Review: Boyzone – Back Again… No Matter What

When Boyzone were first about, a decision had to be made. It was either Boyzone or Take That. To like both was the ultimate sin in the life of a teenage girl, and if you were foolish enough to choose the Boyzone option, you weren’t really worth hanging out with.

Now wanting a piece of TT’s comeback pie, they’re back, playing a sold out tour to their adoring public, and releasing ‘Back Again… No Matter What’ – a compilation of their greatest hits, plus three new songs, and a live version of Ronan’s ‘Life Is A Rollercoaster’.

While the bad are either hilarious (Love Me For A Reason) or coma inducing (You Needed Me), the good amongst Boyzone’s 16 consecutive top 5 hits still make us smile. 1998’s #1 ‘No Matter What’, penned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Jim Steinman for musical Whistle Down The Wind, was a highlight, particularly as Ronan finally let someone else sing the main part. Ronan’s traditional growl is, of course, omnipresent, especially in ‘Baby Can I Hold You’, one of four covers. When it comes to new songs, ‘Love You Anyway’ recaptures the motown fun first heard in ‘Picture of You’ but ‘Can’t Stop Thinking About You’ is an awkward electro song that doesn’t fit the band at all.

Ultimately there’s no denying the greatest Boyzone song – ‘A Different Beat’. We are not even slightly being sarcastic here by declaring this one of our favourite pop songs of the 1990s just for it’s extreme randomness. Yes, for some unknown reason, Boyzone, bored of soppy ballads, decided what they were missing were African drums, chanting, foreign languages, thunder, a rousing middle 8, lyrics to solve work peace and a trembling piano. Everything is forgiven just for these 4 minutes. Amazing doesn’t even cover it.

If you love Boyzone, you’ll love this. If not, well you might just find yourself a bit surprised by how many songs you’re happily singing along. Perhaps after 9 years of Westlife, Boyzone sound like a treat.

Originally published at BBC Music. I hated Boyzone as a child, apart from ADB obv, but this was oddly enjoyable.

Review: Kaiser Chiefs – Off With Their Heads

When we heard the Kaiser Chiefs‘ 3rd album was going to be produced by Mark Ronson, we were worried. After all hasn’t everyone grown a bit tired of Ronson and his relentless trumpeting? Fortunately we can report that, thanks to co-producer Eliot James, the wonky parping has been kept in check.

After the massive success of the usually ‘notoriously hard’ 2nd album, ‘Off With Their Head’ is the Chiefs going at it old school with quirky British rock influences a plenty. Jaw-dropping lead single ‘Never Miss A Beat’ could easily be mistaken as a forgotten Beatles demo with it’s call and response hook (best bit – ‘What do you want for tea? I want crisps!’). ‘Tomato In the Rain’ gives a hammond organ it’s best use in years, and Ricky’s Northern charm shines in the comical ‘Addicted To Drugs’.  Ronson’s star pulling power is in effect too, with Lily Allen providing backing vocals on the summery swagger of ‘Always Happens Like That’, orchestral maestro David Arnold looking after ‘Like It Too Much’ and grime boy Sway pulling in a star turn on the XTC reminiscent & surely future #1 ‘Half The Truth’.

A sprightly 35 minutes, it’s yet more proof the young pretenders have nothing on this lot when it comes down to personality, wit and intelligence. Tunes to get your converse dirty to.

Originally published in Attitude Magazine.

Review: Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke

Want to be the coolest kid on the block? Next time you get asked who you’re loving, Ladyhawke is the answer. Wobbling on that titchy kerb between underground and mainstream that the likes of MIA hover, twenty something New Zealander Pip Brown is the latest cool female chick to release some amazing pop music that will unfairly sell about 700 copies.

Signed to ultra hip label Modular, Ladyhawke has taken the best bits of the 80s and re-imagined them for 2008 with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Cyndi Lauper all in the mix. There’s a dance feel to most of the album with the Pascal Gabriel produced ‘Magic’ pounding it’s way into your brain –  it’s powerful chorus reminding us of Ladytron’s criminally ignored ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’. This and the similarly urgent sounding ‘My Delirium’ are stadium sized pieces of pop rock that make you want to hit the dancefloor and own it.

