Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part VIII: #60-41

*Read with videos here

24 hours late. Soz.

60. The Automatic - 'Monster'
(2006, #4, DL)

DL: 'Wacky' wank. If there is to be a resurgence in charting UK guitar music, you can guarantee that it would be even more banal than this. How does anyone relate to this song? Daft shouty boy is icing on cake.

AN: Another tune that reminds me of Justin Lee Collins, Hollyoaks, and the mid-noughties nadir of human existence

JG: The whole “Britpop II” thing really was a waste of everyone’s time, wasn’t it?

TM: Overhyped ‘zaniness’ from these ‘indie’ paddlers down the mainstream, as expressed in the tiresome video. Such dumb, meaningless lyrics: the human brain’s demise “through misuse, through misuse”.

59. Marty Wilde - 'Donna'
(1959, #3, RC)

DL: Standard late-1950s schmaltz of the type that must be on its way to extinction as generations die away. With a bit of luck Radio 2 might be listenable by the time I get to 65. This old 45 can do one.

AN: In a few isolated cases, the attempt to make something that will sell results in pop genius. More often, sadly, it results in hollow pastiche. This epitomises the latter trend.

JG: What a load of crooning toss. It’s shameful that the raw energy of rock and roll ended up in schmaltzy rubbish like this. No wonder The British Invasion bands sounded like the second coming.

TM: Lachrymose crooning without an ounce of sincerity from the South Londoner who took his stage first-name from the Paddy Chayefsky-scripted film. However, he did write ‘Jesamine’ and spawned Kim.

58. Shayne Ward - 'No U Hang Up'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: Don't want to say too much as I hear his family can be a bit tasty but this reminds me of baltic mornings at HMV York, Xmas 2007 in just a t-shirt, alternated with 'Bleeding Love' on constant rotation.

AN: One of the ways that the whole X Factor thing has become so terrifyingly hegemonic is that it’s so difficult to critique. I mean, there’s just nothing there is there? Strikingly similar to the Marty Wilde in that sense.

JG: Is this just about those 090 numbers I see advertised in the back pages of tabloids? I hope so.

TM: Smug emoting from this designer slap-head, with a video that verges on soft-porn. Unappealing in its self-satisfied solipsism; take your “No U Hang Up kind of love” and learn some basic humanity.

57. Elton John & Kiki Dee - 'True Love'
(1993, #2, RC)

DL: Funny how you don't hear this as often as 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart'. Elton is one of those tabloid aristocrats who has actually composed a number of agreeable mainstays, but this makes ears vomit.

AN: Increasingly, I think it’s not really the right-wing idiots that make the world such an awful place but the wealthy liberals who grow fat on exploitation while making blasé gestures at philanthropy and bien pensant post-sixties ethics. Or, put another way, Elton John is a cunt.

JG: Amazing to think that in the 1970s Elton John was an outré, exciting performer responsible for such great songs as 'Benny and the Jets'. In contrast, 'True Love' is little more than the sound of a bulge spreading around a middle-aged belly.

TM: For me, one of this list’s most heinous ballads. A Casio aided and key-change abetted mass of treacly, saccharine ghastliness. Two old pros grandstand, with little enthusiasm and nothing to say.

56. Eiffel 65 - 'Blue (Da Ba Dee)'
(1999, #1, DL)

DL: The late 1990s really were a miserable time for me, and like The Mavericks, revisiting this leaves me profoundly gloomy. Just tacky. No redeeming features. I think the 90s just ran out of steam by the end.

AN: Quite enjoyed this at the time purely because it’s so fucking weird. Hallucinatory Euro dalek pop. Its release did coincide with some teenage experiments with magic mushrooms, which might have had something to do with it.

JG: Remember when the KLF wrote that book about how to become a star? You can hear the embers churning about the breeze right here.

TM: Can’t be worse than #57, but: a rare piece of less than enjoyable euro-pop. It possesses a certifiably exasperating tune and a total blankness – from the shell-suited singer to the animation.

