Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Annie – I Don’t Like Your Band

And our second post goes up around 17 hours after our first one. Back in the saddle, baby…


Jonathan Bradley: Like Girls Aloud with their appallingly self-conscious manifesto, Annie strokes the egos of some nerds on the Internet by repeating their prejudices, instructing the object of this song that he needs to ditch the guitars and cop some sequencers and Giorgio Moroder sounds, as if a petulant renunciation of the common discourse on authenticity makes for music that is smart or interesting or even enjoyable. If the fella with the boring band follows Annie’s advice, by the sound of this, he’ll end up with a musical backdrop truly worthy of the “tinnitus-inducing” description Ed Okulicz gave to Britney Spears’s “3”, and a melody recycled from “Chewing Gum.” Annie thinks this song is chocolate, but oh no…

Edward Okulicz: This is deliriously hooky, impishly clever and pretty much fun from start to finish, and perhaps the first time during the ridiculously drawn-out Don’t Stop campaign she’s actually put out something that approximated the sound and quality of an actual hit single.

John Seroff: Proof that her Chewing Gum doesn’t lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight, “I Don’t Like Your Band” is a pumped-up revisitation of Annie’s 2004 single, boiling over with ideas and thrilling production. The lyrics are acidly clever (I especially love the arch twist on “I Feel Love”); the hyper-processed speak-and-spell vocals fizz and chirp spiritedly; the push-and-pull percussion and backtracked melody struggle violently and inseparably amid constant waves of crystalline riffs and one-off flourishes. It’s smarter and slicker than almost any other pop I’ve heard this year, with an immense heart to boot.

Alex Ostroff: Remember when Girls Aloud wrote Hoxton Heroes, an (ultimately mediocre) attack on indie that they claimed was so incisive that it was left off Tangled Up for fear of controversy? Watch and learn, girls. This is how you slag off a cute hipster boy: with style, disco strut and bemused pity. Annie wistfully informs her suitor that while he’s cute and has good taste, she can’t stand his band and their bland retrofetishist indie. If you want to be Annie’s lover, you have to get with her friends: Kraftwerk, Bobby O and Moroder. At the tail end of an album campaign made up of Xenomania leftovers and guitars, it’s a joy to find Annie back with a sequencer: Let the games begin!

Kat Stevens: I can empathise with Annie’s problem here: I’ve have to bite my tongue and offer tactful ‘constructive criticism’ on many an occasion. My solution to this plague of social awkwardness was rather different to Annie’s admirable if brutal honesty – I just stopped attending my mates’ gigs.

Matt Cibula: It’s disco, it’s loopy pop, it’s new wave, it’s a lot of things, it’s busy, it’s too many things, it’s all lumping together, it’s undifferentiated, it’s empty, it’s nothing at all. That doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t bother you, but isn’t her meaninglessness supposed to be transcendent?

Keane Tzong: This could be performed as a funeral dirge and still be quite entertaining simply for the lyrics (“somewhere there’s been a failure”) but Annie’s bright, ingenuous-but-really-not vocal delivery and vocal interjections elevate this to something special, something more. Someday, it might do to ask why her true comfort zone seems to be in insulting other people over start-stop electro beats, but right now there’s little reason to object. She’s gifted us with a putdown to rival “Chewing Gum” or “I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me.”

Ian Mathers: I guess it’s kind of charming that Annie has written the song that the Radio Dept.’s great “I Don’t Need Love, I’ve Got My Band” was the pre-emptive response to, but really, she can and should do better than this, which, aside from mildly amusing meanness, doesn’t have much going for it. “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me” was similarly petty but had an actual song behind it, you know?

Pete Baran: When Annie uses her breathy, high pitched, edge of her range voice it usually makes the song shimmer, but she sings most of “I Don’t Like Your Band” in this fashion, diminishing the effect.

Chuck Eddy: In 1999, when “Greatest Hit” came out, her revival of classic flimsy ’80s Euro-ski-resort disco was a revelation. Half a decade later, on Anniemal, she was crafty enough to pull off a whole album of such stuff, if nothing that touched that initial single. Another half decade on, she’s still tolerable, but her teensy-weensy ozone squeak is starting to grate, and she’s reminding me that Fun Fun had way better melodies.

