Month: April 2015

Playlist: April 2015

SCOTT WEILAND AND THE WILDABOUTS, “Way She Moves”/”Hotel Rio” (2015)

I pre-ordered this album from Base so I got it a few days early. I gave it a listen, enjoyed it and put it aside for a second when I had the time. The following Monday, the UK release date, guitarist Jeremy Brown suddenly passed away. Having never seen, met or known the man I’d feel weird writing a long-winded tribute to him but, based on this record alone, we lost a blossoming talent way too young. Not only was Brown’s work on Blaster varied and impressive with a killer tone, but on evidence of this record alone he seemed to re-energise Weiland. As for a track pick, I couldn’t decide between the retro-glam styling of “Way She Moves” or the modern indie lushness of “Hotel Rio”, so it’s nice that earMusic put a bit of both in one video.

HALESTORM, “Amen” (2015)

I already reviewed the first song from this album, “Apocalyptic”, back in January and we’ve since had the new album, Into the Wild Life, to digest. The “I Love Rock and Roll”-stomp of the music seems almost cynically targeted towards arena crowds, while the message and sentiment are worryingly similar to that of the abhorrent “Bro-Country” schlock that’s plagued country music for the past two or three years. (There’s also guitarist Joe Hottinger’s highly-worrying sentiment that the song is about the “religion of the self” and “being your own God” to consider, or conveniently ignore and hope he was just kidding). Still, it works.

As for the new album, it’s a weird beast. There are moments like “Apocalyptic”, “I Like It Heavy” and “Amen” that kinda sound like the drier, crunchier Halestorm I hoped the whole record would present, but it also has a lot of slick electronic polish and an almost overbearing amount of ballads, which I’m pretty sure Halestorm have enough of by now. Edgier moments like “Mayhem” and “Sick Individual” give it teeth, though, and present a hopeful future where this band can break away from their pop leanings and put out something truly, genuinely wild.

RATT, “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds” (1988)

Ratt’s fourth album, Reach for the Sky, doesn’t get a good rep much of the time, even though it went double platinum (back when one of a band’s weaker albums could still push two million copies), but there’s a lot of good stuff on there, including my personal favourite Ratt tune “Way Cool Jr.” There’s something to “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds”,  though, that I dig as well, with its shoulder-shuffling riff (is that a thing? It is now), infectious chorus and cocksure Sunset Strip swagger that I, as a slightly-reluctant member of Generation Y, personally find kinda endearing. Oh, sure, Eighties glam-metal had plenty going against it by the end, but at least it was fun. Thanks a bunch, grunge.

JETTBLACK, “Slaves” (2015)

I first ponied up for Jettblack’s PledgeMusic campaign back in November 2013, so I’ve been waiting quite some time for their new album, Disguises, to arrive. I can say, as well, that it was worth the wait. The album manages to push the band’s sound from their Eighties influences into drier, darker and heavier territory with slight alternative elements while maintaining the strong songwriting, vicious guitar playing and bombastic hard rock hooks that make being a fan of this band so much fun. When I went to see Jettblack play in Chester in February they performed a number of these new songs live, including the opening track on this album, “Slaves”. This song immediately stood out for me with its pummelling riff and soaring chorus. A very nice step forward for an underappreciated band.

CROBOT, “Full Moon Howl” (2015)

I put Crobot’s debut album Something Supernatural at #6 in my Top Albums of 2014 list and I’ve been wondering ever since whether I should have put it higher. Well, they’ve since re-released it as a digital-only “Full Moon Edition” with four bonus songs, three of them studio tracks and the other one a live recording. They’re all fantastic (the studio songs, that is – I haven’t listened to the live one yet), and while my favourite is probably “Back at the Blackwoods” this is great as well for all the same reasons the album was such a pleasant surprise. These guys really are the real deal, and without a doubt one of my favourite rock bands in recent memory. If you care about rock music in the 21st century you’ll give them all the support you can.

AEROSMITH, “Round and Round” (1975)

Toys in the Attic turned forty years old on April 8th, which I celebrated by giving it another listen. This was the album that essentially crystallised that classic Aerosmith sound, and while Rocks remains the band’s master-stroke it was still only fine-tuning the template that Toys put in place. The title track, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” are the takeaway classics from this album (even if it’s actually the Run-D.M.C. version of the latter that most people know these days) but they click with a strong set of deep cuts, including “Uncle Salty”, “No More No More” and this nasty little number, “Round and Round”, bolstered by a sinister grinding riff and Tyler’s distorted howling vocals acting as something of a precursor to the apocalyptic “Nobody’s Fault” from Rocks, not to mention one last blast of heaviosity before the album leads into its overly-sappy closer, “You See Me Crying.” An underrated gem.

