Sunday, May 3, 2009

"We Started Nothing," by The Ting Tings

My father set up a basketball hoop in our driveway in 1981, and we used to play a game on sunny summer afternoons called, “H-O-R-S-E,” where we’d take turns calling the shot, and each consecutive player would have to make the same shot or garner a letter. Miss enough shots to spell out “H-O-R-S-E” and you were out of the game. Last player without the H-O-R-S-E moniker won. What can I say? We made our own fun. At any rate, never an athlete, my favorite part of the game wasn’t so much the basketball, but the music that played on the radio in the background. 
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, this meant classic songs by Blondie (“Call Me”), Hall and Oats (“Kiss On My List”), The Go-Gos (“We Got The Beat”), Suzie Quatro (“Stumblin’ In”), and The Waitresses (“I Know What Boys Like”). And even though it was released just last year (2008), the Ting Ting’s, We Started Nothing, would have perfectly fit the mood of our H-O-R-S-E -playing, punk-pop playlist: pure, carbonated, audio joy.

The Ting Tings, formed in Britain in 2006 and consist of singer/guitarist Katie White and drummer Jules De Martino. Much of their debut album is reminiscent of Toni Basil’s ageless solitary pop smash, “Mickey,” with its cheerleader-esque game-time shouted choruses and bumping, thumping, marching band beats - and that’s not a criticism. Might I point out, here, that one must never underestimate the ripple effect of a one-hit-wonder. Basil’s “Mickey,” with it’s stuck-in-your-head chorus, “Oh Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, Hey Mickey!” not only inspired one of Weird Al’s best parodies (the "I Love Lucy"-themed, “Ricky”), but is arguably to blame for much of Gwen Stafani’s solo career (“Hollaback girl”) and to lesser effect, roughly half of Avril Lavigne’s song catalogue. And we’re alone now, so you can admit that you’ve always loved Basil’s #1 song from 1982, and you’re glad I mentioned it. 

The core of this album is made up of three bratty-fabulous songs, “That’s Not My Name,” “Shut Up And Let Me Go,” and “We Walk,” which is the “hit” from the record and deservedly so. The lyrics from all three songs sound like they are being recited from a grumpy teenage girl’s diary and are simply impossible to get out of your head. Throughout this ornery album, the melodies are accessible, quick-to-the-point, and catchy as hell. And I suspect the album title, We Started Nothing, refers to the fact that there’s nothing “new” or “groundbreaking” on the record. Seriously, every song seems to riff off some other pop song you know and love from the late 70’s / early 80’s...and that’s a wonderful thing. With a running time of less than 40 minutes, it might be easy to dismiss this album as retro, disposable pop, but from my perspective, it’s hard not to immediately fall in love with this endearing little record. Time will bear out which opinion is more accurate, but in the meantime, We Started Nothing will undoubtedly provide the ultimate carefree soundtrack to this summer.

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