This week's Official UK Singles Chart

1 SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND (Girls Aloud)

This week the charts wake up a little, the first full sales week of the new year bringing with it a clutch of new releases. Rising above them all, however, are Girls Aloud, the Christmas Number One single clocking up a fourth successive week at the top of the charts. Sound Of The Underground is the first single to spend this long at the top since Elvis vs JXL's A Little Less Conversation back in June last year. Indeed as Sound Of The Underground began its chart run in 2002 it means that last year saw no less than four different singles top the charts for four weeks, the highest such total since 1995 when seven different tracks spent four weeks or more at the summit. Much was made when the single was released of the way ratings for the TV series had been much lower than in previous incarnations and that the single even in Christmas week sold "only" 200,000 copies rather than the one million clocked up by the likes of Will and Gareth. The suggestion was that the bubble had burst and that nobody was really interested in the Popstars bands. With this single though the sheer appeal of the song has won through and Sound Of The Underground has turned into a genuine crossover hit. All we have to do is hope their subsequent songs are just as good. [I think it is safe to say they delivered with bells on there].
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2 DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE (Electric Six)

Fire in the disco. Electric Six began their career in Detroit as The Wild Bunch, originally forming back in 1996 with a self-stated mission to "perform experiments on Rock and Roll". Fruits of those experiments include this astoundingly good debut chart single, and almost indescribable mix of garage rock and disco beats that can barely be described as a proper song but which manages to make you sit up and pay attention from the moment you first hear it. Much has been made of the fact that the backing vocals on the track sound suspiciously like White Stripes singer Jack White despite the fact that the band were having to deny this in interviews as far back as last August. Whatever the case, it has all helped in the promotion of the single and indeed the biggest surprise of the week is the way Danger High Voltage has to content itself with the runners-up slot rather than storming to the top of the charts. In a way it is a shame that such an inspired record should come out at this time of year when sales are at their lowest and when it is likely to pass under the radar of many people but it does at least bode well for 2003 that the first big new hit of the year is one that makes this writer at least very keen to hear what else they have to offer. We'll stop short of labelling Electric Six this years next big thing, especially given that the songs of 1999's next big thing are now appearing in television adverts. [That was a reference to Joy by Gay Dad which was playing as the soundtrack to TV commercials for Mitsubishi 4x4s].


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5 THE WAY (PUT YOUR HAND IN MY HAND) (Divine Inspiration)

Time to come crashing down to earth sadly as this next new entry shows little in the way of innovation but at the very least works to a tried and tested formula. Yes, this is another bubbly northern house single featuring the obligatory fluffy female vocal (in this case newcomer Sarah-Jane Scott) and a clutch of mixes to prevent your local club DJ from getting tired of this for weeks. In fairness even if you don't happen to like this type of record there is very little to dislike about it and the one overwhelming point in its favour is that it is a new song and not a cheesy 80s pop cover. That doesn't mean we are spared such a thing this week, oh no.
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9 SACRED TRUST/AFTER YOUR GONE (One True Voice)

With the sad death of Maurice Gibb having been announced as I write this there is no more appropriate tribute than to highlight the presence of one of his songs on the chart this week. Sacred Trust was originally written and recorded by the Bee Gees and appeared on their 2001 album This Is Where I Came In. One True Voice producer Pete Waterman heard the song when it was first written but disliked the version the group had recorded on the album - hence his determination to produce his own version for his TV charges. It may have been received rather negatively when compared to the offering by Girls Aloud but on its own it stands out as a fine example of the way even after over three decades in the business the brothers Gibb could still turn out an enormously appealing pop song. That in itself is Maurice Gibb's greatest legacy.
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10 SOLSBURY HILL (Erasure)

So what do you do if you are a semi-legendary 80s pop duo with a penchant for synthesisers but whose records haven't exactly been setting the charts on fire over the last few years? Well one way forward is to record an interesting choice of cover version, release it in January and see what happens. It is a welcome back to the Top 10 for Erasure, last seen in the singles chart back in October 2000 with Freedom (a Number 27 hit) and whose last Top 10 appearance was almost nine years ago - July 1994 to be exact when Run To The Sun hit Number 6. Solsbury Hill was originally a hit for Peter Gabriel and was the former Genesis singers first solo hit, reaching Number 13 in 1977. With hindsight it was probably the perfect choice for an Erasure cover version and purists will be relieved to know that Vince and Andy have done it proud. What remains now is to see whether this is a novelty one-off or the catalyst for a full blown Erasure comeback in 2003. Certainly this isn't the first time the pair have made a splash with a cover version (their biggest hit ever is 1992s chart-topping Abba-Esque EP) but of course the difference back then was that they had some strong material of their own to follow it up with. Only the most die-hard fan would deny that much of their recent output has been somewhat rubbish. All they need is for Vince Clarke to rediscover his old gift of creating magical pop records.
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12 TIMES LIKE THESE (Foo Fighters)