EUROPE, “Seven Doors Hotel” (1983)

Before Europe went poodle-pop keyboard rock with The Final Countdown and its infamous title track, they were a pretty heavy rock band (which they have since also reverted to being). This is one of the more striking songs from their earlier career, a charging song with some towering vocals from Joey Tempest and interesting choral backing, giving it a slight prog inclination to boot. The studio version (which you can hear here) is from 1983, but this live version from 2004 is pretty killer as well.

TOSELAND, “Hearts and Bones” (2015)

I put Toseland’s debut album at #8 in my Favourite Albums of 2014 list, a decision I stand by, and now they’ve put out an EP, Hearts and Bones, which follows on smoothly from Renegade‘s crunchy, propulsive hard rock. The song pushes along at a relentless pace with some simple but effective guitar work while Toseland’s distinctive vocals ride the riffage with panache. It’s only two quid on Amazon, too, and for the price of a cup of coffee you can hardly go wrong here.

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL, “Wannabe in L.A.” (2008)

The Jesse Hughes/Josh Homme project recently mentioned via their website that there was a new album on the way, which provoked me into digging out my copies of their last couple of records. They’ve both improved on later listen (I’ve yet to give their first album Peace Love Death Metal a second spin), particularly the glossy, trashy scuzz of Heart On. If anything this lead single is a bit of a departure from that record’s sound with its simple, laid back structure, sound, flow and melody. If you forgot how catchy this song was, then I apologise, but this is basically all you’ll be humming for the next week.

BOOTS ELECTRIC, “Complexity” (2011)

Sorry, I lied – this is is all you’ll be humming all week. See, in the downtime between the last EODM album and this upcoming one, Jesse Hughes put out a solo album under his nom de plume, Boots Electric. It doesn’t sound a great deal like the Eagles of Death Metal but it definitely has the same sense of goofy fun. Those moves, those women, that moustache… it’s a party, all right.


Eurovision 2015: The Entrants (Part 2)

Here’s the second part of my run-through of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest hopefuls as I cover the second half of the first semi-final. Part 1 can be read here.

Be warned: the opinions contained within may be dangerous and/or silly. Proceed with caution.

SERBIA: Bojana Stamenov, “Beauty Never Lies”

Except when it does, which is a whole lot of the time. I hope Junior Eurovision’s putting out more positive messages than this.

Dramatic? Check. Quasi-Gothic? Check. Piano ballad? Check and… well, the predominant instrument isn’t a piano, so that’s something at least. It even has some electronic elements bubbling beneath the surface, giving the song a modern edge without going full-on cheese – aaaand then it all falls apart with that horrible Eurodance breakdown that sounds like one of Eiffel 65’s rejected beats. You were so close as well, “Beauty Never Lies”, so close, but you flew too far to the sun and went full cheese. You never go full cheese, and if you do, go full cheese – by which I mean if you’re going to put some stupid Eurodisco beat in your Eurovision song, put it in the whole song. Don’t just cram it in at the end. So no, I don’t care for this song. Even without the irksome dance beat it’s not particularly notable or impressive, which means it’ll probably do quite well on the night.

DENMARK: Anti Social Media, “The Way You Are”

Anti Social Media? Well now, that’s a delightfully charged name for a Eurovision act. You’ve got me pumped now, Denmark.

Okay, so it’s not nearly as aggressive as I would have guessed from the band name – there’s nothing particularly antisocial about any of this – but I do really rather like this. Naturally the YouTube commenters don’t care for it, being the globs of impotent rage they are, but I think it’s got something. It’s chirpy, it’s bouncy, it’s happy, it’s catchy enough and, unlike most Eurovision entries this year, it doesn’t seem to be taking itself too seriously. I’d put a decent bob or two on this doing well on the night – it’s just too upbeat and smile-inducing to not do well, and frankly Europe could do with a bit of cheer right now. Eight points go to Denmark, whatever that’s worth.

BELARUS: Uzari and Maimuna, “Time”

Sorry, Belarus, but you’ve already shot yourself in the foot. Oh. this isn’t a comment on your music, which I’m sure is fine. It’s just that… did you have to name your song “Time”? Do you realise how many songs there are out there called “Time”? (Here’s a very, very small list to get you started.) How did you expect to stand out in this year’s contest with a name like… but I’m rambling. On with the music.

