New Hits Friday: 15th February 2019

Seven new hits in the chart today.

Blueface and YG – Thotiana

It’s too repetitive and there’s not enough melody for me. There is a really nice instrumental towards the end though.

The video starts off nicely with the promise of a story about a high school American football team, but quickly descends into twerking girls and standing-around-next-to-cars, two of my least favourite tropes in rap videos.

CamelPhat, Cristoph and Jem Cooke – Breathe

Interestingly, this track has made me realise that there’s not been much EDM in the chart over the last year, whereas three or four years ago it was pretty much all you heard. It’s a fairly generic melody (and the vocal is sometimes reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams to the point of being derivative), but it’s got a good, danceable beat.

The video is standard-for-EDM trippy, with lots of dancing, flashing lights, smoke, and taking baths while clothed. All very pretty, but I don’t think it’s aimed at people who are in an unaltered mental state.

The Chainsmokers and 5 Seconds Of Summer – Who Do You Love

There’s too much going on with this track, and I’m not keen on the melody.

No video for this one yet.

Tom Walker – Just You And I

I like the rhythm, but the song’s a bit saccharine for me.

The video, however, is great – an awkward but endearing story about two people who wake up hungover and handcuffed to each other. Nowhere near as NSFW as it sounds!

Khalid – Talk

It’s a nice melody, and there’s something a bit retro about it, which is always appreciated.

There’s no video at the moment.

Ariana Grande – Needy

It’s quite a nice classic vocal, but I find the backing track a bit jarring.

Again, there’s no video for this one.

Ariana Grande – Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored

I just find this song a bit dull – I’m not sure what the hype’s about or why it went straight in at number one. However, Ariana’s chart battle with herself (she got the top two places this week plus another song in the top ten) did mean that we got a couple of nice chart history factoids from Scott Mills on the Official Chart show this week – the last solo female artist to be at both number one and number two at the same time was Madonna in 1985, and the last solo female artist to have three tracks in the top ten at the same time was Ruby Murray in 1955. I love chart history!

The video starts off with a generic ‘in da club’ scene, then becomes an uncomfortable and problematic story in which Ariana is trying to steal another girl’s boyfriend by copying her exact look, and then there’s a nonsensical twist in the last second implying that it was actually the girl Ariana was after, not the guy, despite the evidence of every other scene in the video. Still, making sense is not the point of music videos, so I’m just going to admire the pretty costumes and ostentatious party settings.

More new hits next Friday.

Music Video Monday: Heaven 17: Let Me Go

Today on ‘Dee’s Favourite ’80s Music Videos All Have Classic Red Phone Boxes In Them’, we’re looking at Heaven 17’s 1982 video for Let Me Go. Fun fact: this was never a Top 40 hit. However, it is my favourite Heaven 17 song, and was my absolute highlight when I saw them at Electric Dreams in December.

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

The video opens in a black ‘n’ white deserted London, where the members of Heaven 17 are approaching a red phone box with its door hanging open, rather like the ones you see nowadays in areas where councils are not performing proper phone box upkeep. The phone is off the hook and repeating the automated voice from the speaking clock on a loop.

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

It’s not clear at this point what has happened to everyone else in London – there was a discarded Evening Standard fluttering about at the start of the video with the headline ‘British Electric Foundation crashes – Share prices halved – city rumours confirmed’, but that doesn’t really tell us anything (British Electric Foundation was the predecessor project to Heaven 17, so it’s probably just an in-joke!). However, Heaven 17 are still here and still walking purposefully towards…something.

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

In addition to the classic red phone box, we have a bonus classic red postbox that has spit out all its post (this doesn’t really make any sense, but the alternative explanation is that when people found it was full, they just dumped their envelopes in front of it instead of going off to find a different one that wasn’t full, and frankly that’s just silly). I’m not as obsessed with postboxes as I am with phone boxes, largely because the former are still in common use and therefore not an endangered species on British streets.

Anyway, this is the point when Glenn Gregory realises that Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh have disappeared into thin air (I suppose that must be what also happened to everyone else, although I’m not sure what it has to do with the British Electric Foundation crashing).

