The Ting Tings: The definitive incarnation of the modern band?

25 02 2012

This week in a blaze of confusing controversy, The Ting Ting’s are back for a belated second album. You will remember them, of course as the duo behind the charmingly irksome number 1 single That’s Not My Name and the ipod advert theme, Shut Up and Let Me Go, both of which spawned from their 2008 album We Started Nothing.

Originally written after their previous band collapsed, and they were chucked from their record label, We Started Nothing is a delightfully bratty, catchy record, pitched midway between Punk and 80s pop.  It was an enourmous hit, mainly on the back of That’s Not My Name (which started life as a b-side, but a push from the NME, and airplay on Radio 1 got it a proper release) and for a summer at least, their songs seemed to soundtrack every advert.

Fast forward two years, and they release an apparently “low key” single, produced by hitmaker Calvin Harris, which gets  Radio 1 playlisted, but still only makes number 28 in the charts. The Ting Tings were apparently annoyed, and deleted all the things they were working on, things the record company were apparently quite keen on.

So they started again, and it has taken till now for us to see the fruits of their labour. Time will tell whether it makes or breaks them, but their oddly contrarian attitude in interviews – not interested in making “hits” anymore, deleting songs the record company liked, taking four years to follow up a hit album, is threatening to overshadow the actual thing they are putting out.

So to recap – a well liked début album that was critically and commerically supported, odd unpunky  attitudes to licensing their music (the aforementioned iPod advert, their work has also hawked Fanta, and appeared on film soundtracks), punky attitudes to their record label, confusion over whether they are a “pop” band or an “indie” band (a debate which “raged” in 2008, in a similar way to the issue Lana Del Ray is facing now about apparent authenticity) all comes together to make me ask the question – are The Ting Tings the perfect manifestation of the confused nature of being in a band at the moment?

That isn’t to say they are the best – although their previous singles had charm, you would be hard pushed to call We Started Nothing a classic, but in their bizarrly confused attitude and appearance, they appear to reflect a growing confusion, from both the press and public about what exactly is important – authenticity? not “selling out”? (in an age when it is harder for artists to find monkeymaking outlets, that one could be trickier) pop? indie? What does it all mean, and does it matter? They also of course, like any respectable modern band have a girl fronting them – boy frontmen are so 2003.

It will be interesting to see what album number 2 wields – I suspect they will have to avoid the ubiquity of 2008, but will the “cool” crowd take them back now?

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