55. Wet Wet Wet - 'Love is all Around'
(1994, #1, DL)

DL: Luckily, the '00s gave us far superior long-standing chart toppers ('Crazy', 'Umbrella') to the 1990s. Jarvis's 'I hate Wet Wet Wet' TOTP message was the perfect gesture. No wonder people fell for Oasis.

AN: Yeah this is shit. Everyone knows why. It took people longer to realise that Richard Curtis was even more insidious as a cultural influence though, eh?

JG: Number 1 for about a year in 1994. Here, the latent promise of love as widespread agora in The Troggs’ original version is converted into atomised, individualised ideals of love as saccharine shite.

TM: Even in 1994, this sounded like greasy hands in the till: life seeping out of the culture. This milking of a so-so ‘60s ballad paved the way for more inane film tie-ins and the worst boy-band tendencies.

54. Eamon - 'Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)'
(2004, #1, DL)

DL: Struggling to get to the end of these tracks now. What an awful, pitiful and misogynist strop of a record. However, the week when Morrissey propped up not only this but its answer record too was quite a moment. Fuck this.

AN: An empty hook amid nasty noughties misogyny.

JG: Supposedly, this song was released as a kind of “twist” on the usual teen break-up nonsense. That’ll be the kind of “twist” that made Bruce Willis a ghost in The Sixth Sense when we all saw it coming from the opening frame.

TM: This whiny railing against his ‘hoe’ exemplified the bitter, mean-spirited mood of the early 2000s. The emotion seems staged and calculated, as in Frankee’s infamously egregious ‘answer’ record.

53. Phil Collins - 'Groovy Kind of Love'
(1988, #1, RC)

DL: Deep down, I know this is a terrible record yet I can't help but cite a fondness for it. On the other hand, no, I can't even enjoy this nostalgically. Has there ever been a less glamourous pop star? "I'm talking nonce sense".

AN: Proto-Westlife dross. How did he get away with this?

JG: There is just something about Phil Collins’s late 1980s output that makes my blood boil and I don’t even know what. Maybe it’s just fundamentally infuriating in every conceivable way.

TM: A reasonably charming ‘60s hit is premeditatedly, ruthlessly slain by Collins, a man who exemplified ‘80s efficiency and selfishness as much as The Beatles summed up ‘60s egalitarianism and openness.

52. Hughie Green - 'Stand Up and Be Counted'
(1977, did not chart, TM)

DL: Hateful and sinister right-wing patriotic spoken word horror from a fucking game show host. Paula Yates was famously dismayed to learn that he fathered her. Yep, this is terrifying. Not rousing, but spooky and extremely unnerving.

AN: Actually scratch what I said about the liberals. The right-wing cunts are obviously slightly more blame-worthy.

JG: A man approaching pension age (and who hid in the Canadian Air Force during WW2 like Zilly from Catch the Pigeon) self-pityingly decries the end of empire as though his flaccid little ego depended on it. A 1970s antecedent of the execrable Noel’s HQ.

TM: Portentous, mean-spirited poppycock from the talent-show host with right-wing delusions of grandeur. "The will to win"! Like Portillo in SAS mode; mere Mosleyite demagoguery flanked by grim choir and strings.

51. Jonathan King - 'The True Story of Harold Shipman'
(2007, album track; did not chart - surprisingly!, TM)

DL: Even scarier than #52. It was bad enough listening to this when the nominations began so I don't think I can repeat the experience. I would imagine that the full opera is quite amusing in the wrongest sense possible. Had to be in.

AN: By god, sometimes the sheer weight of sinister shit in the world really gets me down.

JG: Jonathan King’s effort to implore us all to treat media caricatures with scepticism might have won more favour had it not attempted to rehabilitate a man who killed dozens of his patients in cold blood in the process.

TM: There is much scope for a song to critique media sensationalism. The vile King is manifestly not the man to record it, as this pitiful effort attests. Simply abysmal, as well as crass.

