The Ting Tings have made fans wait almost four years to hear their second full-length release. During this time I’m sure some people were waiting in anticipation thinking that they must be creating something spectacular, while many others probably forgot that they even existed. I’m now not ashamed to admit that during my year or two as an NME-reading, Skins-watching youth, there were a few weeks where I really liked the Ting Tings, and their little-known tune “That’s Not My Name”. Of course then the song was picked up by Radio one and played to death and I quickly denied ever listening to them, because I was obviously much too cool to like anything that other people might have heard of.
Perhaps the Ting Tings felt the same as I did; that being played on Radio One was distinctly bad for their all-important street cred, as when their 2010 single “Hands” was picked up by the station despite supposedly being an underground too-cool-for-school super exclusive release – they were annoyed and like a stroppy adolescent retaliated by binning half of the songs that were to feature on the new album. I guess they never thought that if Radio One hadn’t been playing their singles in the first place there might not have been enough people interested in a follow up record to allow them the funds to make it, let alone to spend this long doing so.
The record itself, while not inherently bad, just doesn’t sound like its required four years to make. Most of the songs start well but don’t really develop into anything, giving the impression that not a lot of time has gone into fully advancing their ideas. Opening track “Silence” begins with a thumping drum-beat and a synth bass riff before swiftly introducing some crisply tuneful vocals from singer Katie White. However the promising build up is unfortunately met by a fairly generic and uninteresting chord progression in the chorus. “Hit Me Down Sonny” features some attention grabbing sounds in the form of marching band drums and what sounds like a doorbell. It feels like they were attempting to emulate MIA but have instead ended up sounding more like the intro to a kids TV programme from the 80s.
For third track “Hang It Up” the band seem to have conveniently borrowed the drums from Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up Look Sharp”, with the sly addition of a relentless cowbell. In spite of this the funk guitar riff is a nice touch, as is the addition of Jules De Martino’s vocals. Following track “Give it Back” is somewhat reminiscent of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It”, before adding in a simple-but-effective guitar line and some nice back-and-forth vocals between the two members. The song does have one major fault however in that the lyrics are absolute nonsense. No one was expecting beautiful Cohen-esque lyricism but lines like “Give me back, give me back my hi-fi, hi-fi, give me back my boots” were really just not worth writing in the first place. It should be noted that this line actually caused Spotify to stop responding on my laptop.
“Guggenhiem” begins quietly with a spoken word story about a boy and a girl over a simple guitar riff, in the pseudo-slacker vain of some American alternative rock act from the 90s. The chorus is dancier, while Katie White further displays her lyrical prowess by spouting some rubbish about playing her bass at the Guggenhiem. Ironically, “Soul Killing” is one of the better songs on the record, with some off-beat guitar chords and a complimentary bass riff. Unfortunately they decided to put an irritating squeaky gate sound throughout the entire song, which becomes really grating. The next track, “One by One”, has a nice vocal melody over a basic pop drum beat and synthesizer riff, which works really well and suggests that the band are actually at their best when creating more subtle songs, rather than trying to grab attention.
Just when the album was improving, it took a turn for the truly bizarre with “Day To Day” which sounds like it should have been sung by an American teen pop star. When the song started playing I actually assumed it was a Spotify advertisement, before the song played out with no voiceover from Jonathan. It is completely out of character with the rest of the record. Similarly, closing duo “Help” and “In Your Life” are fine as individual songs, however they don’t fit with any of the other songs and seem to have been tacked on at the end, rather than being integrated fully into the rest of the album.
The record on the whole had the potential to be good, however a lot of the songs sound like they haven’t been thought out as carefully as they should be. The complete change in tone for the last trio of songs also suggest that the band didn’t put a lot of consideration into a) the track order and b) whether some songs should have been included at all. Musically the record tries to be interesting with the percussion, which leads most of the songs, however they don’t achieve this to the same degree as say The Kills on their record Midnight Boom. The Ting Tings should have spent the last four years worrying less about radio-play and more about fully developing their ideas. Hannah Watts