Sunday, 16 September 2012

One Type of Aridity

Ladyhawke - Anxiety (2012)

'Ladyhawke still sounds like Ladyhawke, just tougher and more muscular, like Ladyhawke after a boot camp.' (Nick Levine, BBC)

'Sadly 'Black, White and Blue''s organ stabs, so reminiscent of Saturn 5, fail to take you anywhere beyond grim, snakebite'n'black-encrusted dancefloors.' (Tim Jonze, The Guardian)

'While there may be no 'Paris is Burning'-sized hit this time out, the high level of intensity in the music, words, and Brown's singing -- plus the cumulative thrill that builds up as song after song punches you right in the face -- more than makes up for it.' (Tim Sandra, All Music Guide)

It's not Empson's 'Seven Types of Ambiguity', it's rock and roll and it's tepid tedium. It's a 'punch in the face' to the listener akin to being in the ring with Frank Bruno in 2012. It's where wearing a Nirvana t-shirt somehow endows you with life, rage and spirit. I've spent much of the day listening to various songs from the Dream Babes and One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found compilations. Then I put this album on; after the human urgency of wondrous 'manufactured' 1960s stormers like The Tammys' 'Egyptian Shumba' and Paula Parfitt's 'Love is Wonderful', Anxiety brings me down to earth with a stultifying thud. 

'Leave behind the mess that you've made
And never ever do it again
Balance out all the love that you've saved
You'll need it 'til the bitter end
Make your run, make a fool of yourself
You're an accident that's waiting to happen
Life's so short, so forget all the past
It'll be there 'til the bitter end
And now that you realise
You seen the pain in my blue eyes, my blue eyes
There's nothing more I can do but sing you:'

To describe these lyrics as banal is like saying that George Osborne lacks empathy with working people. It's full of platitudes ('life's so short'), cliches ('You're an accident that's waiting to happen') and dull formulations ('the bitter end'). This could have been written as a calculated cut-up collage of the complete Coldplay and Florence Welch songbooks.

Just as bad is the chorus, which is an inglorious bastard offspring of Bob Geldof's 'The Great Song of Indifference', no less. Sonically, there is something apocalyptically anonymous and predictable about this streamlined music. Compression is in overdrive, adventure is at an absolute minimum. The little 'weird' electronic bits just sound like more of the same. I didn't remember her 2008 debut being at all bad; containing some tuneful enough electro-pop. 

This album contains little or no variation on 'Blue Eyes'' template. Yet, the NME's Ailbhe Malone talks of 'stadium-sized torch songs'. Approvingly. 'Triumphant stuff'. This track 'Cellophane' is, according to the BBC's Nick Levine, an emulation of Bowie's 'Heroes'. Totems like Sleater-Kinney, Blondie and Fleetwood Mac are bandied about absurdly. This music isn't alternative. It's streamlined bunkum, leaving artists of the Emily Haines and Eleanor Friedberger calibre entirely unchallenged. That this entirely generic and forgettable fare receives largely good reviews speaks of a craven, yay-saying critical 'consensus'. 

Associate editor of The Quietus, Luke Turner takes precise aim at the US 'alternative culture' that chimes with how our UK 'music-press' appraises mediocre albums:

'We are living in a cloud cuckoo land, and we are listening to its songs, streaming eternally and interminably from the new transistors that are our tinny laptop speakers. We exist in a time where the cultural palette has become limited and discourse tamed just as the internet was supposed to usher forth a new age of enlightenment and democracy. Just as the mainstream – be it in the form of exploitative television talent pop shows, the great, tone-deaf leveller of Autotune or a vulgar celebrity culture – has become ever harsher there has been a corresponding backslide by what used to be an alternative culture into a banal comfort zone.'

With Ladyhawke there are 'devils' and 'deep blue seas'. There is a 'wall' of 'my own choosing'. 'Cautious' is rhymed with 'nauseous'. Who gives a fuck? Music writers who use 'baseball mitt' and 'boot camp' metaphors to describe music, clearly. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Poems for the moment #1

Sunderland Library, 27th June 2012

In Keane we Trust in the Sound and Vision
On sale for £12 in 2012;
Efficiencies, layout changes,
No separate short-story section;
From comfy Blair blandness
To Coalition disorientation:
Exercise machines by the reading desks,
Just for the Olympics or is this a

Permanent move? Diversification;
Intangible loss, the traces erased.
‘CUSTOMER NOTICE’ about ‘quiet study’:
Citizens reduced; served, rephrased.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A catharsis reached: the Worst 200 Songs podcast

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light" 
- Dylan Thomas

For anyone who missed it, here is the podcast running down the Top 10 of our Worst 200 Songs Project and  reflecting on the whole thing. It features all of those who gave words, sweat and tears during our 10-week purgatory: Gibson, Lichfield, May, Niven.

From Jimmy Corkhill to Herbert Marcuse, all human life is here. There are 'considered' views from some of our critics; there is commentary from us lot that is righteous and scabrous by turn. There is desecration of a 'national treasure' and knight of the realm. There are the 10 ghastly (i m o - forum folk*) songs themselves, though thankfully most of them have some pithy or philosophical comments from our panel to lessen the pain. There is a late-80s TOTP-style rundown of the whole Top 40, with Lichfield and May in Batesian mode: Simon and Alan, respectively.

This unique proposition was originally broadcast on some sort of internet radio gubbins, at 9pm on Sunday 1st April 2012 and then repeated the following evening. The second broadcast incorporated some further edits and embellishments.

This was my first stab at any sort of online radio - and it has instilled a new respect for anyone who does this sort of thing live!

There will also be an epilogue post setting out what we love in current 2011-12 music; we are hoping to post this over the next week or two.

Anyway, enjoy - if that be the word...


Monday, 2 April 2012

Worst 200 Songs: A Readers' List

So... which songs did we miss, which maybe ought to have been in the reckoning? Here is a list of suggestions from our readers...

John Lowther: Bryan Adams, Sting & Rod Stewart - 'All for Love' (1994, #2) [ed. - how did we forget this monstrosity!?]

Steve Webster: Gwen Guthrie - 'Ain't Nothing Goin' on But the Rent' (1986, #5) 

Paul Simpson: Bob Geldof - 'Silly Pretty Thing' (2011, #146!) ('truly woeful' 'Haha, I'd forgotten about the ludicrous video')

Paul Simpson: Status Quo - 'The Oriental' (2002, #15 - album) ('It's obscene')

Paul Simpson: Francis Rossi - 'Faded Memory' (2010, Did not chart)

'In March 2009 Rossi decided that his distinctive trademark ponytail of the previous 35 years should be cut off. The ponytail was subsequently won by long-time Status Quo fan Sharon Littleton in a competition organised by The Sun.

Rossi was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours.'

Robin Carmody: Star Turn on 45 (Pints) - 'Pump up the Bitter' (1988, #12)

Nick Davidson: Starship - 'We Built This City' (1985, #12)

Richard Oram: Dodgy - 'Good Enough' (1996, #4) [Ed. - was actually nominated by Robin Carmody but didn't quite make the Top 200!]

Chris Loach: The Cheeky Girls - 'Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)' (2002, #2)

Pauline May: Clinton Ford - 'Old Shep' (1959, #27)

Pauline May: Charlie Drake - 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back' (1961, #14)

Damian Robson: Terry Jacks - 'Seasons in the Sun' (1974, #1)

Jack Roberts: Cast - 'Walkaway' (1996, #9) ('unbelievably dreary tosh')

Jack Roberts: Counting Crows - 'Mr Jones' (1994, #28) ('god-awful lyrics')

"Sha-la-la-la-la-la-lah!" FUCK OFF!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part X (b): #10-1

10. Bruno Mars - 'The Lazy Song'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: Motherfucking Hell. I told you the upper echelons of the chart would be indescribable and in turns out I was right. Just watched the entire Top Ten in visual form and the amount of time I felt a powerful, magnetic force between the screen and my fist was vast. Not least in this one, where the level of hatefulness reached during THAT "really nice sex line" was optimised via his "this tall to enjoy this ride" hair and fuckcunting grin. A certain, truth-playful person I once knew was once afforded the pet-name 'Bruno' by her enigmatic, similarly unhinged boyfriend due to her penchant for the works of Mr Mars. She called him 'The Pig'. Bruno and The Pig. BRUNO AND THE PIG. And it's that level of association that turns a bad song into a total cunt song. Never mind, the next one will be better...

AN: This sort of passed me by. There’s something quite offensive about the appropriation of reggae motifs. Gap Year imperialism. I suppose this is the American equivalent of British nu-folk: MOR for privileged kids gesturing limply at “roots”. Conversely, American nu-folk is actually quite good on the whole.

