There’s a charm about The Ting Tings’ stylistic thievery. It’s all sort of new wave, circa “Rapture” or “My Sharona,” the way they plunder rap, punk, stadium chants, and iPod commercials for a dependably idiotic two-chord vamp or rousing bit of nonsense. The duo’s album titles, We Started Nothing and now Sounds From Nowheresville, betray a modesty even as they try to put attitude in your face. It’s not original but it’s been a while since this kind of mishmash made such an exuberant mess. Remember the Soup Dragons? Yeah, this is that.
On Nowheresville, The Ting Tings boldly steal even from themselves: Their breakthrough single “That’s Not My Name” was a diatribe to an industry that called frontwoman Katie White “darling” one too many times. It was then co-opted by Dizzee Rascal (“They use the n-word like it’s a game”) and even a group of “radical cheerleaders” who reworked it into a routine against catcalling. (And it still worked as a comedic non-sequitur for Charlie Day to sing in Horrible Bosses.) Nowheresville’s “Give It Back” further cannibalizes their biggest hit into “give me back my name,” amongst other demands like “give me back my high-five” in a more garbled sentiment that at least rocks harder than the original.
Rocking harder helps to keep this 34-minute sophomore jumble plenty listenable. “Hang It Up” nicks the first strum of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” before kicking in with either a sample or reenactment of Billy Squier’s unmistakable “Big Beat” drums. “Guggenheim” is a goofy go-go with cooing backup vocals that explodes into a bullshit-fun chorus of, “This time I’m gonna get it right / I’m gonna play my bass at the Guggenheim.” Never mind its ultimate point, just bask in matter-of-fact slogans like, “I just discovered something about me / That everybody wants some more,” from a giddy frontwoman who’s just deciphering the sensual pleasures of minor fame. “What does it all mean?” collagist Steinski once asked. Not a damn thing, answer these bleached-blonde anachronisms. Sounds From Nowheresville is a blast when it’s on and imminently forgettable when it’s not.