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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part II: #180-161

Okay, time for part #2 of a rundown that has already proved extremely divisive. Though we have avoided the usual 200 novelty hits that you'd usually expect to find in this type of thing, it is this part of the chart whereby the majority of nominations of that ilk have finished up. If, for some unfathomable reason you'd like to enjoy this part of the project whilst listening to the records themselves, then I've put together a YouTube playlist.

180. MC Miker G & Deejay Sven - 'Holiday Rap'

(1986, #6, JG)


DL
: A further offering of funny foreigners, this time employing that wacky and innocent hip-hop delivery that could not survive the dual-pronged assault of NWA and this exact Madonna-sampling arsegem.

AN
: The Dutch haven't produced much of note since De Stijl, have they? Oh, I suppose there was Total Football. That was great. ‘Holiday’ has endless potential for creative re-appropriation, but this makes you regret that it does.

JG
: Thick Dutch accents, Cliff-Richard references, misappropriation of hip-hop, “Ring a dang a dong for a holleedai”. What’s not to like?

TM
: Sublimely abysmal stuff from Amsterdam rap duo whose “We’re here to stay” was presumptuous. Miker’s beat-box psychosis has only been matched by Rolf Harris; is that the first ‘shit’ uttered on TOTP?


179. Ocean Colour Scene - 'The Day We Caught the Train'

(1996, #4, RC)


DL
: In an unprecedented U-turn, I’m maybe disgustingly going to have to admit this is a fine and somewhat timeless Summer tune when disassociated from Chris Evans and opportunistic neo-liberal movements.

AN
: Despite my personal affection for this (memories of the first weekend of Euro '96), I can't justify it objectively, politically, ethically, or lyrically.

JG
: Despite their many, many critics, Ocean Colour Scene had millions of loyal and faithful fans. Those fans were wrong.

TM
: I just can’t board this bleary, laddish locomotive; can’t get with his lairy "ROLL A NUMBER!” bellowing. “I laid my plans in solid rock”: isn’t that the problem? No more rock and roll for you, lad!


178. Adam Faith - 'Lonely Pup (In a Christmas Shop)'

(1960, #4, RC)


DL
: Adam Faith's reported last words were ''Channel Five is all shit, isn't it? Christ, the crap they put on there. It's a waste of space''. Surely that's some recompense for this mortifying, twee slop.

AN
: Consumerist candy imitating America in the worst possible way. A good looking chap though, Adam Faith.

JG
: Whilst fully endorsing the old adage that a dog should not just be for Christmas, that’s not quite how I feel about this record. Roll on 'Little Saint Nick'.

TM
: Irksome enunciation of ‘oh so good’. It is a phoned-in recital from future Budgie and malign manager in Stardust. No such life here. Mercifully brief at 104 seconds, which spared it a higher placing.


177. Danny Mirror - 'I Remember Elvis Presley (The King is Dead)'

(1977, #4, TM)


DL
: Surely a bizarre, ambulance-chasing sinister parody isn't the most appropriate way to pay tribute to your chosen recently-passed cultural icon? Tacky, cynical and arguably ill-intentioned.

AN
: Pop beginning to eat itself. Some might say it recently collapsed on the toilet, covered in excrement, reeking of hamburger.

JG
: This is a bit tasteless, no? Imagine if OMD had released a song called 'Bleeding in the Gutter' in February 1981 to the tune of 'Help!'

TM
: Mirror was actually the Rotterdam born Eddy Ouwens – responsible for co-writing Teach In’s passable Eurovision winner of 1975, ‘Ding-A-Dong’. This is somewhat less catchy and drearily deferential.


176. Telly Savalas - 'If'

(1975, #1, RC)


DL
: Bizarrely, it seemed the world was crying out for a spoken-word Kojak cover version of a Bread track that surpasses infinitely the original's gooiness albeit with more shuddersome threat in 1975.

AN
: Consumerist candy imitating America via Greece in the worst possible sense. Telly Savalas somewhat less fetching than Adam Faith.

JG
: I actually find this quite admirable, a 50 year old man striking up a Camel Light and huskily cooing his way through this standard. Pisses on Shatner’s 'Mr. Tambourine Man', at any rate.

TM
: Wing-collared, follically-challenged actor speaks over sluggish sludge. "And if the world should stop revolving; Y’ know, spinning slowly down to die". Listening to this, I know how the old orb feels.


175. McFly - 'Transylvania'

(2007, #1, TM)


DL
: I think that 'Transatlantic' would have been a better moniker given the drawl of messrs Fletcher and Jones. A number one hit whose week in the sun I have no recollection of whatsoever. Passable.

AN
: McFly were one of those inexplicably credible shit things about the noughties, like Hollyoaks and Justin Lee Collins.

JG
: This starts off promisingly enough, what with its glam rock references, but soon descends into the type of caterwauling shite that only McFly can do.

TM
: Infuriating, yelping charade. There are nods to the Beach Boys, Queen and maybe even XTC but it entirely lacks wit or zest. The "sorry if we disagree" bit predicts forthcoming landfill-indie larks.

I HAVE NO TIME FOR WESTERN MEDICINE
I AM CHARLES HAWTREY!
174. Who Cares? - 'Doctor in Distress'
(1985, failed to chart, TM)


DL: Are there any recorded instances of pop videos featuring vocalists cementing their takes whilst not looking like arsecunts? Absolutely horrendous pre-Autotune terror from start to end. Exterminate indeed.

AN
: I quite enjoyed this. Car crash kitsch, but interestingly bizarre.

JG
: Hard to say how far this over-busy synth-heavy single-issue campaigning helped the cause of Doctor Who during its dark nadir, but I can’t imagine Russell T. Davies was listening.

TM
: "Each screaming girl just hoped that a Yeti wouldn't shoot her"! The singer at 1:05 deserves this fate, with a smug Colin Baker. Sub-Hi-NRG farrago, only saved by Ainley and Courtney’s good humour.

"And the Brigadier and the Master! / And a K9 computer...!"
173. Journey - 'Don't Stop Believin''
(1982, #52*, RC)

*Originally and that's what counts


DL
: Perhaps sentimental power ballad that enjoyed a 28-year ascent to the UK Top Ten. Rather than toeing the party line, I'm happy to defend this, though not quite to the hilt. It does plod on a bit.