Well, that’s a surprise: I actually like this. It’s a little dancier than I thought it would be, and given my general disdain for EDM that should’ve been even more of a reason to turn against this. But it’s the strangest thing that I actually don’t mind this at all. The vocalist is strong, it’s got a killer violin part, the chorus hook is catchy and the music is enjoyably corny, the dance beat complimenting the dramatic music rather than stepping over it (take notes, “Beauty Never Lies”). I’m not sure how well it’ll do in the final, assuming it gets there, but I wouldn’t be at all bothered to see this getting quite far. Does it stand out from the crowd? Not really, but still.

ROMANIA: Voltaj, “De la capăt/All Over Again”

According to my sources (read: Google Translate), “de la capăt” translates to “the end”, so the full English title is “The End/All Over Again” which, yes, is exactly how helter skelter slides work: you get to the “end” at the bottom then go back up to the top and ride it “all over again”. I’m sure that’s what Voltaj are trying to get at here. For further reading, consult Dr McCartney’s thesis on the matter.

Voltaj: Romania’s The Wanted, apparently. So it’s a cheesy ballad with strings, strong harmonic voices, slight electronic elements and no distinguishable hook, with a strange blend of singing in English and the artist’s native tongue. Yep, sounds like a Eurovision entry all right. But wait, is that a flute? It is, it’s a flute in the verse. Sure, it’s hidden beneath everything else, but it’s there. Could that be a sign of *gasp* folk influences, as in the diverse European folk music influences I always hope to hear but rarely ever do? Possibly. Also, this is far too polite. Where’s the wackiness this year? Where’s the attention seeking? This contest needs another “We Are Slavic” and stat.

RUSSIA: Polina Gagarina, “A Million Voices”

A million voices, you say? Well, I’m sure that must have been quite a crowded studio on the day you recorded this but I’m sure you–hey, wait a minute, there’s only one singer credited on this track. You’re having me on, Russia.

There are two things you can expect from a Russian Eurovision entry these days, apparently: beautiful, talented female singers, and weirdly icy songs. We had it with the Tolmachevy Sisters last year and now we have Ms Gagarina to remind us that Russia is a wintry, wintry place filled with pretty, pretty women singing wintry, wintry songs. Actually, “A Million Voices” does get a bit warmer and busier as it goes on. Again, yes, it’s a piano ballad and, honestly, it’s no better or worse than any of the others I’ve reviewed so far, but it’s bombastic and stuffed to the gills with strings as Gagarina’s slightly breathy vocals coo like a crisp breeze over the shimmering production, so it fits the bill. Could do well, may do well, might not though, who knows? And are those marching drums? Ahem. Might want to hold off there, Russia.

ALBANIA: Elhaida Dani, “I’m Alive”

Ms Dani was originally meant to represent Albania in this year’s contest with a song called “Diell”, but for some reason that song (which you can still listen to here, assuming the link hasn’t been pulled) was canned and now she’s singing a number called “I’m Alive.” I’m kinda glad, to be honest: “Diell” was another syrupy string ballad and I’m already running out of things to say about those. Here’s hoping “I’m Alive” is, if not better, at least markedly different.

Huh. What do you know, it actually kinda is. All right, it would have been unfair of me to expect something as out-there as, say, Anthrax’s “I’m Alive” (as cool as that would have been), but even though we’re in the same ball-park here I’d say “I’m Alive” was a better choice over “Diell”. It’s looser, it’s more relaxed (at least initially) and it’s got a little more energy to it, not to mention that neat acoustic guitar part that peeks back in every now and then. The big, strings-led bombastic crescendo is there as well, for the musical gluttons who require more dramatic, quasi-Gothic ballads from a contest that’s already drowning in them. It’s not all that catchy or colourful but it is nice, and sometimes nice is all you need. Is it a contest winner? Hard to say.

GEORGIA: Nina Sublatti, “Warrior”

Well, it’s nice to see Amy Lee’s still getting work.

This isn’t too bad. It’s not incredible, either, but Sublatti has a power and an attitude to her voice that does kinda sell it. The harmonic minors in the middle-eight are either a valiant or lazy attempt to add some Middle Eastern flavour to the overpowering EDM sound, but it’s more than most of these songs have bothered to put in this year. I’ll admit, it charges you up, this song. It’s got the right attitude, the right stomp and a chorus catchy and enough to belt from a mountaintop while surrounded by your wolf brethren. This studio recording does rely quite heavily on a production the live performance won’t be able to match, though, and if she does make it to the final I imagine Georgia’s final placement will pretty much live or die on the oomph and passion of Sublatti’s voice, so let’s hope she can conjure that same energy on the night.

