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Ting Tings 'We Started Nothing'

Why catchy trash comes from the UK.

Adrian Mack 5 Jun

Adrian Mack regularly writes about music for The Tyee.

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Another iPod ad artist.

Brace yourselves. The Brits have just sent another one of those vacuum-sealed and candy-coated pop phenoms our way, and this one is designed to push your patience to the brink. The Ting Tings are a boy-girl, drum 'n' guitar duo that came spraying out of the grim North like a technicolour money shot, and now sit atop the thrillingly wobbly pop cultural heap in a country that craves sensation even more than ours.

My experience with The Ting Tings came when I signed on to interview them, thereby forcing myself to listen to the kind of music that usually gives me a rash. And lo and behold, my first few spins of the new album We Started Nothing did exactly that; it started nothing but a trail of hives around my midriff. (I really need to take this work less seriously.)

By the fifth or sixth listen, however, something seemed to happen. Either I was given a shot of morphine, and then rubbed down with a healing balm by some sort of invisible nurse, or -- and I believe this is actually the more likely scenario -- I started to enjoy We Started Nothing. Like, really.

I especially started to enjoy the brain-dead yet somehow essentially correct Toni Basil rip-off "That's Not My Name" -- a recent number-one hit over on yon faded Empire. My only regret in admitting this to you is that I wasn't the first to name check Toni Basil. It's been done to death already by the U.K. critics, who, in any event, are traditionally more apt to treat trash like it's spun gold, or champion this kind of nonsense as prole-art, or something. They'll even misquote Jean Baudrillard just to prove it.

Reading up on The Ting Tings' U.K. press in fact will jog memories you didn't know you had; they've been compared to Blondie, The Tom Tom Club, Intastella, The Gossip, Gorillaz, The Knack, Bjork, New Order, Talking Heads, X-Ray Spex... and We Started Nothing is genuinely chock-a-block with crazy-making familiar riffs, progressions and hooks. Seasoned listeners will find themselves in an obsessive game of spot-the-reference, while The Ting Tings' intended audience will happily give not a shit that "Great DJ" actually cops the two-chord backbone of Eddie Money's "Baby Hold On To Me," and makes a smashy-smashy electropop mind-control machine out of it.

The distaff Clash-on-funk of "Shut Up and Let Me Go" meanwhile has already seeped into our North American lives through an iPod commercial. Or so I hear, anyway. I've written before that I don't have an iPod, and miraculously, I seem to have a blind spot for the adverts too.

But let it be said that I like The Ting Tings, very much. They call me grouchy, they call me old, they call me wrinkly, they call me bald -- but that's not my name. Not for the two or three weeks of mindless summer joy I intend to leech from We Started Nothing, anyway.

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