On my stereo this week...
MINNIE DRIVER - Everything I've Got In My Pocket
She can sing, and you'd know it if you saw Beautiful
. As an actress, I don't really like her, but I found the idea of her doing an alt-country album intriguing - though my initial reaction was "Leave it to Neko, Minnie.". This, though, is more alt-torch-song territory, and it sounds nice. People who like Katie Melua will probably go nuts for this, anyway, but there's a bit more going on here, in fact, enough to make it almost worth anticipating. "Smoky" would not be a poor descriptor, though that may be an artefact of the low-quality file I've got. "I know you're sad but it won't last/I'm betting with everything I've got in my pocket" she coos, and it's surprisingly warming and comforting, particularly from someone whose presence in a movie is more than enough to make me want to not watch it. File under: Investigate further.
MANIC STREET PREACHERS - The Love Of Richard Nixon
I really did think this is an elaborate hoax. It's easy to think for one second that this is a different band to that which made Faster
and Everything Must Go
, even Born A Girl
seems in another universe of quality compared to this. I feel a futuristic feel is intended with this one, punchier beat certainly, but it's hardly You Stole The Sun From My Heart
, and the woozy synths over the chorus don't work. James Dean Bradfield doesn't even sound like James Dean Bradfield on half of these lines, and that's not even because he sounds incredibly bored (which he undoubtedly is). You've got a flat verse. Then a flat chorus. Then you do it again, then a bit of a break, then another chorus with different lyrics, and then a sample of Nixon talking. Oh god, I can't even begin to talk about how awful these lyrics are: "The love of Richard Nixon/Dies without assassination" is the chorus and that's one of the BETTER LINES. Give up now, you've got nothing to say, your political songs are worse than ever and worse, since they tend to be your big singles, it's hard to come to any conclusion other than that this is supposed to be CLEVER. It's not. It's not even a good song.
GERI HALLIWELL - Ride It
I really have nothing to say about this other than that it still sounds good, I just want someone to confirm that the chorus sounds very much like Cherry Lips
by Garbage, because it really does and NOBODY SEEMS TO HEAR IT. Come on, put me out of my misery. Good song, though.
GREEN DAY - Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Does not the title make you think of Blondie's Island Of Lost Souls
, which was the lead single off an album by a band that had held on one album too long? Similarity ends there, fortunately. What I like about this is that it captures that chugging feel the best songs on Nimrod had with the folksier, laid-back sound of Warning. And it does both of those without falling into the trap of being clunky and leaden like most bands who try to "rock" without descending into trying to be Bob Dylan at the other end of the scale. The quiet/loud dynamic mined to death in the 90s almost sounds fresh again on this, the best song on the American Idiot LP, and an obvious second single, right? Shredding their tenuous punk label in favour of surprisingly intelligent power-pop and, occasionally, pop, has done them wonders. I'll forgive the slightly lumpen outro, just this once, mind. [MP3
CROSS EUROPE CHART CHALLENGE... the REMIX: FINLAND
So, let me tell you how I know it's gonna be. Instead of me attempting to be insightful and/or funny about all these records, I have assembled a panel of people to do it for me. I send out MP3s and ballots of a country's top 10, asking for scores and comments. Then, I edit all the comments so it looks like the transcript of a witty conversation at a swank dinner party. Yes, a dinner party with Dragostea Din Tei on the stereo. What a great idea that is, I must make it happen. The scores are averaged, and because averaging tends to drag toward the middle, I adjust it slightly up or down - a record only needs to average 8.2 from the panel to receive a 10, and anything under a 1.5 average yields a zero. That said, any record that gets more than half of the panel giving it zero or ten gets that score automatically. If half the panel give it zero and the other half give it ten, then the world ends in a massive explosion. Okay then!
As is customary, we start with Finland. This is actually last week's Finnish chart, because I'm slow and people need time to, er, evaluate, do they not.
EO - This is, of course, me.
KG - Kate Gladman, representing for the G-Town Audreys. That's Geelong, suckaz.
JP - Jessica P, of Dirrrty Pop
and Into The Groove
fame, has actually watched Finnish Idol.
DR - David Raposa plays our panel's token bewildered American. And also writes Popshots
DV - Diego Valladolid blogs
in his native tongue but is awfully good in English too.
TE - Tom Ewing, Interweb entrepreneur
Oh, and I edited this 1am on Tuesday because a) I stuffed up Daver's ballot, and b) I got some scores from Geoff aka Lockedintheattic (GD). No comments as he had no time... etc. etc.