As a sidenote, did you see those freaking dogs? They were just far too happy to be there. I mean, what’s up with the one on the left? Is he dead or something?


HUNGARY: Boggie, “Wars for Nothing”

Well gee, I wonder what this song’s about?

Funnily enough, Boggie doesn’t refer to an old Cornish demon, but rather a very pretty Hungarian woman with a lovely voice. In fact you’d better get used to Boggie and her voice because, aside from light acoustic guitar and backing vocals, she effectively is the song. “Wars for Nothing” is one of those campfire/protest songs (or “hippie jams” if you do so prefer) light on actual music and heavy on message and emotion which, while being a nice idea, probably won’t actually make much change in the greater scheme of things (hey, if “Imagine” couldn’t end all the wars, how do you fancy your chances?). There isn’t a great deal else to say, really: the melody, though hardly crammed with hooks, has a nice comfortable singsong movement to it, while the song is so spacious I’m actually moving in next month, so really it comes down to how much you care for these sort of sweet-‘n’-calm acoustic songs. As a double-up, may I direct your attention to Bill Ward’s (of Black Sabbath) naively sweet “Children Killing Children” – and no, the title does not reflect on the music.

Part 3 coming next Monday. The first Eurovision semi-final takes place Tuesday 19th May, with the final airing Saturday 23rd May.

Eurovision 2015: The Entrants (Part 1)

Good gracious, is it that time again? Well, you tell me: is it May? Well, not yet, but very nearly. Yes, it’s time (almost) for the annual Eurovision Song Contest, this time lifting up its traditionally weaved skirts and high-tailing itself to Vienna, Austria for its sixtieth year on the trot. This year we’ve sadly lost Ukraine from the contest, although Cyprus, Serbia and the Czech Republic are making their grand return, along with a one-off appearance from Australia to celebrate the show’s diamond anniversary (Eurovision’s big in Australia, you see. Not totally sure why myself, either).

On this end, once again your old pal the Archbudgie is rolling up his sleeves and getting his freak flag on (okay, so it’s a weathered old beanie hat that’s lost most of its elasticity and could probably do with a wash – what do you want from me?) to review, for you, all forty entrants in this year’s contest – just as I did last year, which officially makes this a tradition. Yay. As usual I’ll be looking out for any traditional European sounds I can find while copy-and-pasting “dramatic, quasi-Gothic piano ballad” and “club-minded, synth-driven dance-pop” as many times as required. Fun stuff.

So here we go with the first half of the first semi-final. Loosen your morals and hold on to your minds, everybody – we’re going in…

Be warned: the opinions contained within may be dangerous and/or silly. Proceed with caution.

GREECE: Maria-Eleni Kyriakou, “One Last Breath”

And so we’re off with the Greek entry. Remember, you lot, your ancestors basically created modern civilisation. There’s a whole lot to live up to here. Can you do it? Can you?

Oh boy, this is going to be a long show. I don’t hold anything personal against “One Last Breath”, either – it just happened to be first on the list – but we’re gonna have to come to a point where we all agree that we’re submitting too many of these dramatic, quasi-Gothic piano ballads and, as a result, none of them stand out amongst each other. Kyriakou has a strong voice and I do like the way it picks up at the end, especially with that effusive “I’m begging you, take me” bit, but it’s still not remarkable enough to be a winner. Yes, a dramatic, quasi-Gothic piano ballad won last year but I personally don’t think that had much to do with the song and, deep down, I know you agree with me.

F.Y.R. MACEDONIA: Daniel Kajmakoski, “Esenski Lisja” (English: “Autumn Leaves”)

And FYI, Macedonia, I expect good things this year. Ha! To be honest, I’ve been waiting a while to use that line. I think we can all agree it wasn’t worth the wait.

Yep, another upbeat Eurovision ahead of us this May. Kajmakoski goes for an echoey chamber-pop sound here indicative of many indie artists, and while I don’t care for it particularly I admit it can work with a strong melody and atmosphere, which I think “Autumn Leaves” just about manages to nail. Just. Are the verses cloying? Is the chorus generic? Oh yeah – in fact I’m still not convinced they didn’t swipe the accompanying music from Sia’s “Breathe Me” – but it is passionate and vaguely memorable, which might be enough to score them a decent place in the final (assuming they get there, of course).

