In 2008, The Ting Tings came to the forefront of indie pop with debut album We Started Nothing; an LP full of bouncy beats and catchy chorus with well-crafted singles like ‘Shut Up & Let Me Go’ and ‘That’s Not My Name’. It led to the album rocketing to the number one spot and selling over one million copies.
However, it’s been a long 4-year wait for The Ting Tings second album titled Sounds From Nowheresville. Indeed, the duo – Jules de Martino and Katie White – actually gave several release dates, released a poorly-received single ‘Hands’ in 2010 – charting at no.29 despite Radio One A-listing – as well as a potential album title of Kunst. Eventually, the project was scrapped for sounding too much like other mainstream music and “euro-pop shite”. Instead, the band moved recording from Berlin to Southern Spain and recorded a batch of new songs.
And so we come to 2012 and the release of that ‘difficult’ second album. First track ‘Silence’ is definitely a maturation of the old sound; more synth-layers, occasion electro twangs with White’s voice sounding smooth rather than the punky-shout that was heard of much of the first album. Indeed, it retains the Ting Tings classic format with a simple lyrical repetition of “Hold, hold your tongue now/And let them all listen to your silence” and is probably the best track on the album.
Lead single ‘Hang It Up’ appears as a back to basics song as The Ting Tings try to, unsuccessfully, blur the line between pop and rock music. Its got White’s trademark; shouty vocals, rock guitar chords and a vocal contribution from de Martino, yet this is undoubtable a pop song. Indeed, it shows the very problem with the Ting Tings who always felt that their DIY kitch sound bordered on garage rock and deserved more than its placing on the pop shelf. Such a belief can be seen in the first few seconds of the song as it sounds like the band are about to launch into one of rock music’s most identifiable notes in Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.
This lead single is surrounded by two other rock-styled songs in ‘Hit Me Down Sonny’ and ‘Give It Back’; the first presents itself as a blend of rock and funk with the latter heading into a Vines garage rock direction. Both recapture the brash bold style of the debut album singles, yet appear languid in comparison. Neither reach the same energetic heights or achieve the same catchy refrains that made them a radio mainstay.
Indeed, this tend of lethargy continues through as by the end of the album, the band are clearly losing their way. ‘Day to Day’ is particularly unforgivable, sounding both musically and vocally like its been ripped from the annals of 90s pop music. ‘Help’ similarly enters in pop past, sounding like an Alanis Morissette song for the first few minutes before launching into a heavy-electronic rhythm. Closer ‘Into Your Life’ is a ballad of Lord of the Rings strings and Lana Del Rey melodramatic vocals.
Yet, it is not all doom and gloom. ‘Soul Killing’ goes into a different pop direction of R&B-reggae fusion of trumpets and ‘oh-oh’ backings. It presents an interesting development for the band as well as possessing a brilliant hook with “They can never hold us down, they can never hold us down”. It won’t be for everyone though with its bouncy fun beat. Indeed, this along with ‘One By One’ sound more like Ladyhawke or Little Boots than The Ting Tings.
Overall, the album is about enjoyable as the first; it has its quick peppy beats, an occasional punk-attitude, Eurythmics melodies and a new, softer sound. Yet, it is clear when listening to the whole album that the duo struggled with what musical direction to head in. After 4 years hard at work, Sounds From Nowhereville sounds both too messy and flakey; and the duo are yet to present a case that they are the real deal rather than another landfill indie.