Great song titles, shame about the tunes. In fact, great concept all round, shame about the tunes. And the irritating thing is, the more you listen to the uninspired cacophony of noise Meet Me In St Louis have decided to thrust on us, the more you start to think that maybe even the song titles are just a load of pretention wank, too.
You see, within a few minutes of slipping the CD into the hi-fi, double-clicking on the MP3, psychically downloading the vibes to your frontal lobe or doing whatever it is you do to process beats these days, you’ll quickly realise that MMISL are the aural equivalent of the irritating git from IT who thinks he’s about a thousand times cleverer than he actually is.
At first, he fools you because only he can clear your email cache, but the third time you have to ask him to do it, you realise that he has this skill not because he’s more talented and intelligent than you, but because you’ve had better things to do with your life than learn it. MMISL is the band he listens to when he gets home. He (and probably the band themselves) think you’re just not clever enough to ‘get’ them. They are so wrong.
Of course, some people do like unlistenable noise, with broken riff beats, vague shouting where lyrics should be, no discernable melody or harmony, and a lot of racket thrown in. There are odd moments when you think maybe the odd heavy metal fan could get something out of this. Maybe a disaffected 14-year-old in a particularly sulky mood could take it to their heart.
Once you make the decision that Variations On Swing is irredeemable, you’ll start to notice that there are a few moments, such as I Beat Up The Bathroom, I’m Sorry, that aren’t quite as bad as the others. For brief minutes here and there, you may waver, as I have done, between a one and two star review. But these are naught more than a consolation goal amid the 6-1 drubbing your talent receptors are suffering. You will realise this at the precise moment when the proggy guitar bit at the beginning of Come To New York…. becomes a few seconds of blessed relief.
More fun than listening to the album is thinking up new pop-related games you could play with it. For instance: fantasy cover reworkings – you choose your favourite star to create a new track from a title taken from Variations On Swing. Kate Nash for I Am Champagne, You Are Shit, for instance. The Streets For Well, You Damn Well Should. Do Make Say Think for I’ve Got Knives In My Eyes…. The Killers with their new mate Lou Reed for Fewer Murders, and so it goes on. Whatever combination you come up with, it’ll be more fun that listening to the original.
Which brings us back to the beginning. Sadly, Meet Me In St Louis’ greatest crime has been to promise us greatness and to monumentally under-deliver. Tthey’re on tour at the moment in case you’d rather make your own mind up, but don’t say you weren’t warned.