Tag Archives: album review

Sugababes – Sweet 7 album review

I’m not even going to mention the ‘K’ word. Yet the Sweet 7 era has been a disheartening experience – how could a band whose last album positively ached with beauty, emotion and harmonies be reduced to a dance routine that involves smacking each other on the arse? How could a band who were always ahead, or at least bang on, musical trends be so desperately, unimaginatively chasing the zeitgeist?

If you’re going to be uninspired, at least do it in style. Lead single, Get Sexy, was a tacky noisy mess, regardless of who was singing it (then again, noisy messes seem to be all the rage now – I’m looking at you, Christina). The RedOne-produced About A Girl should have been this album’s sure-fire smash, before the pounding beats and belter of a chorus were completely enveloped by the SugaDrama that ensued and Wear My Kiss is a cute little album track with some great ‘da-da-da’ing but a completely faceless and unremarkable choice for a single. It’s sad because the album, although it has about as much emotional depth as a Gossip Girl extra, does yield better.

Thank You For The Heartbreak is a flash of Sugababes past – tight too cool for school vocals, crunching earworm beats, Heidi sections that are a totally different pace to everything else yet somehow just feel right – and easily the album’s highlight. Sean Kingston is drafted in for Miss Everything and fashions a catchy, dancefloor-destined chorus whilst She’s A Mess is basically Get Sexy done right i.e. without a Right Said Fred reference. It’s a trashtastic, vocoder-ed to death hot piece of ass, with Amelle inciting everyone to ‘go psycho’ in her almost Cockney manner.

However, the ballads (previously a Sugababes speciality) are especially insipid – Crash & Burn is the least terrible of the lot, with Sweet & Amazing and Little Miss Perfect proving more saccharine-soaked puddings than sweeping slowies – whilst Jade’s vocal contributions (especially overwrought on Wait For You) do little to dispel the notion that she is a promising soloist biding her time.

Writers may harp on about Brand Sugababes but there’s precious little identity here – this direction suits the band about as well as the skin-tight leather outfits suit Heidi. The quicker this band get back to being the class act they once were (if that’s even possible), the better because Sweet 7 is shallow, soulless and soon-to-be-forgotten.


Gabriella Cilmi – Ten album review

Sometime before Pixie Lott was the new Amy Winehouse, Gabriella Cilmi was the old new Amy Winehouse. Not that you’d guess from Cilmi’s sexpot space cadet re-invention in her latest video, On A Mission. And frankly, we’re not complaining. Turns out the lessons learned from Cilmi’s dull MOR debut (it was called Lessons To Be Learned, we just made a possibly too subtle pun, enjoy!) were that, come second album time, she’s discovered she has a stonking pair of pins that we never saw thanks to all that sitting-on-a-stool nonsense, she’s learnt the arts of a basic, if silly, dance routine and most importantly, she’s developed an inclination towards pop.

Sonically, Ten treads a similar path to Rachel Stevens’ much-lamented but never-forgotten Come & Get It – except this time, Cilmi has the vocal chops to sell the goods with more gusto than a drive-through employee asking if you’d like fries with that. Although nothing matches the brilliant Barbarella bolshiness of lead single, On A Mission, the rest of Ten is a silky, slinky, synth-laden electro take on mainstream pop that all washes down very nicely.

Last time, Xenomania produced the whole album; this time, it’s just the one song, Hearts Don’t Lie, and with it’s authentic 70s disco groove, irresistible ‘my heart keeps ticking’ motif and an almost Bee Gee worthy falsetto from Gabriella, we can almost imagine questionable-attired folk doing the hustle to this with disco-balls shimmering merrily in the background of Studio 54. Believe it or not, that’s intended to be a compliment.

Elsewhere, Robots is a breathy dreamy electro rush that wonders ‘what if kisses were made from ones and zeros’ (ah, the romance of binary code), Boys is classic Dallas Austin cool with a chorus that seems to grow from nowhere, What If You Knew is a bouncy uptempo that film producers are probably fighting over to provide the ‘girl realises she’s in love with best friend’ moment in countless romantic comedies and Love Me Cos You Want To is a sensuous sparkly surefire smash. Even when Cilmi finds herself slipping into old Winehouse-flavoured habits (Superman, Let Me Know), they’re actually surprisingly palatable. And those missing The Voice are directed to a strangely addictive ballad called Glue, so overblown and full of pomp, it must have come from an atrocious 80s flick. Somehow, it’s gorgeous.

A little generic perhaps but I’m enjoying myself far too much to look this sonic stun-gun-toting gift horse in the mouth. Whether Cilmi will still be trilling from the electro songbook come album three, when La Roux is just a quiff-shaped memory, remains to be seen. All the more reason to lap up the plastic-fantastic pleasures of Ten whilst they last then.


Article also available at Teentoday.

Alphabeat – The Beat Is… album review

Alphabeat’s Fascination may well be one of my favourite songs of the last decade. Essentially Footloose re-spun Scandi-style, ground-breaking stuff it certainly wasn’t, but sold with such a boundless joie de vivre that you couldn’t help but smile (and the ‘Word is on your lips… say the word!’ section is just shiny pop brilliance). Sadly but perhaps not unexpectedly, there is nothing to match Fascination, or even some of This Is Alphabeat’s lesser moments, on new record The Beat Is

Whilst This Is Alphabeat saw the Danish band channelling the 80s in their inimitably feelgood fashion, The Beat Is… sees them mining the sounds of 90s dance acts (Black Box, Corona, Haddaway, Snap! et al) for inspiration. If you were frantically throwing shapes to Rhythm Is A Dancer whilst wearing shapeless clothes, perhaps you will fall for The Beat Is… but for me, the resulting marriage between house beats and sparkly Scandipop is far from successful. At times, some arrangements even seem to veer dangerously into pastiche.

