Girls Aloud - Graffiti My Soul

“Spike heels and skin-tight jeans/ I’ve got a fistful of love that’s coming your way/ Baby.”

Oh, the cultural wastelands of the reality pop world. A landscape strewn with shattered dreams, glossy highlights and dignity – the discarded Topshop outfit; the faltering Christina cover. And yet, still they come. Wooed by the siren’s song of the precious, chart-topping few; wide-eyed they wander to sacrifice themselves on the rocks of pop idolatry.

Of what worth, the rare glorious result – A thousand broken souls? Ten times that? A million? The moral philosopher is wasted on questions of medical ethics: send them to Mr Cowell and see what permissions and constraints are fit for then!

The cynic might say that Girls Aloud succeed not in spite of this dubious system, but because of it. After all, without their chart-topping, transcendent pop career, what incentive is offered the auditioning hopeful? ‘I want to be just like Reuben Stoddard’. ‘My ideal career path is that of Hear’say’. Exactly. I think not. And without their TV-constructed fanbase, would we now see a pop act so secure in their unique sound that tracks like this are unleashed on the Blunt-buying public?

Because, like ’Biology’, this song is ridiculous.

A false-start of repeated refrain and bubbling chords lulls you into expectations of melody but then that swooping synth hits, and suddenly this isn’t so jaunty anymore. Ominous screech, demanding stuttered vocals; a delicious darkness underpins this whole affair. By the time that same intro refrain returns, there are no cheery illusions left, just dirty energy and an addictive, bitter aftertaste.

The means so justify the ends.

Bonus: ’Sound of the Underground’. Where it all began - with surf guitars!
Buy ‘What Will the Neighbours Say?’ from CD Wow


Something For the Weekend - Rachel Stevens / Clor

Rachel Stevens – Crazy Boys

The mournful echo of this creation is utterly seductive, a divine sliver of pop superlative. Not just the pitch of vocals, or wistful lyrical content, but the way it swoops into such regretfully delicious melody; the resigned chorus ringing with heavy beats and whispered longing.

Buy ‘Come and Get It’ from Amazon UK

Clor - Outlines

Ah yes, my loves, serenade me once more with your bouncing synth twiddles! Enchant me again with the tweeness of your lilting vocals! Pull me into your world of hum-along choruses and cutesy electro jangling, for I will clap in time with your delight. Each of us are, indeed, special in our own unique ways.

Buy ‘Clor’ from Amazon UK


The Like - What I Say and What I Mean

“I don't think I've said my goodbyes/ Sometimes I just find that they keep sneaking up from behind/ Closing up the wounds/I suppose it's supposed to take some more time.”

Winter’s coming on in a sudden shiver, but in your mind there are still bluebells and a rumpled blanket of itching green. Pulling layers tight around yourself in the early dark you remember the warmth of half a year ago, now half a world away. The present is two seasons out of synch with your heart – you don’t belong here, but ‘there’ is only an idea that exists in your mind. Something haunts your dreams, but you don’t know what it means.

Oh, that everything you feel could be clustered into these three minutes of melodic musing! The tangled threads of the past, so easily summarised in a couple of well-chosen lines; the echo of memory, but a ringing bridge and delicious chorus.

Like the breezy smile faked for sanity’s sake, there’s so much more lurking here beneath exuberant chords; a turmoil that creeps to the surface to catch you unawares – energetic rhythm giving way to brief bursts of a hollow harmony. Insistent mantra of a surging chorus – moving forward, pulled back. Left to falter in inertia, but what beautiful indecision it is.

Bonus - ’Too Late’: Haunting and heavy.
Buy ‘Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking?’ from Amazon
Do you like The Like?


Death Cab For Cutie – Soul Meets Body

Only this band can sweep me along in such a foreign tide of twee loveliness that I feel my heart tug as wafting musical notes are cruelly snatched from their soaring skies and dragged to meet their fate on barbed wire and in cluttered gutters. Yes, that’s right – animated musical notes. Such is the soft, melodic breeze of this song, it had me rooting for the drifting freedom of imagined icons. ‘Fly!’ I willed them, ‘Be free from this world of gravity and snark!’ Oh, for a horizon and soul-shaking wind to free me from this body like them – just for a little while.