1. O-ZONE - Dragostea Din Tei
(EO: 9. KG: 10. JP: 9. DR: 7. DV: 10. TE: 7. GD: 10 - Adjusted score: 10)
KG: A bounty of wailing castrati and their multi-lingual masters hit the disco for fun times. The kind of song that will freak me out well into the future.
DR: The intro's very reminiscent of Daft Punk. And the singer's reminiscent of Taco singing "Barbie Girl". I need a visual, though I fear it would involve lots of pastels and possibly blind me. I like imagining that they're singing, in the chorus, "she had a slutting day". Otherwise, it's got a good beat, and I can oompa loompa to it.
DV: Thing is, this could have not been a hit. This could have not been number 1 in a hundred countries. This could have, as it happens with so many low-budget east-europe pop product, ended before it began.Only now it seems as logical as "Waterloo" winning Eurovision.
2. ANASTACIA - Sick And Tired
(EO: 8. KG: 3. JP: 8, DR: 4. DV: 1. TE: 6. GD: 6. Adjusted score: 5)
TE: That's two Anastasia singles I've found myself grudgingly appreciating- real forward momentum on this one, the unstoppable force of mannish vocalising is frightening yet alluring.
JP: I'm not a particular Anastacia fan but occasionally she releases a song that I really love. I love the "ladiladi" backing vocals and the "your love isn't fair" bit.
DR: Totally innocuous. Not bad per se, but there's something missing. The Alanis "You Oughta Know" vibe I'm getting from this isn't helping. I think there's a reason she's Big (only) In Europe.
DV: I thought I hated Anastacia till I heard this song. Now I realize that I actually don't care one way or another about Anastacia. I don't really care about her music. I couldn't care less about her cancer either.
3. JANI WICKHOLM - Hukun
(EO: 4. KG: 4. JP: 3. DR: 2. DV: 6. TE: 2. GD: 0. Adjusted score: 3)
DV: Very polite Elton Johnesque piano ballad. Our Ed -as in Edward, as in Editor- disapproves of polite voting, but how can you give this song anything other than a 6?
DR: According to the CIA Factbook, Finland's terrain is typified by "mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills". Yeah, that makes sense.
JP: There can't be many Brits who can say they've seen an episode Finnish Idol but I'm proud to be one of them and I can clearly remember Jani, who reached the final two in the show. Sadly he wasn't particularly good-looking or good in general. This sounds just how I expected Jani's single to sound. It's very Idol and very boring.
KG: Sounding like Rod Stewart’s Have I Told You Lately but with a better chorus, this karaoke ballad outstays its welcome by about a minute. It should have been cropped to Eurovision regulation length, or at least sped up Anjeza-style. (that would be Anjeza Shahini, Albania's entrant in Istanbul 2004 - EO)
EO: There's a sparseness about this that's quite appealing, and the backing vocals are good, but it just isn't engaging to me.
TE: I like how they have turned the obviously catastrophic guitar solo right down in the mix. But I like nothing else.
DR: Music this lethargic & slow reminds me of the smell of burning teeth & having to make small talk with a cute dental hygenist about her husband's surprise birthday party. How the hell can a drummer even do that lame repeat-chorus-fill without going all GG Allin on everyone in the damn studio?
4. THE RASMUS - Guilty
(EO: 10. KG: 1. JP: 6. DR: 5. DV: 4. TE: 5. GD: 6. Adjusted score: 6)
DR: Hey, it's "rock" music! It really "rocks"! Even with the Linkin Park piano intro (because they mean it, maaaaan!), sounds like the pro-forma 3rd generation alt.rock that my land of origin got over sometime in 1997 (or did we? I don't even know anymore). Competent enough to escape being worthy of hate; merely mildly annoying. I shudder to think what'll happen when eeeeeemo gets a passport.
KG: Angry but annoying.
EO: The original version of this is fine and great, but the new version's robotic vocals in the verses annoy me. Still: "whoa-oh-oh-oh yeah-eah-eah!". About the sixth best song on Dead Letters, for what it's worth.
JP: I don't mind the Rasmus, and loved In The Shadows for tricking wannabe-goths into buying catchy pop. This one isn't as good but bearable. I suppose this will be no.1 soon or perhaps already has been, with them being Finland's current prize act.
DV: The basic unit of alternative-metal among participating European Union countries -except England, who keeps using Muse- is running out of great singles.
