Album: The Ting Tings, Sounds from Nowheresville (Columbia)
Sometimes, it takes a great deal of skill, intelligence and patience to make the simplest and most immediate of pop music.
Take The Ting Tings: what could be catchier than the playground chants of "That's Not My Name" and "Shut Up and Let Me Go"? Yet those apparently instant, supremely disposable pop anthems were arrived at through months of painstaking work, finding just the right beat with the momentum to drive the anthemic lyrics, and just the right melody to make them palatable over several plays, but without losing the spontaneity that snags one's attention in the first place.
That painstaking approach has been repeated for Sounds from Nowheresville, for which the duo reportedly recorded, then summarily scrapped, the better part of an album's worth of material, before relocating their entire operation to another country and recording an entirely new album. In these days of endless bonus tracks and myriad outtakes, that takes guts and dedication – but as this effervescent, infectious album proves, it's worth the trouble. These 10 tracks are a masterclass in modern pop creation, pinballing from style to style without endangering their essential "TingTingness". One moment they're riding the itchy electro twitch of "One by One", the next they're in lilting folk-rock mode for "Day to Day". On a completely different tack, the chimes and drum tattoo of "Hit Me Down Sonny" carry a deadpan rap like a skipping-song, while elsewhere "Soul Killing" relies on a creaking-chair effect as the subliminal cement binding its loping ska skank together. Indeed, Jules de Martino and Katie White have such wide-ranging musical taste, yet occupy none of the usual niche genres, that it's surprising they ever found airplay.
The album opens with "Silence" looming in like a dark cloud, demanding we "hold your talk now, and let them all listen to your silence", before building in depth and texture as it proceeds. It's a strange choice as opener, but it sets up the jaunty chant-grooves of "Hit Me Down Sonny", "Hang It Up" and "Give It Back" perfectly, their titles reflecting the assertive tenor of the lyrics. The declamatory handclap swagger of the latter, for instance, punches out lines reflecting the reproach of the recently betrayed: "Gimme back my hifi," commands White, "gimme back my boots", going on to add footnotes to "That's Not My Name" by demanding back her name, and ultimately her life.
The most striking piece here, however, is the ambitious "Guggenheim", which yokes a Shangri-Las-style spoken tale of teen jealousy – delivered with the naive, doll-like vacancy of Lana Del Rey – with an angry hip-hop refrain asserting the protagonist's determination that "this time I'm gonna get it right, I'm gonna paint my face at the Guggenheim". Quixotically imponderable, it carries just the right weight of spirited mystery: whatever our heroine means by it, it's clear her emancipation is driven by her intellect, as much as her emotions. Which is often what it takes to make great pop music, too.
Download this: Guggenheim; Soul Killing; Hang It Up; Give It Back; One by One
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