[16] Phoenix, ‘J-Boy’


You know how Thomas Mars sings “Just because of you” in the chorus and it turns out the song’s title is an acronym of exactly that?

Well, I didn’t notice until my seven-year-old daughter pointed it out on Sunday. As is my way, I’m too wrapped up in twinkling synths and Mars’s somewhat Neil Tennant-ish delivery on the verses.

Other observations:

Junior 1 says, “It’s cool. It’s so different, it’s calming.”
Junior 2 has ‘Just Because’ printed on her dress. Is that because she’s a big Phoenix fan?


Martin Solveig and Dragonette, ‘Hello’


Sort of like Neil Tennant, I’m looking back upon my year, forever with a sense of shame – I’ve always been the one to blame. Not sure how this slipped into the reckoning though, because it’s clearly a 2010 single, but it’s been a big hit with the girls this year. Which makes them the ones to blame.

This is moronic. Naggingly, chirpily, vaguely enjoyably so, but moronic all the same. The Juniors understand it at a primal level I’m not hearing, joyously bellowing “HELLO” whether they’re 6, 3 or 1 and I’m forced to get up and bounce as well. Like Metronomy, Dragonette are one of those bands I don’t really like reviving a synth pop I love. Tropes alone are not enough, kids.

Solveig goes BANG BANG BANG bang bang bang bang BANG BANG BANG BANG bang bang bang bang. I go, “Heavens, I should start a 2011 Top 20 countdown next week.”

[12] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’

When the Pet Shop Boys covered this in their Pandemonium show – Neil Tennant in crown and gown, natch – it fostered the biggest singalong of the night. I’d swear, somewhat insultingly (for whoever), half the audience assumed the song was Tennant and Lowe’s – and wised up too late. Otherwise, I’m not sure there’s a natural overlap between the bands, but the point for me is ‘Viva La Vida’ has fast become an anthem and, I’ll wager, the Noughties hit that will last. At least in the sort of Absolute Radio pantheon that will forever rate Bohemian Rhapsody and Stairway To Heaven the standout peaks of our popular culture.

Obviously I think this is a great record, and while much of that is down to its immediacy and bursting pride, there’s also the question of its surprising birth. After all, X&Y had pretty much clawhammered the joy out of the soul of anyone who listened. It was a flatulent album, stretching its reserves of hot air over a dozen lifeless rhyming-dictionary clods of half-songs. They barely deserved their Brian Eno moment. However, he turned up anyway and has to take a hefty slice of credit for the alert Coldplay that emerged. But credit to Martin and co for actually bothering their arses this time.

Like Doctor Who, this is a family favourite. Actually, Doctor Who’s too scary for Junior. Let’s call this a mainstay of our automobile glee club.

Junior says: “WOAH-OH-OHH-OH-OHHH-OHHH. That’s the best bit.” And probably the only bit not pilfered from Joe Satriani, Cat Stevens, ‘Papa Don’t Preach’… – ah, we’re all the sum of our influences, aren’t we? Whatever cobbles this together, it gets Junior smiling every time. Maybe she’s got some publishing rights too.

Best bit: Well, what she said.

[12] Electronic, ‘Get The Message’


Everyone liked this at the time. It’s a pleasant little ditty with rolling guitar loops and join-the-dots karaoke lyrics in true Barney Sumner-style, and it’s never going to polarise opinion. Junior and I let it wash over us, as she sat and smiled on the sofa and I took a couple of photos of her in her Fat Willy’s t-shirt. Just to prove to Aunt Aggie that she’s worn it.

Electronic were less than the sum of their parts, or maybe just dead-on. With Sumner, Johnny Marr and the occasional Neil Tennant, they were the cream of the discerning man’s 80s pop but the album was just, well, nice. We were missing the menacing Hooky basslines, Morrissey’s acerbicisms (actually anything other than facile lyrics) and Lowe’s sonic adventure. A supergroup missing the point, maybe.

The clattering drum rolls sound like tin cans being dragged up onto the curb. I like that.

[4] Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield, ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’

This is the best single of 1987 by some distance, only I didn’t quite realise at the time. The “song with no chorus”, as Tennant and Lowe knew it, has drama, bitterness, regret and huge, warm hooks. It also has those synth horns on the second bridge that set you up for Dusty’s matchless second verse/bridge/kind-of-chorus. The catch in her voice here is not just the highlight of the record, it’s one of the pop highlights of the decade.

The kids like it as well. My brother was two when this was released and it’s the first of my records I remember him singing along with, in an early prototype of Jukebox Junior. Junior herself enjoyed this in a more stately manner, waltzing around the living room with her dad.

I haven’t paid much attention to the Pet Shop Boys in the last 10 years. I know they made a new soundtrack to Battleship Potemkin last year, and I’ve been dimly aware of the steady trickle of pale imitations of former glories. Nothing disguises the weakening grip on the mastery of pop. It would’ve been a tall order, anyway. In the ’80s they peered down on all except the pint-sized purple paisley poseur.