JG: It’s almost tolerable (after all, Elastica had much the same idea with ‘Waking Up’) right up until the moment Bruno Mars starts noting that he can shove his hand down his pants if he feels like it. It then progresses to Mars using the internet to locate call girls, sending a terrible shiver down the spine, as though Robespierre had entered the room just as one was extolling the virtues of constitutional monarchy.

TM: “Today I don’t feel like doing anything”. Bruno: you are implying that on other days you are contributing to the wellbeing of human civilisation and culture. You are not. You are a drain on the lifeblood of all that is wise and good. Perhaps this is what modern liberalism has come to: chirpy strummed chords, paeans to apathetic arsing around in your ‘castle’, the chronic conceit of “some really nice sex”. And of course messing around is synonymous with a ‘college degree’. Frankly, a new album by Franklin Bruno would be a preferable prospect compared with this beaming irritant.

Aye, it's a lovely video; on a par with Buster Keaton's 'One Week' in its portrayal of home life...
9. The Wombats - 'Let's Dance to Joy Division'
(2007, #15, DL)

DL: Perhaps the bronze medal in the race to become the 'Britpop 2' nadir. I've turned to drink in order to endure the Top Ten twice in order to re-acquaint myself with the plethora of suicide-inducing shite that awaits me, yet I'm not sure it's performing any anaesthetic qualities. Just inane, and a blasphemous name check, yet a fitting one. What was once a style of music so associated with the edgy, the raw and the poetic reduced to infantile, inane bullshit with nowhere to really go after this. Such a monotonous howl too. That middle-eight is particularly indicative of production-line indie. And you thought Stock Aitken and Waterman did cynical and formulaic song-writing? 'Better The Devil You Know' is worth a billion of this.

AN: Joy Division were always the ultimate unco-optable band, so the fact that they were roundly co-opted in the noughties speaks volumes about that decade as a whole. This is the paradigmatic counter-revolutionary artwork: irony, mediocrity, pastiche, and faux-colloquialism neutering one of the bleakest, most difficult bands in pop history.

JG: You know what? I’ve had about enough of the way that Joy Division have been commoditised into some saleable chunk of Great British Musical Heritage. Conveying the fractured, often unintelligible nature of alienation and ostracism in an uncertain, darkening environment was precisely the point of Joy Division. Whereas now they seem to have become a branded commodity for indie clubs. Fuck off.

TM: Intense, chugging boredom: from the first guitar lines to their complete misapplication of irony. “You know what to ask for!” Apparently: unending smirking revivalism with guitars and the despoiling of past musical wonders. A children’s choir has never been so inaptly used as here: to background this numpty’s dashed off extemporisation around the words: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. “This could all go so wrong”. You mean to say, you loveable mop-top wannabes, that it hasn’t with this fucking abysmal song? Get ye to New York, though I doubt they’d have your brand of numbskull retro.

8. Toploader - 'Dancing in the Moonlight'
(2000, #7, DL)

DL: Help me please! I told you not to trust people whose biggest hits were covers and I was right. Just the right kind of party anthem that feels horrendous to endure if you're not on board. I'm thinking Jamie Oliver, I'm thinking omnipresence, I'm thinking Jo Whiley, I'm thinking horrific things. Is 'smugness' a genre? It should be. Although I did enjoy its ironic use in Four Lions. I haven't heard this for quite a few years, and I hope this is the last time. The sound of utter dismay and a loss of faith in all that surrounds you and every school of thought you've ever thought made you feel safe. I'd wager that people have topped themselves to this song.

AN: Again, there’s an imperialist aspect to this: African American soul used to sell millions upon millions of records, tickets, and merchandise by a group of soulless Western session musicians. It’s really quite depressing when you begin to approach the economic underpinning of karaoke MOR rock.

JG: Is it the organ? The shockingly poor vocals? Or even the fact that Jamie Oliver likes this? No. The reason this is a crime against music is that, back in 2000, as with many toffs of his age, a young George Osborne was firing his cold black semen right into the horse-face of a young wench from Buckingham just as the annoyingly twee middle-eight kicked in. And for that reason alone, dear reader, this is one of the worst songs ever recorded.

TM: Is there a more representative slab of 2000s torpor than this cynical cover version of a tepid single from 1973? King Harvest’s original is dull but harmless; this is a cretinous cluster bomb lodged in the heart of the culture. From their name onwards they are shite. Eastbourne vocalist adopts the sort of phony mid-Atlantic accent that utterly grates on me. Radio and club DJs, dance-floor denizens, ‘music fans’: all should have known better than to elevate this to its perch of infernal ubiquity. At least their belated 2011 third album flopped: a deserved public indifference. But then this fucking song appears for the millionth time! And people lap it up as if it’s the musical second coming.

What is it with these curly haired vocalists?
7. Scouting For Girls - 'She's So Lovely'
(2007, #7, DL)

DL: Worst song of all time for me, but that's democracy for you. Like some estate agents trying their hand at 'that indie music' and getting it all wrong completely. The usual 'cheeky' signifiers, the 'wacky' bassist. A massive pile of FHM ear-sperm that makes me so angry that I could commit 100,000 words to it and still never fathom why it makes me want to annihilate entire continents. It's excruciating enough, but like The Wombats, its middle-eight has to be heard to be believed, like 'Country House' era Blur-meets-Simply Red turned even more chronically evil. Presumably they thought that their moniker put them in the same sensitive-pop bracket as Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura but no, just no. Impossible to even enjoy ironically and if the lack of lads in bands scoring hits these days means we're missing out on gibberish like this that makes Cast sound like Can then FUCKING GOOD. Cunts! And I still don't think that's enough.

"She's pretty, a fitty"? SHE'S PRETTY, A FITTY?!!! I mean, that lead singer must have got this past his band-mates without them shooting him in the face via completely agreeable motives. It would have only been a manslaughter charge. If you're housewife-friendly anodyne pop music, don't try to masquerade as something you aren't. Unfortunately, the noughties equivalents of Chris De Burgh et al had delusions of credibility. FUCKING BRITPOP. Seriously.

AN: Unimaginative, repetitive, cynical, trite, blasé, disengaged, weak, clichéd, backward-looking, corporate, underwhelming, non-existent, offensive, flaccid, dire, boring, boring, boring.

JG: The fag end of the Blair era coincided with pop music raping its own re-animated corpse. Here, the frightful trio take their cues from such flotsam as Sailor, Edison Lighthouse and The Rembrandts. Toss, basically. Plus, Roy Stride – for God’s sake man, you’re singing about some absolutely stunning woman offering you non-committal sexual favours and you “don’t know how we’ll make it through this.” Get a grip, you idiot!

TM: Argh. Now this is getting epically painful: a chirpy, eager-to-please piano enters, stage-bereft. Head-banding. Bowling alleys. So far, so far Neanderthal; though our simian forebears would turn up their noses at this lot. Then all too soon: that braying, god-awful chorus and monumentally ghastly lines like “She’s pretty; she’s a fitty”. Who ever thought that such minstrelsy to witless drooling was a good idea? Maybe it was the inarticulate, moronic, laddish repetition that charmed people? The prospects for pop seem desolate, sometimes...

"She's pretty. A fitty." That is all.
6. Snow Patrol - 'Chasing Cars'
(2006, #6, DL)

DL: I heard that Tom May had to break down his analysis of the Top Ten into two halves and I'm thinking of following suit. I never thought that the Second Division of Britpop was that bad, having not been susceptible to the main players of the late 1970s and 1980s who they were ripping off at the time, only discovering the music of Joy Division, The Smith, The Cure and the Bunnymen during and after Britpop itself but can now see why the second rate players of Britpop irked so many, although I will still say that Gene, Shed Seven and Echobelly et al had a few good tracks. This is why I could possibly forgive a teenager for holding 'Chasing Cars' in the same esteem as I hold 'Fake Plastic Trees'. On the other hand, that's bullshit, and teenagers of the noughties and now have instant, free access to a world of musical history that I could have only dreamed of as a teenager. So fuck that argument.

'Chasing Cars' is a desperate, tuneless and cynical piece of music that takes the mid-paced yet emotionally potent mid-tempo balladeering template of Radiohead and turns it into utter calculated dross. From the loud-quiet dynamics to the insanely rubbish insincerity of its half-arsed exploration of unrequited love, every note of it sounds designed with fiscal benefits in mind. You can't really blame Lightbody and co. for clinging onto their place in the hearts of casual music fans and reality TV music supervisors alike after struggling against the grain for so many years (you could have probably seen them in the Joiner's Arms in Southampton with one man and his bludgeoned prostitute for £2.50 and a bag of pork scratchings in 2002), so fair play, but I don't hear emotion in this, I hear cold, calculated cynicism.


