Tom Williams And The Boat, Abbie May - Singles Round-up 25/10/10

Bill Cummings 25/10/2010

There's been much conjecture on the state the Top 40 this year, perhaps culminating in the rather farcical race for Christmas number one. This year lining up in the red corner is the X Factor winner (whoever it may be). After slogged their guts out through weeks of karaoke covers on mainstream TV every Saturday, they have a head start on any REAL music? In the blue corner are a myriad of STOP THE X FACTOR ITS KILLING MUSIC, who rather than cite present artists kind of destroy their own point by revealing either novelty (The Bird Is The Word) or classicism (John Cage's "silent" composition 4'33) as their candidates. Sure, I was all for the RATM's Killing In The Name Of campaign last year, just to bring back a bit of competition into what had become a shoe in, and to wipe the smug smile off X Factor evil genius Cowell's face for one second. But since when was the Christmas Number One EVER a barometer of musical quality? This year's rum lot kind of smack of churlishness, pretentiousness and worst still backward looking! When in reality there is plenty of great music out there if you're prepared to look beyond a top forty unfairly stacked these days against independent artists since the downloads chart was lumped into the official one. Anyhow, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD - STOP BABBLING, BILL [not to be confused with a babbling brook -ed]. Are any of this week's 45s much cop, I hear you cry in frustration?! Well yeah a few let me be your guide...

Manchester indie popsters The Answering Machine released the first single Animals this week, from their second album 'Lifeline' (out in early 2011). Its the kind of huffling, twinkly acoustic tune that the words 'pleasant enough' were invented for - indeed, fast forward a few months and maybe this gentle slice of homeliness could have got a crimbo release too?! Good lord, Family Fodder have decided to release Ancestor's Feet this week. With stuttering Caribbean drums and rather bizarre afro-franco chorus, its like the uneasy meeting point between Paul Simon's Gracelands and David Byrne's world music projects. Ancestor's Feet ain't half bad but totally out of place for the time of year, this is sipping on a pineapple juice on a sunny desert island while we freeze our nuts off in Bognor Regis!

Next up its Travie McCoy with his bastardised version of Super Grass' Britpop anthem Alright which is rather originally called We'll Be Alright. Its the sound of The Black Eyed Peas taking a clumsy sledgehammer to a classic melody and reassembling it for the ring tone generation, I may be being a bit po faced here but this is frankly hideous, its worse than a cover because it ruins what was a timeless fun tune, and replaces it with post millennium beats, twitching 'rapping', its frankly USELESS and I hope Gaz and the boys sue, as they could do with a few sheckles since they split ahem?! I need a pick me up after that dirge, how bout Abbie May's Mammalian Locomotion. YES YES YES, dirty rock riffs, and sultry stalking feminine vocals, I LIKE IT! Sure its not The Kills, but given the competition so far, I imagine Abbe stalking down dark back alleys in a black leather Cat Woman suit [Ed-keep your fantasies to yourself] even the slightly cheesy squalling solo doesn't even dampen my enjoyment of this slice of bluesy rock, sure its not original but it certainly has a bit of bite...

The quality is gradually increasing now in the shape of London noise pop act Yuck who surprisingly feature two ex members of Cajun Dance Party. They've been releasing excellent dream pop demos for months now but Rubber is their first for Pharmacy Recordings. A sludgy fuzz ballad, that drags and drawls its weary bones down the street, reminding one of 'J Masics and The Smashing Pumpkins, its deceptively brittle, and whilst it never quite scales the heights of some of their demos, its subtle broken majesty promises much for the future!

Next please! We have The Fanclub with Poets Die Too. A swaying, string-led stab at indie anthemic, its soaring, melodramatic chorus is pretty good, although it lacks the real lyrical quality and outstanding vocal dynamics that daubs their clear and present influences - Morrissey and Buckley! It's all a little been here heard that before, nevertheless if they can break free of some of their clich├ęd production extravagance, The Fanclub are clearly a name to listen out for in future. Clement Marfo & The Frontline's new release Champion is probably most notable for its street dancing in 3d and black and white video. Clement Marfo's MC skills are insatiable, if a little "self-motivational speak' in the verses. Its all rather let down by a rather cheesy chorus that sounds like an off-cut from an aborted Kanye & Mr. Hudson session. Still, it might be good for a World Champion boxers ring walk, eh? Are you listening David Haye?! French duo Django Reinhardt & Stephene Grappelli, aka The Shoes release Stay the Same this week. Featuring that Esser fella, the press release is right - one can hear the influence of Hot Chip, LCD and even The Cure in there, with twitchy beats, casio samples, and ice-cold synths augmented by Esser's life- affirming vox. Its a refreshing mix, if a tad forgetable.

Which brings me to the first of my contenders for single of the week: Elliot Smith's The Ballad Of Big Nothing gets a re-release this week since it's the anniversary of the great man's death, and if it wasn't an old release it would be my single of the week. It's simple, gorgeously plucked strings are decorated by sighing spindly vocals that all of a sudden and without warning produce a melody that kicks you in the guts hard, then collapses into the realm of sheer genius. Much in the vein of Elliot Smith (although not quite as good), is Benjamin Francis Leftwich's Atlas hands. A tenderly strummed ballad that's hushed vocals wrap themselves around you like a gentle hug, but whose charms are all too fleeting. All of which means Tom Williams & The Boat with See My Evil (so its out next week - shoot me...the download is free from their page now Okayyyyy?!) takes the award by a short nose. Its a humdinger of a tune fired by cascading riffage, urgent folk tinged-kick drums, and Tom Williams' insidious, sometimes swaggering vocals that owe as much to Doherty and Dylan as they do to his haunted sub-consciousness.