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Andre 3000 & Beyonce, Clams Casino, Fleetwood Mac, Royal-T and more reviewed in the FACT Singles Club, 6 May 2013

Each week on the FACT Singles Club, a selection of our writers work their way through the new music of the week gone by.

With the way individual tracks are now consumed, the idea of what constitutes a single has shifted dramatically in the last half a decade, and its for this reason that the songs reviewed across the next six pages are a combination of 12″ vinyl releases, mixtape cuts, Soundcloud uploads and more. All are treated equally – well, most of the time – with Fleetwood Mac, Andre 3000 & Beyonce, Clams Casino & DOOM, Royal-T and more in the line of fire.

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Fleetwood Mac – ‘Sad Angel’


Steve Shaw:
Although this is upbeat, it sounds about as good as the flaccid, blue-teddy-bear-holding-a-broken-heart-gift-card title suggests. (4)

John Twells: Urrrrgggghhh no thanks, while I’ve got mad love for their early bluesy bits and of course Rumours (who doesn’t love Rumours eh? Serial killers, most probably) this just sounds like a bad US teen TV sitcom theme. If Dawson’s Creek and Friends were callously fused together in some evil Nazi laboratory, ‘Sad Angel’ would be blaring out of the containment tube as soon as it was opened. (2)

Chal Ravens: Is the Rock Dinosaur Comeback Track now a regular fixture of the Singles Club, after last week’s effort from Black Sabbath? Fine by me – a blast of the ‘Mac is a very effective palate cleanser between Beyonce and the Pet Shop Boys. This has that on-the-road rhythm they always did so well, but the uninventive melody and guitar parts aren’t up to their standards at all. It’s enough to get them on tour again, though, so I’m happy.  (6)

Lauren Martin: Three words – WHERE IS STEVIE? As if anyone can pretend to give a crap about a track from a newly reformed Fleetwood Mac that doesn’t place Stevie Nicks front and centre. This sounds horrifying like that Scandinavian indie band Of Monsters And Men as well? Ugh, no. So middle of the road that it’s stalled. (3)

3.75

Andre 3000 & Beyonce – Back to Black’


Steve Shaw:
So, from this fucking awful cover song, obviously knocked up in minutes and over a wimpy beat, I take it The Great Gatsby has something in common with the Austin Powers soundtrack franchise, yes? (2)

John Twells: This is just not very good at all is it? After hearing so much hate directed in this track’s direction I must admit I was intrigued, I mean who doesn’t love hearing something that’s been totally misjudged? Sadly it’s not even on the so-bad-it’s-good level, it’s just not that well done. The idea is sort of sound, and if any two artists were going to nail ‘Back to Black’ why not Beyonce and Andre 3000, but they both sound peculiar and stilted somehow, and the production… well, let’s just hope it makes more sense in the movie. I never thought I’d be agreeing with Mitch Winehouse. (3)

Lauren Martin: Look, it’s not like I was expecting much from Baz Luhrmann here. His films are tedious, loathsome and affected, and The Great Gatsby hardly looks like it’s breaking from that tradition, but this soundtrack is gunning for the title of ‘My Least Favourite Thing To Read About On The Internet’ right behind reptilian conspiracy theories and genocide. Lana Del Rey crooning “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”, Emeli Sande and Bryan Ferry recording a “1920s jazz version” of ‘Crazy In Love’ and now this slaughtering of ‘Back To Black’? It’s like the South Park episode when the boys go to the Family Guy studio: a giant tank of drugged manatees picking plastic balls filled with dialogue at random, lobbing them into nets and then piecing jokes together in the most purposefully off-topic and divergent ways for the most non-committal of laughs.