AN: There’s a nice catharsis about the top 10. I really dislike Snow Patrol and just couldn’t understand their apologists over the last decade. It’s heartening that we’re of the same mind about this. A cultural lowlight of recent history.

JG: The message of this song is as follows: never mind all that alienation you feel toward having to sell your labour power for a decreasing reward, a quiet moment with one’s squeeze can help ameliorate that disaffection and block out that big nasty old world, leaving one fresh enough to face more of the same shit ad infinitum. A quiet moment that sounds like a blunter version of Keane, no less. Twats.

TM: How many more videos will there be with a moony-eyed, t-shirted dullard lying. On a floor. With that slight, self-satisfied grin on his face, surely pondering the pennies this colossally boring dirge would yield? I am not an easily offended person but I have had enough with this tedious and vague Andrew Strauss-endorsed effluence. Is it an aspirational anthem for striving entrepreneurs? Is it a theme for those manufactured ‘poignant’ sporting moments on TV? Is it about lurve? It’s about fuck all. ‘Chasing Cars’ is a lesion on the arse of an increasingly stale British mainstream music scene. This record has spent 108… ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT weeks in the UK Singles Chart since its release nearly six years ago. Who is buying or MP3-ing this now...? Be ashamed.

"If I lay here..." I might just develop a personality. Or a sense of remorse.
5. Maroon 5 - 'She Will Be Loved'
(2004, #4, DL)

DL: This song almost single-handedly put me off pressing 'play' on the last quintet. Ouch. Such fake sincerity, such utter nauseating gooiness. “I don't mind spending every day out on the corner in the pouring rain”. Isn't it rather noticeable how all these 'tender' declarations of 'love' seem to be from the viewpoint of a determined stalker? To me, the refrain “she will be loved” is synonymous with some cheesy goon who’s just run off with your bird and is trying to make you feel better about it. Or abducted her, with the full aim of appearing on some televised appeal to confirm her safety. He'd probably set up a good cause in her name and fuck off to France with the proceeds. And I'm only 1:27 in! 'Though I tend to get so insecure...' No shit, Sherlock. Lasted two more seconds. 'It's not always rainbows and butterflies...' This earnest wank really grinds my gears. Shall we go on? And another crap middle-eight! Adam Levine's probably forever locating girls with “broken smiles”. Weak ones, to manipulate like it's going out of fashion. Can I be friends with anyone who likes that?

AN: The top 10 seems to support the theory that 2004-7 was some kind of nadir for pop. I was 19-23 during these years and, to speak sincerely, I’m incredibly angry that my youth was wasted being forced to listen to the likes of Snow Patrol and Maroon 5. That anger is still a central part of most of the things that I do.

JG: Maroon 5? The Feeling? Scouting for Girls? I lose track of who’s who among that lot. Anyway, this is absolutely terrible. This is where that Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker nonsense from a few weeks ago leads. Unambitious, turgid, restaurant music like this. In a ying-yang twist, somewhere in a parallel (better) universe, diners must be downing their Chablis to Altern-8’s ‘Hypnotic St8’.

TM: This is the product of a complacent, clapped-out culture. Every time this has appeared on a TV advert or a shopping centre PA system, it is a little death. It becomes REALLY horrendous with the bridge into the whining, mind-numbing, deadly chorus. Singer Adam Levine did have a go at the ‘fucking evil’ – his words and mine – Fox News for playing his music, without realising that that is the name of the commercial game he signed up to. 

4. Mark Ronson feat. Daniel Merriweather - 'Stop Me'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: I'm happy to announce that I'm now on the good old fag-per-song ratio. Maroon 5 was horrid, but even more so with the knowledge I had to face this next, like being called to the Headmaster's to confess to farting in assembly.

So basically... how dare you pair of fuckers unleash this level of vandalism upon this seminal song, or even pair of songs? How can you deliver 'Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before' with so little humour, wit, knowingness, irony... just the way he sings it... 'Seething' is the only acceptable reaction. YOU FUCKING CUNTS! If I could have gone any higher than ten out of ten, I would have. Surely someone you encountered before releasing this must have informed you that it doesn't work at all? Plus, has brass ever sounded less rousing as per every time Ronson polished a steaming turd with it?

Fuck you Mark Ronson featuring Daniel Merriweather. FUCK YOU.

AN: As with #9, a counter-revolutionary piece of shit. I don’t want to waste any more of my life thinking about this sort of worthless effluvia.

JG: Does anyone really need to explain why this great robbery is here? Cross-referencing was an interesting way around cost restrictions in the heyday of rave, but crashing The Smiths into The Supremes? I mean, come on; that just smacks of the socialite, aristocrat circles that Ronson has always frequented. It isn’t witty or quirky; it really isn’t and is wrong in every conceivable way.

TM: Another cover. Ronson embodies the new Cameronite establishment of Britain today; he is particularly representative of this era as his two biggest hits have been mystifyingly accepted cover versions. Dreadful, laughable, tepid tripe; it goes without saying. But it must be asserted, as this did reach #2 in the charts and the Ronsonian mode continues to set the tone, alongside the BRIT and the X-Factor schools. The vocals are showy, slick and grating, showing no affinity whatsoever with the Mozzer’s idiosyncratic lyric. You can practically hear the silver spoon; Ronson is the grandson of a convicted share-trading fraudster and property tycoon, with family links to Leon Brittan and Malcolm Rifkind. His mother married Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. With all the privileges of his St John’s Wood upbringing, why can’t Ronson do better than this nonsense?

3. Elton John - 'Candle in the Wind 1997'
(1997, #1, DL)

DL: Ah, a tender tribute from one friend to another. Nothing tasteless about that. Only it's totally tacky and Taupin's lyric scans appallingly. 'Youcalledouttoourcountry!' This doesn't anger me in the way the rest of the Top Ten have thus far, but it's still a 10/10 hate for its utterly sinister and somewhat inappropriate qualities and I'm sure Messrs Gibson, Niven and May have more to say in a far more academic way than I can. This did hilariously mean that the whole wide world is far more au fait with AA-side 'Something About The Way You Look Tonight' than the weaved one ever though dreamed of. And 'Bingo!' by Catch for that matter. Did this song really need to happen? It was bad enough when he was posthumously stalking that glamour model.

AN: Nothing has been quite the same since this happened.

JG: Ah, the Diana funeral. A moment of enforced public mourning like no other: nothing but violins on Radio 1; Tony Blair crying for the cameras; serious questions in Parliament about a Viz story that dared to prick the bubble of such jejune grief. The distance between those days and those in Pyongyang in 2011 is considerably shorter than we allow ourselves to think. This piece of collective mix of class deference and tabloid voyeurism reached its apogee with Elton John’s piece in Westminster Abbey, killing whatever lingering vestige of mystique he might once have had.

TM: I am not going to have a go at Lady Di, the ‘Princess of Hearts’ in Blair’s vacuous phrase. That would be too easy; she clearly did good deeds within systemic limits. It was more how the whole event established a cult of sentimentalism that imposed limits on British culture and music; partnering the overblown, overhyped Be Here Now in keeping out distinctive, dissident voices. This is the sound of that early, more liberal Blair era that could not help but be profoundly neo-liberal. Its prevalence needs to be made clear: 5.4million sales in the UK, best-selling single worldwide in the modern era (with Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ probably edging it out in the longer term), bizarrely: 46 weeks at the summit of the Canadian chart. Oh, and it’s another cover, this time by the original artist himself; with re-fashioned lyrics: hackneyed ‘rose’ metaphors and so much that reeks of Catholic idolatory: ‘the grace’, ‘the wings’, ‘this torch’. Empathic sentimentalism could be a spur to collective action; it does not have to be as profoundly disempowering and dispiriting as this is.

'I want to be the new Diana
(OK!, Hello)
Visiting the shore occasionally
Politics and minefields, press and P.R.
These are bad places for a queen of hearts'
2. Sandi Thom - 'I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker with Flowers in My Hair'
(2006, #1, TM)

DL: Authenticity, and the lack of it, seems to be a recurring theme in our countdown, and you won't find less of it than in the narrative surrounding this big pile of PR-manipulated jizz. “Pop stars still remained a myth” sings the lady whose appeal was mainly formed around a tall tale about a struggling artist performing gigs from her cellar every evening to thousands upon thousands of fans across the world online, with miraculously enough bandwidth to allow this. Of course, these were the burgeoning Arctic Monkeys days when the idea of a musician or indeed any other cultural phenomenon gaining prominence online via word-of-mouth still filled the public testicle with callous clumps of gullible spunk. The song itself is a doe-eyed ode to those simpler, pre-internet days “where accountants couldn't take your soul” and suchlike. Is the music industry cynical enough to support this and actively endorse the infinite ironies around it? Yes, yes it is. There's a ‘best of’ out if you're interested.