Don’t download because they’re generous with their ‘cease and desists’

Kelly Clarkson – Because of You

“I told you so!” John Mayer beams with a smug grin, “There you were, chastising me for simplistic pop psychology, and all along I was right!” Quite. Seems our Kelly bears the demographic-friendly scars of a broken home, and has primed her confessional ballad for the contemplative Christmas market. ‘Tis certainly the season to angst about fathers, what with La Lohan milking her wayward ex-guardian’s misdemeanours for all they’re worth. Anyway, Kelly loved, he left, now we’re treated to the flashback-laden moral of the story. Don’t fight, parents, it tends to fuck the kids up.

Buy 'Breakaway


OK GO - Invincible

“When they finally come to destroy the earth/ They’ll have to go through you first/ I bet they wont be expecting that.”

Ah, the tumultuous life of a superhero! Attempts to integrate people’s conflicting perceptions of yourself. Work – home balance issues. A sense of duty towards a set path in life that goes against some of your true desires. No wonder Clark Kent is making such a mess of things in lil’ ol’ Smallville – his Y chromosome has left him totally ill-equipped to deal.

If he were a woman, the show would have barely lasted a season. I mean, honestly – dithering for four whole years about trust issues with Lex ‘I’m going to be evil, me’ Luther? Just smile sweetly, take him to bed and be done with it, my boy! Sorry, I forgot this is the WB. Consequence-free sex is permissible only when straight and/or evil and/or under the influence of kryptorocks and/or after years of chaste and inept yearning. Silly me!

What a fruitless existence. Where’s the sense of unrestrained joy? Where’s the awe of ominous wonder? Where’s the crazy-reckless heart-skip attitude?

At least OK GO are on hand to rescue us from such timidity with their sarcastically drawled odes to destructive superwomen everywhere. As always, their chord progressions simply ooze with style; an exuberance ringing loud with enough jaunt and joi de vivre to get even Lana to crack a pedestal-worthy smile. What these men do with a chunky riff could set the world on fire – my stiletto-steps fall in time with their reality and the street runs for cover.

Bonus - Do What You Want: Jauntiness is a many-splendoured thing.
Buy ‘Oh No’ from Amazon
Watch that video to ‘A Million Ways’.


The Veronicas - 4Ever

“I’ve seen it all/ I’ve got nothing to prove/ Come on baby/ Just make your move.”

Ever wanted a handy pop time machine? Simply grab the act of your choice, whisk their youthful selves to the present and see what paeans to kittens and rainbows Courtney would be penning pre-Kurt. Or how about wee Connor’s more jaunty musings – “Life is lovely and I’m really very happy”? What about some Donnas, from the days when they would blow your mind, not….?

No need!

Geniis that they are, the dear Veronicas have not only settled on the perfect girl/pop/rock sound, but they’ve solved the time travel conundrum to boot. Someone give them a Nobel prize already!

Their plucked-from-thin-air name begs comparisons, of course, but it’s not just that. These girls make the kind of irresistibly infectious, pounding pop tracks I like to imagine our Donnas dreaming up, long before they were corrupted by that tawdry life of random sex and debauchery. No backseats, just cute red indie-girl beads. No JD and passing it around, just crushes and teen angst, set against a joyfully melodic backdrop of perfect harmonies and thrashing drums. And oh, the joy of an uber-riff; driving the song towards that inevitable, all-conquering chorus with a restrained power that bursts into pure, gleeful celebration.

Bonus –Revolution: Did Feeder ever envisage their riff from ‘Buck Rogers’ would be appropriated to such triumphant ends?
The Veronicas MySpace
Buy 'The Secret Life of the VeronicasAmazon;iTunes


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Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We're Going Down

“I’m just a notch in your bedpost/ But you’re just a line in a song.”

Sometime a girl’s just got to get her emo on.