Tedious – Andre 3000 now so rutted in the feature slot that he barely bothers to make an effort when called upon, wobbling around aimlessly. Loathsome – the brostep bass line trudging along trying to lend some weight to the whole affair, painful in its delusions of grandeur in being ‘forward-thinking’ within the context of a period film. Affected – Beyonce’s forced breathiness stripping her of the usual billboard-high sex appeal, power and playfulness that makes her Queen B. Utter drivel. (1)

Chal Ravens: One should always be in fear of heading down the cul-de-sac of purism, but I’m afraid there are special cases, and this is one of them: don’t fuck with Winehouse, yeah? Dre and Bey have chopped, spliced, elongated and upended these most personal of lyrics to try to escape their author’s shadow, but it just makes your ears yearn to hear Winehouse singing them The Right Way. Beyonce in particular sounds completely lost faced with lyrics like “life is like a pipe”. Clearly televising the X-Factor audition rounds has taught society nothing. (2)

Chris Kelly: How disappointing: the vocal performances aren’t that bad (Beyoncé bests André by a bit), but who decided to turn this into a dubstep version of “more cowbell?” After this and ‘Party’, these two should just stop doing tracks together. (2)

2

Future – ‘Rehab’


John Twells:
Future, I knew we could count on you for a real tribute to dear old Winehouse. ‘Rehab’ is a melancholic moment for the swaggering Atlanta autotune maniac, and its pensive tone actually comes across as quite touching. The lyrical content is an odd one, as it basically details Future’s own heroic drug use and the need for him to hit rehab, which in turn links to the late Amy Winehouse. It’s tenuous sure, but the production (handled by Gucci-associate Drumma Boy) is just about smart enough to tie things together with a silky purple bow. (7)

Lauren Martin: The Black Woodstock mixtape is really good and all but Future is leaning (ahhh, puns, the humour of kings) over the edge from nonchalant into catatonic on this one. The delivery is too droll, no one needs to name-drop Miley Cyrus in rap anymore – that’s, like, so 2011 – and Drumma Boy barely punches in and out on the production too. Whilst it’s not a cover it’s still meant as a tribute of sorts, so it seems like a pretty cheap shot for Future to make an ode to getting messy in the name of a woman who suffered from a fatal drug and alcohol addiction. It’s like rapping about taking a nap and singing about Pimp C on the hook.  I’m usually a fan of Future but this comes off as naff to be honest. (3)

Steve Shaw: Liking the first verse of this where he’s barely there, kind of talking to himself – I got bored as soon as he wakes up in the second onwards though. I’m also not into the instrumental, especially the piano. When his voice breaks on ‘I’m from Venus’ is brilliant though. It’s pretty horrible to say, but I kind of want him to get worse into his habit to hear more broken output. (5)

Chal Ravens: When Amy Winehouse died, mourning fans left bottles of whisky outside her house in among the cards and flowers. That was in bad taste. But the tastelessness of this – singing about how fantastic drugs are and then adding, as a memento mori, “RIP to Amy Winehouse” –  is so beyond the pale that it actually comes back round the other side and turns into a hymn to abstinence, warning you of the dangers of becoming that boring dickhead who talks about taking drugs instead of just taking them. And if all of hip-hop is on MDMA right now, why does everyone sound so sleepy? (5)

Chris Kelly: Somehow, Future’s gloomy drug rap is a more respectful tribute to Amy Winehouse than the ‘Back to Black’ cover. If ‘Hell Yes’ is Gucci doing Future, ‘Rehab’ is Future doing Gucci, especially with Drumma Boy on the beat. (8)

5.6

Pet Shop Boys – ‘Axis’


Lauren Martin:
Oh wow, I’m pleasantly surprised by this. Big stadium electro-pop executed with a learned ear. I love how the smutty ’80s feel of the vocal hook and chimes comfortably slink up against the massive Justice-style synth crunches as it draws to a close. A pretty effortless stroll into the present, no? (7)

Chal Ravens: Wowzer. This is impressive – they’ve joined the dots between their old Kraftwerk, Human League and Giorgio Moroder influences and taken it (almost) up to date with an obese, buzzing low end in the style of Daft Punk or Justice. Obviously it’s doing way too much at once to actually fit into anyone’s set, so in my personal filing system it would fit alongside The Chemical Brothers in the ‘music for the car on hot days’ folder. (6)