AN: Joy Division, The Smiths, punk: nothing escaped the commodifying embrace of a triumphant capitalism in the last ten years. When you consider how they managed to take the counter-culture away from us, it makes you want to weep. I repeat, I’m just so fucking angry. So sad.

JG: In a way it just admits the end of a process long underway. Previously subversive movements become re-sold as little other than marks of individual expression of the type so memorably derided by Slavoj Žižek in his analysis of the way in which late capitalism commands us not only to express ourselves through various disciplinary quirks, but to enjoy doing so. The Superego writ large, combined with a lethal dose of historical denial. It’s enough to suck the serotonin out of an entire convention of clowns.

TM: Okay... The jibe at Blair’s guitar playing is well placed, but this song is part of the problem: its retro fixation is a roadblock to insurgent new music. “When we didn’t know everything”? I think that the age of Granada television, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, theatre-in-education and Penguin books, we knew rather more. “Scared of computers”? Presumably: WOTAN and BOSS. Alex has written previously of Thom’s absurd, ‘confused’ elision of “’77 and ‘69”. This is a paean to 60s/70s ‘authenticity’ that simplifies and reduces those pasts to fashion accessories, being a PR man’s idea of what makes ‘radical’, ‘rebellious’ music. It failed the first time it was released in 2005; it supplanted Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ from the top spot on 4th June 2006. What a sad indictment. More IXtra: less, much less, of this conservative shite.

Yes, the PR man from 'Quite Great Communications' is in shot
1. Nickelback - 'Rock Star'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: 'She's So Lovely' aside, I cannot think of a more deserving chart-topper in a countdown of horror. Of course, the song is understood (made more infuriating) when 'enjoyed' alongside its video, in which a roll call of famous American bell-ends from the worlds of sport, music, film and general anonymity each take turns to perform a line from the song in the most crass, arrogant and punchable way imaginable. There are some British people in there too. I know this because huge, unsubtle signifiers like the Houses of Parliament allude to this. It's been said that it's unclear as to whether the song itself as a satirical ode to the materialistic, decadent rock-star lifestyle but as there's no real humour in there worthy of being deemed remotely funny, I'd say it was exactly the kind of tedious celebration of the high-flying soulless lifestyle as outlined above. If it is satire, it's the worst attempt at satire in the world and is particularly strange considering the guest stars of the video lip-sync every lyric in a highly celebratory way. No one comes out of that video not looking like a complete cunt. It's like being force-fed a fatal dose of the most base, crass and stupid elements of American mass culture.

Embarrassing, painful, knuckle-headed, tacky, reminds me of Republicans and sofa adverts, wrestling, handlebar moustaches, rednecks, country music, cunts, bastards, twats... although they have been noted for responding to criticisms free on social networking sites so maybe Chad Kroeger would like to step and claim his award for being behind our Worst Song of all time?

AN: A worthy number one. This manages to glorify the profit motive, advocate anorexia, bury rock music for good, and fundamentally be a piece of evil crap. Friends, it’s been emotional. Thanks for putting up with my meandering rage. Solidarity to messrs Gibson, May, and Lichfield. This was a necessary repudiation, if a painful one. Onwards!

JG: What can you say? At root, Kroeger and his Kurt Bon Jovi lot are only trying to make us think beyond the shallowness with which they think we fantasise about being rock stars. So why, then, does this song stink like an abattoir? Because Kroeger and co have made it as rock stars. And they’re mocking us. “Ha ha, you think we eat for free and have eight bodyguards that like to beat people up.” That’s exactly what you do (or could very easily do if you wanted to), Kroeger. Didn’t you read The Dirt? What else? It plods, Chad Kroger whines, the riff sounds like it was written in 1953 by a 6 year old David Bowie. Chad Kroeger is also an utter cunt. He looks like one, acts like one and just is one and he can fuck off. Grrrrrrrrrr. Shit like this – it makes psychopathy swill up in my head. Can we stop now?

TM: Ultimately, this ode to bloated, inane excess had to be number one: receiving 10/10 on the hate-o-meter from all four of us. This ticks every box: unadventurous, stunted guitar chords, mentions of James Dean and Elvis, sham ‘inclusiveness’ in the video; leering misogyny, lunkheaded machismo, avaricious money-grabbing toss about “playboy mansions” and “a credit card that’s got no limit”. This record represents the etherised ‘common sense’ of our neo-liberal age: its ailing philosophical core. It is up to us to roll away the stone; or, indeed, the millstone that Rock has become...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part X (a): #20-11

And now for the top 20... 10-1 will follow on Sunday, alongside a podcast.

20. Staind - 'It's Been a While'
(2001, #15, DL)

DL: This week's records are so bad that it's taken me a full two hours to even pluck up the courage to press play. Knowing what awaits me, the fact that I only have ten to write about at this point is more than merciful. Do one, you droning metal cunt.

AN: There’s something Tracy Chapman-esque about this. In a shit way. I don’t understand the spelling of Staind either. In fact most band names are really inappropriate aren’t they? Except for ones like Echo and the Bunnymen. They’re weird, but in a good way.

JG: As if to confirm the thick-skulled and utterly conservative underbelly lurking in the background of the adolescent squeal of nu-metal and all that surrounds it, it turns out that Aaron Lewis is a registered Republican. You can see this coming in the lyrics to this heinous piece of shit, in which Lewis mildly self-flagellates without once expressing any actual remorse to anyone who might have been hurt along the way. I’m sure Ayn Rand would approve.

TM: As part of a fine weekend spent chiefly at the local AV Festival, I witnessed The Caretaker sing in baritone an impassioned version of ‘The Lady in Red’, which bookended his show. It is impossible to imagine anyone essaying this plodding ‘nu-rock’ ballad with anything approaching vitality. A bald man washes his face and looks vaguely earnest, while I wish this was Michael Stipe or Matt Johnson. Staid!

19. Florence and the Machine - 'You've Got The Love'
(2009, #5, AN)

DL: I don't trust people whose signature records are cover versions. At Glastonbury 2010, the kooky one apparently gate-crashed the sets of a number of different artists to collaborate on further renditions of it outside of her own fucking set. Of course, the lack of musical intro means that you don't even get anything in the way of a warning before it infects your headspace. It's Candi Staton's, give it back.

AN: A strong candidate for my all-time least favourite tune. And here’s why. Firstly, FATM has done much harm to humanity. As a paragon of the present nadir of British popular culture – consumer decadence, poshness, commodified theatricality, apoliticism masquerading as marginal “kookiness” – she is all of the things that are shit about life right now. Not just shit in the common or garden variety sense of the term, but shit in the sense of actual worthless evil blocking the path of anything genuinely good ever again seeing the light of day.

Secondly, cover versions are generally not very worthwhile. That said, every once in a while a reworking or remix comes along that refracts the original in a way that is ingenious and creative, justifying the whole notion of recycling in pop. In 1997, The Now Voyagers remix of 'You've Got the Love' by The Source featuring Candi Staton provided an ingenious and creative reworking of a tune that had already been reworked as a house track in 1991. It was marvellous and I loved it. In the ensuing years, however, this version became such a staple of adverts and football highlights shows that I grew tired of hearing it. Then, as part of a wearisome noughties craze for half-arsed cover versions spearheaded by another unequivocally evil person, Jo Whiley, people began reworking it with alarming frequency. Among the terrible karaoke iterations were execrable versions by The Longcut and Joss Stone.

It was at this juncture that the wonderfully radical and avant-garde BRIT Critics Choice Award winner Florence and the Machine decided to take the daring creative risk of releasing her version of 'You've Got the Love'. Despite the fact that it was unimaginatively arranged and featured hackneyed, spectacularly off-key vocals, this version somehow became a kind of anthem for a country entering one of the darkest periods of its history, under a radical Tory administration that was only allowed to get away with its unequivocally evil programme of right-wing wealth redistribution to the rich because the mainstream British Left had long ago morphed into a tendency of do-nothing “liberals” whose definition of a counter-culture began and ended with the sort of reactionary, privileged, lifestyle aesthetic promulgated by Florence and the Machine.

