Review Summary: Seriously guys. This has to stop now.
Somewhere, somehow, it became cool to like Girls Aloud. And I don't mean cool with whatever the UK equivalent of jocks and cheerleaders is, I mean cool with people who read The Wire and know who Pierro Scaruffi is. They overtook the Sugababes as the pop band it's okay to like long ago, and that was fine, but the way they've been accepted by the popular music intelligentsia at this point is incredible. As an example of that, jog on over to the Wikipedia entry for their ever-present producers, Xenomania. There's a grand total of one critic quoted as ever having said anything bad about them. Me.
Thing is, back when they were just another girl band - if anything, an especially unpopular one considering they hadn't truly escaped the image of being 'that band off Popstars: The Rivals', and one of them was being accused of a racially aggravated assault - they were almost worth that kind of praise. Go listen to "Love Machine", to "Sound of the Underground", to "Wake Me Up", to "Biology", to "No Good Advice"; when people say that this is exactly how pop should sound in the 21st century, they're damn right. But then they started being cool. The Observer
gave them five stars. The Ting Tings started making indie tracks that ripped them off whole-heartedly. The ginger one became the face of Estee Lauder or some shi
t. Billy Corgan said they were better than The Beatles. They collaborated with Franz Ferdinand and Sugababes and some excitable quarters of the media started talking about a new British pop vanguard. The one who married He Who Shall Not Be Named became a shockingly inept judge on The X Factor and got practically stalked by will.i.am for a bit. Johnny Marr showed up to play guitar for them. The Pet Shop Boys asked them to duet. It was somewhere in that frankly ridiculous jumble of events that Girls Aloud slowly began sucking out loud.
I could end the review there - Out of Control
sucks out loud. That's pretty much all there is to it. There are no tunes of which to speak, the vocals are even more impassioned than before, the production takes all of the arrogant laziness occasionally shown on Tangled Up
and runs with it; any sort of edge that they ever had has been lost. The hotshot songwriting team have now either run dry of ideas or stopped trying, while the cutting edge production now sounds like background music on Location! Location! Location!
and A Place in the Sun
. It's so dated that you expect them to shout 'The Vengabus is coming!' at any point, so dreary that it'd have been an improvement if they had. For an album called Out of Control
, it's astonishing just how bland and devoid of personality or expression this is.
The plus points? Well, "Revolution is the Head"'s thematic statement - that it's no good trying to change anything if your music sucks - might have made for a classic single in 2003, but released now it's a little like Ronald Reagan campaigning for change alongside Obama. "The Loving Kind" is vaguely reminiscent of "Call The Shots", which reminds you of how could they once were if nothing else. And there's a snippet of a Gregorian choir at the start of "Love is the Key" that briefly suggests the song that follows it will be interesting. Ditto the vocoder that kicks off "Fix Me Up", which sounds like it's saying 'sex me up' instead.
And that's it. That's it from the five girls who just three short years ago could reasonably have been considered the best girl group in the world. That's it from Brian Higgins, a man with songs as good as Sugababes' "Hole in the Head" under his belt, and a man still helping write songs as good as Gabriella Cilmi's "Sweet About Me" for people who aren't Girls Aloud. That's it from Fascination Records, a label with the financial muscle and influence of Universal Music Group behind it. That's it from Shaw Thing Management, who are pretty much nobodies but should probably be held accountable anyway. Didn't anybody, anywhere along the line, notice how bad this is? By any measure that pop is judged, this album is terrible. It's not catchy, not upbeat, not smart, not inventive, not emotional, not even actually bad enough to be worth remembering. Nobody will be singing any of these songs on any reality TV shows. None of these songs will be used in films or TV shows, or even adverts. None of them will be included on any Girls Aloud compilations that favour music over completionism. The milkman will not hum these songs. Children will not obsessively learn the words and write them down from memory in their notebooks during class.
A career killer. It's their Forever
, their "Tubthumping", their Neither Fish Nor Flesh
, their "Earth Song", their Sgt Peppers OST
. Expect solo careers soon.