I'm in a bad mood this week and for all of next week; my favourite program, Countdown, has been bulldozed by the Paralympics. The real victims of that show are people who are missing limbs and are trying to claim benefits. I suspect I'm in a slightly better mood than the family of Prince Buster, who has died aged 78. He was the first Jamaican to enter the UK Top 20 with Al Capone, which went to #18, and thirty one years later he went to #21 with Whine and Grine after it was featured in a Levi's advert. In addition, he recorded the original version of One Step Beyond, which would later be a #7 hit for Madness, and prior to 1994 - a year after Shaggy went to #1 with it - he was credited as writer for Oh Carolina, a credit now attributed to John Folkes.
Is nothing sacred? Busted have reformed after twelve years and have put out a shambolic slime of synths as their new single. Coming Home has previously been out for free since 3 May 2016, but they've released it as a proper single to promote their album. This, certainly, is not worth paying for: We hope for the band's sake that the rest of the album is, because so far, they've urinated all over my childhood.
Parasites. After two of their members acquired a writing credit for current #1, Closer by Chainsmokers ft. Halsey, the Fray have scurried into the studio and produced a track which sounds exactly like what it is; a loose-limbered jam that sounds like a bunch of blokes popping in randomly for a session and just happening on producing something decent. Marvellous. I look forward to hearing their greatest hits album in November.
Now this is a classic. Combining the concentrated choler readily available in classic 1980s post-punk with the fire of Green Day's earliest stuff, Revolution Radio is a succulent slab of rock which unlike the previous couple of records haven't diluted over the years; so far, I've reviewed pineapple juice, skimmed milk and this is proper Jersey milk. Great stuff.
I had a horrible feeling this may have been the case. Jasmine Thompson has covered I Try by Macy Gray. As is the case with most Thompson releases, it's just her silky vocal alongside minimal accompaniment - though nowadays as a fifteen year old with talent that can't be a situation she's unfamiliar with - this time the lithe pluck of a piano. This is a relaxing record as is, but for a hit, have a deejay attack it, like Felix Jaehn or Robin Schulz.
James Arthur has Say You Won't Let Go out this week, a blissful selection of fine acoustic guitar and strings rising to a delightful crescendo. Arthur's, err, hoarse vocals add a sense of soul to proceedings. There is something unsettlingly familiar about this record that I can't quite put a finger on, like I've heard the chord progression in another record but I can't pick out where from. (I'd be rubbish in an identity parade.) I predict that this will be a hit.
Kings of Leon have released Waste a Moment this week, a song which allows the band to properly rock out in a manner unheard from their two big hits. The result is three solid minutes of uncompromising rock complete with inimitable yowling but (in our view) a chorus which takes itself too seriously. Cut loose! The best records are the ones that sound raw, and compiled with little to no preparation whatsoever.
Lady Gaga's Perfect Illusion has been released. Could it be about her having a hit single any time soon? Because this feels like a civil war between substandard disco beats and Springsteen-esque rock which buries Gaga's vocals. I suspect this may have much to do with the production – Mark Ronson meets Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) meets Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal) meets whoever BloodPop is – and its length; Gaga's songs routinely exceed five minutes, and this sub-three minute record (excluding whitespace) feels strangled. This is the sort of cacophony a dementia sufferer might hear when (s)he's got all her favourite songs stuck in her head at once.
From the farce to the sparse, LeAnn Rimes' How to Kiss a Boy is far plainer record, which takes its time with a simple piano, assorted decoration and Rimes' vocals. Now on paper, this sounds like a boring record; it's actually a soaring ballad in which Rimes' vocals rise spectacularly and drag the rest of the record with it like someone picking up a pendulum. I wish this luck.
Leon Else has released Black Car this week. It is a record with promise; the song kicks off with an ominous guitar introduction and falsetto vocals, but then leans on smarmy drums – you can almost hear it grovelling "am I doing good, sir?" – with which the record trudges along; as it stands, it is a horse begging to be bashed along with a riding crop. That guitar note could do with being developed into a full solo. To answer the drums' question; no, they did not do good, and neither did the rest of the record.
Mac Miller has committed a cardinal sin with My Favourite Part: Never mix business with pleasure. He's invited his new girlfriend, Ariana Grande, onto his new record My Favourite Part, and the result sounds like two people who haven't met before guzzling each others' necks and absconding somewhere to profess their love on tape - and bizarrely so, since Miller and Grande have known each other for at least three years (hell, they nearly had a top 40 hit together back in 2013). As for the record itself, it is an effortlessly soulful track, with Miller and Grande's vocals wrapping around the instrumental like caramel around an ice cream block – delicious! I reckon this will enter the top forty.