More intimately, the likes of former single ‘Back of the Van’ and the funky ‘Paris Is Burning’ show off Pip’s knack for writing instantly memorable lyrics.  ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ is like catching Peaches on a happy day, with it’s pulsating beats and bells oozing unnerving East Berlin vibes, while ‘Professional Suicide’ mashes CSS style guitars and drums with a hypnotic vocal.

Ladyhawke‘ is a rare case of the real thing living up to the hype. This shouldn’t be an album just for bloggers to swoon over, it’s good enough and mainstream enough to be huge.

Originally published at Orange Music

Review: Katy Perry – One Of The Boys

You know when you go a club, make eyes with a boy and then he gets distracted by some hussy who’s snogging other girls just to get the boys? That’s Katy Perry all over. With her pin-up looks and in your face attitude, she’s captured the attention of an massive audience hitting #1 in 20 countries.

Although initially compared to Lily Allen, there’s none of her cheekiness and wit. Instead ‘One of The Boys‘ falls neatly into your CD collection somewhere near Avril and Pink. Expect a straight mixture of all out rockers  and ‘woe is me’ angst ballads that will warm the heart of any teenage door slammer.

‘Hot N Cold’ is the best of the hard hitters. With pop anthem producer Dr Luke behind it, it’s a shout-a-long romp that’s far superior to the all conquering ‘I Kissed A Girl’.  The lyrically stupid ‘Ur So Gay’ might be irresistibly catchy but is full of face scrunching gay stereotypes, and while the likes of eyeliner anthem ‘Self Inflicted’ and ‘If You Can Afford Me’ are musically dull we’re sure her young audience will be able to empathise with her boy problems.

At fault is Katy’s insincerity. She thinks she’s like, ‘oh my gosh soooo alternative’, promising that she ‘belch her way through the alphabet’. Ultimately, though the ideas might be there, ‘One of The Boys‘ just feels like a very cleverly thought out idea. Calculating, corporate pop at it’s most effective.

Originally published at Orange Music

Review: Pussycat Dolls – Doll Domination

For a group of dancers, turned singers, the first Pussycat Doll album had a surprising number of workable singles on it. Now back to prove it wasn’t a one-off, ‘Doll Domination’ reads like a who’s who’s of urban pop. Darkchild, Cee-Lo, Lady Gaga and Missy Elliot are just some of the impressive names that have worked on this album.

Surprisingly it’s the midtempo songs that seem to stand out. There are of course some dancefloor stompers that shine with Snoop Dogg popping up on the vocoder heavy ‘Bottle Pop’ and New Kids on the Block (!!) going space electro with them on ‘Lights Camera Action’. Unsurprisingly nothing can compete with Timbaland’s trademark clean beats and he steals the show with the hypnotic, Middle Eastern vibes of ‘Magic’.

Proving that he can do the ballads just as well, old Timba has also conjured up gorgeous 2nd single “I Hate This Part”. Bizarrely “inspired by Sting”, according to Nicole, it’s melancholic piano is haunting.  Similarly ‘Hush Hush’ produced by label boss Ron Fair is an epic ballad promoting the Dolls as strong women who “never asked for help” from their men. Unnecessarily long with 18 tracks on the album, there must be some duffers and this falls mainly down to a disappointing R Kelly duet on the dull “Out of this Club”.

Closing with a cover of “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” as a nod to their cabaret past, Doll Domination is a surprising listen. Who ever could have dreamed they would end up being queen of the ballads?

Originally published at Orange Music

Review: Heartbreak – Lies

Disco’s all the rage. 80’s all the rage. Put the two together and you get something that sounds like Heartbreak, the pairing of the fabulously named Ali Renault and Argentinian Sebastian Muravchik. They both look like they’ve fallen straight out of East London, complete with skinny moustache, so it’s no surprise they’re making that italo-disco sound all the cool kids are talking about.

