[5] CHVRCHES, ‘Clearest Blue’

chvrches-15

Junior’s mum is singing Blondie’s ‘Union City Blue’, the rest of us (and CHVRCHES) are bashing out the riff to Depeche Mode’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. Genius steals. OK, genius lightly reappropriates and misses out a note.

Junior herself is surprised this is so high because it’s “one of those songs you don’t hear much”. This, in turn, is mainly because Junior only listens to Kiss. I blame George Ergatoudis.

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[21] The Strokes, ‘The Modern Age EP’

The Modern Age

This is what we wrote in 2008 [I’ve not come up with any new Strokes thoughts since, unsurprisingly]:

There was such a quaint furore about The Strokes those long seven years ago, loud voices on either side. Were they singlehandedly saving rawk? Were they arch-copyists, not an original note in their scuffy Converse? Did any of it really matter? Well, yes and no. A bit of debate keeps pop lively, but would the naysayers have been so quick to swipe if they’d known the day would come when every band and its wife would be ripping off The Libertines, and not the rather more plunderable Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Blondie, you-name-a-cool-NYC-trailblazer? The answer’s no.

Anyway, what Julian Casablancas and rich kid friends had in bags were tunes. On first listen, I thought ‘The Modern Age’ was The Velvet Underground – that’ll be Casablancas’ Lou Reed drawl – still it was a catchy little effort from the off. Studiedly cool, yep, but nevertheless, er, cool. ‘Last Nite’ was a white boy’s Motown pastiche even more authentic than Phil Collins’ flail at ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’.

But we don’t want them to get too chipper. Junior and I did the arm-pumping ‘Tiger Feet’ dance, one ‘70s influence The Strokes possibly wouldn’t want to snatch. Saying that, let’s see what the fourth album brings.

Back to 2010:

Junior says: Well, not a lot. She doesn’t have any fresh observations either. But she does teach her little sister how to play air guitar and together they fight an Aircaster duel.

Best bit: When Casablancas turns on the loudhailer.

[2] Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Zero’

And now we come to everyone’s second favourite single of the year. ‘Zero’ is brilliant, a long-, long-awaited blossoming of Karen O and co’s always obvious pop chops; a striding, mammoth synth sledgehammer here to deliver us from indie wetness; a brazen bit of late-Noughties electro land-grabbing; a bassline-bouncing hot rock in leathers; a massive sigh of relief in the face of hitherto diminishing returns; and a Blondie-on-Berocca zig-zag through Julian Casablancas’ electric dreams.

Junior wasn’t in the mood.

Was it the cure?

[3] Franz Ferdinand, ‘Take Me Out’

Franz Ferdinand

A tremendous, not-so-inevitable skew on the new-new wave mania scorching the pop earth in the early Noughties, Franz Ferdinand swaggered in all-literate-like with Wiry rhythm and Blondie hit chops. That audacious aim to “get girls dancing” found full flower here in Junior’s neck-crick nodding in the back seat as the enormous riff kicked this song off proper.

Is there a more pleasing sight than two grown men throttling their guitars to synchronised steps? Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy were the new Rossi and Parfitt, the new Mud, the new Shadows – well-turned out gents who knew the value of fancy footwork, the limitations of rock shapes. If ‘Take Me Out’ – the tripartite axe-slinging beauty – could get them skipping in time, the girls would be a cert.

Der-der-der:

[1] Blondie, ‘Heart of Glass’

Pick a card, any card.

An unholy marriage of rock and disco? One unlucky shuffle and you could get Electric Six.

A dazzling blonde singer backed by some lens-shattering blokes? Have Transvision Vamp. Or, at a stretch, Shakatak. Or, if you’ve broken a mirror recently, here’s Generation X.

Now you know how damned lucky we are to have Blondie, and ‘Heart of Glass’. Their place in pop’s firmament was sealed by this record, punk poise not misplaced but overshadowed by complete understanding of the mechanics of disco. It’s atypical, of course, and yet fits seamlessly between ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ and ‘Sunday Girl’ in the rich run of sterling singles Blondie dashed off in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. They showed a taste for adventure rarely matched, and could even consider their gorgeous singer a bonus, not an essential selling point – let’s not pretend she didn’t help, mind you. Still, looks aside, Debbie Harry’s presence (dear) is a boon on ‘Heart of Glass’ for her casual juggling of comforting coos and acid dismissals. The velvet glove.

For all its diverse ingredients, this is a dance record – and we danced en masse. Junior 2 shook her shoulders in the style patented by both mum and big sister, while Junior herself watched with widening eyes as the groove burst out of the click-track intro. It’s a pleasure to see pop music’s greats hitting the spot; one of the reasons we’re here.

Extra, extra: in a victory for ambition over commonsense, I plan for us to tackle 1994 now, hoping to finish it in time for the feverishly anticipated 2008 Top 20 – which in turn I have mad ideas of finishing on or around Christmas Eve. Who’s with us?