EO: I'm sorry. I really am. I really do like them, they push all of my obvious pop buttons as well as the crap rock buttons I don't tell people still work on me. Plus, I liked them before they became big outside of Europe, so this is just me being a smug bastard.
TE: I'm not actually sure which one this is. If it's more disco than in the shadows it gets 8, if it's less disco it gets 5. (5 it is then - EO
5. CHRISTIAN FORSS - Unforgettable
(EO: 9. KG: 6. JP: 6. DR: 8. DV: 9. TE: 8. GD: 8. Adjusted score: 9)
KG: I know that this song would grow on me if I were the kind of person who enjoyed driving around Helsinki in my Smart Car, but since I am not, this song won’t be found clogging up my iTunes ever again. Despite being a song about a hot woman driving one wild and crazy, it comes across as all too sane. It features a lush chorus that disappointingly fades away into bleepy synth-guitar noises.
EO: I actually think this is quite good. Certainly it doesn't take the ballad cop-out route, the bass is pleasing, it's light and cruisy and the chorus is a thing of insidious hookiness. Would be better with some bigger beats though, but a pretty strong song. I would drive around Helsinki in my
Smart Car! Except I can't drive. Ho hum.
TE: I can sympathise with Christian Forss' problems, I can still remember my old phone number better than my new one - curse you brain! This is a good ballad with twangling guitars in a sort of V-esque style. I'd like a bit more rhythmic snap on the chorus though. 8
DV: This song is trying to sound to many things at once -or am I reading too much into the choice of samples and chord changes? Good news is that it actually works.
DR: This high grade is based totally on the chorus - now that I'm paying attention to the verses, I get skittish about flashing such a score when the other judges will undoubtedly reach for the less flattering placards, but fuck a focus group junta.
JP: I like this one. It's rather boybandy. Christian, another Finnish Idol, isn't a very good singer and the over-expressed "remembER"s and "numbER"s are a bit annoying, but I love the bit where he frantically slips in a "c'mon!" Beautifully clichéd.
6. UNIKLUBI - Kylmaa
(EO: 7. KG: 7. JP: 2. DR: 6. DV: 7. TE: 5. GD: 6. Adjusted score: 6)
DV: As a single, it beats The Rasmus' current one. As an anthem, it's too near to "Dragostea Din Tei" in (chart) space and time for its vocal hook to be relevant.
TE: Uniklubi reminds me of fearsome Hungarian liquor UNICUM: minus one point. This is kind of the Finnish Busted, except a bit more sluggish - watch out though for when they 'unleash' their 'solo'! Suffers from the classic 00s pop-rock problem of a hot opening riff that leads to nothing happening in the song. I think Kylmaa is a sea-monster the lads have fallen in love with. 5
KG: Despite boasting several loathsome incidents of background-silence (where everyone except the singer stages a dramatic pause-for-effect mid-song), this number comes off as a fancy little piece of soft goth rock. Unuklubi don’t want to eat your hamster; they just want you to understand them.
DR: Nice "R" rrrrrrrrolling! And, hey, I think THIS is what happens when eeeeemo gets through customs! I take my previous snark back. Sounds like a group of fellows that likes their Superchunk uncomplicated and less tricky - that is, 2nd gen alt.rock. Chapel Hill reprazent in Helsinki!
EO: My predilection for soft goth-rock is of course widely known. I bought the HIM album. On import! IMPORT! This actually sounds a bit like a Finnish, gothic Bryan Adams. If you listen to it, you may understand what I mean. I like this song texturally, though the cut-out bits are a little bit too clever-clever. I can see myself waving a lighter to this one.
JP: Quite boring - not sure if this is a band or a singer. I can't understand a word, which isn't always a problem, but here it makes the song impossible to like.
EO: What the hell, there are worse things to emulate than 80s Bryan Adams.
7. SIMO SILMU - Vain Yksinainen
(EO: 0. KG: 0. JP: 2. DR: 7. DV: 2. TE: 6. GD: 0. Adjusted score: 2)
DR: No Le Big Mac jokes about "whoa whoa whoa" being the same in Finland as in other continents, but only because I'm not that funny. Nice low-key narcoleptic approach to the back-up vocals. Wish the singer had more of a falsetto.
DV: I like this in the sense that I would like music like this coming out of the radio for hours and hours, specially while being heavily hungover in a Sunday morning. Thing is, I wouldn't like to tape or download or, ha ha, buy!, this one in particular.