John Twells: I feel like I shouldn’t like this, but there’s something about the chunky, almost cheesy synth-heavy production that just can’t help but make me smile. It’s so packed full of electronic production tricks that it’s hard as a lover of all things synthesized not to get a little excited by it, even if some of the more bombastic leanings aren’t particularly tailored to my taste. I’m no expert on the Pet Shop Boys, but ‘Axis’ gets a slightly guilty thumbs up from me. (6)

Steve Shaw: As much as I hold massive respect for The Boys, I can rarely genuinely connect with anything they produce – the generational and cultural differences are just too much for me to try to make some informed judgement, and it’d fraudulent to try. Objectively speaking, while it is of an aesthetic I can relate to, it’s not for me. It is, however, very well created, and concrete in being perfectly ‘them’ in 2013, so for that they get 7/10. (7)

6.5

Royal-T – ‘I Know You Want Me’


John Twells:
Oh yeah now we’re talking, this is an absolute monster of a track, coming across as a teeth-gnashing cross between DJ Q’s bash-you-in-the-face bassline house and something far uglier and grimier. It makes perfect sense to me, being a Midlander, and it’s the kind of music that never fails to leave me with a massive grin on my face. It’s the sort of track I’d play out to a local audience and then quickly realize that Boston isn’t quite bostin’ enough to handle it. Mine’s a Wray and Nephs. (8)

Lauren Martin: This reminds me of being at Numbers in late ’08 and early ’09 when you couldn’t finish a drink without hearing Apple, Piddy Py, Crazy Cousinz and Attaca Pesante at least twice. No messing around, just banging out a murky, high octane mix of garage, grime and funky without sounding cluttered. The bounce factor is high with this one. (6)

Chal Ravens: Royal-T has just given it to us on a plate here, hasn’t he? This ticks all the boxes – the first minute or so is kinetic and ominous, tied down by aggressive trebly drums and a grubby bassline, then you’ve got your cheesy pitch-shifted build leading up to what turns out to be an absolute pile-up of a drop that’s best described, as is so often the case these days, in the words of various Soundcloud users: “woi”; “so sickkk”; “WHEEL”; “oh my daze”. It’s a steamroller. (9)

Steve Shaw: 2008 bassline > 2013 bassline. Sorry. (6)

Chris Kelly: This is like one of those algebra problems where a Speed Garage Train is heading east at 90mph and a Grime Train is heading west at 100mph and they meet in the middle and everyone dies listening to this song. (8)

7.4

Matias Aguayo – ‘El Sucu Tucu’


Steve Shaw:
German-Chilean Tiga. (7)

John Twells: I’ve not really spent much time listening to Matias Aguayo before, but ‘El Sucu Tucu’ has me rather interested. The vocal is fine, but it’s that dusty beat and subtle synth bass that has my interest piqued – there’s something smart but not show-offy about Aguayo’s production here and that’s what makes it work so well. It has the feel of a cheap beatbox left to loop forever in an old South American studio and that just sounds like a good time to me. (7)

Chal Ravens: The way he’s placed the voice to the fore is very clever – normally that would be too distracting because of the way your brain picks out human voices and gives them disproportionate attention in a mix. Saying that, it probably helps that I can’t understand a word he’s saying, and when I put ‘El Sucu Tucu’ into Google Translate it came up with ‘The Sucu Tucu’ – my feeling is that this is a very awkward, elbow-based dance move. (6)

Chris Kelly: The techno-cumbia groove is pretty fierce, but Aguayo’s proto-rap / Spanglish scatting is the highlight for me, especially when it takes a detour through the Miami Sound Machine. (6)

6.5

Clams Casino feat. DOOM – ‘Bookfiend’


Lauren Martin:
Eh, well, this is pretty underwhelming. I like chocolate and I like scrambled eggs, but I wouldn’t eat them off the same plate, you know? (5)

Steve Shaw: Nice, unexpected beat from Clams! Would’ve been better without the trademark vocal moans, I think, but it gives a weird rhythmic tension, feeling almost too slow for DOOM’s vocals. Speaking of which, that Netflix line was brilliant. (7)

