Duffy, ‘Warwick Avenue’/‘Mercy’

Duffy

Any seemingly endless round-up of 2008 would be incomplete without mentioning the Dusty-voiced siren from Wales. Rockferry was the bestelling album of the year, chart fans – no mean feat in a climate where Coldplay were releasing their best record in years (ever?), Oasis were returning to form (hmmm – maybe Q asserted that) and Leona Lewis was still shifting units by the warehouse. But is Duffy up to much? On this day in history or near enough, I saw her play at the Pigalle when she was a mere twinkle in an industry tipster’s eye, and thought, “Yeah, ok, she does it well enough.” That “it” being “the voguish ‘60s thing”. The songs are pastiche with a bit of verve – Bernard Butler’s calling card from McAlmont And days – and she has some nice, witchy hand gestures.

That’s about the limit, though. Today’s tune was ‘Warwick Avenue’, all bereft and stirring, but we turned to ‘Mercy’ soon after because we hadn’t quite reached nursery. To the first, Junior asked, “Is that Duff?” which seems harsh – it’s a pleasant song, even if it sticks to its template like glue. I could see Junior mouthing along to ‘Mercy’ in the rear view, which is no surprise considering its grating ubiquity. “I heard this yesterday,” said Junior, and in her speak that means any point in the past. Sounds about right.

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[3] Girls Aloud, ‘The Promise’

Girls Aloud

I can play this with the utmost confidence, because Junior’s now done what I would have expected far earlier – she’s fallen in love with Girls Aloud. Let’s face facts: we all have. The most surprising thing is they haven’t run out of steam; ‘The Promise’ is the curtain-up to their fifth (that’s fifth) album, and while the long-players are patchy as ever, the quality of single just isn’t dipping. ‘The Promise’ faced brickbats to begin with, sourpusses claiming it was the first step towards Westlife safe-playing or a pale Duffy/Winehouse identikit girl-group-throwback, but it soon revealed itself to be as complex as any ‘Biology’ you could mention. Only the brashness has been sacrificed, the brazen ambition is still there. Listen to it – no verse is the same (there are three, with entirely different melodies), no bridge is the same, and still they throw in a middle eight. If this is pop in the 21st century, I’m on board.

Junior knows all the words, and shimmies her shoulders just like her mum. She’s probably got an opinion about Kimberley’s hips too. I reckon Junior even knows what “walking Primrose” means and understands what the “promise” is and who it’s pledged to. It’s multi-layered, you see; once you’ve sussed out what the music’s doing, you still have to decipher the lyric. The ‘Aloud are two steps ahead of the pack.

But how much longer have we got them for? Rumours that Nadine’s on the way out won’t abate – and she continues to blow the others off stage with sheer lungpower – while Cheryl suddenly looks too big for a band. If they gotta go, go now. It’s been golden.