Tag Archives: east 17

If popstars were… elemental

Assuming you ignore about 95% of it, there’s hardly an element in the periodic table that hasn’t been the subject of a hit song. David Guetta & Sia are the latest to plunder its grid in the name of pop, with best-number-one-of-the-year-so-far Titanium the result. But who’s been there before and what can they teach us about science?

Kraftwerk – Neon Lights (1978)

Science is fun! A bit ominous and bleak sometimes perhaps, but beautiful too. And so ran the formula for most of Kraftwerk’s best songs. By 1978 they’d already covered motorways, radiation, trains, mannequins and robotics, so it was only logical they should turn their attention to street lighting next. Who knew that exciting a colourless gas with electricity would be so… exciting? The boys from Düsseldorf turned the idea into what’s practically a hymn; its hypnotic simplicity and pretty melody transforming even the most rundown city centre on a wet Monday night into shimmering streets of orange wonder. Noble.

 Nirvana – Lithium (1991)

The world’s lightest metal! Not that you’d learn that from the song. Kurt Cobain’s more interested in its chemical salts and their powerful mood-stabilising properties. Apparently he wrote the lyrics inspired by how born-again Christianity helps some people to hold it together. But he doesn’t sound convinced. It’s a moodswing set to music: from jolly to sarcastic to desperate and back again, evoking the very manic depression that the medication’s supposed to ease. Lithium itself, meanwhile, has ‘high reactivity with nuclei that verge on instability’. AT LEAST KURT’S GOT A KITTEN.

East 17 – Gold (1992)

Here are the facts you will learn about gold from listening to this song:

  • It has been around for a long time
  • It was created by God
  • People think about it when doing bad things
  • It is worth less (much less) than life
  • We don’t need it (do we)
  • “Jesus weren’t sent to set a precious stone free”

Yes it’s easy to forget, when Brian Harvey’s career was to descend into odd rampages fuelled by ecstasy pills and/or baked potatoes, that East 17 used to sneak pious Christian messages into their songs. It’s fair enough to hope for an end to war, but they also pray in this song that rain will stop – with no thought to the hosepipe bans and general unhappiness that such an event would bring to Walthamstow. I’m not convinced that gold’s a stone either. But despite this onslaught of seriousface bombast it’s still a great track, so well done lads.

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007)

Or Kraftwerk: The Next Generation if you like, as this too deploys scant, well-chosen lyrics over pleasantly minimal electronica. The LCDs’ fondness for propulsive, organic percussion* has been reined in for a nostalgic, elegaic** song about lost youth. So where does silver fit in? In an interesting interview, James Murphy tells us that a) it’s about always feeling like you’re in second place and b) that he wanted to make SHINY MUSIC as opposed to the ‘beige music’ of his first album. This blog is happy to endorse the concept of shiny music.

*banging saucepans with wooden spoons **yes, another long one

David Guetta featuring Sia – Titanium (2011)

I was hoping that the video for this would feature Sia as a giant gleaming titanium lady-robot deflecting bullets and the like, but instead, of course, the only titanium to be seen in the video appears when we see someone riding a bike. Some superpowers do show up later on but missing any opportunity for a giant robot is a cause for regret. Anyway: TITANIUM. Mightiest of metals, known for its strength and lightness, used to make SPACESHIPS and JET ENGINES and MISSILES. It needs a massive song to match it, and I bloody love this one. A bass drop that goes off like a nuclear reactor and a huge hook from Sia that somehow manages to stand out above it. It’s epic. Now we need only wait for the world’s popstars to get round to the rest of the periodic table…

Celebrity families: The Welches

It’s mum Denise who flings open the doors of the grandiose Welch Mansion with a cheeky flourish. “I suppose you’ve come about our Flo!” she bellows cheerfully. A familiar face from TV’s Loose Women, Dancing On Ice, Coronation Street and whatever else it was that she was in, Denise wears her fame lightly, like a coat of primer.

As I get seated in the main hall, I notice Florence Welch (thankfully without ‘And The Machine’, her backing band!) sitting nervously by a French window, sipping some elderflower cordial. “I’m making cottage pie!” shouts Denise from the kitchen door, waving a mince-encrusted slotted spoon. Florence looks up with a blush.

It’s clear that cross-generational fame hasn’t dented the charm of these lovely ladies, for moments later, grandma Raquel slinks fragrantly in. “Where have you been?” asks Florence timidly. “We’ve got an interview!”

“I’ve been in my cave,” confides Raquel huskily. As I was to find out, she’s referring to a full size polystyrene cave she keeps upstairs, in which she enjoys reliving her ‘glory days’.

But it’s the remarkable contemporary success of these three women that interests me. Their grape juice empire has conquered the ‘Pentecostal communion’ market, and the purple variety is now the second most likely drink to be offered to a recovering alcoholic at a suburban dinner party.

“I had the idea back when we were filming Fantastic Voyage,” says Raquel slowly, that accent of hers very thick. “I looked out at that giant arteriovenous fistula we were dodging in our miraculous little submarine, and I thought ‘Grapes could change everything!'”

“He doesn’t want to hear about all that, Ma!” admonishes Denise through a mouthful of mash. “Tell him about the Grammies, Flo!”

Florence puts down the chrysanthemum leaf she’s nibbling on and daintily relates to me her pride at standing next to Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera at the recent star-studded event in Los Angeles. “The NME keeps trying to make me out to be a credible rock chick,” she confesses credibly. “But my heart is in pop.”

“She gets that from me!” interjects Denise loudly, accidentally spraying me with tiny pieces of half-chewed diced carrot in her excitement. “Everyone remembers my chart battle with East 17 over Halloween ’95, don’t they! And that Thunder of theirs only got to number 4!”

She’s so enthusiastic it would seem unkind to remind her of the facts: her attempt to follow the success of her Soldier Soldier co-stars Robson & Jerome, with a Dusty Springfield cover, stalled at number 23.

“Our Justin was musical too,” says Denise, her eyes misty with nostalgia. “But I was so young when I had him.” She spears a forkful of cabbage angrily.

[continued on page 34]