Recap: The Ting Tings' Free At Noon performance at World Cafe Live (4/13/12) - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

In the four years since their debut album and overnight success, The Ting Tings have become terribly strange. When Katie White and Jules De Martino released We Started Nothing in 2008, it seemed the music world was not quite ready for their infectious pop rock. It kept listeners rapt for an unusually long time (especially by pop standards): even in 2010, the duo was still receiving awards and recognition for that first album. Tracks from We Started Nothing wormed their way into commercials, movies, and video games. Yet, on their follow up, Sounds From Nowheresville, it seems The Ting Tings were not quite ready to jump back into the music world.

On We Started Nothing, The Ting Tings were playfully edgy, channeling the punk scene that originally brought White and De Martino together. “That’s Not My Name” managed to be both incredibly fun and also vicious to anyone who’d ever called White by the wrong name. The lyrical punch of “Shut Up and Let Me Go” is obvious from the title alone. Their videos were dark and goofy, an unpredictable blend, but one that worked. It seemed that the recipe for success was an album of pop-rock ballads with tough lyrics delivered by attractive British people who beat the crap out of each other. Turns out on Sounds From Nowheresville, it can also be a recipe for disaster. Take the song “Soul Killing”, for example, which features a squeaky sound played over and over through the entire song; instead of sounding fierce, it sounds sloppy, adding nothing and instead detracting from the song. There are poor decisions, like the line from “Guggenheim”, “It wasn’t your fault that I was living up in a tree.” (Literally?) There are also half-baked ideas like De Martino’s rap in “Hang It Up”. It doesn’t help the case either that almost all of the vocals are delivered in either shouting, incoherent mumbling or repetition.

Even the stage antics that accompany this new album are violent and bizarre. Where the album falls short, the duo seems to try to make it up in action. In the live show, White broke, dropped or knocked over almost everything she could get her hands on. Roadies leapt on and off stage handing White a different guitar, picking up cast off instruments, righting fallen drums. It could have distracted from the music, except that White and De Martino made an wise choice in their set list. The duo spread their performance evenly between new material and old hits. Their antics (though violent) were merely one side effect of their enormous energy. On stage, they brought their new songs to life and electrified their older hits. With De Martino often playing two instruments at once and White theatrically stomping around and even taking a cowbell solo , it was hard not to be swept up in the show. Sounds From Nowheresville is a strange and delayed follow up to We Started Nothing, but The Ting Tings’ live show takes their new vibe and runs with it. —Naomi Shavin

Set list:
1. Silence
2. Great DJ
3. Hang It Up
4. Shut Up and Let Me Go
5. Guggenheim
6. Give It Back
7. Hands
8. That’s Not My Name

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