You know what I’m saying. The time for complex interpretations of your inner landscape has passed. Throw out the Broken Social Scene playlist, friends: now it’s time for your petulant inner teen to party. Toss that imaginary fringe! Belt it out at full angst-ridden volume! Leap into the pain, my dear – harness that anger for musical good!

Melodic and crazy cool, with enough riffs and raffs and slo-mo-guitar-leaps to put even Busted to shame. This is the good stuff. Let it sweep you along in adolescent post-break-up bliss; follow the etch-a-sketch outline right the way through layers and breakdowns and power chord greatness. And that chorus! Oh, the surge; my, the infectious exuberance!

Tell me you can resist this. Tell me you ain’t yelling along as he goes down, DOWN! Tell me… Mwahaha! You know you can’t. Another anti-emoist falls at the feet of angsting greatness. My work here is done.


Dragonette - I Get Around

“Here I come/ When I better go/ I say yes/ When I ought to say no.”

As is so often the way in this game, somebody else was here first, but in this case it’s a fact deliciously apt for the resigned anthem of slutastic behaviour. Want wanton ways? Want morning after blues?

Here ya go, just don’t expect this girl to be returning your calls, m’dear.

From the first burst of crunk-style synth whine, I almost expect the ubiquitous announcement that this is a Jazzy Fizzle production (Sho’ nuff!). Bring the bling and thigh-thrusting ‘empowerment’, dudes. We got us some club action. But no, what’s this? A cooing Annie iced vocal! ‘Chewing Gum’ enunciation = clear pop burst v2.0?

First impressions can be deceptive, huh? See, this is no ordinary electro-neauvaux-uber-quasi-pop artwork; it’s so much more. Artfully dancing along the jaunty indie-electro divide, the blend levels to careless, downbeat exposition. Silent slide out of a foreign bed, creeping guilty grin. Smooth it lilts to that chorus of delicious ‘where the hell’s my underwear?’ resignation; not so much regret as sweet shrugging acceptance. The loop of a single line with blissfully restrained glee.

You know how it feels.


Deep Dish - Flashdance

"He hasn't met a girl like me/ Are you kidding?/ Well, I tell him that I'd rather die."

There’s a guy and a girl.

There’s always a guy and a girl. (Two guys and a girl, actually - if you want to peruse the Ryan Reynolds sitcom back-catalogue, but that’s another story.)
Feeling equals connection equals intimacy equals joy equals something falling apart at the seams, somewhere down the line. Seduction and rejection, bitterness and rage. Because amicable is a word for edited scenes on a foreign page – the world doesn’t work that way. How can it, when the drive of insistent chords keeps taunting you with the same boiling refrain?

The slow power of constrained anger in this song is a joy to behold; such taut venom, such delicious insouciance. Leave your jaunty, sweet songs at the door and paint the scene in monochromes: gun-metal grey, black reflected in petrol fumes. The world-weariness of drolly arched vocals cuts through the loop; she with the heart of glass staying deep in her dance noir lair.

This is steel in your stomach, ice water in your veins


Ashlee Simpson - Boyfriend

“Hey how long/ ‘til the music drowns you out?/ You really got it wrong/ I didn’t steal your boyfriend.”

Ready? OK!

So, like, Wilmer was going out with Mandy, but now she’s with Zach and he moved onto Lindsay. But then they broke up and she started chasing after Jared, who had fooled around with Paris before she stole Mary-Kate’s boyfriend. But, like, Jared also dated Ashley who had gone out with Scott (who’s like, so old. Ewww!) and he’d been with Lindsay as well! And then Ashlee went out with Wilmer AND Scott, so, like, Lindsay’s all “wtf?” and Paris is all, “That’s so NOT hot!”, and the Olsen twins just drink their vente frappes and pout.

Got it?

Anyways, this hollaback hangs off a perfectly jaunty riff; Ashlee’s slouching vocals barely phoning in her drawled performance from a hacked Sidekick. Moody and damn danceable, that chord progression kicks you into a head-toss beat as her ‘woah woah’s, are sullen false-starts to the triumphant ‘ha!’

She ain’t sorry, she don’t care.