Somewhere in the Outer Hebrides in late 2013, a teenage girl heard 'You've Got the Love' for the first time on Spotify and reacted with such instinctive hatred to this travesty of human potentiality that she decided to do something about it. And so she began to write music on her laptop that was daring and revolutionary and new, music that was filled with anger at the ways things were and hope about a more intelligent and socially meaningful future. Her music was the polar opposite of everything she had heard in Florence and the Machine. And it took the changing world by storm.

JG: Candi Staton’s original version of ‘You've Got the Love’ is a heartfelt gospel track about wrestling with issues of faith, self-belief and sacrifice. Florence Welch’s version is, by contrast, an absolute atrocity committed that sounds like an internship – jumping through the hoops required to showcase one’s abilities through free labour; all backed up with inherited wealth that excludes those from poorer backgrounds.

TM: Bland, bellowing flimflam; lacking any character or subtlety. The Source’s 1990 version did not need to be remade: it is Unité d'habitation besides this Barratt Home, which saps all life-force. The popularity of her work is mystifying – as is the supposed likeness to PJ Harvey, Bjork and such distinct female artists. It seems consumers will lap up any old gubbins if it contains the approved, showy display of vocal gymnastics.

You're not Kate Bush.
18. Katie Melua - 'Nine Million Bicycles'
(2005, #5, DL)

DL: Three minutes that epitomise perfectly why I will never, ever make the switch to Radio 2. Such a Poundland idea of Starbucks-friendly, continentally-tinged jazz-blues. There should have been some Cullum in here too. I'm taking this as a vote for Cullum's arse version of ‘Frontin’’ too. Embarrassing. Are those lyrics supposed to be meaningful? Hard to believe the man responsibie for 'Bright Eyes' was behind this. ‘Remember you're a Womble’ had more emotional nous.

AN: “No ideas beside the facts”, said William Carlos Williams, once upon a time. But I doubt very much that this obscenely vaporous work of aural pornography was what he had in mind. “There are nine million bicycles in Beijing / That’s just a fact”. No it’s not, it’s a terrible lyric slapped on top of a non-existent backing track.

JG: I think Mike Batt (who wrote this lightweight nonsense and who appeared earlier in this list) needs to understand the fast pace of economic development and therefore car ownership (and consequently declining rates of bicycle use) in Beijing. Therefore, Katie Melua was lying when she exclaimed that “I will always love you till I die.” Because she means that she will love you right up until the new Volvo showroom opens in Financial Street.

TM: From synthetic harp to cod-Gaelic flute: it’s Mike Batt Strikes Back! Misconceived attempt by the self-styled ‘pop maverick’ to write a ‘40s standard, with a half-arsed lyric that incredibly enough fails to scale the Cole Porter heights: "There are six billion people in the world / More or less / And it makes me feel quite small / But you’re the one I love the most of all." To exacerbate the crime, she also sang this list's #61 live with its author.

17. Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse - 'Valerie'
(2007, #2, AN)

DL: Not as bad as the plodding original but, Christ. Retro bollocks. A cover of an already-tired song in a tired style of four decades prior, voiced by a figure who unnecessarily and needlessly met her end in a typically tired and futile style. Retromania gone mad. And again, this reworking seems to have become her signature song too! Is it bad that I physically can no longer listen to these in their entirety? I had to turn that off to protect my own sanity.

AN: See above entry on FATM. The same goes. Amy Winehouse was quite simply a very mediocre cabaret singer.

JG: I don’t understand the reasoning here at all, taking a boring song that was barely a year old anyway and then reconfiguring it to sound like ersatz, horrid Motown-lite that get splayed in expensive bars. Except, of course, to claim ownership over it. Not that they were much cop themselves, but who even remembers The Zutons now?

TM: Doherty and Winehouse: their imprudent rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle oblivion was never worth the expenditure of time and column inches. Late ‘00s neo-soul was as backward and obstructive as its late ‘80s forefather. In the words of Spearmint, Say Something Else – or, just play the old Motown and Northern Soul greats and savour their immortal vivacity. Not the last we’ll see of the man Ronson, rather ominously.

16. Plain White T's - 'Hey There Delilah'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: There's a wealth of selections from the hit parade of 2007 here and rightly so. This emo-schmaltz is just as stomach-churning as anything Marty Wilde and Jess Conrad offered up to proceedings earlier on in the countdown. I might have to have a sick break. A lighters-in-the-air load of spaff not a million miles away from Green Day's 'Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)' and I fucking hated that with passions that I'd never unearthed previously too.

AN: Fascist-slick pop.

JG: I absolutely fucking hate this with its cloying sentimentality and disgusting earnestness. This isn’t really about a distance relationship. No, it’s about a fool claiming some sort of romantic ethic of self-sacrifice when all he’s doing is feeding his own narcissism and infuriating shallowness. Horrible band name too.

TM: Lacklustre, whiny stab at a sincere ballad which is more of a sales pitch than an explication of desire (“someday I’ll pay the bills with my guitar”). His persistently imbecilic rhymes would shame a primary school dabbler; he drizzles on and on and on, making Sarstedt seem like Neil Tennant. “My word is good”: no, it is paltry debris in the grand scheme. “Give this song another listen”? I’d rather have News International on my case.

"I'll be making history, as I do" - hubris, anyone?

15. Jessie J. - 'Price Tag'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: This is becoming a harrowing experience. Can we all stop saying 'bling' now, in any context, ever? I've got tea cosies that have more genuine street cred than Jessie J. If only I knew something more pleasant was going to follow it.

AN: Stage school trash.

JG: There have been concerns raised on one forum that my continual harping on about the BRIT School is an unfair attack on the backgrounds of its alumni. Bollocks is it. BRIT School alumni are target marketed and PR trained to death to the point that any enigma, malevolence or genuine personality is sucked out of their careers and their focus group determined songs and ‘kooky’ personas. Maybe I’m just getting too old for this shit.

TM: Of course, it’s not about the price tag: it’s about the outstandingly innovative, socially engaged and unifying artistry of Jessie J! Nothing at all to do with the money, hype and vanity of BRIT-schooled Britain! This is like David Icke having a go at someone for being a conspiracy theorist. “Why is everyone so serious?” Because this alleged frivolity is a trite, insincere cover for more avarice and musical nullity?

14. James Blunt - 'You're Beautiful'
(2005, #1, TM)

DL: I liked it when mainstream singer-songwriters were exactly that before Oasis came along, ruined everything and enabled any given number of mop-headed buffoons to soothe us of all with their tepid acoustic sounds in the mistaken belief that what they were doing was in any way more credible than Paul Young, Chris De Burgh or Mick Hucknall. Although as a disclaimer he's always seemed an agreeable chap on the tellybox etc.

AN: James Blunt’s poshness and ex-army backstory was a sort of anomaly back in 2005 wasn’t it? Oh how we mocked him. Now that the charts are full of such twats, and the populace is drifting towards a worrying militaristic jingoism, the joke is very much on us. Fuck!

JG: Listen to those lyrics carefully: “I saw your face in a crowded place, and I don’t know what to do.” Isn’t there something quite dark and psychotic about that? Unfortunately, whatever strange anti-heroics might result from that obsessional idea are more than neutralised by Blunt’s appalling, sub-Gibb vocals and the overwhelming impression that he’s... well, a bit thick, to be honest.

TM: Ah, to some this man’s vocals may seem wondrous! To me they are a yelping chore. For the All-Music Guide his second album was ‘a step in the right direction for Blunt, a move toward love songs free of pretension’ – yes! His songs possessed Peter Hammill-esque levels of complexity before! In the week that Margaret Thatcher expressed regret that she ever went in politics maybe Blunt will express similar contrition for his ‘acoustic-tinged’ mixture of rock, pop and folk?

13. Kid Rock - 'All Summer Long'
(2008, #1!, DL)

DL: Yep. Just what I need right now. A knuckle-headed 'Sweet Home Alabama' re-appropriation. The more appalling and remorseless these monuments of despair become, the more stumped I feel. Is this comparable to an American 'The Day We Caught the Train' in its stupendously obvious sense of summer nostalgia?

AN: Another weird example of the karaoke craze. Like the product of an octogenarian record producer with Alzheimers who is recuperating by trying to remake a song he once heard in his youth, but which he keeps getting badly wrong.

JG: A kind of ‘Summer of ‘69’ for the iPhone generation that lazily loops its good-time-livin’ theme around Lynyrd Skynyrd. I suppose you can’t really argue with the fact that Kid Rock is ultimately self-made, given that he made six albums before anyone had even heard of him. Perhaps this shows us that the American Dream is one that is most effectively pursued by selling out to vapid consumerism.