Nevertheless, lead single, The Spell, does come close to recapturing Fascination’s magic (spell… magic – see what I did there?!), helped in no small part by the vocals of sole female Stine Bramsen, which retain their glorious radiance – shame these are often computerised to oblivion elsewhere. The other delight that remains in tact from This Is Alphabeat is the interplay between Stine and male vocalist, Anders; in an age where mixed-sex pop groups are an endangered species (in the UK and US markets specifically), this is a joy to listen to and it’s no coincidence that this occurs on pretty much all of the album’s best songs.

DJ and second single Hole In My Heart manage to turn the old-school beats into something new and alluring whilst Heatwave makes the most of the album’s unexceptional lyrics (mostly about being really really into someone… like really) by perfectly capturing the dizzy delirium of being in lust, but after a while, the beats start to grate. This is compounded by what feels like the vitality being slowly sucked out of the group throughout the ten-track duration – at times, it feels like a somewhat lifeless Alphabeat are content to let the beats do all the talking, resulting in dirge like Chess and Q & A that I have about as much desire to revisit as I do 90s fashion.

Remember those ads that had the Duracell bunny hopping about ceaselessly in contrast to the other one powered by the nameless-for-legal-reasons battery that slowly winded down after an initial spout of energy? Well, This Is Alphabeat is the Duracell bunny, still exuberant, fun and packed to the brim with joie de vivre two years on; no prizes for guessing which rabbit I’m comparing The Beat Is… to. Alphabeat could probably be catchy in their sleep – shame they seem to have taken me a bit too literally on this occasion.


Article also available at Teentoday.

Diana Vickers album sampler review

Metaphors, similes, clichés – they’ve all been done before about Diana Vickers‘ “unique” voice and I really can’t be arsed to think of my own. Let’s just say that following her appearance on X Factor, I was firmly in the ‘strangled cat/baby in pain/nails down a blackboard/yodelling donkey’ camp and that was before I even noticed the crazed clutching action of The Claw™. So for me to be telling you that Diana Vickers’ album sampler (title: Songs From The Tainted Cherry Tree) is blow-me-away brilliant is quite something, right?

Not even that bleating goat’s wail can keep material this good down. It’s everything Ellie Goulding’s marketing men wish she was – and more. Refreshing, breezy and hang on, genuinely quite exciting pop? From an X Factor also-ran loopy enough to find man-child Eggnog Quigg attractive? Sorry, I think I just saw Lazarus re-gaining his sight over there…

Once – If you love this, I can safely say you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the sampler. This synthy, bleepy, breathy triumph was masterminded by Cathy Dennis (Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, Toxic, About You Now) and Eg White (Leave Right Now); the killer stomp of the chorus is proof that pop pedigree like that will always out.

Remake Me And You – This is basically Once with its finger pressed firmly on the fast forward button. Frenzied and fantastic, it speeds by quicker than a boy-racer in a souped-up Volkswagen. The final strangulated ‘Yaaaaaaaaooooooooowwwww’ (translation: you) does remind you that this is a Diana Vickers record though.

The Boy Who Murdered Love – This is basically Once with its finger idling on the slo-mo button. The chorus is insanely catchy (‘Shot shot shot shot shot like a bullet/Stop stop stop stop stop all your loving’), there’s a nice lyric about roses turning from red to black and a wonderful last ten seconds of pounding drums. The whole track has a nice heartbroken throb to it.

My Hip – This song made me wonder if Vickers could be the UK’s answer to Shakira. There’s an exotic-sounding zesty brass segment set against Speedy Gonzales attacking the drum and bass, plus quirky lyrics (‘Your hand is back where it belongs/On my hip, on my hip!’) and the distinctive warbling llama voice. Now we just need Vickers to start comparing herself to a coffee machine with humble breasts and gyrate in a cage for the video for the transformation to be complete. Shakira comparisons apart, this song is breathtakingly awesome. If I had a press release for this album, this would be the title I’d be fluorescently-highlighting and drawing asterisks around manically.

Put It Back Together Again – Nerina Pallot penned. Take one listen and that much is obvious. Pallot manages to break my heart like no other songwriter of the moment. Sweeping, swooshy and a full-on seven shades of gorgeous, it doesn’t just make Vickers’ voice seem relatively inoffensive yet actually turns it into a thing of beauty. Starts off slowly before becoming a crashing whirl of epic lush-ness and just when you think it’s done getting better, it proves you wrong by adding some haunting ‘ooohs’. A masterclass in clever construction, it expertly applies the brakes and then slams down again full-throttle for maximum emotional impact aided by simple yet devastating lyrics. ‘If you think you’re sinking, you probably are… I never said I loved you quite enough, I hope it’s not too late… I’m going to tell you I love you one more time, again and again… you’ve got to fall apart and put it back together again.’ Jesus Pallot, you do it to me every time. *Wipes away tear something in my eye*

Article also available at Teentoday.