ESTONIA: Elina Born and Stig Rästa, “Goodbye to Yesterday”

Estonia – now there’s a country you don’t hear enough about these days. How’s it going, you guys? Got enough of… those things you guys like? Yep, those things. You do? Ah, great. Great stuff.

Well, this is certainly different. Born and Rästa have gone for a Sixties baroque pop sound and aesthetic, a bit like The Last Shadow Puppets did a few years back. With a clean guitar sound, a moody melody and a good crisp production I can see this making a nice splash not only on the night but for a while afterwards as well. Born’s vocals are great; Rästa’s I’m not completely sold on, but they compliment each other very nicely in the duet sections. Dark, stylish and catchy with a great vocal pairing, this is definitely an early favourite of mine. Anything with a brass section automatically gets some points from me, too. Classy stuff, not to mention a refreshing change of pace. Eight points to Estonia.

THE NETHERLANDS: Trijntje Oosterhuis, “Walk Along”

The Netherlands came up with one of my favourite entries last year with The Common Linnets’ “Calm After the Storm“. Can they repeat themselves this year?

I would say this sounds like something from a Nineties Disney movie, but I swear I already made that crack about another song last year. The syrupy orchestration, that pachyderm stomp of a beat, the “everything’s gonna be all right” melody, it’s all trying just a bit too hard to be upbeat and positive. It’s not an amazing song but I can see it doing quite well on the night: Oosterhuis has a strong voice and the melody is memorable enough, if only for that “why-y-y-y” hook. Not a lot happens but enough happens, I guess, to… yeah, this song doesn’t do much for me, I’m afraid.

MOLDOVA: Eduard Romanyuta, “I Want Your Love”

I want love, too, Moldova. Two points to you. And yes, that’s all it takes – I’m a bit of a points whore. Well, not really.

Okay, so we’ve had mid-Nineties Disney movie and now we’re hearkening back to 2007 and the Timbaland craze. I remember being consistently peeved-off with the music that was coming out then – jeez, if only I knew, right? Anyway, this song: I don’t mind it. Like, at all. Sure, it’s a bit cheesy and the synths can be abrasive at times, but it’s catchy, it’s danceable, it’s colourful and it’s fun. I think that high-pitched six-note synth line in the main refrain is supposed to give the song some sort of vaguely-folksy feel that I’m not sure it even needs (it sure doesn’t add a great deal). Just let the song be its bouncy self. Yeah, I like this. I probably shouldn’t, but I do.

FINLAND: Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät, “Aina mun pitää” (English: “I always have to”)

The British press practically creamed themselves with glee when it was announced that a punk band would be playing at Eurovision. Yeah, Britain’s still got a pretty big chip on its shoulder when it comes to punk. Me? Well, I’ve had my rant about the subject. Three times. Anyway, the music.

Right, what do I say about this? I’m fully aware that the band was formed by adults with developmental disabilities, so before I’ve even said anything I’m already walking on eggshells. First of all, then, let me just express my opinion on how cool it is that these guys are not only doing what they’re doing but have been given this opportunity with this size an audience to have their voice heard. That really is ace.

As for the song? I don’t like it. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of punk on the best of days, but even if I were I’m not sure how I’d feel about this song. The singer growls the same few words, there’s a guitar riff, some drums and… that’s it. It just sort-of happens for a minute-and-a-half. Even for punk rock it’s barebones. If it were faster and more aggressive it might work but it’s too stilted and safe (and no, I don’t know what the lyrics are about or whether they redeem the music – shame on me for not speaking fluent Finnish). That said, who wants to place bets on the number of articles professional punk posers are going to have published about this closer to the day? I’m saying seven.

BELGIUM: Loïc Nottet, “Rhythm Inside”

Rhythm inside… well, there’s one inner rhythm that springs to mind and that’s your heartbeat. We talking ’bout heartbeats here, Belgium? Of course there are other rhythms made by other body parts but, yeah, none that are exactly suitable for a Eurovision audience.

Well, for a song called “Rhythm Inside” it at least has a decent groove to its name. There’s a faint neo-soul element to those backing vocals and handclaps while Nottet’s clear ringing vocals and the occasional synth rushes lend themselves to the minimalist production. There isn’t a terrific amount to say about the music because there’s comparatively little of it. The melody is strong, catchy and memorable and the groove has an infectious head-bopping snap to it, while Nottet’s vocals are exactly the sort of clear-cut, higher-pitched deal that artists like Years & Years are doing now. On that note, this is easily the most contemporary Eurovision I’ve heard yet this year and, speaking as a Brit with one eye on the pop charts, sounds like something that, with the right push, could actually do pretty well if it were released over here. I quite like this. The video’s weird but the song is all right.

