I’ve often felt sorry for The Ting Tings. Their debut album, We Started Nothing, was a big sensation. Magazines, blogs, late night TV shows — they were everywhere. Their music had a universal appeal; it was artistic enough to please indie pop fans yet immediately catchy enough to please the bubble gum pop club. And everybody was talking about them. That was 2008. Then in 2012 they released Sounds From Nowheresville and I’m pretty sure it was a flop. I read quite a few reviews and they were almost all negative. Personally, I liked it, but did it have the magic of their debut? Not quite. Thus, my sympathy. Well, now they’re back with their new album Super Critical, which immediately scores points because the title must at least be slightly intended as a jeer to critics who dismissed their second album. Or it could mean that they’re bragging about the album being primed for good reviews. In actuality, there’s a title track on the album, so they probably just needed an album title and thought that one sounded best. Because, seriously, I often analyze these things more than the artists probably do. Which isn’t to say that artists don’t put thought into the work. It’s simply to say that I’m an obsessive compulsive music junkie who’s prone to reading into things when they’re not even meant to be read into. But this isn’t about me — no, really — so I digress.
The album opens with “Super Critical,” which could be another reason why they chose it for the album title. I’d like to think that they selected it for all of the reasons I’ve just come up with, though I have a feeling that thinking about it in so many ways would just make them want to clobber me over the head with their drum sticks. Anyway, “Super Critical” — about a super critical girl, of course — is an infectious, back-to-basics song focusing on the two things The Thing Things have always been best with: percussion and vocals. Actually, they’re very skillful with guitars and they feature in all of their songs, but it’s the mix of Jules De Martino’s punchy drums and Katie White’s fabulous, Blondie-esque vocals that makes this record burst with the sort of contagious energy that their debut had.
The guitars get down and jangly on “Daughter,” which features lots of electro-touches along with the live percussion. If you forgot about Katie’s flawless falsetto, this song is sure to make you remember. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around what the song is actually about, but that hasn’t stopped me from tapping my feat and swaying my head back and forth while listening to it.
“Wrong Club” is sure to be the massive single from the album with its funky bass guitar noodling, slamming beats and inviting melody. I love it when Katie sings, “I’m in the wrong club / Listening to this shit.” Obviously, she’s not referring to her music as shit, but it kind of seems that way because she’s saying she’s in the wrong club listening to *this* shit and this is their own song that’s playing. If its funkieness isn’t enough to grab your attention, the lyrics just might, as she sings about feeling like you’re in the wrong club, feeling like you’re in the *wrong* place. It’s about not fitting in, feeling like an outsider. Who can’t relate to that?
Just when you think the album is just going to be one real beat fest, along comes “Wabi Sabi,” a sentimental ballad that sports the brutally honest lyric, “I like everything that you don’t do.” It’s a great track for sitting around and chilling out. And, no, I do not know why it’s called “Wabi Sabi.” Katie sings those words as the song is fading out and you can’t quite make out the vocals that follow. At least not with my hearing problem.
“Wabi Sabi” is followed by the relatively downtempo “Only Love.” It’s not quite as melancholic or touching as “Wabi Sabi,” but it’s nice to hear another mellower song from them because, really, you can only hear so many songs with sonorous drums in a row. (Which is why I only listen to death metal and black metal in small doses.) You get the best of both worlds with “Do It Again,” a plenty danceable tune that’s also indie pop enough to go on a mix sans dance tracks.
If I have one complaint about the album, it’s how short it is. Whenever an album is less than 10 songs, I tend to feel cheated. And this is a 9 song album, 9 song albums becoming something of a trend lately (see also: La Roux, Lykke Li, etc). I suppose the logic is that it’s best to put out an album without a bad song than an album where three tracks are filler. The only problem with that is that my favorite songs are usually that filler. Also, the songs on here are pretty darn short, too. The album clocks in at a mere 32 minutes. Which means it could have been twice as long and it would still fit on a single CD. I just feel like, why not spend a little more time writing and give fans an album that feels like a proper, complete record instead of an EP? To that end, I tend to feel like albums under 10 songs should be considered EPs. Especially if they’re under 45 minutes. But, yes, all 9 songs here are delightful and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes pop of any sort.