This week’s singles column has been given over to the official Olympic theme tunes. It is also a slightly breathless rant about the restorative power of exercise.
Bit of context, first, then. First, that when you spend every Sunday night and Monday morning reviewing indie music for a living you inevitably go through phases. The first wave - if you can remember three and a half years ago, and it’s all a mist to me - was mainly concerned with being kind of annoying and rejecting indie music wholesale (see: recommending Toddla T, while at the same time filing Static Caravan sevens for when their appeal might resurface. I still took the indie shill, of course).
The second wave was when I used my daily bike rides to go and buy fags as a way to test out the efficacy of singles (‘Can this single get me up the massive hill by my house? If it can, it goes in,’ etc). And now we are but six months into the Third Wave, which is when I decided music was going to help me with the ongoing project that is Being A Better Version Of Myself. And how, in the new year, I decided THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE ROUND HERE - which meant joining the local sports centre, embracing the verucca soup that is the swimming baths, and buying a waterproof mp3 player. I was going to listen to the singles in the pool, and whichever single made me swim the quickest, or swim under water to quietly ogle, would get Single of the Week at the top of the page.
Then the gym happened. Now, in many ways The Gym is in direct opposition to indie, and I worked this out when I realised no one was going to chat me up on the cross trainer simply because I was wearing a Shins t-shirt (Them: “Hey, cool t-shirt” / Me: “Nnng”). I have argued with a friend about this, who claims it is possible to self-punish while you listen to Low, or Field Music, but he does at least agree that it might be a good idea, and a high ideal of sorts, to have the body of a Rollins and the heart of a Mercer, (which is what I want, sort of). But I find, that when I am in the gym, that I am more likely to be motivated by this than this. And the thing I have rinsed the most, in the first half of oh-twelve was this. Which is not 'indie' at all. By Easter, I was challenging my entire family to an arm wrestle at the dinner table (undignified) and expecting friends to feel the backs of my thighs. I’ve compromised a bit now, and find Sufjan’s ‘Too Much’ is quite good for bringing on an endorphin epiphany. And were it not already ‘old’ I would heartily recommend Danielson’s ‘Olympic Portions’, even if that is a ludicrously obvious choice (doyousee, it has got the word 'Olympic' in the title).
Anyway. Here are this week’s singles. We are dealing with OFFISHAL 2UNZ - but for what should, by now, be obvious reasons, I am more than ready for their insane, uplifting pomp.
Single of the Week!
Muse - ‘Survival’ (Helium 3 / Warner Music)
When you listen to Matt Bellamy talking about his song to Mr. Zane Low (here) he makes it pretty clear; this is not a song about togetherness or all the countries of the world reaching out across the high seas, to give each other a finger hug. No, Matt Bellamy’s Olympic theme is about WINNING, and it has the air of a rally about it, albeit one in which everyone at the rally is getting ready to trip up or elbow all other competitors. I first listened to it in class with one of my students who is a Proper Muse Fan, and to see her face fall as I explained how, the shitter Muse get, the more I like them, was a lesson in itself. I'm not going to lie, when I watch this video I want to smear banana-flavoured Protein 5000 all over my body and encourage someone who can bench-press three times their body weight to flog me with some sort of gold medal. And I like how it is honest enough to acknowledge that being a top athlete is about being an unbelievably self-obsessed freakazoid whose entire life revolves around shitting on everyone else's dreams from a great height. But for YOUR COUNTRY.
The Chemical Brothers - ‘Theme From The Velodrome’ (UMC)
When the gears went on my Pashley Pintail the other week I actually felt like I’d been punched. This is because when two wheels are your everyday saviour and you secretly quite like squalling around like a Kenny with your hood all tight around your face because your hood keeps your headphones on - even if it means you have literally no peripheral vision and can’t actually hear anything because you are pedaling about while this is on. By all of which I mean, I fucking love bicycles, me, even if they encourage grown men to ride them wearing full lycra onesies that make their willy look tiny, or they wear bumbags containing 50 pence (in case they break down and need to call they mum). The Chemical Brothers have done right by the Olympics, though, because they have invoked Kraftwerk and realised, like Muse, that if you are going to do a thing, you might as well fully embrace it. Excellent.
Delphic - ‘Good Life’ (Polydor)
This is so happy it is teetering, and one tiny breathless puff from a weightlifter struggling for the precise amusement of the lumpen-idiotbox-watching-masses, will push it off the precipice of hyperactivity, whereupon it will tumble into the arms of white coated men, who will promptly have it institutionalized. ‘How does it all end? When do we get there? What does it matter? Why do you still care?’ sing Delphic, which is about as British an attitude to competition as you could possibly write. So, kind of fitting.
Elton John vs. Pnau ‘Good Morning To The Night’ (Mercury Records)
My Mum is going to the opening ceremony tech rehearsal today, all on her tod, and I have told her to nick something because nobody ever suspects nice, mature ladies with skirts from M&S of nicking anything - especially if she does as she is told, and stuffs whatever she nicks down her top. Anyway, ‘Good Morning To The Night’ is number one already and I don’t see what the heckins it’s got to do with Team GB when 'Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters' talks about revelling in ‘trashcan dreams’ - which everybody knows is shorthand for getting off your tits in a New York basement and snogging someone of indeterminate gender. It does, however, seem like exactly the sort of hyped up and sunshiney nonsense Siobhan Sharpe would go for, and say ‘Holy Shet’ after hearing in a meeting.
