The Ting Tings Sounds From Nowheresville (Columbia, 2012)
By Richard Bull
One hundred years ago a band called The Ting Tings exploded from out of nowhere with their debut album We Started Nothing. It was one of those albums that seemed to arrive at just the right time. It was short, you could actually dance to it and above all was just plain damn fun. Basically, a really good pop album. A lot of people liked that album. It won an Ivor Novello award and went on to sell over 2 million copies, which is roughly 2 million more copies than the last Manic Street Preachers album.
After touring the album for several millennia it was time for album number 2. Ahhh, the curse of that difficult second album. In this instance I think it is justified. A whole heap of material, which the duo recorded in Berlin, was scrapped due to it not being up to par and it wasnt until they relocated to Spain (why not, eh?) that the album proper started to take shape. Jules De Martino (sunglasses loving drummer man and one half Ting Ting) said Everything before then had been a struggle. Suddenly it wasnt. Every time Katie went up to the booth she was nailing it. The lyrics were happening. The whole weight of our shoulders was lifted. This was enjoyable again. It was being dictated by its own energy again. So how does it measure up? Well, it sounds very confident and in a way effortless which judging by the above story it, er, wasnt. First things first, yes it does sound unmistakably like The Ting Tings but different enough to not just be the album which they could have probably knocked out in ten minutes a couple of years ago. Here we go
Opener Silence sounds like what White Lies were aiming for (and failed with) on their similarly difficult second album. That is that it builds and soars in all the right places with machine gun drumming and all the right plinky plonky noises. The next three songs (Hit Me Down Sonny, first single Hang It Up and Give It Back) are all great pop songs and probably the closest batch of songs most similar to that from their debut album. Hang It Up should have been a huge single. If theyd put this out when the hype around them was still intact it would have kind of sealed the deal. I watched them play it on Alan Carrs new years eve bash on the telly box (not at the time of course, I was far too pissed for that) and it was certainly the highlight of the seemingly 7 hour long programme. Give It Back is brilliant give me back my hi-fi, give me back my books (boots?) Id kill you if I could. Did someone say break-up?
Guggenheim is a track written very much in the old fashioned way of writing a good story in a pop song, which is an often overlooked art. I dont want to give anything away but its worth listening to the album just for this song alone. And its one of those annoyingly simple tracks musically that you cant believe hasnt been done before. Soul Killing goes a little bit ska and is one of the weaker tracks on the album. One By One is possibly the greatest pop single of the year. Surely this is a Lady Gaga single in waiting? Actually the intro sounds a bit Radio Gaga by Queen. Its all Depeche Mode and rather fantastic. Day To Day would be the logical big single from the album. And Katie actually sings on this one instead of her usual shouty shouty riot girrrl type stomp. Yikes.
The last two tracks on the album are perhaps the oddities on here. Help, to be honest, drags a bit and never really goes anywhere. Like a long backing track for a charideee campaign by Greenpeace or something. However its closing track In Your Life that is the most noticeable departure for The Ting Tings. Its bleak. Jaw droppingly bleak infact. A single sad guitar riff is repeated over a tale of lost love. And thats before the strings kick in. But not strings in a kind of Phil Spector rush of euphoria way. No no, rather in a kind of should be the score to a particularly harrowing scene in Schindlers List type way. Its quite chilling. There is no happy ending.
Lyrically the whole album is a rather jaded affair. It seems to be mostly about broken relationships. Even on the more upbeat numbers there is an air of something being lost about them. Which, for an emotional social retard such as myself is rather fantastic. I can convince myself that Im enjoying myself because its disco! And disco is great, yay, woo but really inside Im probably crying a bit. Noticeably missing from the album is the single Hands, which was put out a while ago although if play.com is to be believed it turns up on the 2nd disc on the inevitable deluxe ultra limited blowjob free money edition.
So anyway, was it worth the wait? Indeed it was. Its a damn fine album and now theyve got enough songs to do a proper full length show live I cant wait if they turn up on the live circuit.
J R Hartley brought this review to you. Hold on a minute? Thats not my name!
Release date: 27th February 2012