Eh? This isn't how I remember her voice. Anyway, Melanie C has put out a poor man's Can't Feel My Face by The Weeknd called Anymore. From the deflated vocals to the flatter tone of the record down to the knackered sound of the post-chorus, Anymore feels like the sort of thing that might get produced the day after an all-nighter, and it is disheartening to hear such a respected singer produce something so tired sounding.
Norah Jones has produced the jazzy Flipside this week; with Jones' soulful vocals riding on top of warm organ howls and purposefully cold sounding piano, it's the musical equivalent of apple pie and cream, although with Jones producing occasional flushes of fire during the choruses, it's more akin to an apple and rhubarb pie. Beautiful.
OneRepublic have released Future Looks Good this week. This record has more of an acoustic feel than its predecessors, consisting of just a plain old guitar strum and piano for much of it, and it takes a good minute to get to that, which will put off many listeners. Equally as enervating has to be the anticlimactic ending, which repeats the first verse and shuts off straight afterwards. To sum up, their future does not look good.
A sixty-something musician producing a record nearly six minutes long. We've never reviewed anything like that before, have we? Anyway, Peter Gabriel's The Veil – written for the Edward Snowden biopic "Snowden" – is a bizarre record, featuring a series of incoherent, clunky synths and Gabriel's hoarse vocals which collectively plod along with the tenacity of toothpaste. Even the shorter version that appears on YouTube is inexorable. No chance.
Hmm. Déjà Vu by Post Malone and Mr. Ubiquitous Justin Bieber can be summed up in six words: "Hotline Bling [Drake] with organ and guitar". The record uses the same rugged stutter as Hotline Bling (which in turn samples Timmy Thomas' Why Can't We Live Together); only they've added more organ and guitar, making the song evoke a stroll down an abandoned amusement park late at night; without the crackle of the drums this wouldn't sound out of place in a Hitchcock film. I await its chart position.
Oh My God is the Pretty Reckless' latest release. A record which owes heavily to Ace of Spaces by Motörhead, the song combines truculent vocals with three abrasive verses and choruses but a steadfast introduction and two bathos-burdened solos (if they can even be called that). The lengthened final verse, while intended as a cultured coda, comes across as a bin for all the lyrics the writer wanted to shoehorn on to the end. Not bad as an exercise in rocking out, but not good enough to warrant being released.
From the testy to the zesty, Regina Spektor has released Black And White this week. A lightweight piano with luscious accompaniment (drums, strings, guitar) advances along, led by Spektor's silky vocals at no particular pace whatsoever. It is, in effect, the antidote to the bellow of the previous record. I hope this enters the charts.
Accents ahoy! Röyksopp have teamed up with Susanne Sundfør to produce Never Ever, a record with a sickly sweet, almost saccharine sound devoid of all progression; this, like a disconcertingly great deal of Norse stuff produced nowadays, starts off noxiously noisy, and stays it. This could lose almost everything after the second verse without it feeling too short.
Sandi Bogle (Sandy Channer) of Gogglebox has released her first single, an EP containing half a dozen covers of Coffee's version of Ruby Andrews' Casanova. The original and charting versions were all products of their times: the original was a wall of sound, while Coffee, Jazz and the Brothers Grimm and Baby D have produced disco, house and breakbeat remixes. On to Bogle's versions: The Retro Mix attempts funk, but parts sound like a K-Tel knockoff and the radio edit cuts out a much needed pause for breath in the form of an instrumental solo, meaning it sounds hurried towards the end. As for the KC Thorpe House Remix, it's completely the wrong way round; the fiercest synths are laid somewhat calamitously on top of the vocals, and at eight minutes long it's just too much, making its radio edit more digestible. As for the Angel Farringdon UK Garage Remix, this trots along at a decent pace and despite its length just escapes from boredom in the nick of time. It's this column's view, therefore, that its radio edit loses far too much. The best track of hers is the Retro Mix.
Sia has invited Kendrick Lamar on to her new single The Greatest. Or, rather, had invited Kendrick Lamar on since this was released unannounced on 6 September. Sia compiles her usual screech and submits it to a more tropical vibe than what we're used to from her in a record that falls significantly flatter than her previous stuff - it's a step down from Cheap Thrills, and a collapse from Alive - which, given that the record is a haunting and emotional tribute to victims of the Orlando shootings, might have been a good choice to have rereleased the day after the tragedy. Giving Kendrick Lamar just eight bars was a mistake - give him the four bars either side of it as well! Rarely exciting, it has to be said that this isn't Sia at her most dynamic. Still, someone must have liked it, given that's already hurtled up to #49 on the UK Singles Chart from less than three days' sales/streaming.
Yeah, thanks for the headache. The Slaves have come out with Take Control, which was released the day after The Greatest and is the musical equivalent of a bludgeon on Benzphetamine, which steams ahead at breakneck speed with gushing guitars and diabolical drums. It feels like a record cut in half and a vocal moved across where the deadpan "take control" chant is at the start of the record, and it is as irritating as running fingers down a blackboard. No chance.
