Tom Ewing

7
Sep 21

GARY JULES ft MICHAEL ANDREWS – “Mad World”

Popular24 comments • 1,857 views

#968, 27th December 2003

Mental illness and pop music are hardly strangers, but few bands made it as central to their work as Tears For Fears, named after a concept minted by experimental psychiatrist Arthur Janov, whose ideas ripple and echo throughout the group’s first two records. Tears For Fears were an unusually earnest band, and suffered for it critically, but their self-seriousness has worn well.

From another group the lyric of “Mad World” might land as just another glib dig at the squares; Curt Smith, though, sounds honestly perturbed. Madness, for TFF, is the primal topic – their songs are often an account of working through their own neuroses and buried pain. But that childhood pain isn’t unique to sensitive young synthpoppers – it infects the whole of society, contorting it into patterns of repression, routine and self-denial. Mad world isn’t just a description; it’s a diagnosis.

18
Aug 21

The World Cup Of Four Letter Words*

New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 433 views

*Four Letter Word Song Titles, that is.

As you all know I spend a lot of my pop time these days running elaborate Twitter tournaments.  These have a lot of matches and it can be tricky keeping track of what’s going on, so this is an experiment whereby I’ll link to all the polls that are running currently.

QUALIFYING ROUND: more »

26
Jul 21

OZZY AND KELLY OSBOURNE – “Changes”

Popular33 comments • 2,188 views

#967, 20th December 2003

From one reality TV hit to another – “Changes” wouldn’t have existed without The Osbournes, an everyday story of a loveably decayed rock star and his no-bullshit manager-wife. The show’s surface dynamics played into some hoary old stereotypes of calamitous husbands and hypercompetent wives, but it was still far more watchable than most celebrity vehicles.

24
Mar 21

WILL YOUNG – “Leave Right Now”

Popular15 comments • 2,799 views

#966, 6th December 2003

Eg White, the songwriter on “Leave Right Now”, had an intriguing half-career out in the far suburbs of British pop. His album as part of Eg And Alice, 24 Years Of Hunger, has quietly acquired cult status; it’s sophisticated but erratic. Like Daniel Bedingfield, White was a young songwriter trying on his inspirations for size (at one point there’s an unexpected but exciting stab at Remain In Light era David Byrne). Released into a world too earthy and raucous for it, it made no impression – I remember the cassette of it in Our Price sale after sale, forever ignored.

4
Dec 20

The Christmas We Get We Deserve

FT5 comments • 543 views

It was sometime this Summer that I decided to do a Christmas poll in December, which later expanded to include other Winter festivals.

I didn’t think the idea through because it was a long way off – and I also felt there was a real chance I wouldn’t run it: more »

1
Dec 20

WESTLIFE – “Mandy”

Popular11 comments • 2,946 views

#965, 26th November 2003

The tears are on their mind and nothing is rhyming. Sometime between previous single “Hey Whatever!” – a very non-Imperial number 4 – and this cover version, Brian McFadden decided it was time for the dream to end and handed in his notice. Sometimes when boys quit a band it’s a shock – a profitable enterprise cut cruelly short. But Westlife shedding a member felt like part of an ongoing process, a group winding gently down.

1
Nov 20

BUSTED – “Crashed The Wedding”

Popular12 comments • 2,455 views

#964, 22nd November 2003

“You Said No” was an uneven mix of Busted’s charms and their weaknesses; “Crashed The Wedding” is all upside. All of Busted’s singles so far have played like episodes in the band’s imaginary TV show – a vaguely naughty comedy story; a goofy sci-fi pastiche; a high school melodrama. “Crashed The Wedding” is more like the climax of the group’s first movie, the riotous denouement of a pop-punk rom-com. Though the ‘punk’ side is getting even more vestigial – this is scruffbag power-pop, and all the better for it.

24
Oct 20

World Cup of 1980 Preview

FT3 comments • 460 views

This is the third time I’ve run a poll event based on a single year – 1980 follows 1990 and 2001, and they’ve all presented different challenges in terms of building out brackets that are fun, fair (well, fair-ish) and tell a story about what happened that year.

Go to a site like Rate Your Music and they make sense of 1980 in a familiar way. Their “Top 20 Singles” are entirely white and 95% male: Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Clash, Bowie, and so on.

All these people are represented in our version of 1980 – it’s entirely possible one of them will win the tournament – but to claim they tell the story of the year is nonsense.

9
Sep 20

#16: Can’t you see I’m trying?

New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 488 views

The final bracket spotlights the great hopes of indie rock – at least as far as the NME was concerned – The Strokes. Googling magazine covers for the lead-in illustrations to the poll brought home a couple of points. The first is how quickly and heavily the NME went all-in for The Strokes. The second is how little else they had to talk about in the same breath – their natural tendency to roll a few acts up into a “scene” seems initially thwarted. That would change, fairly quickly, but it accounts for the way Detroit’s White Stripes, already on their 3rd LP, would be swept up and treated as a new band.

#15: Looks good, sounds good, looks good, feels good too

New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 338 views

It’s the electroclash bracket! Er… kind of. Maybe half the tracks here would have some claim on that hotly contested genre, but the vibe of this bracket is “what might have been played at a hipster club night?”. Did I go to hipster club nights in 2001? Ah, not really.