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

I’m sure this slo-mo sequence of Glenn running past the National Westminster Bank (the old name for NatWest, fact fans) is meant to be very artistic and beautiful, but as a recreational runner, every time I see it I just think, ‘He’s not wearing the appropriate gear!’

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

Inside the…train station? (it’s sheltered but open to the elements from the sides, and there’s a bench), there’s lots of cash fluttering about, adding to the forboding feeling of ‘London city types in the ’80s all disappeared into thin air’.

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

The video then briefly turns to colour for a ghostly crowd sequence. This type of ‘single person swimming against the tide of a crowd’ scene is something I associate more with Kate Bush’s 1985 video for Running Up That Hill, but apparently Heaven 17 did it first.

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

But soon Glenn returns to the empty black ‘n’ white world, and what’s this? Why, it’s a GPO 332, the standard GPO phone issued between 1937 and 1959! Glenn doesn’t bother using it – it’s clearly just here in the video for aesthetic decoration, and it performs that job beautifully.

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

The video ends with a shot of the swinging receiver in the phone box again, with the speaking clock still repeating itself over and over to a nonexistent listener. A nice, suitably haunting image to finish on!

Watch the full video:

Gig Review: Tears For Fears at Leeds First Direct Arena, 9th February 2019

I’d been looking forward to this one for a long time.

I first became aware that Tears For Fears were doing a tour when they appeared on the Strictly results show during the 2017 series. To my disappointment, I couldn’t get tickets at the time (see my longwinded story about that here), but when the tour was postponed from 2018 to 2019, my ticket hunt had a happier outcome.

A major bonus was that Alison Moyet was supporting. I’ve loved her stuff since I was a kid, ’cause Mum and Dad had her Singles compilation and used to play it in the car all the time. As such, I made sure that Geth and I were at the venue promptly, ’cause I knew it would take a while to get in (security at big arenas has been understandably beefed up ever since the Manchester attack, so it takes longer to get into gigs these days).

(There was a bit of unintentional comedy thanks to Geth’s utter astonishment that this huge concert arena had ‘suddenly appeared’ in the middle of Leeds! He spent a lot of time in Leeds when living in York between 2000 and 2004, but the First Direct Arena was only opened in 2013.)

After grabbing a Tears For Fears badge pack from the merch stand (I love badges and have collected loads – I need to do something with them at some point) – we found our seats and settled in for the show!

Alison Moyet
Alison Moyet. Gig photography only semi-blurry for this one ’cause we had quite good seats!

Alison Moyet’s set had been advertised as an electronic set, but overall it was probably a fifty-fifty mix of Yazoo classics and her more modern blues-type tracks. I would have liked to hear more of her post-Yazoo ’80s electro stuff, but I really did enjoy the modern songs even though I wasn’t familiar with them, so I can’t complain.

My absolute highlight was obviously Only You. It’s one of my favourite songs of all time, to the extent that I walked down the aisle to it in 2012. Getting to see Alison Moyet perform it live was a really, really special thing for me.

Alison Moyet setlist:

I Germinate
Nobody’s Diary
Do You Ever Wonder
Beautiful Gun
All Cried Out
The Rarest Birds
The Sharpest Corner
Situation
Only You
Love Resurrection
Don’t Go

An interval and some more drinks later, it was time for the main event!

Tears For Fears
Tears For Fears. It was so awesome to see these two live!

Tears For Fears were doing a shameless greatest hits set – signalled from the start when they came onstage to Lorde’s cover of Everybody Wants To Rule The World and then launched into the original version – and they have a lot of hits, so there were very few tracks I didn’t recognise. It was all enjoyable singalong numbers from start to finish, which was exactly what I wanted to hear.

It’s hard to choose a highlight, but I’m going to go with Mad World, which has been a favourite of mine for decades now (it was on the first ’80s nostalgia playlist I created back in the ’90s, and I remember in 2003 trying to convince my brother that the original was better than the Michael Andrews version). Again, it was such a nice moment to hear it live at long last.