Martin Skidmore: I basically like her, but find too many of her tracks forgettable. This is a good idea for a song, and not completely lacking in catchiness, but it’s nowhere near her greatest moments.

Alex Macpherson: A steel blade silkily presented as a charming trifle. There’s a life lesson in this one, I feel.

Rodney J. Greene: It’s too platonic. Not only does Annie sound like she could be addressing anybody on Earth, rather than a lover, but she also commits the pitfall of making a pop song, rather than a specific pop song.

David Moore: I’ve been hanging on to Annie semi-fandom more diligently than I probably should — I dutifully overrated “Anthonio” and everything! But aside from the expected disco bounce, which gets old in about thirty seconds, I’m just not finding anything here — and worse, the “Chewing Gum” referents threaten to jump out and strangle that song, too. Makes me sympathize with this person’s band — “buy a sequencer and then let the games begin”…are we to understand that you’re hoping he sounds more like this? Because if so, uh, damn, I think I’ll take whatever wannabe lad-rock band he’s in to the inevitable sledgehammer Moroder-porn that will result from your advice.

Michaelangelo Matos: You don’t know how many publicists I want to autoreply to with this song.

46 Responses to “Annie – I Don’t Like Your Band”

  1. “Hoxton Heroes” may or may not be worse as a critique (couldn’t care less), but it’s a far better song than this. So was “Anthonio.”

  2. This has one of the nicer, more complete arrays of response that I’ve seen for any song in the jukebox this year. Bravo us!

  3. “Hoxton Heroes” isn’t funny but is probably catchier in some ways but sadly bludgeoned itself to death by REPEATING BITS NEEDLESSLY before sputtering out lamely.

    This at least fully completes the “joke”. And is generally better than all the Xenomania songs on the album with the possible exception of the majestic “Bad Times”.

  4. Matos OTMFM, that feeling was responsible for at least 1-2 of my points.

    Ed, this is not remotely a hit single, it is trifling meta for the self-conscious internet. Which doesn’t mean it’s bad but this is even less likely to make people care about Annie than “Anthonio”.

  5. The new Epworth tracks might not be singles, or sell records, but they add a lot to the album and makes it flow better than before.

  6. My vitriol said 3 and my tapping foot said 7 on this one.

  7. I still think “My Love Is Better” is much, uhm, better.


  8. Lex, I don’t think it is a hit single either! But it’s at least good enough to be one. “Anthonio” and “Girlfriend” were never going to be hits either, but fact is they were not good enough to even say “Well, in a better world this would have been a massive hit” – very very average. But I can almost imagine a record like this charting, though it is true that this one certainly won’t.

  9. Renato: I do very much like “My Love is Better” but in my estimation all four of the new tracks exceed it by at least a little bit. I don’t think it helps that I will always look at the Xenomania tracks as a slight misstep for her (memories of the awful Island cover for Don’t Stop resurface unwanted), no matter how fun I think they are.

  10. Ed, I don’t hear how the vaguely-catchy-but-slight “Girlfriend” is any more a less of a hit than the vaguely-catchy-but-slight “I Don’t Like Your Band”, and in any case it’s pretty clear by now that given what Annie’s strengths are, whether any song by her is a potential hit is kinda irrelevant to its quality.

  11. Matt Cibula completely on target here. Everything’s in place here and it still gives me a headache (though it’s not even *that* interesting, really… it’s more like a who-cares-ache).

  12. I’m not crazy about this song, but I’m a lot less crazy about J-Brad’s tyrannical polemic against these phantom nerds on the Internet who need their egos stroked. Also, what the hell is the “common discourse on authenticity.” I wasn’t aware that such a thing existed!

  13. Tal, missing from my blurb is the introductory sentence identifying those nerds as the self-described poptimists; surely we don’t need to debate the existence of Pop Justice et al, right? The “common discourse on authenticity” is one that states, quite erroneously, that playing your instruments and writing your own songs is good, while digital sounds and non-serious musical approaches are bad. See: Rolling Stone, NME, people who complain about autotune and lip-synching, the vast history of rock crit.