TM: Dexys Midnight Runners used Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves inLondon’ riff rather brilliantly on their outstanding parting shot Don’t Stand Me Down. This bearded goon spoils it all by fusing it with ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, recording a smug video where he is surrounded by Baywatch ‘lovelies’ and offering his sundry reflections on those halcyon pre-internet days. ‘SHA’ expressed apathy about Watergate. This is an even more airheaded incitement to ennui.

12. P!nk - 'So What'
(2008, #8, DL)

DL: No, you're no more of a rock star than Bob Carolgees. Is she trying to be obnoxious? 'P!nk' has actually somehow regressed in terms of maturity over the years. If anyone genuinely thinks there's an ounce of real rebellion in this, then they deserve to listen to it on a never-ending loop. With melodies as aggravating as the lyrics wrapped around them, 'So What' is a stone cold slab of cold excrement.

AN: God, the weight of noughties awfulness is starting to turn my soul to ice again. Yes, I remember Pink. She was dreadful.

JG: This trend for self-referential pop music absolutely stinks. Tragically, when Pink asserts some kind of fuck-you independence, what she really means is that she’s still a rock star and therefore still making various anonymous Cowell-like figures very rich, thank you very much.

TM: Its lack of politesse isn’t the problem. It’s just an irritating, branded sort of ‘feisty’ – hardly the Waitresses, Princess Superstar or The Slits. “I am a rock star / I’ve got my rock moves” – what’s the betting that they are like Jagger? Still, while this is tommy-rot I don't hate it quite as much as ‘Every Beat of My Heart’, ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’, ‘No Charge’, ‘Darling Buds of May’ or indeed ‘Let’s Work’!

11. The Stereophonics - 'Have a Nice Day'
(2001, #5, TM)

DL: Well, I suppose if we can't have ‘American Idiot’ then a similar horror from a band who should have never been allowed to incorporate even the slightest element of politics into their music will suffice. 'Mr Writer', 'Pick a Part That's New', 'Just Lookin'... the choices were multiple. Even if you ignore the shoehorning of ill-informed cultural commentary into proceedings, the idea of people getting off on a banal, piss-poor nothing song about having a nice day is even fucking worse.

AN: Not very good. In all the wrong places.

JG: San Francisco. Home of Blue Cheer’s proto-metal howl, the biting sarcasm of the Dead Kennedys and playful avant garde types Matmos. The centre of US gay culture, with all of its erotic possibilities. But you wouldn’t think so from this turgid horse-spunk, in which Kelly Jones mopes around Pier 39 like a mildly hung-over Coldplay fan, before moaning about a greeting that is the equivalent of “alright, mate?” The wanker.

TM: Dear lord, this is a dismal, excessively played crock of codswallop. They were of the generation of bands who gradually moved into complacent, cowed, crowd-pleasing vagueness and yachting affluence - as featured in the sickening video. The best that can be said is that the lyric contains traces of self-diagnosis: '"We’re going wrong / We’ve become all the same"' "It’s all money gum /No artists anymore". Its title’s deadening customer-service imperative sums up the prevailing sense of cash-till tedium.

And now for Baywatch, guest starring a cheeky, rasping voiced Welsh chappie

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part IX: #40-21

From 40-1, we have increased the permitted character-limit to 500 (I said 400 initially, but that was just aspirational... like fairness is for George Osborne). 

20-11 will follow next Tuesday. 10-1 will then be posted on the following Sunday evening in old-style BBC Radio 1 manner: to be accompanied by a podcast, counting down the top 40 with further discussion to round up the whole exhaustively partial project.

I also request a readers' list... While we have been slated on certain limited internet fora, there has been a heartening understanding from people I know in 'real life'. What do you want to see in the Top 20? Please post below or email me at:

40. Mumford and Sons - 'The Cave'
(2009, #24, DL)

DL: One of the most irksome things about this funny banjo combo is that there’s music of this ilk around all the time, albeit in mostly superior form, but rather than dig for it (and with Spotify, 6Music, YouTube there really is no excuse) the general populace would rather wait to be spoon-fed it via the aisles of Tesco and heavy rotation. You’ll also find that it’s always the BBC taking the risk with such acts first before the commercial stations latch on to the burgeoning popularity of the artists, and reap the rewards. The tune itself: typically earnest annoyance with pastoral tinge, for festivals David Cameron would attend.

AN: After all is said and done (and indeed I have said quite a lot about these chumps), this is just a really flat, facile, weak tune.

JG: A divisive choice, this. Mumford and Sons have plenty of fans who see in them the same spirit as US folk rock contemporaries like Grizzly Bear and Songs: Ohia. But it is a fine line between there and Daniel Powter harping on about a bad day. And 'The Cave' is far too polished to have any real rustic charm. I don’t think it’s quite bad enough to be #40 on this list, though.

TM: The lyric is full of the ‘right’ signifiers and vague allusions but contains little discernible meaning. Their studied authenticity – ‘corporate-trad’ in Alex’s words – endears them to the most casual of music fans. Theirs is a ‘freedom’ that won’t rock or indeed float any boats, other than at country residences of Cleggs, Camerons and Fearnley-Whittingstalls.

39. Eric Clapton - 'Swing Low Sweet Chariot'
(1975, #19, TM)

DL: Ironic reggae grooves from the man who a year later drunkenly roused an audience thusly: "This is England, this is a white country, we don't want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don't want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards". Rather more than a simple slip of the tongue there. I think China Black’s version of a terminally dull standard might have actually been better.

AN: Sheesh. If they ever change the national anthem I really fucking hope they pick 'Jerusalem' instead of this.

JG: Has there ever been a more offensive pilfering of someone else’s entire musical culture than this? Clapton puts on a vile half-creole accent, reduces the volume of the bass (this being the entire point of reggae) and displays as much enthusiasm for his subject as only a wealthy anti-immigrant coke-addled cunt can. Still, 'Police and Thieves' was only 18 months away.

TM: Offensively wimpy reggae-lite from the not-God he. Whether beery rugger sing-along or earnest spiritual, I cannot say I am enamoured of the song – but Clapton’s sleepwalking version takes it to new levels of drear desultoriness. Also, recall his comments in 1976 praising Enoch Powell, which emphasised the need for ‘Rock Against Racism’. Why was this recorded?
 38. Puddle of Mudd - 'Control'
(2002, #15, JG)

DL: Really was hoping that ‘She Hates Me’ would be P.O.M’s representation on the countdown, but yes, Nirvana really were responsible for some terrible bands. Gormless macho dirge so typical of what we once knew as nu-metal. Why do the lyrics have to be so childishly self-centred and brainless? Inarticulate, monotonous and whiningly adolescent.

AN: Hilarious!

JG: Second only to the dreaded Nickelback in terms of converting grunge signifiers into hyper-masculine cock rock, this is complete rat wank. Don’t they have electric chairs for this sort of thing?

TM: “Dude. Seriously... Bro.” Forgo the familiarity, fellers; your sort of predictable row makes Metallica sound like King Crimson. This possesses the sort of distinctively unappetising raunchiness that only lunkheaded pseudo-metal can quite evoke.

37. Bell and Spurling - 'Sven Sven Sven'
(2001, #7, RC)

DL: We’ve covered a lot of ground on the novelty football record front even without recalling the Embrace one, but this is certainly one of the worst. What is this unwritten law that when football and music come together, the results have to be cretinous? Who bought this, the lobotomised? It’s not just a bit of fun, it’s like holding up a mirror to the image of the national game. Who gave a fuck that he was from Sweden?

AN: This is – almost – defensible on grounds of sheer surrealism.

JG: 400 characters to spunk away on this? Jesus wept. Well, the fact that shit like this gets written after one anomalous thrashing of Germany perhaps says something about the general mental insecurities of the lad types that this cynical toss was clearly intended to appeal to. Plus, “don’t forget that he’s from Sweden?” Well, that McClaren chap from England did so much better, didn’t he?

TM: Jonathan Pearce’s stupid, partisan tones set the tone. His annoyingly bullish shrieks accompany the ‘comic’ gloating of Bell and Spurling, who sang at celebrity parties for such Worst 200 Songs perennials as Rod Stewart and Simon Cowell and went on to guest on Talk Sport. The diminishing chart returns of ‘We’re All Having a Darius Vassell Party (It’s Gonna Be Awesome)’ are not surprising – it reached #143. The success of this moronic, xenophobic tripe is a national disgrace.