Chal Ravens: As with the ill-fated Jeremih and Shlohmo collab a few weeks back, this pairing should be the stuff of dreams but somehow fails to gel. Clams Casino sticks to his usual cloudy template, and although it’s gorgeous – nuanced, emotive, sounds great on headphones – it ain’t nothing new and it doesn’t seem to be the right territory for DOOM and his usually funkier style. Other than rhyming Amazon with tetragrammaton it’s not really the rapper’s finest hour either. Serviceable, but a bit disappointing. (6)

Chris Kelly: You got your Doom in my Clams Casino! You got your Clams Casino in my Doom! Unfortunately, ‘Bookfiend’ is no Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Doom was always at his best when challenged by punchy, percussive beats, and the gauziness here doesn’t do him any favors. I’d rather listen to Clams’ sleepy construction as an instrumental. (4)

5.5

Harry Fraud feat. RiFF RAFF & Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Yacht Lash’


Chal Ravens:
Earl is taking a long run-up to what was supposed to be his big year. This is another good’un follwing his double-header with Tyler in March, this time on top of a swirling quicksand beat that sounds perfect under his deep monotone and even better when Riff Raff comes in and the synths pitch up to meet his higher, manic voice. What’s he on about though? Reese’s Pieces? Liquid detergent? (8)

John Twells: When he puts his mind to is Harry Fraud’s a really excellent producer, and the lazy, grungy beat for ‘Yacht Lash’ is one of his best beats in recent memory. Earl continues his incredible form here dropping a few choice bars that prove he’s really a force to be reckoned with. Then there’s RiFF RAFF, the ‘rapper’ I love to hate. Now I have a theory that knowing he was going to be on a track with Earl he purposefully went out of his way to make sure his verse was even more inept than usual, and it certainly sounds like that. It almost sounds as if he had a different track on his headphones while he recorded the take, and that’s a majestic feat of befuddling, uncompromising weirdness. You go RiFF RAFF, do it for the freaks. (7)

Lauren Martin: It is beyond me why Riff Raff continues to be given a free pass when the likes of Kreayshawn got a deserved critical mauling this past year. How can you give a Dazed & Confused cover story to a dude who has tattoos of the MTV, BET and WorldStarHipHop logos? You can keep telling me how much you like ‘Bird On A Wire’ but don’t pretend this guy could ever pull off an LP. If you think Kreayshawn is corny, can’t rap, looks like an idiot and has nothing to give the world other than YouTube traffic but you think Riff Raff is a hilarious guilty pleasure, then you’re either sexist or an idiot. Maybe both. Anyhow, the only reason I’m not giving this otherwise excellent track an 8 or 9 is because Riff Raff ruins it for me. (7)

Steve Shaw: Generally I love Harry Fraud’s output, and there’s a lot to like about this. However, the instrumental pushes just beyond guttural into hollow for me, and the chorus pun gets less witty each time you hear it. Also, RiFF RAFF properly falls apart by the end of his verse, doesn’t he? Like he’d prepared for half the bars, then suddenly realised while in the booth that he had to keep going. Sweatshirt’s on point though. (6)

Chris Kelly: Harry Fraud pairs his usual boom-bap with synths made entirely of molasses. Earl embraces it, as his lines and couplets flow and collide into each other like some type of fever dream stream-of-consciousness. Riff Raff’s asynchronous verse, on the other hand, is unlistenable, as if he threw in the towel when he saw who he had the misfortune of being paired with. (7)

Final scores:

Royal-T – ‘I Know You Want Me’ (7.4)
Harry Fraud feat. RiFF RAFF & Earl Sweatshirt – ‘Yacht Lash’ (7)
Matias Aguayo – ‘El Sucu Tucu’ (6.5)
Pet Shop Boys – ‘Axis’ (6.5)
Future – ‘Rehab’ (5.6)
Clams Casino feat. DOOM – ‘Bookfiend’ (5.5)
Fleetwood Mac – ‘Sad Angel’ (3.75)
Andre 3000 & Beyonce – Back to Black’ (2)

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