AN
: There are many better power ballads than this. It has what I'd call an "empty hook": mechanistically catchy but devoid of magic.

JG
: The US’s own 'Owner of a Lonely Heart'; the sound of prog rock becoming an amazingly worse art-form (MOR). Absolute shite.

TM
: Slick, airbrushed and utterly boring ‘anthemic’ rock; wasn’t good enough for 1982’s Top40 – and rightly so. As with your Bon Jovis and your Bryan Adams, a faux-rebellious anthem for complacent youth.


172. Catch - 'Bingo'

(1997, #23, TM)


DL
: This senseless appropriation of cheeky, humdrum indie-pop was rudely interrupted during a repeat late-night showing of the ITV Chart Show by some breaking news story or other. It wasn't recommenced.

AN
: With retrospect, I'm not sure we as a race ever recovered from this song.

JG
: Needlessly complicated arrangement about virginity-loss that tries too hard. I’d rather hear about Rolf Harris’s cherry-popping instead.

TM
: DesulTory tosh from the public schools. It presages Scouting for Girls and McFly with its debased 60s harmonies and utterly charmless vocal yearning for "where the films are blue"; posh Askwith alert!

171. Rod Stewart - 'Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Matilda)'
(1992, #6, RC)

DL
: "Can I borrow a couple of bucks from you?" No you can't. I can only hope some of those British people packed some Benylin for him to absorb post-this lifeless drag of a Tom Waits rehash.

AN
: Never understood Rod Stewart. Or Australians for that matter.

JG
: Musically, this isn’t an absolute atrocity by any means. I just don’t know why it exists. What is it for?

TM
: Laborious mauling of the Tom Waits song; a bearded Rod milking all of the ersatz emotion he discerns, therefore missing the subtler emotions of the original. The line "no prima donnas" seems ironic.

170. Blue - 'One Love'

(2002, #3, DL)


DL
: (I'M LOSING THE WILL TO LIVE HERE!) Cliché-ridden British take on swing-beat totally devoid of soul, emotion, depth and integrity. Not the last time we'll hear from the then-ubiquitous combo. A colourless, gaping hole of a song.

AN
: I like it.

JG
: Tapping into our naive desires for (as Terre Thaemlitz puts it) shared human experience with no reference to social context. Annoyingly, it’s technically proficient enough not to be too hateful.

TM
: They walk the city streets like they own them. There are some typically ‘earnest’ boy-band vocal stylings. Not the worst but somehow makes cosmopolitanism seem dull.


169. Tom Jones and Mousse T - 'Sex Bomb'

(2000, #3, DL)


DL
: With the seductive power of your average Tory backbencher (Major's cabinet), this grossly unerotic offering of predatory creepiness must have poured thousands into the chastity belt industry.

AN
: I tend to look back on the turn of the century as a time when dance culture was still in rude health. This vitiates my argument utterly.

JG
: This is just a joke record. Ho ho, let’s get wizened Tom Jones in to sing about sexual desire, hee hee. In a similar vein to mid-1970s Carry On fare.

TM
: ‘It’s Not Unusual’ is profound and deathless; this is just disastrous. A sixty year-old’s strained chortling, backed by an approximation of funk that is little more than supermarket raunch.


168. Wheatus - 'Teenage Dirtbag'

(2001, #2, JG)


DL
: An inane take on the power-pop of Weezer without the poignancy, charm or eccentricity. 'Teenage Dirtbag' marks one of those rare instances where the underdog doesn't deserve to triumph.

AN
: This is an enjoyable pantomime song that stands up well in comparison with, say, The Darkness, who actually made a serious career out of this shit.

JG
: For anyone experiencing real Joy Division-esque angst and social isolation as a teenager, this is like Vanilla fucking Ice. Offensive, twee and making light of actual trauma.

TM
: I don’t mind this too much, yet gave it a ‘7’ due to the irritating vocal timbre and excessive overplay. "Listen to Iron Maiden, baby, with me": typically retrogressive sentiments from 2001.


167. DJ Jean - 'The Launch'

(1999, #2, JG)


DL
: The kind of boring, repetitive and inconsequential Euro-house so typical of a sizeable portion of late nineties/early-noughties commercial dance. If you cut it open it would bleed 'meh'.

AN: I like it. Sort of.

JG: In the mid-90s dance music produced high-charting classics by the likes of Strike and Oceanic. ‘The Launch’ was the gravestone of any such further hopes.

TM: Our first dance music selection; sums up the problems of faceless DJ culture. This is post-human, unlike electronic music where humans and machines coalesce. Living in a satellite fantasy, indeed.



166. Alannah Myles - 'Black Velvet'

(1990, #2, RC)


DL
: By my calculations the 2nd tribute to Mr Presley on our countdown, but not as questionable as the first to my ears. Just your usual brooding, hackneyed 'classic' rock hit for your cunting Cadillac.

AN
: Some good-ish harmonies here.

JG
: To be honest, I have no idea why this middling, average, run of the mill Capital FM staple is in here. Unremarkable, but not a depth-plumber, I wouldn’t have thought.

TM
: Power balladry that would well accompany the unhinged, scheming histrionics of Jill Tyrell in Julia Davis’s Nighty Night. Peculiarly late-80s/early-90s but not in the AR Kane, Badalamenti or KLF sense.


165. Madonna - 'Music'

(2000, #1, DL)


DL
: Whatever happened to the melodic euphoria Madonna captured so easily up until the early nineties? 'Music' was just one of several examples of Madge bandwagon jumping. Forced, cold and calculated.

AN
: This is okay, not offensive for me.

JG
: Madonna was interesting when she was taking the lead in tackling various taboos about religion and sex. Here she sounds bored. Still, it’s better than the execrable “W.E.”.

TM
: Cynical commercial package that marked a rapid nosedive in quality from the Ray of Light era. ‘Music makes the people come together’. This induces indifference with its conceited video and lyrics.


164. Middle of the Road - 'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep'

(1971, #1, DL)


DL
: Sometimes you just have to be grateful for your date of birth. Were terms like 'twee', 'sickening' and 'nauseating' not in the popular consciousness in 1971? At least it has a tune, unlike #165.