36. WWF Superstars - 'Slam Jam'
(1992, #4, RC)

DL: I’m as happy to note the continuing presence of American macho bullshit in our chart as I was to oversee the numerous highly placed, phony landfill indie bands dominating last week’s chapter. Although I’m in trouble in the morning when the landlord sees this.

AN: A straight steal from Michael Jackson’s 'Black or White'; furthermore, a sly co-option of African American music as a whole (hip-hop specifically); furthermore: a total fucking travesty.

JG: There really is nothing to say about this early example of song-as-marketing. So I’ll simply note that one of my favourite episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm sees Larry David upset the sons of WWF wrestler Thor by informing them that wrestling is fake, not real. Jeff then gets caught letting down Thor’s tyres, resulting in an off-screen beating. Magnificent.

TM: This is musically clattering – about as subtle as WWF Wrestling itself but lacking any of the melodramatic absurdity which made it inevitably reliable kiddie-fodder. It is a dire sludge of synthetic percussion and horns, appended with unwelcome “whoah-oh-oh”s and random sampled catchphrases from the rogue’s gallery of wrestlers.

 35. Michael Jackson - 'Heal the World'
(1992, #2, RC)

DL: I don’t think I nominated a single record from between 1987 – 1992 because I have a sycophantic devotion to almost all chart music released between those years, and was easily impressionable, too, at the time. However, bugger me sideways if this saccharine delight wasn’t the gateway song that led to the ‘facepalm’ borderline blasphemy Brits performance of 1996, perfectly punctured by Cocker’s arse.

AN: I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone try to defend this, though I haven’t read that Zero book yet, shamefully.

JG: It’s just too depressing, isn’t it? The most gifted musical performer of his time reduced to trite, childish nonsense like this. It’s as though Jackson had come to believe his own mega-maniacal myth as a magical figure able to transform the world to his liking with the click of a finger. No wonder he was reduced to sulking that 'They Don’t Care About Us' a few short years later.

TM: ‘We are the World’ Part II, but more omnipresent for me, being ten when it was released. The undeniable melancholy inherent in his naivety and isolation does not negate the malign influence of this slice of Disney pop. Alex’s point about liberal megastars holds here: vigorous protestations of caring can hide a terrifying void. There isn’t just one key change, but two.

 34. Razorlight - 'America'
(2006, #1, DL)

DL: "There’s nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio that I can BE-LIIIIEEEVE IN!" ‘Cynically Courting A Radio Hit In) America’ was thankfully the only chart-topper from Johnny Borrell’s Boomtown Rats tribute band whose long-threatened comeback is yet to come to fruition.

AN: Hmm, tricky. For some reason, despite being a die-hard Razorlight hater, and despite the fact that this is obviously risible, I have a soft spot for it. It somehow came along at the right time, and I quite like melodic, reverby guitar lines. Sincere apologies.

JG: Lunk-headed, appallingly crass attempt to break the country of the same name with FM-friendly Strokes-lite bollocks. Hardly 'I’m So Bored with the USA' is it? Having lost their committed early audience through sell-out nonsense like this, Razorlight have since quite rightly faded into complete obscurity.

TM: Infamously rubbish, but is that just in our circles? Maybe Borrell is regarded as a key player, a latter-day Lennon or Dylan; if so, we are doomed. Current British musicians never ‘get’ the concept of America right, always reducing it to simplistic and demeaning symbols. “There’s nothing on the TV, nothing on the radio means that much to me” – especially this sort of unmitigated shite.

 33. DJ Otzi - 'Hey Baby (Uuh, Aah)'
(2001, #1, DL)

DL: Not quite football-related, but was re-recorded a year later with the lyrics altered 'appropriately'. We really do seem to be approaching whole new levels of mindbending gormlessness as we progress towards records we happen to see less and less merit in. Can I be arsed to bring up the ‘of course it’s fucking subjective’ disclaimer again? No. When I say "if you don’t like it, don’t read it", there’s probably a heavy irony in there I’m deeply proud of.

AN: Even though this was released at the peak of my teenage “poptimist” phase, I still thought it was one of the worst pieces of music I’d ever heard, and still think so.

JG: This is simply appalling and it isn’t even worth the effort of writing anything witty about it.

TM: The epitome of a lowest common denominator dance track. That’s why it isn’t quite as objectionable as the dross that surrounds it in this week’s list: while this is as guileless as it gets, such dance tracks are at least relatively harmless.

32. JJ Barrie - 'No Charge'
(1976, #1, RC)

DL: How the fatherfuck did this get to Number One? Apparently a country music staple documenting the unconditional love and altruism offered up by a mother in comparison to a supposed invoice sent to her by her son for performing various tasks. I feel the need to charge after three and a half minutes of that.

AN: Fuck, there’s something incredibly sinister about the lecherous Noel Edmonds in the intro to this. On the other hand, isn’t the song itself actually quite a cogent critique of capitalist exchange value?

JG: I would have preferred this song a little more if, instead of the boy welling up with schmaltzy tears at the end, he simply turned around and went “fuckin’ cough up man, will yer?” in a North Tees accent. At least it would have been amusing, rather than turgid.

TM: This was claimed by wrongheaded ‘Blue Labour’ types to represent the more social-democratic ’70s. This smug, insincere profession of warm-heartedness – “Great big ol’ tears in his eyes” – is as ‘socialist’ as Pat Robertson or Rick Santorum. “And, when y’ add it all up”, it is even more sickeningly cloying than the Paul Anka track we slated a couple of weeks back. If the sentiment was genuine, then why wasn’t it released without charge?

31. Shayne Ward - 'That's My Goal'
(2005, #1, TM)

DL: I’d yet to be sucked in to the Cunt Contest by this point (that came a year later through the ill-fated scenario of a Saturday night in and little else to do, so I missed this the first time round). I’m not even entirely sure that the standard winner’s single has improved since they started releasing covers. Actually Little Mix doing ‘Cannonball’ is maybe akin to having your entire being cleansed if you play it after this terrible, terrible record. These things are so identikit now that the plodding, inspirational ballad is almost beyond parody. But did it have a key change? I’m not listening to it again to find out.

AN: Bland dross. Not worth more than ten words of commentary.

JG: Is it just me or does this kind of overblown shite just get worse as time goes by? Ward sounds like he’s distracted by something as he sings, e.g. a pigeon having a shit on someone’s head, and the production is as low rent as a cardboard box. At least when people like Mariah Carey were doing this sort of thing it had a modicum of class and airiness about it, whatever else.

TM: Last Thursday, amid an epic pub-quiz triumph, a friend claimed to quite like ‘No U Hang Up’ as it was “slick”. Each to their own. I would be gobsmacked if anyone in 2012 finds this other than draining and dull. Yes, the key change is present; the "story", the "journey" and the "the heart and soul" are all gallingly correct. Go on lad; sing yet another culturally suffocating Cowellite ballad in return for a transient pat on the head. Desist British public; stop the rot.

30. R. Kelly - 'I Believe I Can Fly'
(1997, #1, TM)

DL: Isn’t it strange how the more I’m subjected to these apparently all-encompassing inspirational ballads, the more crushed and powerless I feel?

AN: A career lowlight for a man who has latterly become cool among hipsters, largely because he allows them to revisit with impunity the macho puerility of adolescence.

JG: That line at the start where R. Kelly sings about once feeling unable to go on – I don’t believe R. Kelly has ever felt like that. Plus the lyrics are back in 'Search for the Hero' mode again. Music for Emma Harrison’s theft of taxpayers’ money. I know I’ve used that line before but it bears repeating. Endlessly.

TM: This one is one of the first pop songs to have truly rankled with me. Why was the 1990s so hospitable to the chest-beating, self-motivational ballad? Something to do with ‘The End of History’; the move inwards from Reaganite bombast to Clintonian self-glorification? Gospel choir, key change, piss-easy rhymes and the teeth-grinding melisma of an utter exhibitionist: aye, it’s an R. Kelly ballad that’s worse than that infernal remix.

29. Geri Halliwell - 'Lift Me Up'
(1999, #1, TM)

DL: See #30. Utter blankness fills my ears.

AN: Geri Halliwell is an awful human being; really really horrible on every level. And unlike all of the other Spice Girls, she didn’t make a single even half-good record.

JG: Ginger Spice’s opening gambit in a failed attempt to be taken seriously as a sophisticated artist. Who the hell even remembers this today, let alone takes it seriously?

TM: There is a lot to be said for the initial Spice Girls singles, even if they were never as effortlessly brilliant as the All Saints. This is just tiring in its generically uplifting manner – even more so in the context of this week’s selection of lumbering ballads. Ah, and my best friend Mr Key Change... hello sirrah, pull up chair! MAKE IT STOP, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP.