    There’s nothing tyrannical or polemical about what I wrote; I think Alex Ostroff’s references to “bland retrofetishist indie” and “slag[ging] off a cute hipster boy” are evidence I’m discussing a real phenomenon. And sure, sometimes retrofetishist indie needs to be denounced. But it’s quite dull to be doing it in a pop song rather than on a message board.

  14. As a self-described poptimist, I am offended that I might have relationship whatsoever with Pop Justice and/or like this song.

  15. Next time I’ll try that in English.

  16. I am not sure I am a poptimist any more, who knows what that means these days, but I would definitely like to distance myself from both Popjustice mindset and taste.

  17. You’re right, Jonathan, the line is not as tyrannical now that I understand the specific agent you’re referring to. But surely this discourse on authenticity is no longer common, since I barely know anyone who takes this line of reasoning seriously in 2009, and certainly not by the community that contributes to this site. Even RS (I’ve read too few issues of NME to make a judgment call on that one) seems to have completely discarded this stance.

  18. However, I’ve never read Popjustice before, so it’s entirely plausible that I’m not even qualified to contribute to this discussion anyway.

  19. Just now realizing that the yellow “A” in her mouth there is not a staple remover.

  20. I don’t know what this says about me, but when I first heard this I assumed without thinking about it that Annie was simply repeating words that had been said to her by colleagues, relatives, friends, record company execs, and so on who were thinking they were being polite by assuring her that even though they dislike her band, her life, her style, and everything embracing her entire sensibility, fundamentally, nonetheless they like her and it isn’t her they’re rejecting. I thought it was hilarious. I still do, actually, though apparently the humor is less intentional than I thought; though honestly, without reading these comments and therefore noticing the line about the sequencer (which of course originally passed me by, since it contradicted my understanding of the song), I’d still be convinced that my initial way of hearing this was the right way.

    (The humor I was projecting onto this reminded me of a funny hip-hoppish album by some group whose name has evaporated from my memory – though I’ve still got the CD in a pile somewhere, unfortunately I don’t remember which one – where they perform a tribute to opening acts like themselves, including bored and rude comments from customers. As the album went on it turned into the story of a fast-food joint that specialized in meat shakes and the conflict between the owner and the woman who ran the health-food joint across the street (portrayed on this album by none other than the sainted Stacey Q, the queen and princess combined of flimsy disco).

  21. Close parenthesis.)

  22. It was Ugly Duckling, right? (Who I otherwise remember very little about, oddly enough.)

  23. they perform a tribute to opening acts like themselves, including bored and rude comments from customers

    And an obvious precedent for that would be Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show in the ’70s, who allegedly would sometimes open shows for themselves disguised as a glitter-rock band, and thereby get booed off the stage by their own unknowing fans. (Okay, maybe not an obvious precedent after all, but it still cracks me up whenever I think of it. Wish there were clips on youtube.)

  24. Feel the need to, if not defend myself, at least make it clear that I was being slightly tongue in cheek. I’m not particularly invested in upholding or knocking down the “common discourse of authenticity” except insofar as it gets in the way of interesting discussion about music. I easily fall into the meaningless “hipster” demographic and listen to a great deal of ‘boring indie music’. It’s not that bland retrofetishist indie needs to be taken down a peg by a hitless Scandivanian pop star. It’s that “I Don’t Like Your Band” makes that takedown sound fun and frothy and sarcastic and nasty and sympathetic – all of which are interesting and all of which make for a good pop song. In this case.

    What’s key to ‘I Don’t Like Your Band’ vs. ‘Hoxton Heroes’, for instance, is that Girls Aloud were slagging off ALL boring indie bands and writing what was basically a funny but embarrassing polemic over Xenomania production, whereas Annie is slagging off this PARTICULAR boring indie boy who she is PARTICULARLY linked to in a quasi-romantic way. At least that’s how it scanned to me, especially with the Lily Allen-esque “It’s Not You, It’s Your Band” vibe. And would I prefer to see that tension and the romantic aspect sketched out more? Certainly. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is an entertaining and bubbly piece of ear candy.

    At any rate, music has always been where we draw lines in the sand and make ultimatums of style, taste, etc. Maybe not as explicitly and self-consciously as here, but it’s not necessarily dull to release a song-as-manifesto. Annie’s always been in the neighbourhood of meta-pop: “so the fun won’t stop ’til she’s living it up / feeling good at the top of the pops”, “the greatest hit”, “how does it feel to hear your songs on the radio”, etc.