AN
: Another pointless novelty song. Although the drums sound pretty good. Doesn't really need critiquing. Or perhaps it does ...

JG
: Is it just me, or does this (vocally at any rate) set the template that Abba would strip-mine to such effect? Plus, I know a very different version of the central refrain, but let’s not go there.

TM
: Moronically repetitive morsel of music; an exhibit in the case for prosecution of the pop song with its drearily senseless, insert-a-cliché lyrics. They did do better, but this is unforgivable.


163. Ja Rule (Feat. R. Kelly & Ashanti) - 'Wonderful'
(2004, #1, TM)

DL
: Neurotic, self-pitying and thinly-veiled celebration of material attainment so associated with this kind of thing, the phrase 'Ja Rule featuring R Kelly' being as appetising as a nail truffle alone.

AN
: Does this mark the end of the golden age of r'n'b? It's been all decline in the years since, but this still sounds good to me.

JG
: One of a long run of tiresome soundalike RnB songs about bling and gangsters, designed largely for white audiences. Dull production too. Where’s Timbaland when you need him?

TM:
It is a long road from Eric B & Rakim and Run DMC to this whining. Ashanti is subordinate; R Kelly is an inevitable malefactor: contribution #2 of 4 in this survey. The millionaire protests too much.


162. Blue - 'If You Come Back'

(2001, #1, TM)


DL
: Gone are the days when we could unwind, content in the knowledge that the trite and shallow boy-band ballad was an obsolete form. Thanks, JLS!

AN
: See above: I have (a very small amount of) time for Blue, though this is nowhere as good as 'One Love'.

JG
: As per ‘One Love’ I know this is poor and over-produced fluff but I find it hard to get too worked up about it. Now I think about it; that makes for a far greater sin than the ‘Holiday Rap’.

TM
: For me, more compellingly awful than #170 due to their grandstanding vocal aerobics from 2:08: “I don’t know WHAT TO SAY-E-AY!” This is ‘passion’ with all the clockwork sincerity of stage-school.


161. Hale and Pace - 'The Stonk'

(1991, #1, TM)


DL
: The best thing they ever put their name to, from the one-time kingpins of the ITV Sunday night graveyard slot. And you thought May and Taylor only sold legacies down rivers post-Mercury.

AN
: I guess this was a kind of nadir, yes.

JG
: Hale and Pace were a Sun reader’s idea of edgy comedy. Brian May is a Sun reader’s idea of art rock. Put them together and you have this. I rest my case.

TM
: Brian May-helmed abomination, not excused by its Comic Relief status. Dire, ‘honky-tonk’ music; pathetically ‘wacky’ dancing; inane, cretinous lyrics. Dave Gilmour looks thrilled to be involved.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Worst 200 Songs Part 1: #200-181

And we're away...

And so we commence... the rules being: we each write a maximum of 200 characters (including spaces) per entry - as we have 200 entries and to save time and our respective sanities...


200. Queen - 'Don't Stop Me Now'
(released in 1979, reached #9 in the UK Singles Chart, nominated by DL)

David Lichfield: Student disco staple that always marked the depressing realisation you were off home alone to vomit and weep. Queen had many agreeable hits away from the pomp and decadence, this isn't one.

Alex Niven: A good song at heart but travestied forever by its involvement in a thousand noughties nightclub Cheesefests.

John Gibson: In which Freddie Mercury confuses his supersonic with his superluminal and Brian May sounds bored, like he’s already thinking more about badgers than Queen.

Tom May: While I would’ve chosen a later Queen song, it is tediously over-exposed, with witless metaphors (‘I am a satellite, I’m out of control’) and embodies a hedonism that is oppressive, not welcoming.



199. Billy Joel - 'We Didn't Start the Fire'
(1989, #7, TM)


DL: Not hated enough by me to transcend the lower reaches. Seen as something of a bombastic, novelty track by some, with a meaningless list of cultural milestones intoned over horrific 1980's production.

AN: Don't know it.

JG: Derisory, plodding rip off of REM’s ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ a year after that fact, as if no one was going to notice.

TM: Fukuyama pop, which devalues History with its smugly random gazetteer of post-war names and events. The nature of the ‘fire’ and America’s supposed fire-fighting are typically, tellingly indistinct.



198. Peter Gabriel - 'Sledgehammer'
(1986, #4, RC)


DL: With some crass, alarmingly un-erotic innuendo which had largely gone unnoticed by me before ('You can have a steam train, if you'd just lay down the tracks'), this flat behemoth slips in seamlessly.

AN: The sound of everything beginning to go badly wrong.

JG: More famous for its video than the song and rightly so, considering that this is effectively a Bud Light version of the Thornbridge Jaipur calibre Art of Noise.

TM: The clomping, steamrollering cadence of consumerism. Witness the promo’s frenetic inanity; adventures are shrivelled, sold. All the more dispiriting as he had been such a weird English talisman.





197. Paul McCartney & The Frog Chorus - 'We All Stand Together'
(1984, #3, DL)


DL: A perplexing snapshot of the decline demonstrated by Macca post-Beatles, 'The Frog Chorus' is the worst possible way to be introduced to this one-time icon, and is a legacy-tarnishing exhibit.

AN: Macca, what were you thinking? Although you did sneak some interesting touches into the arrangement...

JG: When we kids at school, we used the central refrain of song two years later to the effect of “bomb, bomb, bomb Libya”. This probably says something, although I have no idea quite what.

TM: Affable fare, if certainly many leagues from the genial absurdity and invention of Ram or McCartney II. It evokes the genteel socialism of E. Nesbit, rather than Ken Loach. There are worse things.




196. Peter Sarstedt - 'Where do you go to My Lovely?'
(1969, #1, DL)


DL: Nothing wrong with a lovelorn pop song, but this pseudo-Gallic portion of never-ending bile could make the most bright-eyed romantic commit acts deemed heinous in all cultures. Discount Jacques Brel.

AN: I like this quite a lot actually.

JG: I think your lovely goes away from your horrible warbling voice, Peter.

TM: A pale appropriation of the then-fashionable French chanson for dubious purposes. Sarstedt is self-satisfied in his cultural citations and presumptuous about she who he interminably objectifies.




