Throughout 2021, OUTSIDELEFT's Week in Music delivered an idiosyncratic array of opinions and comments on the records that reached us, and mattered to us and some that really didn't matter to us at all. Way too many titles to list here. Instead, throughout this week a totally randomized smattering of what we called Singles reviews. A mere 50 fab tunes revisited and reordered, from A-Z by song title!
SOME OF OUR BEST FRIENDS ARE SONGS
50 Singles from 2021: Sister - Whipped
Following on from Slow Pulp a couple of weeks ago, here's another band with a name designed to confuse us older folk. It's not the long awaited collaboration between Eno and Posh Spice though, it's Sunderland post-punk combo Roxy Girls and a song about a hamster. And it's quite lovely. Angular, Gang of Four, XTC styled punk pop, although compared to their earlier output there's a more melodic throughline and they are catchier than ever. Their EP Roxy Girls are in the Drink will be out in August and contains throughout the same energy and humour as this does. Yeah, it's about a hamster, but I care about it twelfty thousand times more than the latest Ed Sheeran song. (What's with the godawful flying effects in the video? Why does his vampire outfit make him look like Edward Cullen crossed with Eddie Izzard?). I digress. Sister Fatima is carefree, like the star of the song. It may be making some deeper point about happiness whilst in captivity, bearing in mind this is from their first recordings since lockdown, or it may just be a tribute to a beloved pet. Anyway it's fun, god knows we could do with some, this Sister Fatima clearly has god-given powers just like Don McLean's, so come and be healed.
El Michels Affair, Bobby Oriza
Stack The Deck
(Big Crown Records)
Another soul pastiche but oh boy do these guys own it. It does sound like Bobby is singing, "You're a wanker, off the job..." and being scandinavian maybe he doesn't appreciate how important masturbation is for male prostate health. Ladies, I don't know. Because, ladies I don't know. Because Bobby well he's not making it sound positive. Lots of dreamy longing going on. But. If you loved the first El Michels/Bobby Oriza collab, Reasons - then this is another quality Big Crown - a favorite label - release for you.
They Might Be Giants
After 40 years (holy fuck), TMBG sound exactly like they used to, although there’s more subtlety and nuance in the Giants of 2021. It’s good to hear these guys still making good, weird music with absolutely no compromise.
If he’s not the most charismatic of performers our Johnny still has a way with a riff. This is one old artist I’m willing to give a certain amount of latitude to, critically, mainly because of the way he has dealt with his Morrissey legacy so honestly and elegantly. It can’t be easy having your old mucker turn out to be a wee nazi. Along with fellow ‘good egg’ older gits like Beak’s Geoff Barrow and Massive Attack’s Rob Del Naja he can give an intelligent appraisal of the world without his ego getting in the way. I may not be into their music big time but it’s not terrible enough to negate that point. Here is a chunky riff over a lumpy rock arrangement and some surprisingly effective massed vocals that will probably be echoed back at him when he starts gigging. I don’t mind.
The Disco Song
Okay so, Macy Gray has taken a stab at the entire history of disco in four truly fantasy fantastic minutes. Grappling with Sylvester's so Mighty Real and Coming Out with Diana of course. Starts quietly like Macy's making a plan with her gal friends... Then a mid-sentence rush of tempo... Genius of course. Then cranks up all the way to the instrumental break which to me is the bathroom break - a bit of peeing, a bit of powdering, a bit of making sure just the right amount of bra strap is showing... A bit of maintenance. The neighbours at this point bashed on the wall and asked me to turn down my dancing... "Do you know how to love Macy?" And then the end could be the most masterful pop minute of the year... Here's what I hear, "All I need is a little bit of bump and grind, Push it 'til I'm satisfied, Fuck around and do a line." It's plays so beautifully, like a Steve McQueen Small Axe party script once you turn it up.
Tears for Fears
The Tipping Point
(TFF UK / Concord Records)
Tears for Fears break their seventeen-year long silence with a song seemingly inspired
by the mid-afternoon ITV quiz show 'Tipping Point'.
Throughout the excruciating video for the song, I wished that Ben Sheppard would turn up to lighten the gloom with his arcade-style coin pusher and some inane general knowledge questions. Sadly not.
It's uncertain whether the forthcoming album will be littered with references to the hours and hours of TV quiz shows that Roland Orzabel consumed during lockdown. Pointless Eggheads anyone?
A thought fragment, leaking from the brain of a young man sitting next to you on the bus. ‘I’m not chasing plaques’ states Mr JPEGM (AKA Barrington DeVaughn Hendricks, which is a much better name), so we know he’s not on a sight-seeing trip, chasing down Broadstreet to look at Jasper Carrot’s pavement memorial. He seems relaxed about life, which makes a change for an American rapper. A bite-sized breeze. Refreshing. This is a man who released an album called Communist Slow Jams which is a refreshing name. But it seems he’s a bit anti-Jewish which just rots everything.
Walking at a Downtown Pace
The opening track from Parquet Courts' forthcoming (seventh), album is a much looser, even funkier number than we're used to. They've mixed more dance music into their musical palette and cited Talking Heads and Primal Scream's 'Screamadelica' as influences. Although Andrew Savage is in fine voice, it's the rapport between Sean Yeaton's bass and Max Savage's nimble drumming that makes 'Walking at a Downtown Pace' so exciting.
From the opening line, 'I’m making plans for the day all of this is through...' you can sense that the band are keen to get their lives back on board after lockdown. Savage may be reflecting on reflecting on regrets but the music is pushing forward to something different. Add to that the chaotic Manhattan nightlife of the accompanying video to show that there is cautious optimism in the air.
'Walking at a Downtown Pace' was debuted when the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps walk through downtown New York City. A handful of other (international), events are planned before the album, 'Sympathy for Life' is released on 22nd October.
Will To Power
(Tropical Fuck Storm)
Gareth Liddiard, a Dickensian Joe Strummer, from the gothic streets of a London recreated in clapboard in the stupid heat of the great European folly of Australia. Whereas Strummer’s anger resulted in a kind of aggressive shrug Liddiard projects his forlorn hope into the wobbling strings of his Fender Jaguar guitar, while he sings of a bleak situation that, as he explains it further, you realise is much worse than you thought. With this project, Liddiard fronts a three man gang of old protestors, once more unfurling the banners, slipping a hip flask into the old leather jacket and heading out for a final attempt at out-gurning the police horses and showing Generation Cuddles how it it used to be done. Political, passionate and desperately sad, all at once.
Whipped Up and Stripped Down
A few years ago at a party, our Ancient Champion was explaining his particular musical stylings to a locally based celebrity. When he mentioned that he made '...easy listening music for difficult people', the celeb responded by asking whether he was 'Bearwood's answer to James Last?'
Ever since, the two have comedically swapped roles with one another in my mind. I fully expect that one day the Champ will deliver a lachrymose muzak rendition of 'Nights in White Satin' or we'll discover that Last once recorded a version of 'A Song For Damian Marquez, The Tailor'. Probably with young buck Richard Clayderman on piano.
I only wish that James had lasted long enough to have had a go at "Whipped Up and Stripped Down" it would have been quite exquisite. It's that good.
Main Photo: Roxy Girls youtube screengrab
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