To anyone else in music, permanently deleting songs you’ve recorded simply because your record label likes them would be lunacy. Not if you’re The Ting Tings.
For a large part of 2008 they were Les Inescapables. If they weren’t blasting from every radio near you they were aurally assaulting you in that incessant iTunes advert. Critically as well as commercially their distinct brand of shouty pop did well – bagging them a Novello Prize in 2009 before they disappeared, presumably back to Salford to plot “WHAT NEXT?”
“What next?” indeed…
Perhaps hoping to start their own Bowie-esque Berlin Trilogy they then decamped to Berlin (it’s never Middlesbrough with these things) where they rented an old jazz club to record in. There they spent 9 months quietly working on a follow-up, influenced by dance and techno.
The product of all this was supposedly at one stage going to be an album called Kunst, which is German for ‘art’ – and sounds a bit rude in English if you mispronounce it. ‘Hands’ – a really rather good first single was released, but after they refused to perform on the most watched British TV performance slot because it just happened to be The X Factor it stalled at No.29, like any other single from a band returning from a 2 year break with minimal promotion.
This is when things started to go a bit mammaries-up…
Columbia, their label decided to have a first listen to the fruits of their labour. After hearing them rave about how brilliantly radio-friendly the 10 or so tracks were, The Ting Tings decided that only sensible thing to do would be to DELETE THE LOT. And then bugger off to Spain to start again from scratch.
They attempted to justify this in their recent interview with The Observer by going on about it being too easy “to quickly bash out any old shit off the back of the first album. Get it on the radio, have a cheap nasty hit. And we didn’t want to do that.”
Making statements like you’d “rather puke on your feet” than fit in with the likes of David Guetta is all very noble, but when second albums by major labels often sell 90% less than debuts there’s a fine line between artistic principles and a total lack of business acumen. And if the songs had really been so awful in the first place then it’s doubtful they would’ve presented them to the label in the first place.
What we have here ladies and gentlemen is a case of MGMTitus…
Rewind back to 2008 when MGMT were everywhere. Oracular Spectacular’s singles, particularly ‘Time to Pretend’ and ‘Kids’ were the curse of every montage/TV drama trailer. Voicing their discomfort with this new-found fame, they returned in 2010 with the psychedelic Congratulations, a deliberate u-turn away from anything that had brought them commercial success. When in uneasy interviews forced to promote your new record you describe it as “a collection of nine individual musical tours de force sequenced to flow with sonic and thematic coherence” while at the same time declaring “no hits, no singles…it’s not like we’re entitled to have tons of people care about our artistic vision.”
Does any of this seem familiar to you?
The Ting Tings are a bit like a teenager who’s just dyed their hair a ridiculous shade of maroon. Tell them that the ridiculous shade of maroon compliments their bone structure and makes their skin look quite nice (for a change), they’re liable to snarl at you before reaching for the clippers and doing a Britney.
As it hasn’t been released yet, it’s hard to say for certain whether their new album Sounds from Nowheresville will utterly bomb. The reaction to its leak a week ago has been mixed, with the band themselves asking their label via Twitter to rush-release it; “Come on … let it go!!!” showing that they’re not completely commercially contrary as they’d have you believe.
With their most recent single failing to chart at all and their fan-submitted cover art featuring the two of them as grinning, rotting corpses, The Ting Tings at least seem 100% committed to making their destiny come true. Whatever that is.