vilo's double-tracked vocals are as deathly and lovelorn as ever, particularly on the main hook where he singes "I cried, love said NO!" with the last word not louder, but higher in pitch and imbued with just the right amount of hurt to make the impression and not linger unpleasantly over the closing riffs.
 
# 5:19 PM []

Monday, March 08, 2004

And we're back. I found out it's not all doom and gloom on the new Phoenix LP, and there is one song that sounds as if it's got the disco, or at least is being played on a mournful ride home from one - Holdin' On Together - and is rather great. Secondly, Janet Jackson puts out her first good single in years and in the wake of Boobgate, finds radio freezing her out, so she releases another one to radio and GASP! it's good! She unleashes her boobs and all of a sudden some decent songs are coming out, and I Want You is a stuttery, fine addition to the canon of songs called that. Irina is one of the better songs on the Finnish chart (see below), and because I now love Weeping Willows, there's an acoustic version of album track Call Me Anything up - played just on acoustic guitar it sounds deeply upset and creepy (better than the album version, which is longer and not as good), which is great, obviously. It comes from the Stairs CD Single, and as such is probably rather difficult to come across if you do not live in Scandinavia.
 
# 9:01 PM []
THE CROSS-EUROPE CHART CHALLENGE... of Death! FINLAND (3)
Sorry about that delay. I was away from home, and work is rather busier than I'd like, so that excuses it, doesn't it?

1. NELJA RUUSUA - Elan Vain Kerran. Rather surprising, fast-paced guitar indie thing. A Scandinavian Idlewild (ca. 2002, natch) perhaps, but it doesn't keep the frenzied energy promised by the opening, but fortunately that big gets repeated a few times so not all good is lost. 6

2. EGOTRIPPI - Matkustaja. There's an absolutely divine moment in this when the stripped-down instrumentation is gorgeously augmented by some strings and the bloke's voice is just perfect next to it. Then it goes all minimal again, and it becomes dull. A guitar, a drum, a bit folky. but with one or two absolutely perfect parts in the middle to make it frustrating rather than boring. 6

3. KOTITEOLLISUUS - Taman Taivaan Alla. Another single by these guys. Their name still looks like a demon from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and they still have lovely basslines. Actually, this is what I imagined Rammstein would sound like when I'd only heard them described. 7

4. KAKSIO - Ajatellen Sua. Already mentioned this a few entries ago, stand by original review for once. Still the record that Slow tried to be but wasn't, lovely, sparse electro-lullaby which creeps up on you. 9

5. BRITNEY SPEARS - Toxic. Pop singles just do not come very much better than this. And it's still only her fourth best single in her now-quite-long career. Everyone who, back in 1999, thought she would be gone quickly is now officially stupid, and everyone who is buying this should laugh at them. Go Cathy Dennis, you still got it. 10

6. THE RASMUS - Funeral Song. Absolutely the last song I would have picked as a single, but on an album as fine as Dead Letters, it hardly seems to matter. The chorus does plaintive right, the strings are nice, and as a denouement to a fairly frantic album, it works great. Still, in the context of a singles chart it's not quite as startling. It's just another token ballad being released as a single. Lovely though. 8

7. SUOMEN IDOLS - Tuulet Puhaltaa. Unmitigated trash, though, this. Horrid, sounds like a particularly awful rejected Eurovision contender. 0

8. HANNA PAKARINEN - Love Is Like A Song. Boring ballad in the style of Beautiful. Thanks very much Linda Perry - this is what you've unleashed upon the world, hope you can sleep at night. 2

9. IRINA - Vastaukset. Actually, I really like the chorus of this, and that guitary synth (or is it a synthy guitar) is marvellous. Lots of good noises in the mix to add variety too, and the acoustic guitar buried underneath the crisp drums is a good touch too. 8

10. TIMO RAUTIAINEN & TRIO NISKALAUKAUS - Hyva Ihminen. Ooh! This crunches and crushes, sort of like Metallica's mid-90s output would have if it hadn't been completely suckful. Actually, the fact that it doesn't have that horrible gravelling growling works in its favour, even if it doesn't have much of a hook. Chunky riffs are good, and this has those in abundance. 6

That would be 62, right? Right. Total is 176, so Finland is now averaging a very fine 58.667. Blogger is once again eating all my umlauted As, so that's not very much fun, is it?

(Due to busyness, MP3s are going to be late. Sorry about that.)
 
# 8:44 PM []
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