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”.

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.

Review: SugaRush Beat Company

When she’s not in a tiny skirt, shaking her Afro and blowing a trumpet with Fedde Le Grand, Danish diva Ida Corr is one of the big voices behind SugaRush Beat Company.

Joined by New York soul singer Rahsaan Patterson and producer Jaz Rogers, Ida and co have come together with the promise of “a brief history of r’n’b, only turned upside-down, twisted, stretched and re-envisaged”. Brave words indeed, especially when your band name is the most ’90s sounding thing we’ve heard in years.

Read my full review of SugaRush Beat Company’s self-titled debut at Orange Music.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Back in February I watched a trailer on youtube for a film called Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. I’m not very up on my film but thought this looked simply wonderful. Ever since I’ve not heard a single peep about it until The Times offered it up last week for a free screening.

The screening took place yesterday and lived up to my expectation in every way. It’s a light hearted romp through the glitz and glamour of the days just before WWII broke out with the fabulous Amy Adams and serious acting lady Frances McDormand in the lead roles. Frances plays Miss Pettigrew, a dowdy & homeless former governess who accidentally becomes the social secretary of American flap about town Delysia Lafosse. With excellent costumes, a brilliant soundtrack and some tasty supporting male actors, it had everything to make it a karinski success review wise – music, Lee Pace, war, romance, pre war hair, Cole Porter, frocks, a run time of 1h 30, Amy Adams,  duets and old London.

Simply wonderful, go and see it when it’s released next Friday or at very least check out the trailer here.

Review: Red Blooded Women at Water Rats

Red Blooded Women

Good new girl groups are far and few between. While we may have loved Sugababes back in the day and Girls Aloud are still owners of our heart, for everyone of them there’s also been a Clea, a Mania and a Frank. Now, more than ever since the time of Spice Power, new girl groups are trying to make it, with Red Blooded Women being one name in a long list.

Put together by Mark Pattison, a former journalist for Popjustice, you’d expect them to be sassy, edgy and poptastic and it seems they are just that. We caught Carly, Candy and Liz at one a small London gig at Water Rats last night playing to an excitable crowd in an excitable manner. There’s no faux graces or stage school wide eyes about these three, instead you’re kind of transported to the world of the Spice Girls before they were famous with cheeky on stage banter, flirting with the audience and leader of the gang Liz becoming your new best mate.

As The Saturdays make the first girl group chart stamp of 2008 with their Yazoo sampling ‘If This Is Love’, Red Blooded Women somehow manage to choose the same band to sample on opening track ‘Colour Me Dirty’. Typical of their sound, it’s big, brash and oozing with 80s synths much like debut single ‘You Made Your Bed’, complete with ‘With Every Heartbeat’ style breakdown. Our favourite song had to be cheeky PWL homage ‘Keep up The Attraction’ dedicated to Banarama and built with mischevious dance routines.

We have to be honest here, but we’re not entirely sure that all vocals we heard tonight were live. They were a bit too perfect, still we’re not talking about anything serious and chinstroking here, just pure unashamed pop calculated for dancefloor perfection.

Check them out online here and download a megamix of their forthcoming album here.