Great DJ #1: the Ting Tings
My favorite new song of the last few weeks – apart from welcome comebacks to form from R.E.M. and James – has been “Great DJ” by the Ting Tings. An effervescent, mildly pumping, half indie, half dance, crossover floor-filler by the Salford (yep, that’s Manchester again) duo of Katie White (vox, guitar) and Jules De Martino (vox, drums), “Great DJ” is one of those instantly adorable songs that you recognize may not be a classic for the ages, but which you can’t stop playing in the interim. With echoes of Blur’s “Girls & Boys,” the Soulwax groove and a certain fellow northern English Ladytron rhythm, White’s chorus of “Imagine all the girls… and the boys… and the strings…. And the drums the drums the drums the drums,” each line interpolated by phonetic rhythms, is simply delectable.
Of course, the hipper readers out there will already know this. The Ting Tings have been a buzz act for several months now, with “Great DJ” receiving Single of the Week Status from the NME, Columbia picking it up for release in the States, and the band recently visiting American shores for the arbitrary nine shows in three days at South by South West and the equally regulatory gig at the Mercury Lounge in New York on the way home.
Back when I lived in New York City, attending gigs near nightly and being otherwise partly-employed as a DJ myself, I’d have been on top of this record as quickly as anyone else. But, and at the risk of repeating myself from earlier posts, that’s the beautiful thing about having moved up to the mountains at this particular point in human history. Thanks to the wonder of the Podcast, I don’t feel detached from new music as I would have done had I made the move just five years earlier. Sure, it sometimes takes me a couple of months longer to hear about an act, but by the time I do so, the rest of the world has usually figured out that they’re definitely worth hearing.
And so, thanks to KEXP‘s authorized distribution of “Great DJ” as its Song of The Day Podcast, I was introduced to the Ting Tings while out running last week with my iPod, and have since found my way to their myspace page, where I find that Kate White is equally bemused and awestruck by the power of the web. Under a diary heading entitled “Your voices make us laugh” she writes of their American visit:
We played about 7 US cities and its crazy to know people already know about us without a record released. Its myspace and blogs that are doing it I think. Amazing how music travels. Put your song on myspace, people like it and tell there friends and we travel all the way around the world following our songs and playing them live.
Even if that’s not quite that simple, it’s not that much more complicated either. “Great DJ” is a great song, and because the Ting Tings were willing to share it with people (for free), they now have ten of thousands of burgeoning fans around the world. The really great news is that their new single “That’s Not My Name” is equally infectious, with White sounding like Debbie Harry fronting Girls At Our Best. Equally satisfying is that The Ting Tings know to appreciate their good fortune.
“Feeling a bit tired still from Texas where we played 3 gigs a day for 3 days at sxsw>,”
writes White, apparently texting from a mobile phone
“one gig a night kills us-with there only being 2 of us we really have to find loads of energy and emotion to make it work. It’s a bit draining but I would be lying if I say we are not having the time of our lives..you know, stuff you remember when you are old.”
For my current book, I’ve been interviewing many musicians who are already old. The ones who are most fun to talk to are those who remain grateful for having the chance to make music, participate in other peoples lives, and appear center stage at major musical moments in history. They’re the ones who say, “I was so lucky…” or “I wouldn’t have missed a moment…” or, even if they were screwed financially and have never been able to rest on their laurels, insist “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I’d like to think that the Ting Tings, however short or long their career, have already declared themselves of a similar mindset. if you doubt how much fun they’re having, check the video for “Great DJ,” which perfectly captures the song’s spirit. You’ve got to love the BPMs.