Dizzee Rascal feat. Pepper - ‘Scream’ (Dirtee Stank)
Dizzee and Pepper are going for the honourable, strivin'n'climbin vibe, yeah? They want you to ‘feel it from your heart’ and ‘scream it from your soul’ – which, while not exactly Descartes, at least runs counter to Muse’s frankly terrifying individualism and/or their insistence on everything in life being about STRUGGLE and WAR. Also, it isn’t pretending to be like Queen while not mentioning it is exactly like Queen - which in turn, is quite like if the Queen herself had done a massive stink and everybody was studiously not mentioning it. Even though if you eat roast quail and mashed peasant for breakfast every day, that is exactly what is going to happen. Stinks, I mean.
Honourable, Non-Sporting Mentions
Rusko - ‘Thunder’ (Mad Decent)
I know none of you go to my gym. But if you did and we ended up having a sweaty pow-wow* on the warm-up mats we would definitely talk about Fat Bono, who is the dude who goes on Wednesdays and who dresses all in black (read: a gaping vest with armholes big enough for it to be worn by a small continent); and who wears wraparound shades even though strictly speaking, the gym is indoors. And then say we got to talking about Rusko’s 'Thunder' as I tried to look as appealing as it is possible to look while also wielding a size 4 medicine ball (which is to say, not very). I would want you to ask me ‘Wendy, would Rusko’s ‘Thunder’ make you want to punch the air if you were listening to it on the stationary bicycle, even if Fat Bono was giving you the glad eye?’. And I would say ‘Yes.’
*not a euphemism. No one has so much as winked at me in the gym in six months, and I was led to believe it would be a hotbed of sexual tension, what with everybody having a flushed pallor that only puts you in mind of one thing.
Keane - ‘Sovereign Light Café’ (Island)
When I was growing up in a sterile, concrete new town like all the best indie kids who like to romanticize their own dislocation and/or loneliness (even though they actually went on holiday to France every year and were very well done by indeed), my best friend’s mam was a health food nut of such staunch persuasion that my best friend had to bring sugarless, joyless biscuits to our Halloween party, instead of eating the pure, hoppy, sugary shit my Mum had made. Also actually, and in really real life, her mum did once say, to my mum, who is called Diane, “Mars bars, Diane? [pause] Poison.” Anyway, 'Sovereign Light Cafe' is about being at the seaside and everything being lovely. But it is wrong that it has gymnasts and ballet dancers and affletes in the video, when what most people eat at the seaside is doughnuts. This is not very Olympian. On the plus side, there is also a brass band and people doing cartwheels in the video - which is pretty much exactly what happens in my brain when I think about squashing Tom Chaplin’s cheek into my mouth until no more of it will go in.
Opossum - ‘Blue Meanies’ (Fire Records)
'Blue Meanies' is one part ‘Young Folks’ to one part ‘Sun’ by The Polyphonic Spree, and it is amiable and shuffly and I am including it as a tonic. Mainly for the edification of people who have never stood in front of an Italian Futurist poster extolling the benefits of rigorous exercise and thought ‘Fuck, yes’; or who have not read Marinetti’s Manifesto Of The Futurist Dance and realised that a teeny, tiny, fascistic part of them is getting all hot and revelling in the stuff about bodies being MACHINES, especially when they say how the vital organs of wor bodies are actually ENGINES and that the sooner we become WELL OILED and PERFECT, the better. Basically if you have never played RISK and said you wanted to keep going even after you had completed your mission/obliterated the plastic armies of all the ‘friends’ you are playing with; or do not secretly have fantasies of wiping out all the other ‘humans’ on the starting line at Park Run even though it is 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, I have no time for you. But I am still nice and companionate enough to include a limp-wristed, knock-kneeded, waffly bit of summery nonsense in the form of Opossum’s single for your listening pleasure. Can I also say in a similarly bridling and confrontational spirit that if you do not understand This Sort Of Thing you are definitely stupid and not nearly arty enough?
John Cale - ‘I Wanna Talk 2 U’ (Double Six)
Dog Is Dead - ‘Glockenspiel Song’ (Atlantic)
Dark Horses - ‘Radio’ (Last Gang Records)
Great Waves - ‘The Shore’ (Sways)
The Voodoo Trombone Quartet - ‘Hello! Who Are You?’ (Braces Tower Recordings)
St. Spirit - ‘Road At The Rise’ (Free, here)
Torches - ‘Sky Blue & Ivory’ (Fractions Of One Recordings)
Paul Weller - ‘The Attic’ (Universal)
The Hickey Underworld - ‘The Frog’ (PIAS)
Francois & The Atlas Mountains - ‘Edge Of Town’ (Domino)
Scraps - ‘1982’ (Critical Heights)
Kyla La Grange - ‘Walk Through Walls’ (Sony)
Wendy is on the internet, here. It is proper wrong but secretly she gets a bit of a thrill from any nutty manifesto that contains the line “Art and war are the great manifestations of sensuality; lust is their flower”. Ahem, ahem, ahem.