195. Dr Hook - 'When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman'

(1979, #1, DL)

DL: You don't see 1990s chart-toppers sounding as far removed from the present as music like this did even just 11 years or so after release. Lyrically and musically off-putting, with more bad innuendo.

AN: This too.

JG: Middling, inoffensive, tepid, banal – how many words for “meh” do you want?

TM: A slither of boring, self-glorifying paranoia, which yields just as little pleasure as it did back in 1996 when it was inexplicably played by an elderly Maths teacher in class.




194. Bryan Adams - 'Everything I Do'
(1991, #1, TM)

No embedding allowed, as Adams is clearly watching out for projects like this!

DL: At the helm of the chart for a tortoise's lifetime, another tender ballad with all the convincing sincerity of a car park. The sound of Valentine's Night Jeremy Clarkson; even the radio edit drags.

AN: And this is one of my all time faves.

JG: In 1995 Bryan Adams sang a song about permanent debauchery called '18 Til I Die'. Two years later he bought the pub next door and promptly shut it so he could get to bed by 9.30. Tosspot.

TM: Not his nadir, but a deadening weight at the top of charts for four months. The emotive chords are hackneyed; this is stadium friendly, fists in the air fodder, with Claptonite guitar solo to boot.




193. David Bowie & Mick Jagger - 'Dancing in the Street'
(1985, #1, TM)


DL: Not even an unwittingly hilarious video can save this musical form of vandalism. A strong argument for compulsory retirement from the hit parade once one's creative seed has began to run dry.

AN: If you were to try to imagine an antithesis to Martha and the Vandellas in 1965, this would be it.

JG: The video for 'Dancing in the Street' marks the point at which Mick Jagger began his inexorable transformation into a clay animation of himself. Uninspired.

TM: “Okay! TOKYO!!! SARF AMERRRIIICAAAAA!!!!!” They bawl with all the subtlety of artillery and dance with the grace of the Chuckle Brothers. A garish, misbegotten 80s travesty of the Motown original.




192. Atomic Kitten - 'The Tide is High (Get the Feeling)'
(2002, #1, TM)

DL: A cover of a cover, this tacky reworking came complete with an inexcusable, banal new bridge, adonyne pop production and none of the magic exhibited by even the Blondie version. Awful, hen night pop.

AN: Like it.

JG: Tuneless, cynical reworking of Blondie’s middle-of-the-road, cod-reggae nonsense. Perhaps they should have chosen 'Rip Her to Shreds'.

TM: This has an infuriating sheen of utter blankness and blandness. Little to say other than that this reduces one of Blondie’s weaker hits to musical wallpaper, fit to soundtrack ITV holiday programmes.




191. Nizlopi - 'The JCB Song'
(2005, #1, TM)


DL: Cursed to headline tenth tents of free festivals forever, Nizlopi's one chart hit was the somewhat trite acoustic testimony of a bullying victim, from the truant context of his father's vehicle.

AN: The yelping revolution starts here. Middle-class inconsequentialism masquerading as pathos.

JG: Perhaps what’s most offensive about this is that it doesn’t even sound like a novelty/comedy record. No, it sounds like bloody Chet Atkins. Horrible.

TM: Have hated this since the first time I heard its weedy, calculated ‘folksiness’ while browsing in HMV. His voice has all the galling ‘profundity’ of a latter-day Nick Clegg. A ‘top laugh’ ‘boss’? Nah.




190. Ferry Aid - 'Let it Be'
(1987, #1, TM)


DL: If you can separate the good causes from the shite records usually released on the back of them, then it's easy to proudly announce the presence of Sun-backed abominations like this on the rundown.

AN: No clarification needed.

JG: A harsh choice, maybe, but this plodding version of one of The Beatles’ weakest moments does little for the ears. Still, you shouldn’t joke around about the wider circumstances.

TM: An inappropriately stoical response to an avoidable tragedy – sponsored by The Sun, who had given away cheap tickets for the MS Herald of Free Enterprise. Infinitely inane vocal gymnastics and guitar solos.




189. Duran Duran - 'Is There Something I Should Know'
(1983, #1, TM)


DL: Epitomising as they do all that was shallow and soulless about the 1980's, it's no surprise to see the many-Taylored quintet on the chart. One presumes that it's the unfortunate lyric that swung it.

AN: Sometimes, it matters that the people who wrote a song were complete and utter cunts.

JG: Simon le Bon – the most ironically named man in pop. This is terrible, but remarkably isn’t quite as bad as 'The Reflex'.

TM: “You’re about as easy as a NUCLEAR WAR!” We had Edwyn and Clare; Haircut 100 and ABC. Yet we opted for this brash, Thatcherite assault; assertive, finger-pointing bravado and an enduringly bad lyric.




188. Renee and Renato - 'Save Your Love'
(1982, #1, TM)


DL: Oh, get a room. Interestingly the last UK Number One single that completely pre-dates me, and I'm not entirely sure we've seen such a Cornetto advert of a song at the lunacy of the top spot since.

AN: Don't know it.

JG: Perhaps this is how Daily Mail readers imagine European integration at its best – a fat, sweating Italian murdering the art of opera to suck up to a blond from Howard’s fucking Way.


TM: The success of this typifies how many British people have seen Europe as consisting of little more than sun, sand and ‘funny foreigners’. Renee and Renato make Demis Roussos sound like John Lydon.



187. England World Cup Squad - 'Whole World at Our Feet'
(1986, #66, TM)


DL: Long-forgotten and intolerable 1986 World Cup single and reason in itself for getting New Order in four years later. And a Top 70 smash. Seemingly made up on the spot to an improvised Casio backing.

AN: Thankfully, this sort of thing doesn't happen any more.

JG: Football songs hit a nadir in the mid-80s, right up until the time John Barnes started rapping. There’s no rapping on this one.

TM: A “battle cry” rendered on the cheapest synth imaginable; a “lion’s roar” akin to a cartoon mouse. Kids’ party musical ‘flourishes’. A chorus of footballers. A world away from the ‘Motion’ of 1990.




186. Limahl - 'Too Much Trouble'
(1984, #64, TM)


DL: Another 1980s flop, this time from the man who outgrew Kajagoogoo. I'm hoping for a high placing for his former band's major crime, but this is certainly one for the 'how can anyone enjoy this' pile?