50. Eric Clapton - 'Wonderful Tonight'
(1977, #30 - live, 1991, DL)

DL: I'm all for sincere musical declarations of love to your chosen figure of obsession, but fuck me if this isn't unbearably gooey. He's as boring as shit anyway at the best of times, the acoustic 'Layla' being a lifeless drag too. Get a room.

AN: Good call Dave. Can’t understand people who like this. It’s odd that Clapton became so terrible though, isn’t it? People of a certain age regard him in the same bracket as Hendrix. Which makes me wonder: is death the only escape from capitalism?

JG: Millionaire anti-immigrant bore tells us all about the great shags he reckons he’s getting. Well thank you and fuck off!

TM: Clapton sleepwalks through this ballad which makes Knopfler sound animated. There is nothing of interest in this: just a dull, complacent riff and soft chords with barely any musical variation at all.

"CLAPTON IS GOD" - or just a millionaire in a suit?

49. Athlete - 'You Got the Style'
(2002, #37, DL)

DL: Sub-Coldplay. How can a song about rioting sound so safe and conceited? And how many will have picked upon the subject matter, rather than thinking it's simply a cosy song about nice weather?

AN: I quite like 'Wires' by Athlete.

JG: Why the hell were Athlete so popular? This is awful, plodding nonsense that pre-empts no-marks like Orson and The Feeling as much as anyone else. For an indie band, that’s scandalous.

TM: Student-friendly ‘indie’ from 2002 defines forgettable. I preferred Lemon Jelly, Junior Senior and Tweet. This Athlete tune is far from hateful, but is evidence of how little we’ll settle for.

48. The Kooks - 'Ooh La'
(2006, #20, DL)

DL: So pleasing to see so much dreadful bland 'indie' in the upper reaches of the chart. Fake Scouse accents, Brit School background, sub-Britpop backwards-looking bullshit. 'Pretty, pretty, petti-coat'. FUCK OFF.

AN: The most inexplicable thing about The Kooks – and there were many – was the guy’s accent. It’s fake Scouse isn’t it? I can think of no real explanation for this.

JG: As with Kula Shaker before them, and The Vaccines later, The Kooks are just an Etonian idea of what indie music ought to be – gelded, depoliticised and “nudging” the masses toward a life of diligent consumption.

TM: “Your pretty, pretty petticoat”. A John Power lookalike advances words that are vague, presumptuous and puzzlingly smug: empty Hollywood references thrown around like so much hollow tinsel.

47. Jess Conrad - 'Mystery Girl'
(1961, #18, RC)

DL: Conrad's beige and sickening pop ditty may be as edgy as Daniel O'Donnell, but by all accounts he was something of a fearsome psychopath in his day, not only biting chunks out of his rivals' faces, but even threatening to chop Frankie Howerd's ears off. What a nice man.

AN: Similar to the Marty Wilde. The English Establishment attempting to negate and twee-ify the counterculture before it was even born.

JG: Number 47?! This isn’t that bad, surely?

TM: Much to their credit, the British public preferred ‘Johnny Remember Me’. A cantering, innocuously dim bauble of a track; cut-price teddy-boys surely swaggered. The last pre-1970s entry: deeply resistible.

46. Kula Shaker - 'Mystical Machine Gun'
(1999, #14, TM)

DL: The accompanying TFI Friday performance was akin to experiencing the last dying whimper of Britpop. This was at a time when the key players of that movement found their popularity had crumbled seemingly overnight. Pretentious yet hilarious self-indulgent drone.

AN: Funnybad.

JG: This is just a re-working of 'Spaceman' by Babylon Zoo, except it’s worse. Imagine that. Utterly vacuous shite.

TM: Utterly misbegotten and ponderous grand-folly churned out by Mills & Co in their twilight. 346 seconds of pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo that even that crazed shyster L. Ron Hubbard would find fanciful.

