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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Brits show us a Ting or two

The Ting Tings say 'We Started Nothing,' but their Troubadour show says otherwise.

June 16, 2008|Todd Martens | Times Staff Writer

Since the set decorations at the Troubadour on Friday night weren't visible to much of the sell-out crowd, perky British pop duo the Ting Tings instead opted to garnish the floor, taping vinyl copies of its debut, "We Started Nothing," across the stage.

Although most relatively unknown bands would cringe at the thought of dancing on their product, Ting Tings lead singer Katie White pounced with delight on her band's records. And who can blame her? Since "We Started Nothing" landed atop the U.K. charts last month, the Tings have reason to celebrate and, surely, the albums to spare.

In high-spirited brevity, the Tings bolted through nine of 10 songs on "We Started Nothing," turning a 35-minute run time on CD into a 45-minute set. Songs were accentuated with pep-rally hand claps and cheerleading-ready rhythmic breakdowns, and White was wired from the start.

When she launched into the "nothing makes me feel good" refrain of "We Walk," with her arms outstretched and palms open, she did it with a charmingly chirpy electricity that matched the buzzing, new-wave guitar of her musical partner, drummer-guitarist Jules De Martino.

Indeed, the Tings are a sugar rush, so much so that when White introduced "Traffic Light" as the duo's "attempt at a slow song," the breather was as much for the audience as it was for her. But toned down, the Tings are more cutesy than necessary.

"Fruit Machine" better displayed the band's winning traits -- an assortment of looped and programmed effects that made the duo feel like an eight-piece, and De Martino's stripped-down beats, which allowed ample room for White to morph into something that's part Spice Girl and part comic-book character.

White is the star, right down to her glittering eye shadow and her perfectly sassy bangs, but De Martino has no easy task. He dirties up White's spunky, Clash-inspired guitar on "Shut Up and Let Me Go," which is currently in heavy rotation in the latest iPod ad, and then there's his work on "That's Not My Name," a No. 1 single overseas. His slinky, hip-hop-inspired beats are less about creating a groove, more about trailing the whims of his lead singer.

As the song builds to a smashing grand finale, one barely notices the gradual elevation from a dancey singalong to a glorious, arms-in-the-air kiss-off.

It's a rather cunning piece of songcraft and evidence that there's plenty of depth beyond the Tings' fun-and-games facade.

--

todd.martens@latimes.com

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