Throttle has recruited Lunchmoney Lewis and Aston Merrygold for the vocal version of his instrumental Money Maker; first released 6 May 2016 and featuring a sample from James Brown's Sex Machine I would recognise anywhere. This is clearly modelled on KDA's Rumble, which had two instantly recognisable vocals in Tinie Tempah and Katy B; this contains an oily rap from Lunchmoney Lewis, while Aston Merrygold's vocals flounder in the thick bass of the record. Not going to happen.
Is this "march of the harsh" week? My Digital Enemy has stripped out the gentle but garish guitar/piano plucks, most of Tink's vocals and all of Charlamagne the God's contribution and replaced it with hard house beats sprinkled across the record like grated cheese. Methinks if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Influence is Tove Lo and Wiz Khalifa's latest offering, a downtempo track with synths and sensual vocals. Whereas her previous single Cool Girl eventually gave way to "a slew of slow, laboured house beats", this record keeps to largely the same beat throughout, and it is up to Wiz Khalifa's rap to liven up an otherwise inexorable track. I doubt this will chart.
We were asked why we didn't mention Top of the Pops in our last issue. Simple answer: That was an error. The two airings went out as listed on the previous edition, however - but the same cannot be said for next week. The Sky At Night displaces Top of the Pops to 7:30pm on Friday and 12:30am the following morning. The X Factor airs at 8pm on Saturday, but 7:30pm on Sunday because it reaches its bootcamp stage. Toyah Willcox and John Barnes are on The Chase: Celebrity Special, at 6:30pm. Thanks to UKGameshows.com's TV Guide for pointing out that Paul Potts is on All Star Mr & Mrs on Wednesday (ITV, 8pm) and that Carrie Grant and David Grant are on Thursday's Who's Doing the Dishes (ITV, 3pm). There are no musicians on Blankety Blank on Monday, and I have no idea who is supposed to be on it for the rest of the week because these final eight episodes have never aired on ITV; they had to wait until 2005 to air, on Challenge.
In the early noughties, ITV were particularly ruthless in binning underperforming game shows; we are unsure why this was, but we do know that they were easily disappointed by any game show that didn't have the same sort of impact as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Judgement Day was produced for six episodes but only two aired, and they couldn't even be bothered to finish the three-episode run of Drop the Celebrity; the third episode remains unaired. Public Property was commissioned for sixty episodes, but was canned after thirty (though that was live so no footage was omitted). Shafted saw just four of its twenty episodes air. And as for I'm the Answer? Sixty six episodes commissioned, twenty-four episodes aired. Long-standing shows weren't safe either: The People Versus, Bruce's Price is Right, Play Your Cards Right and Family Fortunes had all aired at least one series, but still had two, three, four and eight episodes respectively chopped off their runs (though they all turned up on Challenge in the following years).
In addition, The Vault and My Kind of Music lost two and eight episodes respectively; the former had run out of steam but was live so no footage was unaired, while the host of the latter, Michael Barrymore, fell out of favour after someone died at his house. At least these episodes aired in order - episodes of Pointless Celebrities on the BBC routinely air out of order, and five plus however many are yet to air in the current series are as yet unaired. (I have produced an episode guide in my userspace if anyone's interested.) I am waiting for a response from the BBC as to who appeared on those episodes, and I hope to have listings for both the unaired Blankety Blank and Pointless Celebrities episodes for you in next week's issue.
Closer (Chainsmokers ft. Halsey) and Cold Water (Major Lazer ft. Justin Bieber & MØ) remain at #1 and #3, while In the Name of Love (Martin Garrix ft. Bebe Rexha) and You Don't Know Love (Olly Murs) have advanced to #10 and #15. Can't Stop the Feeling (Justin Timberlake) remains on the chart, while new at #30 is Zara Larsson's Ain't My Fault. Who Do You Think Of (M.O), Ain't Giving Up (Craig David & Sigala) and Cruel (Snakehips ft. Zayn) remain on the chart, the latter sandwiched between new entries #WHERESTHELOVE (Black Eyed Peas ft. The World) and The Greatest (Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar, as reviewed above) at #47 and #49; also achieving a new peak is Starving (Hailee Steinfeld ft. Grey & Zedd) at #54. Cool Girl (Tove Lo) and Blow Your Mind (Mwah) remain on the chart, while Don't Need No Money (Imani ft. Sigala & Blonde), A-List (WSTRN) and, bizarrely, Send Them Off (Bastille) each achieve new peaks of #67, #74 and #76 (the latter a new entry). White Tiger by Izzy Bizu has re-entered its previous peak of #90, while Kids (OneRepublic) remains on the chart and Make Me… (Britney Spears) and Mercy (Shawn Mendes) don't.