Where to begin with the story of Sounds From Nowheresville, the long-time-in-coming second LP from Salford duo The Ting Tings? Well, let’s start from the very top, in case you’ve forgotten all about them altogether. They went from bottom-of-the-bill band on the NME Awards tour to selling more than 600,000 copies of debut release We Started Nothing four years ago. After many months in Berlin in 2010, they were all set to release Kunst, a title they later claimed was nothing more than a joke, in early 2011, with Hands as the lead single.
Except that never actually happened. The plug was pulled on that plan, and they moved to Spain, where they began work all over again. A year on, and finally an end product drops. Hands, once the fanfare for Kunst, is now nothing more than a stand-alone single that will appear on a deluxe edition of this album. It all adds to something that sounds rather confused.
The album begins with Silence, which is anything but silent. Instead it’s slow-burner that builds and builds until the lyrics of “Listen to your silence” becomes a rallying cry. It’s the obligatory second-album ‘epic first song’. But the remaining nine tracks do not continue in the same vein. Sounds From Nowheresville is rather more of a mish-mash of different ideas that have varying success rates.
Hit Me Down Sonny combines military drumming and church bells whilst Katie White sings some nonsense about Speedy Gonzalez that would drive any sensible person up the wall. It’s so cartoony that it’s almost unbearable, but it’s not quite as tedious as White’s storytime narrative. It’s central to Guggenheim, set against the sort of tinny beats that the Fresh Prince would recognise. Found Shut Up And Let Me Go and That’s Not My Name too bratty? You’ll want to slap this one.
On the other hand there are also some tunes that veer away from pop altogether. Give It Back Snowy is the duo’s rockiest moment of their career so far, even if the beginning sounds a tiny bit like Blur‘s Crazy Beat, and One By One feels very new wave and might be an indicator as to what this all would have been like had they stuck to their guns in Berlin. Towards the end the tempo is brought right down; Help is acoustically driven and might’ve worked had it not been so lyrically banal to begin with. And if it wasn’t ruined by blaring synthesisers.
Ultimately it’s hard to see this matching the levels of their early success. In terms of where the hits are going to come through, it’s hard to pinpoint any song in particular. The closest is Soul Killing, but only because it is the most radio-friendly tune with its refrain of “They can never hold us down”. The variety of styles shows potential avenues for The Ting Tings to amble down. But, even after the painfully slow gestation of this record, they still seem undecided on which one to take.