‘Lies’, their debut album, is a somewhat mixed affair. While at times, Sebastian’s voice can sound epic and flamboyant, it also has something of a ‘Jake Shears gone evil’ tone to it, none more so as in the absurd sounding ‘Robot’s Got The Feeling’. ‘Akin To Dancing’ transports us to a seedy NY discotheque, while the pulsating Moroder beats of former single ‘We’re Back’ pound along with high drama. This 7.30 minute epic, which sent all the hipster blogs into a frenzy back in August, is their masterpiece, with the eerie and creepily sung lyric “You have not heard it all before, cos we’re back from the disco to the radio”.

Close but no mirrorball – we’re not entirely convinced by this album – if we wanted italo disco we’d listen to Sally Shapiro, and if we wanted creepy 80s synth pop we’d go for Cut Copy. If nothing else we can thank Heartbreak for the best song title we’ve heard in a long time – ‘Deathly Pong of Love’. Brilliant.

Originally published in September’s Attitude Magazine

Here’s Little Boots’ cover of the epic “We’re Back”.

Ben Folds – You Don’t Know Me

‘You Don’t Know Me’ is the super cute first single from the new Ben Folds’ album ‘Way To Normal’. It’s jaunty, bouncy and makes me think of something you might hear on Avenue Q / Sesame Street (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing). A duet with Regina Spektor, it’s the kind of pairing that geeky indie kids everywhere will be swooning over. It’s impossible not to go all gooey particularly with the little talky breakdown bit towards the end. I heart Regina’s “say it!”. The official video sucks so I want you to watch this sweet fan made one instead.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRgQns-TJGM[/youtube]

Review: Katy Perry @ Water Rats

‘I want you to pop my cherry!’ shouts Katy Perry, at this her first ever UK gig. Knowing exactly how to drive the teenagers packed into London’s tiny Water Rats wild, she’s even more wide-eyed and coy than she looks on TV – her vampish dress showing off, as one punter put it, ‘a great rack’.

Her debut album isn’t out yet, but this crowd know every word. Undoubtedly a show-woman, Katy’s bright blue eyes flash round the room wildly as she spends every moment trying to shock whether it be burping into the mic, begging the audience to ‘touch her boob’, telling us about her sexual exploits or peppering her lyrics with swearing.

Ripping into boys is a major theme. ‘If You Can Afford Me’ tells them off for expecting too much in return for dinner, while the unashamedly cruel ‘You’re So Gay’ disses her ex for being too metrosexual. Named as her ‘sing-along anthem’, her casual use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term is reprehensible.

While the insincere rocky ballads show off her Alanis-esque voice, it’s the poppy ‘Hot N Cold’ that we enjoyed the most. A song almost too good for Perry, it’s a pulsating pop rock anthem that P!nk would kill for.

Katy disappears briefly off stage for a mock call to her super Christian mom. ‘I just want to make one thing clear, she was really f**king hot!’ she shouts, before launching into a rocked up version of bisexual shock-a-thon ‘I Kissed A Girl’ complete with head thrashing guitar breakdown.

Katy Perry, obsessed with bodily parts, sexuality and acting all alternative, is the perfect pin up for 15-year-olds who find emo too dark. It’s calculated corporate quirk and as that alone, is very good at what it does.

Katy Perry in London

We just saw brazen hussy Katy Perry play a tiny gig at London’s Water Rats. I have to write 300 words about it tomorrow so shall save you the detailed analysis for the moment. Needless to say it was rubbish.

Best bits:

1. Boy is all over girlfriend. Girlfriend goes to bar. Boy gawps at Perry then texts friend “My God man, in the flesh I can’t stop staring at her rack.”

2. ‘I Kissed A Girl’ pumps away. Drunk mid 30s couple barge into the back of the crowd and start trying to push their way through. They push the wrong man who pushes them hard into the rest of the crowd. Close face talking ensues between men, woman wanders off shouting, “It’s not Top of the Pops love. It’s a fucking Katy Perry gig.”

Amazing.