Unusually, there was only one track played as part of the encore – but it was Shout, and it went on for ages, so it was a suitably epic finale!

Tears For Fears setlist:

Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Secret World
Sowing The Seeds Of Love
Pale Shelter
Break It Down Again
Everybody Loves A Happy Ending
Change
Mad World
Memories Fade
Suffer The Children
Woman In Chains
Advice For The Young At Heart
Badman’s Song
Head Over Heels
Shout

Overall a great gig to start the year’s live music, and it will take some beating. A bonus was that Geth was really impressed by the First Direct Arena, so he’s now very happy to join me in my endless ’80s musical indulgence when bands play in Leeds. We’ll be back there for A-ha in November!

Music Review: Pet Shop Boys: Agenda

There was a new Pet Shop Boys EP released yesterday, which is always a good thing! I’ve never listened to a Pet Shop Boys record I didn’t like, largely because they are extremely reliable and consistent in what they do (i.e. great synthpop tunes). The new release, Agenda, is no exception.

Pet Shop Boys - Agenda

Let’s have a listen to the tracks.

Give Stupidity A Chance

Lovely happy synthscapes to kick off. Bit of a contrast with the doomy lyrics, but after the Specials last week I’m starting to get used to that!

On Social Media

Classic upbeat synthpop that was an instant earworm when I first listened to it on Thursday night. The rhymes are daft in an endearing way, and it’s a bit ‘old men ranting about modern technology’, but the tune is awesome and I’m going to be listening to it all week.

What Are We Going To Do About The Rich?

Great chant-along track! Another one for the daily playlist. The rhythm is fantastic.

The Forgotten Child

Something a bit slower, but gorgeously atmospheric, for the last track. Love the twinkly melancholy instrumental – it’s almost Christmassy for a minute, and then the beat drops. Gorgeous stuff.

Classic and classy as ever from PSB. Love this EP!

New Hits Friday: 8th February 2019

Four new hits in the chart today!

Lauv and Troye Sivan – I’m So Tired

Well, at least there’s a tune to it, and I quite like the electro-tinged backing track. It’s not hugely exciting though.

There’s no video for this yet.

21 Savage and J Cole – A Lot

The lyrical content of the rap is a lot cleverer than most stuff out nowadays, and I quite like the soul singing in the background.

The video, which compares the fronts people put on in public to the realities of their lives, features a lot of 20th century trappings like vinyl records, flashbulb photography, and classic dishes, so I’m all about it.

Fredo and Dave – All I Ever Wanted

Great epic electro atmosphere on the backing track, and the rhythm of the rap is quite nice. I’ve not been keen on Fredo’s previous stuff, but I quite like this one.

The video’s a fairly standard London rap video – urban setting, lots of weed – but at least there’s a semi-story going on.

Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend

Great beat, interesting and unusual vocals. Nice to have something different in the chart.

The video is suitably haunting and full of horror imagery, which I really, really like!

Music Video Monday: recent chart catchup

Another raft of current chart hits where the video’s only recently been released!

Jax Jones and Years & Years – Play

Daft, colourful, supermarket-checkout-themed video with lots of miniaturised people dancing on one of those motorised belts you put your shopping on. I highly approve of this one!

Calvin Harris and Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – Giant

Slightly trippy video with a nonsensical, unclear story. At first it seems to be a depressing tale about a young guy whose mother has a prescription pill addiction, and I’m going to guess that the rest of the stuff in the video is just part of his fantasy about escaping his life, because it’s all random shots of Calvin Harris living a secluded, self-sufficient life out in the woods with lots of fishing and campfire cooking, and then there’s some people riding horses, and then Rag ‘N’ Bone Man appears to be playing the role of some kind of nighttime forest dance cult leader, although he doesn’t actually dance himself. Anyway, some of the imagery is quite pretty, and I guess that’s the important thing in a music video.

Sam Smith and Normani – Dancing With A Stranger

The setting for this one is all very grey and minimalist, and I (obviously) love the ’80s-inspired grey leather sofas in Sam Smith’s otherwise empty living room, but it’s pretty bleak-looking until everyone starts dancing.