ARMENIA: Genealogy, “Face the Shadow”

Wait, there’s a group called Genealogy? Why aren’t they the punk band? Punk’s all about -ologies and -isms and stuff like that. Well, the Manics are, at least, and they certainly have punk influences, even if they’re more of an alternative rock–I’m getting off topic, aren’t I?

“Don’t Deny” or “Face the Shadow” or whatever it’s called is a step above the other ballads we’ve had so far. Sure, it’s a piano ballad with dramatic, quasi-Gothic elements, but something about it sells the package so much better than anything else I’ve heard so far. The vocals don’t always mesh or transition too well into each other (on that note, how many singers are there in this band?) but they’re all strong and distinctive with an excellent use of harmonics. I really like the 12/8 beat this has going for it: coupled with the occasional spaces and darker, colder touches of the music it gives it the feel of a moonlight waltz. In fact for a Eurovision ballad it’s surprisingly complex at times, especially that final run where the electric guitar slinks in and you can’t tell where the rhythm’s going. Needless to say, I rather like this. Also, little info nugget for you: apparently the instrument used in the bridge is a duduk, a traditional Armenian windflute. Learn something new every day, don’t you?

Part 2 coming next Monday. The first Eurovision semi-final takes place Tuesday 19th May, with the final airing Saturday 23rd May.

Pop Song Review: Ed Sheeran & Rudimental, “Bloodstream”

You know, I do have to thank Ed Sheeran. As little invested as I am in his music or his career, my review for his mega-hit single “Thinking Out Loud” remains among this blog’s most popular posts. It even earned me my first death threat. So let’s see how this one goes: today’s pop song review is “Bloodstream” by Ed Sheeran & Rudimental.

First impressions: I haven’t experienced anything quite this start-stop-start-stop since I first started learning to drive. Yeah, I was… I was a slow learner.

The music: Although Rudimental are given joint billing on this song, it’s technically a remix of the original version that can be found on Sheeran’s latest album, x (presumably to be followed-up by ÷ and That Squiggly Line and Straight Line Symbol That Means Equal To But Not Really). You can listen to that version here (or, you know, your own copy, given it sold over 2 million units in the UK alone) and make your own mind up about it but we’re reviewing the remix today, and the question to be asked, therefore, is whether Rudimental’s version improves on the original or not. Does it?

Well, to quote Reverend Lovejoy: short answer, yes with an “if”, long answer, no with a “but”. The original version wasn’t a great song but it had a minimalist acoustic vibe to accentuate its intimate, defeatist melody. The production was dry which gave the track a humbling drunken swagger, like a boozehound who walks the streets like he’s king of the world despite the fact he’s only out on the streets because he’s trying to walk off a brewer’s droop. The remix gives the song a bit of a pop sheen and some electronic bloops that, honestly, I’m not sure it ever needed, but if that’s what people want then it’s what they’ve got. It’s a little funkier in the verses, too, which I don’t mind.

And then it kicks in. If you know anything about Rudimental and the type of music they make you know exactly what I’m talking about here: that Red Bull-swigging, fifth-gear-pushing, Flash-speed, ecstasy-driven, turbo-charged dance beat that a stampeding herd of wildebeest would find breathless. I’m not sure these guys are capable of composing a beat slower than 180bpm and if they are they’re certainly not ready to give it a go here. Even Iron Maiden could kick back to write something like “Remember Tomorrow” once in a while. Haven’t these guys heard of Horlicks?

So no, I don’t care for the Rudimental addition here, mostly because I’m not sure what it’s actually supposed to add. Sure, you can argue that it actually fits the concept of the song, assuming the chemicals burning in his bloodstream are methamphetamine and not, I don’t know, aspirin, but it’s still distracting and doesn’t emphasise any of the music’s original qualities.

So what was the point? To make it more club-friendly? You know, not every song needs to be reworked for der clurrrb and not every song needs to be danced to to make it mainstream material. I couldn’t dance to the original “Bloodstream” but I still quite enjoyed it for what it was. The “mm-hmm” bit is fine on its own; it doesn’t need a stupid galloping beat underneath it. You might disagree but to my ears it just comes off as the production equivalent of Rudimental going, “look at us! Look at us! We’re all fast and stuff!”

So to answer my original question: does this improve on the original? Well, yes, if you like Rudimental; and no, because the dance remix wasn’t necessary and actually trips up the original music which was at least endearing, but it’s not awful, I guess. It just isn’t very good and actually comes off as a little weird.