  25. And yeah, Johnathan, of course PopJustice exists, and of course there are people who are as knee-jerk about hating on all indie as some people are about hatred of all pop. But I think that you, I and Annie are all smart enough and varied enough in our music listening habits to recognize that such extremes are silly. If for a moment she was being 100% serious about her “lessons” or her supposed stance, the song would be infinitely less fun and more boring. It’s delivered with a pretty broad wink.

  26. I’ve apparently drunk the kool-aid – I think it’s the strongest song on “Don’t Stop”, I think Annie is still gonna be a huge star someday, and I can’t wait to hear this show up on “Gossip Girl” or its equivalent – fuck Girls Aloud, this girl is The Show.

  27. Lex, because “Girlfriend” was, with all the best will in the world, pretty rubbishy, no more than a [5], and its hooks were muted. This one’s, er, well not quite full-throated belting being as it is Annie, but has some sneaky designs to anthemic.

    Also picking on Popjustice for some of his insane message board posters who ARE kneejerk, indie-hating, borderline racist goons has always been unfair, and that’s one particular straw-man you should really consider retiring. It’s not the Popjustice mindset, it’s the drooling internet forum denizen mindset. I saw just as bad on ILM back in the day.

  28. Define “rubbishy”! I only think “Girlfriend” is OK, a [7] like this, but I can still remember how it goes a year after I last listened to it, so its hooks are obviously not that muted. It is as anthemic as this, ie not very.

    I roll my eyes at Popjustice’s taste – constantly talking about The Saturdays, Dolly Rockers, Mini Viva and that other cheapo UK girl group whose name slips my mind this year while ignoring the existence of Electrik Red (and indeed The-Dream) is a total failure of aesthetic judgment. As one person’s taste it’s fine but I don’t want to see anyone taking their cues from it. And I pick on the narrow-minded mindset of the forum, which is as representative of the Popjustice aesthetic as his individual tastes (otherwise it’s just one man’s blog…you know very well that it’s a community, sadly composed mostly of racist dunces), because of the constant kneejerk anti-urban sentiment (oh noez a RAPPER ~smelling salts~), the despicable snobbery (the amount of times you see contemptuous remarks about “chavs” you’d think you’re on the Daily Mail website) and the general ignorance.

  29. Fair point, but the website fills a niche that nobody else is filling. There’s lots of pro-“urban” sites. Why should he run the site any other way than how he wants?

    FWIW I do think Popjustice mostly bigs up terrible music these days and as far as we can throw around terms like “aesthetic failure”, well, ignoring Electric Red is pretty egregious isn’t it. (Maybe he hasn’t heard “W.F.Y.”).

    An interesting thing though – Popjustice seems to be OK with black women WAY more than men. Much the same way that you tolerate girls with guitars more than boys. (I think this is because generally girls are better at being pop stars than boys, but.. I’ve always noticed this).

  30. Uh, you seriously think there are no blogs around focusing on that narrow band of bloodless Scandopop and “gay-friendly” pop? One of the terrible nu-Idolator bloggers has apparently been running exactly that for years, and a glance at his blog roll suggests that he’s far from the only one.

    Plus, Popjustice has far more clout these days than just being one man’s website – its aesthetic has had massive chart crossover this year. Without that, we don’t have Little Boots, La Roux, Mini Viva et al.

    Pinpointed Electrik Red in particular b/c if you’re going to give coverage to literally every shitty girl group under the sun, ignoring the one who are doing interesting and amazing things with the form seems…curious at best.

  31. To be fair it seems more about covering every BRIT girl group.

  32. Also some of us registered at PJ do like both hip hop, Electrik Red AND girls aloud. Even if we have to fight against a majority sometimes.

    I think the “pure pop” zealousness of some users there is less racism than a religious “with us or against us ” narrow-minded genre perspective. Techno or indie rock or taylor swift is as offensive to those users as hip hop and rappers.