Back to the ’80s next Monday.

Music Review: The Specials: Encore

This album has been widely promoted as the first new music from the Specials since Ghost Town in 1981. It should be noted that it’s far from the original band lineup – the three original members involved in this album include two of the ones who went on to be in Fun Boy Three and the one who went on to be in General Public – but thirty-eight years is still a pretty notable gap in a band’s musical production.

The Specials - Encore

Let’s have a listen!

Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys

Nice jazz funk intro, leading into an upbeat chanty vocal. Awesome beat, and I love the spiky accents in the background instrumentation. There’s a great funky instrumental in the middle too.

BLM

Another upbeat track with a politically charged spoken vocal over the top. It’s a little repetitive, but that actually works quite well for the storytelling that the track is trying to do. There’s also a nice atmospheric lift at the end of each verse, and a good rock instrumental in the second half, after which the funk guitar really kicks in.

Vote For Me

Great atmosphere on this one, with jazzy piano over a reggae beat. It’s exactly my kind of thing – a real classic sound that somehow manages to sound reminiscent of better modern music as well. That melancholy trumpet solo is just immense.

The Lunatics

Reworking of classic Fun Boy Three track The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum. More great piano on the intro, leading into another reggae beat and another nice trumpet solo. Good stuff.

Breaking Point

There’s a bit of a carnival feel to the background music here – it’s all very dark and jaunty. It makes everything very atmospheric and sounds as though it should be on a film soundtrack.

Blam Blam Fever

Some interesting things going on with the beat here, and it’s a bit more optimistic-sounding than the previous tracks – musically if not lyrically! I really like the juxtaposition of the different vocals, which is very classic Specials.

10 Commandments

Interesting intro, with military-band-sounding drums leading into electronic spaceship sounds, and a female spoken vocal over the top delivering to-the-point feminist lyrics. There are some great synthy atmospheric instrumental breaks as well.

Embarrassed By You

Warm, gorgeous melody, and another pleasant reggae beat. Like the rest of the tracks on the album, the lyrics are very politically critical, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the music.

The Life And Times (Of A Man Called Depression)

More spoken word, with verses broken up by atmospheric instrumentals with hints of ’60s lounge. I find the lyrical content of this one very powerful as it’s a topic that means a lot to me.

We Sell Hope

Gorgeous atmospheric intro that moves into a slow reggae beat. Another lovely melody, and a less angry but still important message in the lyrics. Great album ender.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one – it’s hugely refreshing to hear such nicely put together songs in 2019, and it’s important that political records are still being made in an age when there are so many things in the world that need to be addressed. Welcome back, Specials – I’d take this over the current chart fodder any day.

New Hits Friday: 1st February 2019

Six new hits in the chart this week.

Kehlani and Ty Dolla Sign – Nights Like This

It’s very generic, but at least there’s some melody.

The video, however, is great! It’s got an actual story, with a sort of robot-Frankenstein-betrayal thing going on (and Kehlani and Ty Dolla Sign actually playing characters in the story). So much better than dancing in clubs or standing around next to expensive cars!

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and 6ix9ine – Swervin’

I like the atmosphere and the bass-heavy backing track. On the whole, though, it’s not exciting enough for me.

There’s no video yet.

Little Mix and Ty Dolla Sign – Think About Us

Good beat, good pop tune. I quite like this one.

Again, no video for this one yet.

Yungen and Dappy – Comfortable

Really like the Caribbean sound on the backing track – it provides a great atmosphere. There’s not much of a hook though.

The video is a bit of a ‘standing around next to cars’ video, but there’s some interesting stuff going on with colour.

Dua Lipa – Swan Song

The instrumentals on the intro are quite interesting, and the atmosphere’s good (it’s from a film soundtrack so it’s appropriately epic), but the vocal’s not interesting enough for me.

The video ties in with the film, so it’s all very dusty and apocalyptic.

J Cole – Middle Child

Jarring instrumentals, repetitive rap. Not my thing.

No video yet for this track.

