Friday, November 16, 2007

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: How Great Is The New Girls Aloud Album...?

BLOODY great is the answer you're looking for. Or to put it another way...

ALBUMS IT IS NOT AS GOOD AS; The Beach Boys "Pet Sounds", The Beatles "Revolver", ABBA "Gold", that sort of thing.
ALBUMS IT IS BETTER THAN; Kylie Minogue "X", Britney Spears "Blackout", Sugababes "Change", all of the previous Girls aloud albums.
ALBUMS IT IS ABOUT AS GOOD AS; Pet Shop Boys "Please", Betty Boo "Boomania!", Pulp "Different Class", TLC "CrazySexyCool", Goldfrapp "Black Cherry", Annie "Anniemal", Madonna "Confessions On A Dancefloor", Róisín Murphy "Overpowered"...

Alright, I'll review it properly. And in lieu of an image of the album sleeve popping up on google search, another pic of ver 'Girls.

GIRLS ALOUD "Tangled Up" (Polydor/Fascination)

What comes to mind when you think of Girls Aloud? Popstars: The Rivals, Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh? The phrase "Wives and Girlfriends"? Generic daytime radio blandpop? Fake tans? Very well, but only a buffoon would deny that Girls Aloud's best singles are among the most memorable and exciting British pop has provided us with in recent times. They've been lumbered with some iffy cover versions from time to time, but hopefully they're a big enough prospect to ditch the overwrought run-throughs of other people's hits. This album (their fourth, excluding last year's compilation "The Sound Of Girls Aloud") gives them the chance to step up a gear and, brilliantly, they do so.

This is not just a Girls Aloud album of course. It is also a Xenomania album. For the first time, every track on a Girls Aloud album has been written and produced by Xenomania (i.e. the production team which comprises all or some of the following; Brian Higgins, Miranda Cooper, Nick Coler, Gisele Somerville, Matt Gray, Toby Scott, Tim Powell and Lisa Cowling). Xenomania have been responsible for a lot of the greatest British pop music of the last decade. In Girls Aloud's "Biology", they produced what The Observer called (rightly, in my view) the Single Of The Decade. In other words, expectations are high here, and "Tangled Up" it resolutely NOT a let-down.

It kicks off with "Call The Shots" (last week's Single Of The Week here, see below) which is as good as anything Girls Aloud have released so far. A lovely contemporary synth pop tune, it is great in the way "Love Comes Quickly" or "Love Action" are great. It is the first in a run of six absolutely great tracks - potential singles all of them - on what in the old days we would have called "Tangled Up"'s side one. "Close To Love" and "Girl Overboard" are brisk and sparkly. The former is reminiscent of early Duran Duran, the latter is a wonderful minor-key marvel. Both sound machine-driven but not overly icy or distant. Something for Kylie's (or indeed Britney's) "people" to consider next time out. "Sexy! No No No" exemplifies Girls Aloud's trademark sound, rawk guitars, stomping beats...quite difficult to dance to, or indeed to sing along with for the most part, but then the chorus sqauts in your brain and refuses to leave. "Can't Speak French" is particularly impressive" - witty lyrics "I can't speak French, so I'll let the funky music do the talking...", set to an odd honky tonk type rhythm. It calls to mind Goldfrapp's "Satin Chic". From this point on, all sorts of styles are thrown into the album's musical palette; drum 'n' bass ("What You Cryin' For"), house-y reggae ("Control Of The Knife"), disco ("Damn") and yet more mean-rockin' riffs ("Fling", "I'm Falling"). If the album is missing anything, it's a killer-ballad. Closer "Crocodile Tears" is as close as we get, but it's still mid-tempo, harking back slightly to the brilliant 2003 single "Life Got Cold".

Undoubtedly, "Tangled Up" is a "result". (9 out of 10)