  33. Interesting, I’ve never really read the comments at PJ, only heard them mentioned or linked in specific instances. I’m talking more about the annoying parallel-universe rah rah that’s just as boring there as it is with any other kind of music. The whole “this is important because we are covering it” mindset, with no particularly interesting analysis of the music. To me, poptimism, as practiced over on LiveJournal, anyway, is about extending the critical conversation to literally anything that comes up. (The tastes of the contributors are secondary to the conversation.)

  34. The other day we someone commenting at poptimists going ‘why do you all hate guitar pop so much’ and I actually rofled bcs the community is full of indie fvckers – but it’s also full of rnb and country fvckers too, as well as people to whom music is not the be-all and end-all of existence (yes I KNOW they are mad), and so the shared ground ends up being stuff that Popjustice covers, which may be why the poptimists consensus picks always seem very predictable. Luckily the more vocal members of our community tend to be ones with broader genre-love, so the discussion is often more interesting than poll results.

  35. where “stuff that Popjustice covers” = established US pop acts (Britney/Beyonce) and UK girlgroups (Girls Aloud/Sugababes), at its (and our) most basic level.

  36. What Matias said. Lex, you’re theory on why PJ doesn’t pay attention to Electrik Red (racism) doesn’t really hold when you consider a) all the black artists they do pay attention to, and b) all the “white” genres they completely ignore. That there’s a bias is undeniable, but it’s not a racist one. Also, have you noticed there’s a fairly large thread for Electrik Red on the forum.

  37. No, you’re conflating my criticisms.

    PJ (blog not forum) ignoring Electrik Red = evidence of aesthetic failure – not any sort of deeper prejudice
    Innumerable PJ (forum not blog) comments passim = evidence that, at the very least, several posters have “issues” with black people, black culture and poor people (obviously, approval of certain black artists when they act in certain ways, and the further they move away from R&B and hip-hop genre values, does not actually disprove racism). This is sufficiently endemic on a forum which acts as a hub for a certain type of pop fan that I’m comfortable making the link.

  38. I tried, kind of hard actually, to like Electrik Red. But to me their songs were completely unmemorable; I could listen ten times in a row to whatever their single was and still not be able to tell you what the chorus was like. (On the other hand I do really like Mini Viva. And Girls Can’t Catch. And this Annie song.)

  39. Right, Chuck, it’s Ugly Duckling. And the song about being an opening act is called “Opening Act.”

  40. I’m with matthew. Love Vs. Money is one of my favorite albums of the year, so I was disappointed with how much energy I expended trying to absorb the Electrik Red album and just not quite getting it. I think their voices are terrific, and the production nearly as good, but the melodies are just not strong enough to sustain my interest. Which is weird, since I would think the girls would do wonders with songs where The-Dream’s limited vocal range would be too limited to perform them properly.

    More importantly, not liking something for any reason does not necessitate aesthetic failure, but lex’s argument might be especially pertinent to Pop Justice on this matter, and as I said earlier I’ve never read it.

  41. All of this is fine, but I get the feeling we’re one step away from saying that because Popjustice has readers he should take greater responsibility to not be seen to have aesthetic failures and police unpopular points of view on the forum than if it WERE “just” one person’s website.

  42. “Political correctness gone mad”* etc etc.

    *(U.K. papers still say that all the time, right?)

  43. TBH, although to a certain degree I agree w Lex re Electrik Red, I don’t really like the whole “aesthetic failure” argument. It feels authoritative and contrary to the spirit of pop music.

  44. Calling upon the “spirit of pop music” isn’t authoritative? What is that spirit? It sure as hell can’t be openness to different sounds and aesthetics if you’re saying that PJ encapsulates it.

    IDK, every single damn time I’ve ever heard someone use that phrase they’ve meant something very specific by it, often closely allied to the dubious, hackle-raising phrase “perfect pop”.

  45. No need to be suspicious here. What I mean is that I feel it’s dangerous to judge pop music on the sole basis of aesthetics; I think there’s more to it. My impression is PJ knows this (eg his frequent tendency to describe things as simultaneously “rubbish” and “amazing”). And that is something I’ve liked about Popjustice from the beginning.

    Let’s face is, when you say ” total failure of aesthetic judgment” what you’re really saying is “I have better taste than Peter”, something I don’t necessarily disagree with BTW. What I totally agree on is that the Popjustice spectrum of pop music is a very narrow one.

  46. ^”face IT”