The Ting Tings - V Festival Weston Park review
'The new tracks jar against the well-aged hits'
Will Saunders - 19 August 2012
Purveyors of pure powerhouse pop, and former festival main stage mainstays, The Ting Tings' three year hiatus from the musical radar leaves them uncomfortably slotted in to
a mid-afternoon billing under the canopy of V Festival's Arena Stage.
With sophomore album 'Sounds from Nowheresville' sinking from the charts without a hit single or any of the mass-popularity playfulness of 2008's 'We Started Nothing', Jules de Martino and Katie White find themselves at the crux of a curious paradox: play for the crowd and emphasise their debut record to the detriment of the new material, or place the latter front and centre and hope to placate the 'That's Not My Name' brigade with new slices of three chord riffs and schoolyard singsong melodies?
Ultimately a compromise ensues. Pride is at stake. For a band who found instant success when emerging with a fully formed collection of instant pop classics, the sulky petulance that has characterised the turbulent birth of their second album manifests itself here as spiky defiance and aggression, the smiles, playful jumpsuits and hand claps of old replaced by brattish jerkiness, potty mouth cursing and a pained degree of try-hardery, at odds with the duplo simplicity of their songs.
Oddly emerging to Doves' 'The Cedar Room' before bursting into 'Great DJ', physically The 'Tings appear in good shape, and White especially embodies the part of indie princess frontwoman - the body of a pin-up wrapped in a loosely fitting short shawl and shorts. However, as fine as she looks, White remains a soft touch instrumentalist; her guitar playing especially restricted to limited chord progressions and two-tone riffs, lengthening every song into a new adventure in structural discovery through the necessary obligation for de Martino to record and loop any vaguely complex instrumentation. That's not to say White lacks stage presence, but her clumsily erratic staggering at times feels like a contrived diversionary tactic to deflect the eye from her rudimentary musicianship.
"We've been away for a little while", bashfully declares White between tracks, her words falling on the thick humid fug brewed to bikram perfection by a combination of humidity, incessant downpours and lingering sweat from Wretch 32's preceding set. It seems an apt setting for The Ting Tings redux, who, despite the adversity, have lost none of the loop-pedal and sample infused driving percussion that allows the duo to create heavingly pounding and ever-expanding sonic showcases on a two or three chord canvas.
What's gone missing in action somewhere though are the melodies. The teenage angst of 'Hang It Up' sticks in the memory for its 'us against the world' lyrics rather than a classic tune, and the contrast with crowd favourites 'Shut Up and Let Me Go' and opener 'Great DJ' is a stark illustration of the role melody plays in straddling the fine line between playful nursery rhyming and excessive emotional overdrive.
Indeed, there's been a change in season in The Ting Tings' once colourful spring garden, the colour palette now less primary pastel than aggressive monochrome, a starkly bleak manifestation of a once playful nature. Nowhere is this best illustrated than stop-gap single, 'Hands', where the chimingly melodic keys and harmonies have been replaced with industrially booming techno, giving an oppressively (and detrimentally) metallic sheen to a once sunny clap-along.
Closing on 'That's Not My Name', The Ting Tings demonstrate that they still know their way around a killer pop song, and the multi-faceted layers of tawdry back-room brew-ha and scatty middle finger salutes give White a perfect stage to fling her hair in a whirlwind frenzy as the song builds to a rousing crescendo. It's a great moment, rescuing a set that at times has struggled with an expectation deficit, the new tracks jarringly exposed against the well-aged hits.
Their next move will be an interesting one, but undoubtedly The Ting Tings have work to do in order to reassert themselves on the charts, festival billings or, more importantly, a once adoring public, whose attention span surely won't countenance another hit-free record.
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