Followup up the Top 5 hit All My Life from October last year is this latest Foo Fighters single, another example of the way the band have given up pretending that their songs don't have hooks and instead have just got on with the business of making some fine rock singles. This actually marks the first time since 1997 that the band have managed to clock up two successive Top 20 hits.


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13 I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY (Flip & Fill)

Now don't say I didn't warn you. At some point the market for cheesy house covers of 80s pop songs has to collapse but until then we appear to be stuck with them. I Want To Dance With Somebody was of course originally recorded by Whitney Houston and topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1987. It is one of the all time greatest pop records and a genuine high water mark in Whitney's career. This new version from Flip & Fill is of course none of these things and is of course as pointless as Pascal's version of I Think We're Alone Now which charted prior to Christmas. The only other fun point of note is that the singer on this track is Jo James who was the singer on the original version of Shooting Star - that song of course being covered by Flip & Fill last year with Karen Parry as the singer, who was of course the singer on Pascal's I Think We're Alone Now. Excuse me, I need to lie down for a moment.
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14 SCIENCE OF SILENCE (Richard Ashcroft)

Presenting Richard Ashcroft's followup to Check The Meaning which hit Number 11 back in October last year and which seemed to be an airplay staple on 6 Music for most of the rest of the year. Silence Is Silence is one of those singles that provokes intense debate with people trying desperately to work out what it reminds them of - Popbitch suggesting it is Fairytale Of New York crossed with Saltwater. Either way it makes for yet another pleasantly memorable single from the former Verve frontman and is enough to give him a fifth solo hit single, all but one having hit the Top 20.
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15 WE DON'T CARE (Audio Bullys)

A not altogether unwelcome chart debut for the Audio Bullys whose last single Real Life was one of the club highlights of last summer, even if it did fail to register a presence on the charts. Simon Franks and Tom Dinsdale make up the duo and they are generally lumped together with the likes of Basement Jaxx although their influences are clearly far closer to home. We Don't Care is by no means a major chart hit - not just yet anyway - but as good innovative dance music it stands head and shoulders above certain cheesy cover versions that I could mention.
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16 BORN AGAIN (Badly Drawn Boy)

The emergence of Badly Drawn Boy as a consistent hitmaker was one of the nicest surprises of 2002, even if his last single You Were Right was helped into the Top 9 by dint of being a limited release. Still, a Number 9 hit is a Number 9 hit in any language and if it brought him to the attention of even more people then it was not a bad thing. His first release of 2003 is another quality release and another Top 20 hit. What more could you wish for?
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25 CRUSHED LIKE FRUIT (Inme)

Hailing from Essex, alternative rockers Inme are another group lining up to be the next big things of the music world. Their second single Firefly became their first chart record when it hit Number 43 back in September and now with this single they make that all important Top 40 breakthrough. Their debut album Overgrown Eden follows at the end of the month. Watch them, they have the potential for much much more.
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26 PSYCHOSIS SAFARI (Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster)

Another rock act making their Top 40 debut this week are the impressively named Eighties Matchbox Beeline Disaster. Just like Inme they also made their chart debuts last year, Celebrate Your Mother hitting Number 66 last September.
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34 WILD AS ANGELS EP (Levellers)

To round things off this week a not altogether unwelcome return for The Levellers. The original crusty heroes haven't been seen in the Top 40 since the re-release of One Way made Number 33 in February 1999 but they break that long spell away with this new single, their second in recent months following Come On which hit Number 44 back in September. Impressively this is their 19th chart single since 1991 although none have ever made the Top 10, their highest chart position coming in May 1992 when the 15 Years EP made Number 11. The all time record holders in this respect are of course AC/DC who have had 27 chart singles without ever once climbing higher than Number 12.