28. The Supernaturals - 'Smile'
(1997, #23, TM)

DL: Perhaps the ‘Chelsea Dagger’ of the nineties. Possesses the entire opposite of its desired effect on this tired mind.

AN: Death of Britpop. Good riddance, certainly in this instance.

JG: Another pub-rock band with money hurled at them in the dark days of Britpop. The message here is no less trite self-help nonsense than M People. Hmmm, there’s a bit of theme emerging here. The worst songs are the ones in which we are all implored to keep calm and carry on.

TM: Joy unconfined: the Britpop hobby-horse hurtles into view! There’s an idiot grin on the face of the rider, who’s got that faraway, ‘am-I-being-ironic-here?’ look in his eyes. There is an inept Beach Boys pastiche unnecessary in the era of the Wondermints and the High Llamas. Emblematic of TFI Friday ‘pop’, which was so rightfully skewered by Luke Haines in his memoir Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall.

27. Jessie J. - 'Who's Laughing Now'
(2011, #16, TM)

DL: Needs to be watched with its accompanying video to be ‘enjoyed’ fully. Neurotic, moaning shite from the least authentic popstar of our age. Should have aged considerably well by the time YouTube is something we’re telling our grandchildren about. ‘Wa-bucca-wa-wa-bucca…’. I can genuinely say that bit in particular fucking riles me senseless. ‘Look at me now’ is a theme I’d like to blacklisted from popular music.

AN: Isn’t Jessie J sort of credible in some quarters? I’m puzzled as to why this is the case. Mechanised corporate stage-school evil.

JG: Yes, one can indeed shirk off one’s childhood tormentors when one has money hurled in one’s direction after being classmates with Adele at the BRIT School and have major entertainment companies queuing outside your front door. Frankly, this is a grievous insult to anyone who struggles with self-esteem issues.

TM: This song effortlessly defines maddening: from its ‘beat-box’ vocalising at the start to the unearned schadenfreude of the chorus. Ugh, and what of the verse with Ms. J’s vocals vacillating between sub-Lily Allen panto-cockney – “Let the haters HA-ATE!” and slick ‘soulfulness’? This is a barren calculation straight out of the BRIT School manual and a timorous low-ebb in the annals of British pop music.

 26. Kasabian - 'L.S.F.'
(2004, #10, DL)

DL: Speaking of inauthenticity, this pseudo-Madchester nonsense has never won me over. Similarly to the legacy of Cobain, Ian Brown’s swagger and bravado has been re-appropriated by numerous goons over the years, with his intelligence and mystique side-stepped for an extra layer of inane lairiness that they’ve picked up from Liam fucking Gallagher. Utterly meaningless and, even when I watched them play a small gig for free in 2004, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t connect at all.

AN: Again, apologies, but this is the only tune I like by an otherwise irredeemable band. I just think that keyboard sample is pretty magic.

JG: Amazingly, Kasabian are like an even shitter version of the Lo-Fidelity Allstars, and the first incarnation was quite shit enough, thank you. Laughably, the opening lines to 'L.S.F.' directly pilfer the riff from The Beach Boys’ 'Kokomo'. That’s 'Kokomo', not 'Caroline No'. What an absolute shambles.

TM: “Step on it, ‘lectronic!” This foolery is akin to a lobotomised fusion of Primal Scream and the Stone Roses. There is a horribly obvious lift from ‘Once in a Lifetime’ at the start, beyond-banal ‘1960s’ organ and references to a “polyphonic prostitute” and tiresome drug chic. “Messiah for the animals”; Eric Burdon you most certainly are not. I am not necessarily any great shakes in the well-adjusted human stakes, but this lot are clearly unspeakable.

25. Ed Sheeran - 'You Need Me, I Don't Need You'
(2011, #4, DL)

DL: Isn’t Ed edgy? Not only did he not go to [you guessed it - ed] BRIT School, he sleeps on a couch. And his hero’s the defiantly Blunt-lite Damien Rice. All of this speaks volumes of uncompromising grit to me. Only it’s completely safe, pedestrian and embraced by the Brit establishment. Funny how he gladly accepted their accolades...

AN: Don’t worry friends: they shall not pass.

JG: If there’s one thing worse than manufactured pop, it’s singer-songwriters churning out self-valedictory toss about having written their own songs. Still, at least it’s not 'The A Team'.

TM: This chancer’s mug materialised on the 2011 Christmas Day TOTP and my brother’s withering expression said it all. This makes one nostalgic for the days of Craig David or Daniel Bedingfield. It is musically overly busy, prattling and trite in its name-checking of the greats of cutting-edge urban music: erm, Damien Rice... If this lad’s our brightest new hope, we’re fucked.

24. U2 - 'Elevation'
(2001, #3, TM)

DL: We’ve had U2 already of course, and this is to ‘With Or Without You’ and ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ what Heron Foods is to Waitrose. By this point, the magic had been absent from events for a full decade. Workmanlike and annoyingly ordinary.

AN: It makes me feel sick that U2 can get away with so much artistically and ethically pernicious bullshit and they still think they’re in some way a force for moral good. Somewhere therein is a parable of the root of all injustice.

JG: Rather than a mole digging up Bono’s soul, I’d rather it dug out U2’s tax receipts and published them so we can see just how far these earnest NGO-hijacking tits are squirrelling away.

TM: “A mole digging in a hole!” While they have made some good music, U2 are ultimately symbolic of their nation’s sub-prime ‘Celtic Tiger’ phase: globalisation run amok. Each album contains laughable silage like this that makes a mockery of ‘quality control’. This is a breathtakingly clunky turkey, and that’s being unkind to our friends in the Meleagris genus. As Yeats once stated: ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone’. No U2-helmed “EX-CA-VA-TION!” please.

23. Travie McCoy feat. Bruno Mars - 'Billionaire'
(2010, #1, DL)

DL: Can’t believe we’ve got all the way up to #23 and we’re only experiencing the first appearance of Mr Mars, whose entire recorded solo output seems to have been penned from the hand of a particularly creepy stalker. I can’t say whether records like this make me feel older or simply less American.

AN: Yet another good call Dave. Definitely one of the worst tunes of all time. I would be happy to have this in the top (bottom?) 5, actually.

JG: When Christopher Lasch wrote his thesis The Culture of Narcissism not even he could have imagined that, thirty years on, he would be proven as right as this psychotic wank. Plus, Bruno Mars’s shit beard and beenie hat makes my blood boil so much I can hear the bubbles.

TM: ‘Cos that’s all it’s about for the majority of people: an unrealisable dream of riches, Forbes magazine covers and Angelina on tap. I don’t believe this is genuinely the case – I just hope we’d have less evidence to the contrary, like the success of this ghastly avaricious bauble.

 22. Limp Bizkit - 'Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)'
(2001, #1, DL)

DL: There really was some appalling heavy rock music bridging the gap between the death of Britpop and emergence of The Strokes. Maybe records that completely infuriate you are indescribably hideous for a reason, leaving normally coherent commentators with little else to offer than Tourette’s-esque outpourings of cultural dismay.

AN: I don’t have any strong feelings about this. Turgid misogyny.

JG: This is utterly contemptible and I’m surprised it’s outside the Top 20. Fred Durst’s cynical and knowingly adolescent toy-throwing in all its horrible, detestable “glory”. One of the few times I’ve thought the patronising phrase “grow up” justified.

TM: “Old school soldiers”. Durst claims to have liked The Smiths and The Cure in his youth; his music bears absolutely none of their sensitive imprint. Instead, this is all too easy to imagine being used in Guantanamo Bay to torture prisoners in the name of freedom. This is knuckle-headed macho rock ripe for military appropriation; as Groucho Marx said, military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.

21. Chris De Burgh - 'The Lady in Red'
(1986, #1, DL)

DL: Basically the mid-eighties equivalent of a Scouting For Girls hit, without the embarrassing attempts at cheeky irony. Stomach-churning, though people have released similar guff under a thin veil of ‘credibility’ and that’s very worrying indeed.

AN: Ha, I wondered when this was going to crop up. A good old-fashioned absolutely fucking shit tune!

JG: Music for bastards who own big yachts. And that is all.

TM: Equally tortuous, though not as aurally assaulting as #22. Who would have thought that Chris De Burgh could ever constitute a comparative relief? Nah, this is an irredeemable decimation of the ‘singer-songwriter’ ideal. “Cheek to cheek” is justly derided. His straining vocals jettison all subtlety and the backing track is music for airports that not even JG Ballard could imbue with alluring weirdness.