Singles Again

Ying Yang Twins, the Rogers Sisters, Glass Candy, and Jah Division.

Ying Yang Twins' "Wait (The Whisper Song)" (TVT) is the best single of 2005 so far, and I claim that as someone who's totally annoyed by it. It single-handedly invents subtle crunk, with a groove so minimal, its only percussion is fake finger snaps, and a pair of MCs who've had the brilliant idea of whispering into the mike instead of yelling. You catch more flies with honey than with Crunk Juice, as they say, and for a song about seduction, it's a perfect move. What Kaine and D-Roc are actually whispering, though, might as well be bellowed: "Hey, bitch, wait till you see my dick/I'm-a beat that pussy up," the chorus goes. It comes off as mind-bendingly creepy—think of the physical proximity to somebody you need in order to whisper to them—especially when one of them starts repeating, "Beat the pussy up, beat the pussy up," like he's actually quietly psyching himself up to approach the hot mama in question.

The Twins have also recorded both a "clean" version, which substitutes ohs, aahs, and OOOOHs for every "dick" and sound effects for every other piece of anatomy, and a "nonsuggestive radio mix," whose hook goes, "Hey, girl, wait till I show you this/You will never get enough." (The bar for "nonsuggestive" is evidently set a little lower than it used to be.) They both obviously lack the increasingly lascivious fervor of the "street" version, though. Really, the best way to enjoy "Wait" is to take it the way the Ying Yangsters intended it, and if the words start pissing you off, just pretend it's actually in a foreign language.

The Rogers Sisters have done that to themselves, joining the great tradition of bands (the Beatles, ABBA, the Police) who've rerecorded their own songs in languages they're clearly a little iffy on. They're credited as Les Soeurs Rogers on their bizarre new single, "Les Fantaisies Sont Bien" (Troubleman Unlimited)—it's a French version of "Fantasies Are Nice," from their recent EP Three Fingers. The original "Fantasies Are Nice" got its power from a combination of the band's jerking B-52-robot arrangement and Jennifer Rogers' brisk yelp, which sounds like she's trying to describe everything she knows about her interior life ("When fantasies are bad! They are humiliating!") to distract herself from something happening in the real world. In French, though, the song just sounds like a string of invective; Rogers' delivery recalls the taunting French knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The B-side is a Japanese version of Three Fingers' "45 Prayers," sung by bassist Miyuki Furtado, who turns out to have exactly the same new-wave hiccup in both languages.

These days,actual full-on disco records are a rare breed, but Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre's "Life After Sundown," a white-label 12-inch single, delivers the goods for 10 glorious minutes—throw in a string section and it could pass for a lost artifact from 1979. Glass Candy's frontwoman, Ida No, has temporarily put aside her Bowie idolatry in favor of approximating what would happen if Debbie Harry woke up one morning in the body of a Goth, and the arrangement is a postapocalyptic variation on Blondie's "Atomic" (with a touch of New Order's "Everything's Gone Green"): breakdowns, grand transitions, galloping drums a little off the beat, lurching octave bass, a synthesizer sound like dirty wind chimes. There's even a sincere if addlepated saxophone solo, which eventually splits itself amoeba-style into a whole bandstand's worth of honks and squeals. The weird part is that after having played it maybe 20 times, I still can't remember how the song goes, even while listening to the B-side's instrumental version. It's a dead-on evocation of form that doesn't even bother with content—or rather, it points out that this particular kind of form is all the content you need.

Speaking of New Order, sort of: Jah Division, the instrumental dub Joy Division cover project featuring members of Home and Oneida, sound like they'd be a better imaginary band than a real one. (As Ian Curtis sang, "What ya gonna do when the novelty has gone?") Fortunately, their 12-inch EP, Dub Will Tear Us Apart (The Social Registry), is almost as good as the joke—especially if, as some Internet genius figured out, you play it at 33 RPM instead of 45 to let the bass throb as slowly and deeply as it needs to. Apart from a too-literal take on "Love Will Tear Us Apart," Jah Division interpret these songs mercifully freely. They take Peter Hook's bass lines, fragments of the original melodies, and especially the original record's chilly keyboard sound as their starting point, but they treat the project as an exercise in mood that just happens to have borrowed its themes from the same unlikely place. Which is to say that if you didn't know "Heart and Soul Dub" and "Dub Disorder" were somebody else's songs grafted onto an alien idiom, you'd figure they were just sad, creamy dub recordings. As a record, it's a great argument for the EP format. An album of this stuff would be way too much, but four songs? Ace.

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