Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Eurovision Rubbish 2007

The title is actually a little harsh because it actually only refers to the six shortlisted UK entrants revealed publicly today.

The competition itself, while hardly a trend-setter in the wider world, goes from strength to strength and a record forty-two nations have registered to take part in 2007 (the 52nd time the Eurovision Song Contest has been staged) and twenty-four of them will contest the final in Helsinki's
Hartwall Areena, more usually used for ice-hockey, on 12 May 2007. The Eurovision Song Contest can throw up the odd surprise, as Lordi proved in 2006, but I'd rather bet on any entry than those shortlisted as the UK hopefuls.

My accusation is that they are the flotsam and jetsam of the UK pop world.

The artists themselves are however only part of the problem because the song choices are almost unimaginably dire. It is, perhaps not coincidentally, the same kind of music that the French in particular still think we like - as I discovered when on holiday recently. We generally (but certainly not this blogger) think that French music has never had anything to offer and in return they unsurprisingly retaliated by playing the likes of Boney M's Rasputin.

At least as far as Eurovision entries are concerned this is actually a good thing because, to be quite honest, the would-be UK entries are firmly rooted in late 1970s and early 1980s music. That would possibly be fine if only they had anything new or truly original about them and had not simply focussed on all the most dated aspects of that time, which was however the era when the UK last enjoyed Eurovision success. Even the forthcoming TV voting show - that will determine which of the six will go forward to Helsinki (assuming the UK makes through to the final twenty-four as there is now a pre-contest) - carries the theme; it is called 'Making Your Mind Up', the title of the the song by UK act Bucks Fizz, that won the contest in 1981.

In 2003 the UK entry Jemini, with the song Cry Baby, plumbed the depths and came last out of the twenty-six entrants with, you guessed it, nul points. It seems that the
lesson has not been heeded! My verdict is that we will get what we deserve in 2007 and nul points would actually be quite a good result.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How do you solve a problem like ... Caroline's A Victim?

This clearly has nothing to do with the Andrew Lloyd Webber production of "The Sound Of Music", but it does concern the sound of music. The "problem", in so far as there is perceived to be one, concerns this single that is one side of a double 'A-side' on 7".
If you want the 7" you are going to have to search for a copy but you can also download it here.

A certain amount of effort has gone in to posts claiming that she is "this year's Lily Allen", and indeed she herself has given Kate Nash her full backing, but listen to Caroline's A Victim and you will likely be left wondering why this particular song has any relevance to anything on Alright, Still. You are forgiven that because the answer is that it doesn't!

This is exactly why this single is a double A-side and Birds will seem more accessible to those expecting a modern urban narrative largely backed by semi-acoustic sounds (which she mostly plays herself).
The choice of Caroline's A Victim as the lead single has been questioned by many a reviewer already. I like it and think that it may be a statement of intent given that this is her first commercial recording (it is released on independent label MoshiMoshi [MOMO4]), and it is also a very interesting development. The track itself consists almost entirely of thundering bass and heavy drum parts, plus of course the vocals, and beyond the obvious is heavily influenced by ska, post-punk and a great deal more besides. It is also very curiously addictive and the versatility that it demonstrates is alarming in the context of a 7" single, but the ambition to take such a strange course is actually quite explicable, and maybe even logical. The major labels are circling, but she is holding out and she recently said:

"I'm really stubborn... if I want to write an eight minute song then I'm gonna do it.
I want my album to be eclectic."
(The Fly - February 2007)

In some ways this reminds me of the devil-may-care attitude to music genres that (2007 Brit Award Winner for Best Foreign Female) Nelly Furtado has deployed across her three albums to date. Don't worry if it's folk, funk or whatever else; if it works use it and if it doesn't then consider adapting it so that it does - just as she did quite spectacularly for the 2006 single Maneater, which sampled the Hall and Oates 1982 disco "classic" of the same name taken from the album H2O.
It was a huge hit - including four weeks as UK #1- but it could hardly have been predicted given the content of her second album Folklore, released in late 2003, which somehow managed to split opinions all ways: some people thought it was too folky and not enough pop, while others argued that it was not folky enough to be credible - but even so it has now sold to the tune of 2½ million copies, and counting, worldwide.

The problem is that to do this successfully requires a wide spectrum of musical influences but, based only on these two tracks, it would be unwise to rule Kate Nash out of any equation. Apparently still unsigned, she is currently recording her début album and it could just be very interesting indeed - with or without that eight minute song.