“Open up forget your life, breathe in breathe out retain a sense of suicide / Are you glad to see how far you’ve come? / You’re a wizard in a blizzard / A mystical machine gun”?

45. The Feeling - 'Never Be Lonely'
(2007, #9, DL)

DL: "B-b-b-b-b-b-b-baby, I think I'm going c-c-c-crazy". I'd like to hear you defend that. On the other hand, it's practically Modeselektor when compared to the works of similar offenders Scouting for Girls.

AN: The rundown this week is making me depressed. At least in previous weeks I was heartened by the tunes I quite liked. Eiffel 65 is the best we’ve got this time around.

JG: This (and Adele, and Jessie J, and The Kooks) is what the BRIT School churns out. One institution, degrading our aural culture like a great whirling piece of Ideological State Apparatus. “Consume, do not think.”

TM: Mika might have been an even surer bet, but this is an absurdly successful fusion of Supertramp, Macca and The Rembrandts, crowned with a glib sentiment. Why accept this, when we have Hot Chip?

44. Scouting For Girls - 'Elvis Ain't Dead'
(2007, #8, TM)

DL: I've spent five years trying and failing to put the anger awoken in me courtesy of this trio into words. After this, you could never use the word 'indie' to describe a style of music again. "Elvis has left the building!". A pathetic example of popular song.

AN: On the other hand, I’m glad we’re now getting a preponderance of recent excrement. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the members of SfG in the future. Actually, no it won’t.

JG: Actually, I can relate quite well to that line of “I wish it was me you chose.” It’s rawer than anything else this shower have achieved. Naturally, the mood is then killed off with a completely nonsensical reference to Elvis being alive.

TM: More tin-pot ‘70s theft in those keyboards. I slated this over four years ago, and have no reason to change my mind now; sadly, SFG have yet to leave the building. Yes he is dead, you Ruislip fuckwit!

43. Stereophonics - 'Madame Helga'
(2003, #4, DL)

DL: Extremely unpleasant, tuneless and bluesy coke-rock that a certain pub-rock covers band used to open with at work every single time they played. Completely charmless. What happened to the poignant humdrum small-town tales of the 'Word Gets Around' era?

AN: Fuck me.

JG: That this isn’t technically the worst thing the Stereophonics have produced should not be read as any kind of recommendation. Like a heavier form of The Feeling, unfortunately.


Assail my tired ears

With hoarse, strutting gutturals

In tatty facades

42. Cher Lloyd - 'Swagger Jagger'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: Christ. M.I.A's become disappointing enough without having to endure an 18 year old 'street' reality TV star emulating her style. At least it doesn't have a dubstep breakdown. The referencing of Twitter sounds very desperate too.

AN: Profoundly dystopian.

JG: This kind of nursery rhyme shite makes Simon Cowell lots of money by bowdlerising earlier templates established by the likes of Lady Sovereign. Criminal.

TM: The sole W200S track with a majority of dislikes on YouTube. There’s brash, bubblegum pop but this is just woeful. “Be what I be”: such senseless lyrics make it the natural and equally odious sibling of ‘Darling Buds of May’.

41. Lenny Kravitz - 'Fly Away'
(1999, #1, TM)

DL: 1999 was so shit. I remember listening to 13 a lot as the perfect antidote to everything. Lenny is synonymous with terms such as 'vapid', 'cliche', and 'Mondeo' and quite rightly so. It's piss miserable hearing this again.

AN: In many ways this pre-empts the noughties trend (Scouting for Girls, Stereophonics, The Feeling, Athlete) for lobotomised rock with just enough alternative street cred not to be laughed out of town by Joe Average. Risible.

JG: The entire latter two thirds of this song consists of Lenny Kravitz wishing he could “get away”. Go on then.

TM: To Curtis Mayfield what Ed Milliband is to Clement Attlee. And that’s actually being kind to this journeyman irritant. This is a monumentally galling record, endlessly ubiquitous in its nettling triteness.

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