Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Tings Things

Last night I listened to the Ting Tings' album We Started Nothing. Released just over a year ago, it's a bit of enjoyable pop fluff most notable for the remarkable "That's Not My Name", which reached number one in Britain. To my ears it sounds like a retread of angular 80s pop, with New Order, among others, as one of its creditors; the very title of the album seems to admit the belatedness of this form of music, its lateness in the day of its genre, while also perhaps acknowledging the lack of socio-cultural importance that rock and pop now has to contend with. Despite this, the structure of "That's Not My Name" strikes me as interesting. Five minutes long, the song very gradually constructs itself before the listener: the first couple of minutes are unexceptional, spiky pop fizz, then element after element is added to the mix, and then elements are taken away from it, so that listening to it is like watching something be assembled and then dismantled before your eyes. It would be a stretch to call this an example of onwardness in music. But there is a sense of listening not just to people playing music, but to them actually inventing it; and as a result the overall musical identity of the piece, just like its lyric which obsesses negatively about personal identity, is muddied.

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