AN: Don't know it.

JG: Limahl’s haircut was once described in the NME as looking like a mullet but the wrong way round. And that’s about as much as can be said for this forgettable, piddling non-song.

TM: Achieving a staggering two places higher than its predecessor in this list, this is a tedious, flatulent eighties effort that I find hard to sit through, inexplicable cricket motif in the video and all.




185. Michael Jackson - 'Cry'
(2001, #25, TM)


DL: Exactly the poor man's 'Earth Song' you'd have expected from all subsequent albums; it's unfathomable that an artist can fall this far from grace creatively regardless of any private decline.

AN: By this point of MJ's life/career, crying must have felt like something humans used to do.

JG: Jacko in the midst of his ongoing quest to become as irrelevant as humanly possible. A waste of a mountainous talent.

TM: Sickening, maudlin, R. Kelly-assisted shite. I have little to add to what I said here about this self-help peddling dirge. One of the very lowest ebbs of a strange career, epitomising his sad descent.




184. Glenn Hoddle & Chris Waddle - 'Diamond Lights'
(1987, #12, TM)


DL: A pretty rubbish record that can surely be enjoyed ironically. Embarrasing and cringe-worthy certainly, but I'd say, all-in-all, the world would be a worse place if we didn't have this to chortle at.

AN: Chris Waddle you mulletted wanker. This is what happens when you betray the Toon.

JG: Written by the genius behind Russ Abbot’s hits from the same period. Sounds more “adult contemporary” than Abbot's 'Atmosphere'. Terrible.

TM: A famous folly, with Hoddle ardent for some desperate glory and Waddle hanging onto that microphone stand like a life-raft. Not on the same detestable level as much of this run-down but worth a place.




183. Blur - 'Parklife'
(1994, #10, AN)


DL: Forever conjoined to class tourism, political cultural hijacking, inanity and generic compilation albums, 'Parklife' is certainly on my 'don't want to hear ever again' list, but the band are not.

AN: An offensively patronising, pseudo-working-class recitative slapped on top of two-chord oompah-oompah shite.

JG: It sounds cheesy and oh-so-Britpop now, but we have to remember that Parklife is actually an acerbic, angry record, and its 'retro' sound conveys a sense of little changing since the 70s. I like it.

TM: There is a parallel history of Britpop where Blur were as consistently on the mark as Pulp, Disco Inferno and Saint Etienne. They had great material on most albums but also belittling hits like this.




182. Pendulum - 'Propane Nightmares'
(2008, #8, DL)


DL: Why do metal fans like Pendulum so much and almost no other electronic music? Why no drum and bass fans like Pendulum? See also: Skrillex in similar pattern. I can only put it down to that emo vocal.

AN: A nightmare vision of contemporary youth culture.

JG: Metal-drum 'n' bass crossover wank. To be avoided at all costs.

TM: This possesses all the intricacy and nuance of Colin Baker’s cliff-hanger mugging in The Trial of a Time Lord. Rarely has the vocoder sounded as crass or synthesizers as artless. Utter claptrap.




181. Simple Minds - 'Don't You (Forget About Me)'
(1985, #7, RC)


DL: I can certainly see why these 1980s world-straddlers deserve a place in such a countdown, but I would have opted for 'Belfast Child'. Personally, I find this a swooping (bombastic), affable rock epic.

AN: There is absolutely nothing good about this.

JG: Q. What did Jim Kerr say when fending off a bread-wielding Frenchman? A. “Don’t you – baguette about me!”

TM: I agree with Robin’s nomination: shows a similar compromise to #198. Simple Minds were great up to and including New Gold Dream: experimental and melodious. Then came the Hollywood soundtrack swagger.




The Worst 200 Songs: An Introduction

*What follows is a simulblog with Tom May's site 'Where Shingle Meets Raincoat'.


Tom May: The Worst 200 Songs project was bo
rn several months ago, with David Lichfield and I noting just how similar many of our pet musical hates were, and sharing all sorts of odd, ghastly and hilarious YouTube videos.

The project developed into a list of 242 songs comprised of our nominations plus those of others who entered the fray. The rubric being that they ought to be big hits that most people would have heard of, with a far smaller number of curios and obscurities allowed, enabling a greater scope.

Four of us voted on all songs on the final list, on a scale whereby 10/10 meant ‘absolutely hate it, it’s utterly unredeemable’ and 1/10 ‘hmmm, I actually quite like this!’ 5/10 was, of course, an expression of neutrality – or, just a bare Gallic shrug of indifference. Everything that has made the Top 200 has garnered at least 24 points (mean average = 6/10), and is thus at least mildly despised by consensus decision.

I thank the likes of Ben Brown and Robin Carmody, who both nominated songs which have been voted into the Top 200, but are not commenting on the entries.

To kick off this subjective survey of dire music we begin with a short introductory piece from each of the main writers on this extensive project. Each will also nominate a song we despise which wasn’t hated enough by all four to get into the Top 200!

David Lichfield :
96 songs nominated; 76 in the Top 200


Some songs simply house the extra ingredient that makes them truly unbearably hateful beyond simple reason. Whether it’s an ubitiquous chart hit that repeatedly imposed four minutes of aural persecution on you, whereby simply turning off the radio or leaving the establishment in which it was being piped into was no option, or something that simply touches a nerve inside you, bringing forth personal associations and memories you simply can’t face, or a tacky novelty record with no redeeming features, it is hoped that spotting a despised record amongst this rundown along with some sort of caustic analysis will go some way towards soothing the feelings of utter hatred felt towards the offending 45. The 200 Worst Songs project is hoped to be one of the most comprehensive rundowns of bad pop music ever, taking in 60 years, a wealth of styles, numerous cultural movements, dodgy right-wing jingoistic ditties, 80s cocaine consumerism, cynical and self-serving charity numbers, inexplicable chart-toppers, banal melodies, lamentable cover versions, reheated and hackneyed pastiches, and any given number of unforgiveable lyrical howlers to unearth violent urges from even the most placid musical connoisseur. With a range of nominators having come forward to suggest their own personal bête noires, we're hoping to have left no turd unturned.

