It’s been almost four years since British duo the Ting Tings’ “Shut Up and Let Me Go” became a minor stateside hit, thanks in large part to its placement in an iPod commercial.
The Ting Tings aren’t the first act to find themselves unable to capitalize on a boost from Apple (Where have you gone, Yael Naim?), but “Shut Up” was singular in its wretchedness, possessing all the brattiness of punk and none of the cred.
In search of a follow-up, the duo repaired to Berlin, where they made a dance-pop album they deemed too potentially commercial (see: uncool) to release. It was never finished, although traces of it can be found, like fossils in the dirt, on their sophomore disc, “Sounds From Nowheresville.”
“Nowheresville” journeys from sung-shouted garage pop to electro bangers to reggae to ballads to Urban Outfitters goth. It positions the Ting Tings as either a pop duo for hipster types who scorn pop, or the Black Eyed Peas for people who know what the Guggenheim is (indeed, “Guggenheim,” a fascinating mess of a spoken-word track, is almost the best thing here).
Some tracks, such as the great, rangy, unclassifiable “Hit Me Down Sonny,” demonstrate the possibilities of the duo’s too-cool-for-pop approach. Others drone on unhappily, as if the Ting Tings, in their perverse quest for the avant-garde, were determined to distance themselves as much as possible from things that might be pleasurable, such as melodies or hooks. The best songs here bridge the gap between the two, as on the Brit pop-referencing “Give It Back.” It might not be revolutionary, but it’s the best song Elastica never made.
The Ting Tings will perform April 14 at Rams Head Live in Baltimore.
“Hit Me Down Sonny,” “Guggenheim”