Friday, 30 May 2008

THE TING TINGS: Great DJ


As more than enough people have said in the past, it doesn't matter where you came from, it's where you're at, and if the nowness is fresh enough, where you're going can wait until tomorrow. Katie White used to be in a girl group called TKO - and the fact that so many can still consider that a negative in and of itself demonstrates how long a way we yet have to travel - who never had a hit (though I note with no small karmic amusement that Le Tigre's only UK hit single to date is entitled "TKO") and whom I never knowingly heard. And the training, if training it be, comes through very strongly throughout the first Ting Tings album We Started Nothing, even as she and drummer Jules de Martino, a reverse and superior White Stripes, take immense care to avoid cliche; one fully expects, for instance, the intro to "Be The One" to herald a typically gloopy Cowell-friendly ballad but instead the song glides into an exultant thrash. They can do 1981 (but better) whitegirl funk ("Shut Up And Let Me Go"), drowsy music box waltzes into nowhere in particular ("Traffic Light") and Camden Underworld girl indie to full early-mid nineties level (and beyond, with the steadily incursive horns on the long, closing title track). They too have a long way to go, just as SIlverfish or Shampoo once had, and it is to be hoped that they will be allowed to do so.

By now "That's Not My Name" should be acknowledged as one of the great and most natural of number ones, even if its chart topping status as a single means I will have to comment on it in detail elsewhere and with some hindsight-induced perspective, and I think it fully fair, as with Daphne and Celeste in another age, to say that disliking it signifies a deeper dislike and/or suspicion of pop; naivety is the least loseable of attributes, especially in music writers, despite our daily shields of anti-buffering cynicism.

So I will limit myself to commenting on "Guest DJ," and quantitatively it does not require much comment; beginning with a semi-glum two-chord seesaw recalling the later stages of Pavement albums (e.g. "Our Singer") to echo the feelings of "indigestion" and "growing up undone," its lifelessness is intruded upon and kissed by the gradually growing clamour of de Martino's drums and White's guitar and voice, dropping her Salford aitches but forceful when she needs to be (the astonishing growl of "making" at 1:51-1:52 on "We Walk"). "Nothing but the local DJ," White muses, but it turns out he and his songs were all she needed, "gave hope and a brand new day," as the gearstick is shifted upwards and one of the great pop choruses becomes visible, somewhere ideally sited between Kim Wilde and Bikini Kill. "Imagine all the girls, ah ah, ah ah/And the boys, ah ah, ah ah/And the strings, ee ee, ee ee/And the drums, the drums, the drums, the DRUMS..."

She hangs on to those DRUMS like Harold Lloyd to the Ministry of Sound clock and the DRUMS are what hooked this listener onto her cagoule-tail - she will not let them go - and the song now becomes steadily more confident, attacking and celebratory. "Blowing our mind in a world unkind/Gotta love the bpm!" The spinner as saviour: "We wore his love like a hand in a glove/His preacher, plays it all night long" - so already there is a nostalgia but unlike, say, "Weak Become Heroes," it is not a particularly hopeless one; the sun still radiates through White's soul as her heart creases up with origami eagerness. As "Great DJ," that brilliant ode to the power of music to deliver, rescue and renew, reaches its inevitable climax, we realise that its magic is indeed "all about the where and when" but know that its strength is sufficient to keep its message relevant for minds prepared to live and dance against the crackdowns; the route down which Girls Aloud, not to mention the rest of us, should be travelling.

2 comments:

mike said...

I also can't help wondering whether "the drums, the drums..." is some sort of reference to "here come the drums..." in the Rogue Traders' "Voodoo Child"?

Job said...

"Guest DJ" should be the title of the first cover version of this song.