Song that should have been included in the Top 200:
Owl City – 'Fireflies'
As cynical a composition as you can imagine, this shameless Postal Service rip-off was depressingly profitable.

Alex Niven :
10 songs nominated; 7 in the Top 200

The pop song is the greatest art form we have. There are many reasons why this is true, but foremost is the fact that it offers the suggestion that, in the right conditions, every human being on the planet has the potential to attain to beauty, community, and empowerment. In other words, pop music is synonymous with democracy. If, as the following exhaustive list attempts to show, pop music is ailing, then this must mean democracy is also ailing. My fantastic hope is that in identifying the problem, we take the first the first step towards the solution of a revival of egalitarian culture, one that has at its centre the transforming, life-advocating, love-inducing metaphor of the Good Choon.

Song that should have been included in the Top 200:
Laura Marling – ‘New Romantic'
…is predictably, my nomination for the one that got away.

John Gibson :
14 songs nominated; 12 in the Top 200

Even now, there is still something in me that wants to reach for the digital remote and switch to the risible Radio 1 of a Sunday afternoon for yet another Top 40 countdown, a ritual I engaged in for several years as soon as the new chart could be compiled by the end of the week rather than midway through the following week. Oh, the excitement of Roachford climbing fully 25 places in a single week with “Cuddly Toy”. What joys.

Suffice to say that the intervening years have been less than kind. Whilst the singles chart is entirely meaningless in these days of instant downloads and X Factor nonsense, the current exercise has been a spirited one of exploring facile tat from across the ages, and acts as a useful reminder that for every Stones there was always a Peter Sarstedt, warbling inane chatter at the nation of a Friday eve. Rock and indeed on.


Song that should have been included in the Top 200:
Muse – ‘Time Is Running Out’
Diabolical, overwrought nonsense that hints at some kind of vague apocalyptical theme whilst protesting too much that it’s not a bad version of Radiohead really. Turd.

Tom May :
76 songs nominated; 66 in the Top 200


I do not undertake this exercise as a cynical moan against popular culture or pop music; indeed, I love much pop music and hold out hope for it. I love all manner of diverse and esoteric music yet there is little that can beat the compassionate delight I feel when listening to The Beatles circa 1964, the Abba of 1976 or Prince and Kate Bush of 1985; the KLF, indeed, in 1991. Recent years have seen ‘Crazy’, ‘With Every Heartbeat’, ‘I’m Not Alone’, ‘Bonkers’ and ‘Hello’: so clearly not all is lost. Supposedly ephemeral Pop can be eternal and unifying where little else is.

I approach this project with anger at what cynicism, idiocy and materialism can make of pop. Misogyny, bigotry, faceless globalisation, piety and plain old ineptitude rear their ugly heads in this roll-call of wrongness. Undertaking this project is clearly an epic ordeal; but we approach it both critically and emotionally – in the preposterous, futile hope that it can form a sacrificial bonfire of some excruciatingly awful music. To quote XTC: “Reign over good / Banish the bad”.

Song that should have been included in the Top 200:
Primal Scream – ‘Rocks’
I must, grudgingly, give old Jive Bunny a 'get out of jail free' card and propose David’s nomination of Primal Scream’s slab of reductionist ‘real rock’. This previously experimental band’s stultifying retreat into guitar-slinging machismo prefigured seemingly endless revivalism and retreats from others.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

REVIEW #3 'Saints and Scroungers' BBC One, 16/1/12

Happy New Year and welcome back to that loveable hub of procrastination, inactivity and broken promises, 'The Work Trials'. The first post of the year is a simulblog (if you will) with Tom May over at his 'Window On The World' blog, and consists of a running commentary on BBC1's daytime tabloid shitfest 'Saints and Scroungers' complete with a postmortem from each of us after the fact. Enjoy!

Saints and Scroungers (BBC1, 16/01/2012)

"Where they belong..."

David: Hello.
David: Trying to get comfortable, whilst enjoying the only source of heat in the house (gas fire)
Tom: Hi. Okay, nearly ready to go - time to switch over from what seems to be a fairly mediocre Griff Rhys Jones sketch show...!
Tom: Okay, some sort of countdown?
David: OK 5...

Tom: 4
David: 3
Tom: 2
David: 1, go
Tom: Yep
David: Oh fuck off about “the taxpayer” already.
Tom: Irritatingly perky-businesslike theme music.
Tom: So, who is the Rugby player-jerseyed, slap-headed host?
David: Dominic Littlewood. He always presents tabloid shit like this.


David: Consumer champion, apparently.
Tom: “They are our saints.”
David: Black and white world.
Tom: This gent, dispensing some sort of vigilante justice in typical tabloid TV style.
David: Ironically viewed in the majority by people on the dole.
Tom: “Earning an honest living”. In what context, Dominic? “Get rich at other people's expense”...
Tom: The standard £53 a week for a single person doesn't really seem like “getting rich” to me. (Of course, this is justifiably assuming that the programme is implicating the average benefits recipient in these crimes)
David: Sounds like good business-sense; their only crime was being caught.
David: I THINK I'm joking.
David: Oh fuck off you judgemental autocue-reading, self-righteous CUNT.
Tom: Those "alarm bells", they start to ring.



David: He's a bit wooden.
David: “Hatched a plot”, “Shady means”.
Tom: I don't believe in the veracity of this, oddly... the conventions of the show are just so ludicrous; it is tough to imagine Courtney Campbell as a reality.



The Guthrie Clan!

David: “Clan”?!
Tom: “CLAAAN”.
Tom: Terrible fucking incidental music as ever with these shows...
Tom: A low-key, Tesco's X-Files (the background music)
David: They're only bitter because they let it go on for so long without noticing.
Tom: “Than ahve ahd 'ot dinners!”
David: What's this, The Usual Suspects?
David: The smugness is unbearable.
Tom: Roll up, roll up! And round up yer Ricardo Guthries. Littlewood is intolerably smug, this would-be hard man peering about righteously, hands on hips.


Tom: “Robbing the system blind” - why blind?
David: 'Greedier'?
David: Fair enough, these are isolated incidents, but the underlying message is: 'We know you're all up to something'.
Tom: Yes, the assumption is to implicate a far greater number of people.
David: Coming from that most-respected and skilled profession, the daytime TV presenter
David: WTF is being blurred there?
Tom: Why the blurry screen?