Music Video Monday: Tracey Ullman: My Guy

One of the things I love spotting in ’80s music videos is classic red phone boxes. You could probably have guessed that, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. The combination of ’80s music and the red phone box aesthetic makes a video several hundred percent better.

As I’ve discussed before, the UK started phasing out red phone boxes in 1985. The fact that so many are still standing thirty-four years later shows you how ubiquitous they were, and this was even more true in the ’80s, when they were still the standard UK phone box.

Tracey Ullman’s video for My Guy – her 1984 cover of Madness’ 1980 hit My Girl – is everything a 20th century telephone nerd could want in a music video. In addition to the aforementioned red phone box, there are classic phones a-go-go – none of them a GPO 746, sadly, but still very period-evocative. Let’s take a look!

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

At the start of the video, Tracey is dropped off at the bus stop in the rain by her boyfriend after an argument. This doesn’t involve telephones, but it does involve a super ’80s pimped-out car. Love that cadmium yellow colour!

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

Unlike many music videos to which I will be subjecting you all in the future, this video doesn’t actually contain a full-length shot of a classic red phone box. We get this close-up instead, where a cheery-looking individual is sabotaging Tracey’s phone call to her boyfriend with the help of some pliers. Those holes in between the red bars of the phone box are meant to have glass in them, incidentally (I believe this is known as a window). Music videos have never made any sense, and this one is no exception.

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

Back home, Tracey goes down to use the phone in the middle of the night, not realising that her mother has tampered with it. The phone in her mother’s house is a GPO 232, which was a type of GPO telephone issued between 1934 and 1957. You might wonder why the family still has such an old phone in 1984, but it’s probably for the same reason there’s still a ’70s-era GPO 746 sitting on the hall table in my parents’ house – i.e. it came with the house and it still works!

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

Again, no phones here, but I’ve always liked this girls-in-dinner-suits dance routine.

Of course, as I’ve discussed when doing my Now! marathon, the most notable thing about the video (assuming you don’t share my 20th century telephone obsession) is the Neil Kinnock subplot:

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

Neil first arrives at the end of the dance routine to partner Tracey in some kind of dance style that you don’t see on Strictly.

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

He then appears in a slightly more expected role, showing up to canvass at Tracey’s mother’s house. Side note: do party leaders actually go canvassing themselves during election campaigns? I know they at least sort of have to pretend that they’re still regular MPs in addition to spending a lot of time shouting at each other in the House of Commons.

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

Unfortunately, Neil’s bitten off more than he can chew with Tracey’s mother (also played by Tracey), who starts showing him all her photo albums. I love all the classic Labour slogan posters on the walls.

Neil shows up for a final time in the fast-food place where Tracey works, reading a paper. All the mosaic tiling and fancy plants look a little upmarket for a fast-food place. Maybe such places were just better in 1984.

Tracey Ullman - My Guy

Back to the phones! Tracey spends most of her work day waiting for the restaurant’s telephone to ring. I can’t place this model even after rummaging through a lot of databases on classic telephone sites, but it looks similar to a GPO 772 or 782.

The video ends without any resolution to the question of whether Tracey’s boyfriend is going to stop sulking and ring her back. They should have made a sequel.

Watch the full video:


New Hits Friday: 25th January 2019

Three new hits in the chart today.

AJ Tracey – Psych Out

Generic and dull track. And if I never have to hear the word ‘Gucci’ in a chart hit again, it will be too soon. Do Gucci actually pay for all these mentions?

The video has quite a pretty mansion in the opening sequence, but soon degenerates into a riot of twerking strippers. NSFW and not recommended, unless you like that kind of thing.

Mabel – Don’t Call Me Up

I don’t find there’s anything particularly new about the melody. There’s a plinky piano bit on the bridge I quite like, but otherwise it’s all a bit samey.

There’s some nice colourful outfits and pop dance moves in the video though.

Ariana Grande – 7 Rings

It’s based around a slightly dodgy interpolation of My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music. The track’s got a great atmosphere, though.

The video is all very pink and dreamlike.