[18] Vampire Weekend, ‘A-Punk’

Vampire Weekend

So the critics’ choice of 2008 was a bunchy of preppy American lads doing a Strokesian (look it up) take on Paul Simon’s Graceland. You could’ve seen that coming a mile off. What should’ve been arch, alienating, irritating, pompous, Sting-esque and – frankly – an utter mess, turned out to be the most delightful set of pop tunes since The Sound Of Girls Aloud. That good. ‘A-Punk’ happens to be one of the more conventional arrangements on the album, but it’s so infectious I’m taking the rest of the week off.

You have to catch Junior in the mood and – whereas she usually spins out to all things VW – this time she sat on the rug and asked for, yes, Girls Aloud. She’ll have to wait, probably. If it’s any consolation, Juniorer rocked from side to side, bang on the beat.

[18] The Police, ‘Message In A Bottle’

“Sending out a nesso ess”. The lad really needed to sort out his diction. And that Jamaican accent was fooling no one – I mean, have you ever seen a whiter man? His only competition was, erm, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers.

The most hated man in pop? Even Paul Weller – hardly Mr Popular himself – spat at a picture of Sting backstage at the Royal Albert Hall recently. Does he get a tough rap? There’s no doubting he’s conceited, but really everyone’s just jealous of Sting and his month-long mating rituals. And the zillion records sold. And the fact he still cuts a dashing figure in middle-age.

Of course, it’s possible that people simply hate his music but a) check out those zillion units and b) come on, some of it’s been smart. ‘Message In A Bottle’ was a monument from the minute it was released. Edgy, memorable, carrying universal appeal around in bags, it’s a classic pop moment in a year brimming with them. Like so many greats, it even has a massively clunky metaphor at its heart.

Junior wielded the plastic Stratocaster throughout, showing her credentials as a proto-Hendrix by imploring me to watch her playing it with her chin. Face it – you’re impressed just reading about it.

[10] Bassheads, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’


Sued to within an inch of their livelihoods by an intriguing combination of Afrika Bambaataa, Talking Heads and the Osmonds, Bassheads didn’t do anything remotely diverting after this track. In fact, the last three minutes are a steep drop from the wild euphoria of the previous six; the music grinds to a plinky-plonky crawl, sounding oddly like Sting dreaming of blue turtles.

The first six minutes are just right. Bassline building to guitars to sci-fi lasers to Italo house piano to that Bambaataa rap to distorted guitars to piano laser meltdown. We had our hands in the air at The Tube. Junior’s hands were just in front of her, doing the clapping that looks like she’s making her hands spit-spot, Mary Poppins style.

She tired of the coda even more quickly than I do, demanding breakfast at the first sniff of ambient noodling.

[All my vinyl rips seem to have corrupted; Top 11 mp3s to follow… later]

Band Aid/Band Aid 20, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

As a globally conscious 12-year-old, I spent my hard-won cash on the single like millions of others. I was struck by how much one of the Ethiopian children on the cover looked like Bob Geldof. Yesterday morning, Junior was subjected to the original and the recent remake – she was lucky that I couldn’t find the awful Stock Aitken Waterman version, or I would’ve carried out my threat to play one a day ‘til Christmas.

I’m one of the few who admits to liking the 1984 song. I’m one of the even fewer who can see value in 2004’s edition. I like Thom Yorke’s piano. The Darkness guitars are dreadful, though, and it goes on way too long. Also, don’t we get proper heavyweight pop stars any more? There’s hardly anyone on the later record to compete in terms of fame, glamour, ego and interest with the likes of Simon Le Bon, George Michael, Boy George, even Sting. I bet Status Quo weren’t plying Will Young and Jamelia with Class A drugs.

Junior can’t see what any of the fuss is about. She manages to laugh near the Dizzee Rascal bit, and I can see her wondering who Glenn Gregory is. Or was.