Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Review: Girls Aloud "Out Of Control"

After last year's Tangled Up, Out Of Control marks phase II in the project to rebrand Girls Aloud as a mature, credible pop band. The former gift-wrapped kitty kats now sing about broken hearts while bathing in mid-tempo electronic melancholia. By the end of the album, they're even thinking about leaving behind the bright city lights for a house (a very big house) in the country.

Given the band's new, world-weary attitude, it's no surprise to find the Pet Shop Boys contributing a song. The Loving Kind is prime example of Neil Tenant's talent for kitchen-sink psychodrama, as the girls dissect a loveless relationship over a bottle of wine. It's a pop masterpiece and, presumably, a future single... but it's not necessarily the towering achievement you'd expect from combining Tenant, Lowe, Xenomania and GA.

Sadly, the rest of the album is similarly underwhelming. The little musical flourishes and scattershot melodies we've come to expect from Girls Aloud are suppressed by the record's sombre tone. It's almost as if Xenomania have reached a dead end, unsure of where to take their charges next. At one point, they even make Nadine sing the line: "We're beautiful robots dancing alone". Ouch.

Interestingly, when the band themselves get involved with the writing, things pick up. Miss You Bow Wow has a schizophrenic, anything-goes structure and the album's best lyric - "20 minutes in a hotel bar / Then I slip into your girlfriends jeans". Live In The Country is silly and fun - a spiritual successor to the likes of Racey Lacey, Swinging London Town or Grafitti My Soul.

Elsewhere, the six-and-half-minute Untouchable has the potential to be a massive hit if it's given a peppy single remix, and Rolling Back The Rivers In Time has a "woah-oh" chorus as catchy as the song's title is awful. Love Is Pain, on the other hand, is the worst Girls Aloud album track since their debut.

Last year, I declared Tangled Up as the pop album of the year, and noted that 2006's Greatest Hits album had given Girls Aloud and Xenomania 12 months to "refocus and recalibrate".

It sounds like they need a similar break next year.

UPDATE: It's growing on me.

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