Four years would normally be a long time for a band like the Ting Tings to wait between albums, but they didn't disappear entirely: two of the biggest hits from We Started Nothing, "Great DJ" and "Shut Up and Let Me Go," were still used in commercials and soundtracks years after their debut's release, suggesting a remarkable endurance for their bright and brassy new-new wave. But if We Started Nothing was the Ting Tings' cry for attention, Sounds from Nowheresville finds the duo at a loss for what to do once they got it. The scrappy pop of their first album is largely gone, replaced by a glossy eclecticism that, for better or worse, feels labored over. Given that the Ting Tings were inspired by the Beastie Boys' mosaic-like masterpiece Paul's Boutique and many of these songs were written on the road, it's not surprising that Nowheresville has a wide range, but too often it just sounds scattered. There's a clear Beasties influence (though the execution is more reminiscent of Beck's Odelay) on "Hit Me Down Sonny" and "Hang It Up," but the former track sounds fun while the latter one grates. Indeed, the duo's insistence on trying to inject We Started Nothing's spunky energy where it doesn't belong hinders some of the album's more promising songs: "Guggenheim"'s tale of heartbreak, revenge, and makeup is tantalizing, especially on its girl group-channeling spoken word verses, but that promise is squandered on the clomping choruses. Likewise, "Help"'s acoustic balladry is surprisingly soft and alluring before the shouting starts again. The album fares better when the Ting Tings remember that they're as handy with melodies as they are with beats and samples, as on "Soul Killing," a playful piece of ska-pop that uses a squeaky door as a percussion element, and on "Day to Day," which, with its tightly looped acoustic guitars and mechanical beats, evokes the teen pop ballads churned out by the production team the Matrix in the early 2000s. Interestingly, Nowheresville's best moments bookend the rest. "Silence" begins the album with slow-burning drones that are a far cry from We Started Nothing's sugar rush hooks, while "In Your Life" closes it with a ballad that would do Nancy Sinatra proud; it's mournful, slow, relaxed, spacious -- everything that virtually every other Ting Tings song isn't. Sounds from Nowheresville shows that the Ting Tings have more range than their debut suggested, but while it's more ambitious and crafted, it's just not as coherent as We Started Nothing.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares