[17] Little Scream, ‘Love As A Weapon’

little-scream-2016

I’m listening to The 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep… (that’ll do) for the whateverth time this year. Still don’t quite get the decision to end with two acoustic ballads. Every time I play it, I expect it to make some kind of sense to see out one of the most fidgety pop albums of the last 30 years in such a one-note way, but I’m not there yet. I’ll try to make this sound relevant in a minute.

“Is this Prince?” asks J2. She’s got a point. Clipped funk, falsetto and a knack for addictive pop make ‘Love As A Weapon’ very Purple, even if it feels more eager to please than he ever was. “Is it a man or a lady?” she adds. Clearly, Laurel Sprengelmeyer begs the same questions as Prince too. If Bowie managed to write his own epitaph this year, at least Prince got to hang around in spirit, and not just here. He’s embedded in that sprawling 1975 double as well, nestled alongside Duran Duran of every period from 1981 to 2004.

Perhaps we should recoil from referencing heritage artists whenever we listen to new stuff, but if the current breed can’t help doing it themselves, what can you do? It doesn’t bother me.

J1 shrugs. “Meh.”

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[12] Jessie Ware, ‘Tough Love’

jessie-ware-2014

Regular readers of Jukebox Junior (generous plural there) won’t be surprised to learn that if a song sounds like it could be from the 80s then I’m likely to give it a more than fair hearing. But here’s the thing – it needs to be a good tune too. I won’t accept any old Little Boots or Metronomy crap. This has been a strong year for excellent songs that sound as if they could be from the 80s, and I’m going to stick my neck out and guess there’s more than a handful to come in this countdown. Anyway, here’s Jessie Ware.

“It’s good because it’s called Jessie and it’s a ‘where’,” says Junior 3, somewhat cryptically. Well, it’s a point of view. I think it’s “good” because it could be a splice of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’, Sheila E’s ‘The Belle Of St Mark’ and in fact any Prince slowie of the mid-decade, and Ware maintains a stiff upper lipped poise against uncertainty, floating above the turmoil and popping beats. “I like it,” says Junior, “because it was all silent and calm.”

[8] of Montreal, ‘Dour Percentage’

of Montreal

A time-lapse photograph of Prince holding a blooming flower.

Junior 2 whips out a guitar, Junior whips out an air guitar. Junior likes how “the drum goes”, Junior 2 likes “the jungle”.

[7] TV On The Radio, ‘Second Song’

TV On The Radio

And it’s the FIRST song on the album! That’s what I call avant-garde.

This wordy addition to the TVOTR Princey-funk-rock almanac plays excellent games with layers, building up to a groovy lurch that makes you feel proud for no obvious reason. It’s charismatic that way. Like singer Tunde Adebimpe. They didn’t play this song at Glastonbury, but it was my favourite set of the weekend – a pick-me-up on a lagging, suffering Sunday afternoon – and I came away with a big swooning man-crush on Tunde.

Get too close to TVOTR and you start to think their name is normal. Well, thank goodness Junior’s around then. She raps: “Watch TV, yeah, watch TV – oh we’ll watch telly on the radio.” Junior 2 joins in, they punch the air madly to the chorus and then round it all off with a few slaps to their own heads. What did they think? “It’s OK.”

Miracle Fortress, ‘Miscalculations’

Miracle Fortress

In Rainbows and Sound Of Silver were all well and good, but the best album of 2007 was, of course, Miracle Fortress’s Five Roses. The Canadian Prince Rogers Nelson – as no one has called him until now – Graham Van Pelt did it all himself, lovingly concocting a modern Beach Boys album set to shimmering bucolia (you know what I mean, sounds like a heat-hazed summer meadow) with, improbably, a devastating hook in every song. It was almost too perfect to sell. So it didn’t.

Four long years later, only endured by playing Five Roses at least once a week, Van Pelt is back with a new album Was I The Wave? that looks set to make a mockery of Adele’s chart feats. It’s a rather more electronic affair that I’ll be reviewing for millions of pounds in the next day or so, and ‘Miscalculations’ is the killer single. Actually, ‘Raw Spectacle”s the single – or “free download”, to give it its accurate title – but Van Pelt should see sense soon enough. You see, it had Junior doing a spontaneous hula dance which, as we’ve seen over the last five years, is the interpretive equivalent of holding up a card marked ‘Hit’. And about as successful as Jukebox Jury predictions ever were too. Hit!

[17] Mark Ronson & The Business Intl, ‘Bang Bang Bang’

Mark Ronson & The Business Intl

The first song to make a meal of ‘Alouette’ this year does it with every bleeding idea that occurs to it. Cheryl Cole’s ultra-mannered take is bewildered, this is just bewildering. Ronson has gone back to the 80s, but rather than plunder plinky-plonk synths like every other La Roux under the sun, he turns to that decade’s forgotten everything-goes ethos and finds something cogent in a mix of squirty electro, Prince soul, teeny bop and bouncy hip hop nursery rhymes. If this doesn’t prove the man has mad skillz then nothing does.

In fact, these are just the latest in a long line of ‘Alouette’ bastardisations. Junior’s reminded of another she learned on holiday in Corfu with frankly manic dance actions to go with it. She then adds some more jerky steps, seemingly filched off Go-Jos routines from early Top Of The Popses. We have a right old ball. And that’s Ronson’s bag.

[1] Cameo, ‘Word Up’

But not even Prince ever sported a massive pink codpiece.

Actually, don’t quote me on that. Was it Larry Blackmon’s codpiece that made this such a huge, surprise hit? Or was it the hulking beat, the Spaghetti Western whistles, the ludicrous accent, the instant-hip phrases, the juggernaut power of The Funk, the fiery brass-boosted final chorus or the wig-out to the sunset?

All these things plus its immediacy. As Larry suggests, “Wave your hands in the air like you don’t care,” Junior shrugs. Like she doesn’t care, you see. Metatext. After that she gives it some windmilling, then her little sister jumps on her and makes clip-clop noises…

Right, time to stop. Time to stop 1986. Time to go all 2009. That Top 20 starts on Monday, and the Noughties Top 20 starts as soon as we finish that. Around April then.

Yo pretty ladies:

[16] Bangles, ‘Manic Monday’

Bangles

On the other hand, this is “good and lovely and great”, so at least I got the order right. Maybe starting school has turned Junior all militant, because – on learning the Bangles were an all-girl group – she announced, “I only want to listen to music by girls now.”

So of course I told her this was written by a boy. Well, Prince anyway. Along with his ‘Take Me With U’, this was meant for the debut album by Apollonia 6, but the sly old dog kept the former for his own Purple Rain and used this as leverage for a go at Susanna Hoffs. Who can blame him? She was cute; even more so when perched all petite in front of her somewhat butch bandmates. Come on, one of them was called Michael.

‘Manic Monday’ is a pretty ditty, buoyed by rolling piano fills and the other girls’ Byrdsian harmonies. It broke the Bangles over here, but they could never consistently capitalise, only ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and ‘Eternal Flame’ providing sporadic highs while the rest of their output took the middle ground. Still, ‘Manic Monday’ was a No.2 hit in the UK, and runner-up in the US too, losing out Stateside to a certain purple pompatus and a certain record which we may or may not return to in a bit.

Wish it was Sunday (there’s football on):

TV On The Radio, ‘Crying’

TV On The Radio

A month-long gap is inexcusable of course. Anyway, my excuses are holiday, seasonal lack of exciting releases and a nagging sense I should be searching for a new job. I have your sympathy now, don’t I?

This is a single from a couple of months back, from an album about 10 months back. Topical. It’s the only obviously Princey song from TV On The Radio’s reputedly very Princey Dear Science, funking along with a guitar riff that could cut your hair. Still, while the album might not be massively Minneapolitan, it’s completely bloody amazing and the global critical consensus says, “Here, here.” Everyone’s jumped on board now, possibly because it’s the most accessible thing TVOTR have done; there’s a sense of relief they’ve shipped out challenging for tuneful, but even though the sound was murkier on Return To Cookie Mountain, it was really no less melodic. You just had to try a little harder. Maybe no one wants to try a little harder.

We didn’t try all that hard here, mind. No chance Junior could keep still in the car seat as TVOTR hit their groove, but we reserved our critical faculties for Kyp Malone’s name. Surely no one’s called Kyp? “Harvey at nursery’s middle name is Kyp.” I’ll take her at her word.

Smoke me a Kyp:

[2] Michael Jackson, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’

It’s well-established that Junior’s a bit of a dancer, shaking down to everything from The Jam to Prince to Girls Aloud and all the way round to entire LCD Soundsystem albums – so why does Jacko draw a blank? Does she find it difficult to listen with complete abandon in light of all the allegations against him this past decade or so? Can any of us listen now without the music passing through the prism of approbation?

In this case, Junior’s annoyed that her nursery rhyme CD isn’t playing; Dad’s “Just one song and then I’ll put it on” is cutting no ice. As for the rest of us, I think it’d be a pity if we couldn’t enjoy the music at its base, uncomplicated level, but it’s tricky to forget the freak the dazzling young Michael would become.

It’s a pity because this is easily one of the most exciting records ever made. Inspired, presumably, by Star Wars, Michael lets rip with dog-whistle nonsense about “the Force” over planet-circling strings and bombastic brass to create a vertiginous dancefloor ride that, by rights, will have you blowing chunks. That’s a good thing, incidentally. As an example of what the adolescent Jacko and mighty producer Quincy Jones could achieve together, it’s a thrilling signpost to Off The Wall and, er, Thriller; a line in the sand, leaving disco over there and, over here, hyper-tooled ‘80s gold-bar soul.