[14] Blondie, ‘Sunday Girl’

Light as air, carefree and – what? – hard to get? Junior’s mum pointed out that Junior and Juniorer are both Sunday Girls (“You were born on a Sunday, J” “I was very born on a Sunday”) but perhaps not in the way Debbie Harry is hinting. We all love the song, know the words – even the French ones on this Best Of version – and Junior sways in front of her sister, hips in time to the gossamer rhythms.

Blondie were bang into their flow by this point, succeeding ABBA as the singles band du jour, knocking the classics out at a rate to make Paul Weller jealous; not that he was far behind. I’m always seduced by a band that respects the single, that can put so much care in for so sustained a period. You know the suspects: Wham!, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Girls Aloud… hmmm. I feel like I’m coming out.

I shared a bed with Debbie Harry last year. Well, she draped herself across it, while I perched at the end, asking questions she’d answered a thousand times before. In all the excitement, my tape recorder broke, but she let me have an extra five minutes once I’d taught myself shorthand. Lovely. Anyway, that’s one for the After Dinner circuit.

[3] The Strokes, ‘The Modern Age EP’

There was such a quaint furore about The Strokes those long seven years ago, loud voices on either side. Were they singlehandedly saving rawk? Were they arch-copyists, not an original note in their scuffy Converse? Did any of it really matter? Well, yes and no. A bit of debate keeps pop lively, but would the naysayers have been so quick to swipe if they’d known the day would come when every band and its wife would be ripping off The Libertines, and not the rather more plunderable Talking Heads, Velvet Underground, Blondie, you-name-a-cool-NYC-trailblazer? The answer’s no.

Anyway, what Julian Casablancas and rich kid friends had in bags were tunes. On first listen, I thought ‘The Modern Age’ was The Velvet Underground – that’ll be Casablancas’ Lou Reed drawl – still it was a catchy little effort from the off. Studiedly cool, yep, but nevertheless, er, cool. ‘Last Nite’ was a white boy’s Motown pastiche even more authentic than Phil Collins’ flail at ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’.

But we don’t want them to get too chipper. Junior and I did the arm-pumping ‘Tiger Feet’ dance, one ‘70s influence The Strokes possibly wouldn’t want to snatch. Saying that, let’s see what the fourth album brings.

The Ting Tings, ‘That’s Not My Name’

As the 1969 Top 20 hobbles to a thrilling conclusion, we’re hop-skip-jumping all the way to the present and a record that Junior went loopy for when it appeared on one of those new-fangled MTV channels last week. We’re even a bit slow off the mark here, as it’s been toppled from an unlikely chart summit by hit machine Rihanna, but it’s still the breakthrough smash of the year – a grand departure from its achingly hip, limited 2007 run.

You’ve heard the comparisons – Blondie (yes, the cool-eyed Katie White is indeed blonde and, in a slightly darkened room, stunning), ‘Mickey’ (the star-jumping rhythm and lairy rap-song straight off Toni Basil’s much mis-(or not)-construed 1982 chartbuster), The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’ (that rhythm again, really, also massaged for Girls Aloud’s ‘No Good Advice’) – but, like the best pop puffery, ‘That’s Not My Name’ blends influences to form a monster that stomps, jerks, twitters and rocks in its own nation-enslaving way.

We’re mad for it right now, pure victims of hype if you see things through those spectacles. Sometimes there’s no hype without fire. As the record builds to its multi-layered, full-rocking coda, Junior’s reaction is a spinning, leaping, head-shaking frug from dining room to living room – pop star in infancy.

And while we’re sojourning in 2008, here are some of her other recent pop moments:

– “She’s got hair like me” to Diana Ross gamely keeping it all together in the ‘Chain Reaction’ video
– “Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold – that’s your favourite, Daddy” (not sure who’s feeding her these lies)
– Sticking her hand in the washing machine for the nth time one day, she’s told to leave it alone before defiantly reaching in again and pulling out the new Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan album

For Junior, music is everywhere.

[9] Britney Spears, ‘…Baby One More Time’

Britney Spears

Odd to think that this is the first time Junior’s heard this, when the rest of us could probably sing it in our sleep. That’s almost the case for her too – I have to wake her up, and we grab our jukebox moment in the five minutes before we need to scoot off to nursery. Junior greets the song with a blend of crying, laughing, dancing and squawking. She’s obviously been watching Britters’ recent videos.

With this record, teeny pop took a swerve for the better, beefing up its sound and realising that the kids wanted something more than saccharine ballads. Which was hardly rocket science. The 8-12 year olds used to buy Blondie, Duran Duran, Frankie, A-ha, all of whom had a bit of muscle behind the velvet. Surely the 90s kids could cope? OK, I suppose some of this record’s success was down to the school uniform – no accounting for dubious taste – but it’s still top-drawer power pop.

Of course, Britney’s second single was ‘Sometimes’, a sugarsweet ballad.