Album Review
Girls Aloud - Out Of Control

The idea of pop acts "maturing" has become synonymous with taking clothes off. Girls Aloud, never a group to follow the prescribed method, has managed to mature for their fifth studio album while looking more dressed than ever before. Credit must go to the genius songwriting/production team Xenomania, the catalyst behind the Girl's rise from reality television winners to the upper eschelons of British critical acclaim (Could the Spice Girls ever manage shout outs by Chris Martin or Kele Okerele? I think not) and commercial success (All 19 of their singles have gone top ten).

Lead single and most recent #1, "The Promise" opens the set and makes it seem like the Girls have jumped on board the Winehouse and Duffy led retro-express. Most attempts to capture the retro sound have fallen flat on their face, but "The Promise" is one of the few that succeeds. Xenomania's take on the Phil Spector wall of sound continues with "Rolling Back The Rivers In Time", but the Aloud refuse to sit around in Motown the entire album.

"The Loving Kind" and "Turn To Stone" revel in neo-disco, not the aggressive or club banging kind by any stretch of the imagination, but icy and aloof. "The Loving Kind", contributed by the Pet Shop Boys, goes where no Aloud mid-tempo ballad has gone before. While earlier attempts reeked of cheesiness and missed the mark, the Girls pull this one off. Telling the story of a girl, usually immune to crushes, falling hard for an indecisive guy, Nicola Roberts pleads "I'd do anything, sings songs that others sing, if I could change your mind and I'm not the loving kind". "Turn To Stone" plays like a sequel to their 2007 hit, "Call The Shots" with atmospheric synth sounding in the distance.

The New Order-esque "Untouchable" clocks in at 6:44 while soaring to epic heights and is the indisputable crown jewel of the record. Nadine Coyle hopes for the euphoric highs of love singing, "In my dreams it feels like we are never gonna fall, we're safe and sound. We're untouchable." as synthesizers blissfully pulse alongside gentle guitar riffs. This is disco with heart and a brain. The bridge is pure poetry as Coyle continues, "Without any meaning, we’re just skin and bone, like beautiful robots dancing alone".

"Love Is Pain", the last disco track of the album, is another highlight. "Revolution In The Head" is the closest the group has ever come to reggae while "In The Country" dabbles in drum n' bass. It could do without the random animal noises at the end. The bonus track, "We Wanna Party", would have been at home two or three albums ago, but feels out of place here. There is a reason its been relegated to 'bonus track' status.

Back in 2002, a British pop revolution of intelligent, innovative, and genre-defying tracks, spearheaded by Xenomania and Richard X seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, as Rachel Stevens disappeared into obscurity and Annie failed to make any major dent on the charts, those dreams were never realized. The one exception has been the Girls Aloud. When they first formed on UK's Popstars: The Rivals television show, no one had any reason they would be more than an inferior clone of the Spice Girls. When the inventive "Sound Of The Underground" topped the charts, no one had any reason to believe that the Aloud were more than a flash in the pan. Six years later, they're still around, and not only have they refused to break up to naively pursue solo careers, they have refuse to be nothing less than the most important girl group of the twenty-first century. Out Of Control is proof. The album is void of any and all campiness, something a lot of pop acts can't managed their entire career, and is a manifesto that the Aloud are on a mission to change the notion that 'pop' is a dirty word.

Must download:
"Turn To Stone"
"Love Is Pain"


Anonymous said...

You can't mistake my biology

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