Somewhere, Under The Radar
Review of “Why Can’t You Write Something Nice For A Change” by Tingle In The Netherlands

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Released in February, 2013, the debut studio LP by Tingle In The Netherlands has seen them steadily establish a rising loyalty from an extremely eclectic, worldwide web of an audience.  Which is just as well, as theirs is a record that is unlikely to strike a chord with the mainstream.  Even within the self-aggrandising “cool kids” who seek out alternative music with discerning taste, this is almost a record that dares to seek out it’s audience rather than the other way around. 

This is intelligent, avant-electro-pop music that deliberately and wilfully challenges it’s audience in order to establish if they’re clever enough to understand what the mischievous Manchester duo are doing.  Spoilers for this record came in 2010 in the form of their single “Prostitute’s Handbag” which was championed by Dandelion Radio’s Mark Whitby and made it into Dandelion’s Festive Fifty at number 11.  With the couplet “Prostitute’s handbag, made in China, Prostitute’s handbag, bought with vagina”, it is perhaps surprising that they rarely actually contravene Offcom’s stringent rules, and testament to their clever use of language that they can be frequently potty-mouthed without using any “banned vocabulary”.  But it probably shouldn’t surprise us, as the duo’s singer, Helen Tingle (nee Thomas) is a working, gigging poet (tricky work to get, by all accounts) and clearly relishes the use of words to steer a sometimes sordid, sometimes mundane, usually satirical, and always entertaining character portrait for the various protagonists of these songs.  Owen Tingle (nee J) evidently shares Helen’s love of carefully chosen, barbed words, as is gleefully displayed in “Forest Of Cocks”, a spoken word delivery over a sparse electronic soundscape which sounds simultaneously retro and futuristic, and his delivery is reminiscent of a sordid Vivian Stanshall.

There are inevitable comparisons that will and, perhaps, should be made to various synth-pop pioneer acts from the (very) late seventies to the mid eighties, and there is evidently deliberate reference and respect for people such as Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Vince Clarke, Soft Cell, etc, but that should not over-shadow the resultant implicit tone of post-punk.  This is not kitsch, ironic music, even if the lyrics are dripping with irony.  The music is seriously, and carefully crafted, and it raises the question of how humour fits into music.  There seems to be three ways that music and humour work together.  The first way is the comedy song.  This is usually the marriage of humour and music that works the least effectively (eg, The Stonk Song by Hale & Pace).  Then there is the serious song with humour in the lyrics (eg, Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by The Smiths).  Then there is a song that is deliberately crafted to be great music and cleverly witty lyrics.  An example of that might be found in Alien Sex Fiend’s “Doing Time In A Maximum Security Twilight Home”.  This is quite similar to the tone achieved by Tingle In The Netherlands here.  It is irreverent, satirical, post-punk music and the delivery of stark, spacious electronica with a deadpan vocal delivery similar to Dubstar helps evoke the industrial Manchester scenery, and Factory records history that created the context from which Tingle In The Netherlands was born, and convincingly continues the post-punk electronica and avoids simply paying homage.

Not everybody is going to like it.  Not everybody will be able to understand what they have done.  But for Helen and Owen, this is an LP they can feel proud of, and trust the audience they have and will establish to be intelligent to move, laugh, think, theorise, and politicise with them.

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