The lyrics: Ed Sheeran has drunken sex with a random woman. Have we, er, have we been here before?

“I’ve been spinning now for some time / Couple women by my side.” Sounds like a fun game, that. Do the women hold you up by the arms and spin you around themselves? Oh, that’s not what he’s singing about, is it? *sigh* It never is.

“I’ve been sitting here for ages / Ripping out the pages.” Yes, I know Where’s Wally? can be frustrating, but that’s not how you find him.

“I’ve been looking for a lover / Thought I’d find her in a bottle.” Jeez, he really is drunk, isn’t he? You know you’ve had too much when you’re seriously considering trying to pull Tinkerbell. No, I’m joking, that’s obviously not what he means. He’s just helping to set up the story of his “sin” by explaining how he got so hammered that his inebriated lust felt like the deep sensation of love for this random gal. Admittedly he could have phrased it a little better, but then so could I have just now, so there we are.

“Lord, forgive me for the things I’ve done / I was never meant to hurt no one / I saw scars upon a broken-hearted lover.” So he feels shame for exploiting a vulnerable woman going through her own heartbreak. Well, it probably won’t put the creeps who do actually do this on a regular basis in their place, but at least he’s taking culpability, which is something John Newman was weirdly reluctant to do in last year’s aptly-titled “Blame“. Also, is this one of the women by his side at the beginning? Or maybe even someone else? Tell you what, if you’re going to go have shameful drunken sex, you might as well go all out, mightn’t you?

“Coloured crimson in my eyes.” Oh dear. See, I have a few choice words that immediately set off red flags whenever I hear them used in music lyrics and “crimson” is one of them. Ever since Evanescence moaned about “pouring crimson regret” in “Tourniquet” the word has come to represent, for me, one of the worst examples of cheesy, overblown cornball lyricism – the mark of a poet trying far too hard to come off as “poetic.” This isn’t a Byronic epic. Just say red, for crying out loud.

“Don’t leave me alone lonely now / If you loved me how’d you never learn?” Oh, Ed Sheeran, will you never learn?

“This is how it ends / I feel the chemicals burn in my bloodstream.” So he’s overdosed? Well, that’s a bit depressing. What a sad and strangely poetic end for this tragic and flawed but intrinsically human character. NOW LET’S GO NUUUUUTSSZZ!! WOOT!! RUDIMENTALZZ YEAH!!!1!1!

“Tell me when it kicks in.” I’m not your dealer. Figure it out for yourself.

Verdict: I don’t mind “Bloodstream” all that much, but this cynical EDM do-over and its dumb bursts of intense speed only serve to detriment what charms the original had. That version I’d give a 3 but this silly Rudimental version with its random fast bits I’m only giving a 2 out of 5. Silly Rudimental.

Today’s double-up is something a bit more relaxing in comparison: “Raining Blood” by Slayer.

Pop Song Review: Jess Glynne, “Hold My Hand”

Was there ever a time in chart history when things moved as glacially as they do now? I guess it’s not as bad in the UK as it is in the US, where the incorporation of streaming data into chart placement has acted like quick-drying cement, holding songs in place for weeks on end, but it’s still annoying and doesn’t give me a great wealth of choice for my reviews. I was going to look at Flo Rida’s “G.D.F.R.” but I kept getting a brain blister every time I tried to analyse it. I could have reviewed The Weeknd’s “Earned It” but I already did one Fifty Shades of Grey song. So let’s just go ahead and review the current UK number one single, Jess Glynne’s “Hold My Hand”.

First impressions: It’s always August in Popland, isn’t it?

The music: In my “King” review I said the sound of 2015 was apparently 1995. Jess Glynne is here to change that, however, and bring it bang up to date by dragging it all the way to… 1997?

In the grand tradition of female singers building an initial presence for themselves by piggy-backing on the exposure of established artists, a la Rita Ora, Charli XCX, Emeli Sandé, Ella Eyre, etc., we now have Jess Glynne whose claim to fame, until now, was singing on those two Clean Bandit songs and that one Route 94 song you’ve already forgotten. This would be her second official solo single, a shiny happy dance song to soundtrack those long, hot summer months. Shame that it’s still April, but I think Glynne’s management are playing a long game here.