David: The semi-detached house is innocent.
Tom: Ha-ha, ridiculous!
Tom: There might just have been some random gent on a bike, in the distance there.
Tom: “These GUTHRIES”. Not just “These Guthries”.
David: Approximately 0.00000001% of all fraud
Tom: Yes, indeed - a tiny percentage compared to corporate fraud and, of course, the bank bailout on our behalf.
David: I haven't heard “designer clothes” for a while.
David: The 'saints' segment is even more condescending.
Tom: Ah... those saints! Such lovely people down at The Dell.
David: The saints are coming.
Tom: Heart strings, dog stroking.


ENTER: THE SAINT.

Tom: “So, you're true Londoner.”
David: Well, I wasn't going to mention it... [His disability] Didn't bother our Dom though!
Tom: Making a laboured point about it all, aye.
David: Prying bastard.
Tom: Interesting how little interest he took in the life history and characters of “these Guthries”. Condemn or pry, seems to be the dichotomy according to whether they have been deemed saint or sinner.
David: I forgot 100% of people were exclusively “good” or “bad”.
Tom: It is a childish view of human nature, this...
David: And it is licence-fee payers’ money that pays for this bullshit.
David: A true saint.
Tom: This person seems affable enough but then why should be held up like this on TV...?
Tom: His 'barriers'...? Ill-defined.
David: Why are no disabled people ever in the 'scroungers' camp?
Tom: Yes, but she [concerned woman] doesn't seem to understand how the economy works. IT'S NOT FAIR.
David: Plenty of able-bodied people have just as little luck.
Tom: “Finally, just when it seemed...” Cliched linguistic formulation from Dominic, in his voice-over there
David: “Light at the end of the tunnel”.
Tom: Little devil horns for the Scrounger in the title lettering. Utterly silly, but I suppose summarising the simple moral stance.
Tom: “Put under surveillance” - our genius host.
Tom: “The devious world of the scrounger”. Oh really? I was holding out for The Strange World of Gurney Slade, myself...
David: “Smile, you're on camera”
David: This is making me want to throw the laptop out in the street.
Tom: Scary... Come and 'ave a go if you think you're bald enough.
David: “The claimants they love to scapegoat”, more like.
Tom: Martial arts buffoonery from him now? [Littlewood inexplicably attired in judo gear]
David: “The poor people they love to harass”
Tom: Reconstruction of a woman crawling on the floor – absurd stuff...
David: Who decides on a career path that leads to the coveted position of DWP Fraud Investigator?
David: The ultimate job’s-worth.
Tom: “An anonymous caller”; now they're the "champ"!
David: The anonymous caller has some balls.
David: And certainly wasn't thinking of any sort of fiscal reward.
Tom: Well, they've got Littlewood on side, as some sort of Grant Mitchell enforcer.
David: Gorgeous complete invasion of privacy.
Tom: A doctor studying video footage constitutes a medical? There's not exactly a scientific method there.
Tom: Obviously, I don't want to prejudge the case (!), but the smugness of the programme’s tone is something to behold.
David: Dom starting to rival Kyle for odiousness.
Tom: More on the Guthries, apparently. Later.
Tom: Sensitive. Piano. Music (Sick-bucket, sadly out of reach).
Tom: “David's very own saint”.
David: Stop saying “saint”!!!!
David: This is lowest-common-denominato​r drivel, isn't it?
Tom: “Damien”? Thought the no-nonsense Estuary tones spoke the moniker “David”...?
David: “Damien”, ironic name for a saint!
David: I wonder if a “saint” is better than a “hero”.
Tom: That’s a tough call for the world of daytime television...
David: I thought the BBC were supposed to be impartial and above this?
Tom: Damien: “Nice hard work 'n' that”. Has he been fed those words?
David: He's had his arse exploited.
Tom: Being fed words by the host, again, there... Littlewood’s interview skills are definitely on a par with Frost in the 1960s!
David: Underlying message: Disabled people should go to work.
Tom: The significant travel issue for a lot of people (not just disabled) is briefly flagged up but NOT explored at all...
David: Acknowledged in passing.
Tom: I've stayed near Finchley Road several times recently - nice part of London. (Irrelevant aside!)
David: Don't worry, there's shite all of note to comment upon that we haven't already.
Tom: The slap-head gives his earnest “Congratulations!” to Damien upon getting a job – after the fact.
Tom: Two years after the fact.
David: Wrapped up in the usual, unlikely, fairy-tale style
Tom: It is repetitive and now utterly saccharine.
David: Bet he wasn't expecting that, certainly not with the camera crew that surrounded him.
Tom: “Mate”, and sundry blokeish uses thereof.


David: Now, Dom's turn to get a proper job.
David: “I liked the way he pronounced 'Guthrie's”.
Tom: Indeed, ha-ha. Who is he anyway? Ex-Rugby player, perhaps?
David: I saw him on The One Show first, but he's also presented things like Don't Get Done, Get Dom and Cowboy Builders on Channel Five, with that well-known consumer champion Melinda Messenger!
David: “Kingpin”!

"Kingpin" Riccardo Gardner


Tom: “Family members”.
Tom: "A minefield of misinformation and multiple identities": a militant milking of the alliteration there.
David: "Empire".
Tom: “Property Empire”, aye... Awww, they were only fulfilling Phil 'n' Kirstie's dream!
Tom: Why the blurring of the left part of the screen again...?


David: The anonymous house is back!
Tom: “Iwl-go'en gains!”
Tom: Criminal empire or property empire? They cannot quite seem to decide.
David: ”Little scam”? I thought this was supposed to be an earth-shattering pyramid of illegality!
David: Why do all job’s-worths look and sound the same?

