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The Ting Tings
We Started Nothing David McNamee , May 19th, 2008 00:00

The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing

It’s a funny title. Where Ting Tings’ contemporaries are loading the titles of their debuts with aggressive, reactionary statements of intent, they’ve twisted their own hype on its head. Hadouken! promised a Declaration Of War in the face of the hype-fearing, pop-loathing critics, to whom every note of their antagonistically Skins soundtrack-like music reminds that they’re ’Not Here To Please You’.

You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into Does It Offend You Yeah? similarly taunted. All these beautifully disposable, use-once-and-destroy pop groups getting saddeningly self-important in the face of rock crits demanding that they justify their existence, the 20k+ plays of their biggest tune on in the past six months, the Club NME tours, the thronging, monged-out tweenagers.

So it’s kind of funny that Ting Tings will offer a simple, honest shrug of We Started Nothing right at the moment that song makes a heat missile strike on the Number One spot.

It’s a disingenuously modest statement, given that they’ve casually dropped 2008’s summer anthem in ’That’s Not My Name’. Watching them pound out this maddeningly basic pop idea you feel kind of conflicted by the American Apparel-advert self-stylisation of the Salford duo - the aviator shades so permanently affixed to the face of Jules De Martino that you want to punch them off, the verging-on-mid-Atlantic girl group vocal stylings of ex-girl group singer Katie White " and the sparse clatter of the song and its no-brainer catchiness.

’That’s Not My Name’ single-handedly outstrips any pop song released so far this summer, and somehow annihilates the point of The Ting Tings even putting out an album. Like Los Campesinos! and Hadouken!, you get the feeling an album is really the wrong format for Ting Tings, and that like Ash, they should just shift to releasing regular singles instead.

We Started Nothing as an album doesn’t really work. The shifts in sound from song to song sound superficial and arbitrary, and you find having to listen to 10 Ting Tings songs in order a bit frustrating " they sound infinitely cooler as one-off bursts of pop effervescence, spread out on mixtapes, in club playlists or on an iPod shuffle down at the beach with friends and drugs.

The bits where it works the best is where it’s most similar to the extended live version of ’That’s Not My Name’ (which as Leonie Cooper pointed out in The Guardian recently, is closer to the song’s original eight-minute improvised loft-party version). It’s here that you can really work out what Katie and Jules are all about. It’s Katie who makes this band, in fact - an out-and-out T4 pop girl who wandered into schmindie accidentally when she ended up in Jules’ pre-Tings band Dear Eskiimo. She takes Ting Tings from being an otherwise depressingly bland pop idea (for a two-piece there is a real rounding off of any edginess, and most of the backing tracks sound so neat and obvious and spontaneity-free that they could be Mac-bundled Garageband demonstation tunes) into something else.

You can’t hear it in the CSS-like ’Shut Up And Let Me Go’ single, but it’s sung loud and proud in ’Impacilla Carpisung’ or ’We Walk’. It’s the sound of someone who’s wandered in between worlds, and in trying to get from one idea (’No Way No Way’ by Vanilla-grade late-Nineties girl pop) to another (NME-flavoured indie) has ended up somewhere else together. Although the live version of ’That’s Not My Name’ starts off sounding like white-girl Top Shop rap, by its crescendo you’ve suddenly realised that what you’re really listening to is closer in spirit to " wow - Life Without Buildings.

Like Robyn, whose recent live shows showcasing a two-drummer, one-keyboard stripped-down reinterpretation of her recorded works were almost post-punk-pop, it’s a gorgeous accident. It’s got the same brilliant naivety as early Electrelane, enthused young musicians blissfully unaware of the krautrock and Stereolab people accused them of aping.

People really want The Tings Tings to be some spiritual spawn of Girls Aloud and Blood Red Shoes; pop music made credible by being rendered in a recognisably ’indie’ set-up. But what they really are has the potential to be something even better.

The Ting Tings - 'That's Not My Name'