That will, of course, depend on whether the song is even still in the public consciousness at that point, which I have doubts it will be based on just how “meh” the song is. A fairly generic dance-pop beat underpins the music while Glynne’s vocals ride at the forefront. The song is upbeat but not terribly fulfilling or memorable while Glynne, though a good vocalist with excellent pitch, often sounds like she’s struggling just a little bit, making the whole effort not bad but not good either, just underwhelming to listen to and difficult to bring back to mind once it’s ended. So of course it went straight to number one. Well done, Britain.

Am I the only one who’s bugged by those pauses between each line in the verses? I mean, yes, we have that “ooh-ooh-ooh” hook filling the space so it’s not just dead air, but it still doesn’t serve the song in any real way. All it does is mask the fact that they didn’t bother writing a melody for the verses – the notes just escalate slightly with every other beat. Speaking of melody I don’t mind the pre-chorus, even if I swear I’ve heard it a thousand times before in marginally better songs, but the chorus has pretty much no discernible hook. Sure, the “I’m ready for this” part might get stuck in your head after hearing it on the radio a hundred times a day, but then so would anything.

Overall this really isn’t a very well written song. In terms of sheer atmosphere and production it’s great: the sound is full and polished, the piano beat is punchy, Glynne’s vocals are crisp and clear and the whole recording has a breezy, shimmering vibe that screams summer. In terms of catchiness, memorability and all the other things that give a song long-term longevity, however, it falls very flat indeed. Of course, they had to go and put a horn section in the chorus, didn’t they? They just know I’m a sucker for horn sections. Actually, it’s almost certainly the case that they didn’t know that and in fact have no idea who I am, but the point stands.

The lyrics: Jess Glynne wants you to hold her hand. Now, when the Beatles sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand” we all figured there was more going on to what they were asking. Here, though, the music is trying so hard to be earnest and uplifting that I have little other choice than to believe all Glynne wants you to do is just hold her hand. I could be wrong, of course. Let’s find out.

“Standing in a crowded room and I can’t see your face.” Yeah, that’ll happen in crowded rooms. Your point being?

“In my mind I’m running round a cold and empty space.” That’s not a very nice thing to say about your brain, Ms Glynne. Of course we could analyse this image further, but all I can think of now is Jess Glynne with her arms out, making aeroplane noises and running circles around a random empty patch on the floor, which would have also made for a far more entertaining music video.

“Soul is like a melting pot when you’re not next to me.” Wait, what? A melting pot? What kind of image is that? So, essentially, whenever he’s away her soul turns into a cauldron, or at least one of those pots they use for fondues. So when he’s away her soul turns into a tasty centre-dish for parties? That sounds great. This bloke of hers should stay away more often. Also, personally speaking “soul is like a big bowl of melted cheese you can dip bread cubes into” would be a far more interesting image to play with, though they’d have to work to make it fit the metre. That said, what else are these people being paid for?

“Break my bones but you won’t see me fall / The rising tide will rise against them all.” Okay, so we’re getting Biblical in this sweet summery love song. Apparently there are people out to hurt Ms Glynne but you, her beau, are here to… wait, is this “you” a different “you” to the one she was singing to before? Does she think I’m going to hold her hand so hard it’s actually going to break bone? Who am I, Lenny from Of Mice and Men? It’s like Hemingway’s iceberg theory here: there’s a far more interesting story below the surface that we’re just not getting.

“Trying to find a moment where I can find release.” Ahem. Er, I think if you ask your fella you’ll find he’s willing to help you find it too. In fact you might find he’s really rather eager to help.

“I’m ready for this, there’s no denying.” Wow, she’s really ramping herself up for this hand-holding, isn’t it? What’s he got, Hulk hands? Unless this actually is more than just a simple “holding” of “hands” and this has just been one big double bluff, not to mention the same bluff the Beatles made fifty-two years ago. The future of music!

Verdict: “Hold My Hand” is a triumph. A triumph of consistent and tireless marketing and a calculated production over songcraft and artistry. It’s not a bad song but it’s certainly not a good one either. At best it’s competent, serviceable even: it’ll do what it needs to do for however long it needs to do it and nothing else. “But it’s number one on the charts,” you say. Good point – but it can’t be number one forever. Some day it’s going to drop, and when it does I don’t see it troubling the charts, or any other list for that matter, ever again. I’m sure Glynne has better songs in her… so why couldn’t one of them have been her first big hit? 2 out of 5.

Today’s double-up is “The Hand That Feeds” by Nine Inch Nails, because the only other song I could think of with “hand” in the title was that horrible song MJ did with Akon before he died. Also With Teeth turns ten in May, which means 2005 was ten years ago and I think I found a grey hair in the mirror this morning. guys.