"We've never dealt with anything this big before at Barnet council... The Niceday box-file just isn't sufficient"

Tom: The lexis used in this programme is often contradictory in the extreme... and yes, the seizers of evidence are incredibly bland.
Tom: “Was there no END to the Guthries' greed...? Apparently not”.
David: How lavish?
David: Cunting Nora!
Tom: “The Kingpin ’imself, Ricardo Guthrie!” This could be the melodrama of a WWF bout or soap-land East End punch-up.
David: “We're paying for it”?!!! You do fuck all, Dom!
Tom: He is portrayed as a moral majority arbiter, on behalf of us all apparently.
David: Autocue readers, the cunting lot of them.
David: Father Todd Unctious.
David: Father Curly Wurly.
Tom: Why do they have this type on the screen? The words are perfectly audible.
David: To make the words hit home with venom.
David: It's like John Stape all over again...
David: It never seems to be the end!
Tom: RECONSTRUCTION. Evil looking gangster types.


David: He really does find punishment rather moreish.
David: I'm just waiting to hear something like “justice is a dish best served cold” etc.
Tom: One of the Guthrie clan will get “160 hours unpaid work” – less than some on the government's "Work Programme" may face!


David: Public purse!
David: CUNT!
Tom: Indeed.
David: Great graphics.
Tom: Unsure how to describe those graphics, but basic – any old font on Word'll do – just about sums it up.
David: I enjoyed that, perversely.
David: Wouldn't want to watch it on my own like.
Tom: No, nor me.


The law is in my hands!

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

TOM: The latest UK unemployment figures show a rise to 2.69million (8.4%). This is the highest actual figure of those out of work since August 1994: the month before I started at comprehensive school. In many areas, the ratio of applicants to jobs available is astronomical. Yet the practical difficulties of the jobless are barely acknowledged by government or the media; Iain Duncan-Smith’s welfare reforms, involving unreliable re-classification of disability claimants, seem ill-fitted to real lives and the economy.

Our establishment increasingly undermines the concept of universal social provision, preferring the Victorian moral distinctions of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving poor’. As Mr Doolittle characterizes it in Shaw's Pygmalion (1912): "'You're undeserving; so you can't have it.' But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow's that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don't need less than a deserving man: I need more. [...] Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything." As Colin Kidd argued in the LRB just over two years ago: 'Cameron risks reviving the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, which was hard enough to take when uttered by Conservatives who had risen from the lower middle class, like Thatcher herself or Norman Tebbit, but is impossible to swallow from Cameron and other graduates of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club, who carry out acts of vandalism dressed in bow tie and tails.'

The IDS plans to reform our benefits system are being implemented with unseemly haste, with little consultation, while the plans to reform banking are kicked into the long-grass, our hard-pressed bankers given a five-year period to adjust. Cait Reilly, who has had the startling audacity to kick up a fuss about the small matter of being compelled to work full-time - without pay or prospects - for her meagre £54-per-week benefit, is attacked by a petty, mean-spirited, right-wing journalist. The likes of Moir and IDS seem unable or unwilling to explain quite how such reforms might help rather than hinder such people in finding paid work.

As television, Saints and Scroungers is the sort of hackneyed hogwash that should have been long consigned to widespread ridicule by the satire of The Day Today and Brass Eye. Instead, it continues to hold sway with a significant body of mainstream opinion. Its televisual aesthetics are dire: uniformly drab graphics and fonts; laughable reconstructions; the music a form of pathetic fallacy banally shepherding the audience's emotions. In the title, sequence giant letter-S's stalk the landscape like Orwellian censors.



Presenter Littlewood is noted for such feats as 'teaching a vicar how to be a successful salesman in just one month'. His Wikipedia entry baldly states that 'his personality earned him an opportunity in television', which is as blunt an indication of the state of the nation and its broadcasting as any. As with other tabloid-TV straw men, he is presented as a one-man legal system: taking pugnacious umbrage at those deemed ‘guilty’ while showing paternalistic bonhomie towards those saintly folk assessed as ‘innocent’.

There is an irresponsibly limited view of life: giving viewers an excuse to maintain their black-and-white views of society. For this BBC1 show, depicting the complex real lives of typical Britons would probably blur its simplistic concept of responsibility. Extreme cases become the norm in the world as presented – on a grueling, daily (!) basis – by Saints and Scroungers.

DAVID: To summarise, ‘Saints and Scroungers’ is a deeply unpleasant form of ‘divide and rule’ television that serves no non-cynical purpose whatsoever. Despite its supposed intention of merely exposing those who are deemed to be playing the system to their own advantage and garnering praise for those who enable individuals hindered by disability and similar obstacles to claim what is rightfully theirs, the implication that what is essentially a safety net is constantly abused and vulnerable to corruption never goes away and it is this school of thought that is exaggerated out of all proportion, leaving a bad taste of guilt in the mouths of those who are able-bodied yet find themselves, through no fault of their own, to be out of work. Unemployment is a soul-destroying scenario at the best of times, and negative, self-satisfied television such as this does nothing to help those stuck in a rut feel optimistic about their chances of escaping their plight. The idea that we live in a meritocracy, where unless severe disability has hindered your prospects, your life chances are completely equal to the effort you have put in is excruciating codswallop, and from the point of view of someone exposed to such struggles, this kind of utterly depressing form of programming does nothing to help the emotional state of the fiscally lacking whatsoever. Saints And Scroungers is an utterly blinkered piece of televisual output that consciously chooses not to address the economic obstacles and diverse, unique fusions of circumstances that force the majority of people into unemployment, and is delivered with a sense of moral outrage and self-satisfied smugness that is completely out of place on the supposedly impartial BBC. The celestial level of prestige that is afforded to those who do direct the physically-unfortunate to what they are entitled to is totally absurd in that they are merely being paid to do a job, and the division of the individuals that play a part in the welfare system into simple categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is something a toddler would find reductive and simplistic, What the BBC is trying to achieve by commissioning dross like this is questionable, but as a programme that does nothing to add positivity to the world when you scratch under the surface, you’d be far better off tuning to cBeebies when you’re looking for vivid hope and optimism to inspire your day’s fruitful activity. Certainly, the fraudulent claims that colour the ‘scroungers’ element of the programme are outrageous, but this is because they are isolated incidents rather than the norm, and the programme only serves to fuel the urban myth that the majority of people on benefits are workshy subhuman scum that belong in a cell somewhere, by so closely associating the concept of the welfare system with fraud, when 99% of the time, any dishonesty involves nothing more than petty sums of cash and a sense of desperation centred around keeping roofs over heads and food in cupboards.