Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 63)
Now this is how you reintroduce yourself.
Following One Touch
’s mild success, the original lineup of the Sugababes quickly succumbed to infighting and Siobhán Donaghy left the group and Hedi Range stepped in to replace her. One Touch
didn’t meet London Record’s sales expectations and the group was dropped, leaving the group adrift before being scooped up by Island Records. The plot had shifted on the girls so fast they had to scramble to reintroduce themselves to a pop world that had already forgotten about them.
So, in Spring 2002 the Sugababes dropped a cover of Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me”, which quickly became a number one hit.
Basically, with “Freak Like Me” the Sugababes didn’t ask for pop dominance, they just stepped up and asserted it. Walked right up the UK pop charts and said “Yeah this is ours now” and the people gladly acquiesced. Producer Richard X snatches Gary Numan’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric"” and beefs up the drums until they slam through the speakers with vicious authority, shifting Howard’s original G-funk vibes to something steely and futuristic. Meanwhile, the trio play it cool and authoritative, issuing demands for pleasure that sound like they’re not going unheeded.
As the Sugababe’s sophomore effort Angels With Dirty Faces
’s opening track, “Freak Like Me” is followed by the squelchy “Blue”, that stays tight and claustrophobic during the verses before shooting skyward for an acoustic guitar backed chorus. Then we hit “Round Round”, a devastatingly catchy song that rides a genius percussion loop that reportedly inspired the entire song. It was the group’s second number one single and, like their first, there’s just something inevitable about that fact. There was nowhere else for a song of this caliber to go. Three upbeat pop cuts means it’s ballad time and the girls have placed a big one in the 4th position. “Stronger” works, not off its tried and true affirmations, but because it knows how to escalate things. Tough drums keep the rising strings from getting too big for the song to contain. By the end of the song you’re walking a little taller and taking firmer steps.
Nothing else on Angels With Dirty Faces
comes close to its opening run but, aside from the self explanatorily creepy “Virgin Sexy”, there isn't a bad song on it either. The title track, “Shape”, and closer “More than a Million Miles” are all excellent examples of compact forward thinking pop.
wasn’t a bad album by any means but in the wake of the Sugababe’s ensuing decade of pop innovation and dominance, it feels like prelude. All 5 singles released from Angels With Dirty Faces
peaked inside the top 20 with 4 hitting the top 10. The story of the Sugababes as an entity begins with One Touch
, but the story of the Sugababes as UK pop titans begins here.