TE: Fantastic! Karaoke version of Roy Orbison sung by lonely Arctic Circle crooner - is that ice on his shaggy moustache or is it tears? All translated cover songs are good, this is a given. 6
EO: Appallingly authentic.
DR: Also, some crackle & static would've been nice. Also, if Roy Orbison was singing the original. But don't mind me.
KG: Earth-shakingly, unnecessarily vile. A hymn to mogadon.
8. YO - Rakkauden Vahvistama
(EO: 5. KG: 7. JP: 3. DR: 3. DV: 6. TE: 6. GD: 6Adjusted score: 5)
KG: A totally acceptable ocean full of shoulder-to-shoulder male power balladry, it stops just short of overusing the theremin.
EO: The problem here isn't the theremin - which is great, it's the guy's voice. It's not pleasant, is it? Shame, really, melodically this is quite strong, its somewhat trying ploddingness put aside for one moment.
TE: I missed this one somehow :( As it is by a band called "YO" I demand it gets at least 6.
9. ISMO ALANKO SAATIO - Rakkaus Hallitsee
(EO: 5. KG: 7. JP: 3. DR: 9. DV: 6. TE: 7. GD: 7 Adjusted score: 7)
TE: YES! This is the kind of thing I can imagine the lusty yet stoic men of the north throwing down tankards too. When I went to Finland we saw a local grunge band on their way to the gig - one of them had ONE ARM! The riff on this is unusual. Just what I wanted from the Finnish
charts, this. Now take it from me and never let me hear it again.
JP: Oh no! Someone turn it off! This is horrible, I can't listen to it anymore. It may well turn into a fantastic pop song halfway through, but I'd rather not risk it.
DV: This is disgraceful. The first 30 seconds or so are actually brilliant, and I was expecting a King Crimson gone anthemic goth-pop. Whch it is, but in a "Fly Or Die", pretentious, too knowing, failed way.
EO: Actually no worse than any ghastly US rock band. It's a deeply unpleasant riff though. It sounds like someone dying and not in a good way.
DR: Neat! Nick the intro to "Here Comes Your Man", and then go gonzo. Being in a foreign language is definitely a plus for this track. This is the sort of stuff The Rasmus & their ilk bit in order to get to mediocre. Whatever's making that strange squelched whining sound, I'll take two.
EO: I think that squelching whine is the sound of people's souls being crushed to oblivion.
10. GIMMEL - Pisaroita Ja Kyyneleita
(EO: 9. KG: 4. JP: 8. DR: 7. DV: 8. TE: 7. Adjusted score: 8)
DR: Oh my god is this a European Shakira making like Michelle Branch? The concept has my head spinning to the point that I can't focus on anything else? Is the concept of a European Shakira an oxymoron? Why would I even think it'd be an oxymoron? Can I even end a non-question remark with a question mark without looking stupid? I think I can? Are her breasts as big as mountains? Wait, there's THREE of them?
KG: The best part of this is the end, which sounds like an abrupt power-failure. The rest is an example of all that is wrong with girly three-pieces; you usually get an averaging-out of the best qualities of each, with a bland result. Still, it’s better than Sick and Tired
and hence gets 4.
TE: Guitars aloft on this heartfelt pop-rocker, great chorus, uses the cowardly trick of dropping out everything except the click-track
instead of writing a proper bridge. Not very redolent of Finland's
rolling tundras but you can't have everything. 7
EO: Simply delightful. Gimmel continue to mine the ripe terrain between power-pop and 80s girl bands. Belinda Carlisle would approve and so should you. Also, the chorus is properly rocking.
JP: Finally, a Finnish song that's good! This is catchy and pretty ace. I had expected Gimmel to be male, yet it's definitely a girl or a female-fronted band.
EO: As I have written elsewhere, they were formed on the Finnish equivalent of Popstars. Manufactured pop-rock, who'd have thunk it? Finland's charts seem even more saturated with reality TV show winners than the UK, and the artists seem to have a bit of sticking power.
Which makes the local winner of Finland's chart Christian Forss, averaging a healthy 7.6. Finnish readers may be appalled but the panel was near-unanimous, rating it nearly as highly as Moldova's finest - it goes a little something like this: [MP3
The final score for Finland is 60
, but I'm actually still waiting on one more ballot, so we will confirm that later.
Next next next week we will be jumping ahead and doing France, well, because. Next week I would like to have a much larger panel, so if you think this looks like a laugh and you have a gmail account, email me NOW at edwardok AT gmail.com and you
will be loved forever. And sent songs to appraise.