Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Alex Listens to Every Girls Aloud Album For You

So, Girls Aloud - the TV manufactured girl group of (I suppose) debatable talent, the majority of whose oeuvre has been written and composed by the sugar-pop-warlock-surgeons at Xenomania. Their songs being so good that they gave a "Get Out of Authenticity Free" card to almost every indie listener in the world. Myself, of course, included. But still you bump up against the ugly wall of prejudice: Girls Aloud? No! Manufactured! TV show! Pop music! MUST DISMISS!

Gah, some people can take no joy in life, can they?

Should I mention that I'm delighted that Rage Against The Machine got to Christmas no. 1? Putting aside every other issue and purely based on the fact that the song they chose for Joe McElderry single to sing was so utterly shit. If he'd been doing a Xenomania track I'd probably have been in his corner.

And while I'm digressing... did he fuck Cheryl Cole? Because the video seems to be narrating some kind of torturous love story between Joe and Cheryl, lots of eye contact, tearful hugging, begging for their lives in front of a massive audience and finally being granted a reprieve. I don't know, maybe I was misreading it.

Anyway, astonishingly they hit five albums this year, and I finally decided to step up my love from listening to The Show and Biology on repeat and actually listen to each of their five albums from start to finish. Many times over. Interestingly while I admit my love is mostly based on those unstoppable melodies I hadn't thought much about the members themselves. I mean, not being in the country for a couple of years means that I don't really get to see them perform or appear on TV, and my impression before I left wasn't so great - they were just the faces the songs I liked came out of. That said, listening to a lot of their music together... their voices don't sound autotuned or post-polished to death (I mean, not as much as some other pop artists), and that actually adds a lot to the whole.

Anyway, I did not regret my undertaking for one second, and I'm sure neither will you.

1) Girls Aloud - Sound of The Underground

What an oddly cheap looking album cover! Mummy, is that what the underground looks like? Is that the resistance? The first album was a strong start but is by no means the peak of their career so far. The singles are great, but my favourite track here must be Some Kind of Miracle, which didn't even get picked as a single. That, my friends, was the kind of gold I was mining for. It's worth noting now, early on, that while occasionally there are clearly different voices singing (as different girls pick up the mic for different verses) I have absolutely no idea who is singing what, and while there are five girls, there are only two or three different voices that I've been able to discern... I mean at least they aren't Exile though, where you have two singers and twelve dancers. Also worth noting that titling a song "Girls Allowed" on their first album really... wasn't necessary. We... we get it.

2) Girls Aloud - What Will The Neighbours Say?

Oh, now I see what they were going for with that cover but I'd say they probably failed in... everything? The type is quite nice I guess. The second album, featuring as it does The Show (one of my favourite Girls Aloud songs) and Love Machine (one of everyone else's favourite Girls Aloud songs), is where things get really good. The first album is solid, occasionally inspired, but wouldn't have been enough to make me a staunch defender, y'know. This one starts (with some assist from a couple of covers) with a straight five track blast of brilliance. And after that there's still Graffiti My Soul, which just... wow. A song so good that the tyros of youtube have been compelled to slap the music on top of every other Girls Aloud video in some cack-handed attempt to magic a Graffiti My Soul video into existence.

3) Girls Aloud - Chemistry

Probably their best cover, which tells you how shit their covers are in general. Honestly, making cover art for Girls Aloud should be like hitting the ground when you fall over, and yet time and again... Anyway this makes two classics in a row. It starts with a trifecta of ass-kicking, and still the structure and majesty of Biology gets me every goddamn time. So good. It's difficult to pick between WWTNS and C (hmmm... abbreviations not working quite so well there), because while I think the second album has better highlights - the lesser songs on Chemistry are greater than those on 'Neighbours'. Anyway, best non-single is probably the track that kicks the album off - Models. Wow, I should watch more Girls Aloud live stuff on youtube, then I can see who sings what!

4) Girls Aloud - Tangled Up

Ah, the classy album. Actually, probably just as good as the previous two now that I think about it. This was one of the albums they released after I'd left the country so I have no idea about the singles, the promotion or the videos - I just listened to the whole thing as an album and it was interesting to see that minimal (still crappy) cover art and hear the (slightly) more mature, restrained sound that they aimed for. The first track, Calling The Shots, is especially impressive for capturing a kind of longing that they had occasionally aimed for on previous albums but fallen far short of, landing in kind of emoticon territory. Close To Love could be an Annie song at the start (while the Xenomania tracks on Annie's last album could have been Girls Aloud songs) which is nothing but good. Sexy! No No No... is amazing, and even the slow single Can't Speak French is a killer on this album. Wow, and then there's Blackjacks and Fling and the insanely awesomely titled (sadly not all that awesome) Control Of The Knife... Let's just say that on reflection this one is up there with the previous two.

5) Girls Aloud - Out Of Control

Well, I don't want to be too damning here, after all it might be a grower, but this still feels like their worst album so far to me. I guess it's tough (as a chart pop act) to keep up the insanely high level of quality that they'd displayed until this point in this career, but whereas before their songs had stomped you to the ground and demanded your attention, on this album they're just kind of... ok. The album cover is even not-bad, in a hideous way, but the music... I was disappointed. In a way, despite the title, it's even more classy and restrained than Tangled Up, there are no truly up-beat singles even! Love is the Key is worth a listen, but feels pieced together from bits of other, better songs. I'd probably pick Miss You Bow Wow as my favourite track on this rekkid (the live version behind that link is actually better than the album version), and even then it only really sparkles in the chorus, and thinking about songs like Biology where every part individually shines... that's quite a step down. I don't know, the whole thing sounds... a little lacking.

But still! I have hope and they might have a new album "Back in Control" next year? Not sure about that but... that might be a return to their previous standards? Here's hoping. In the mean time Girls Aloud are awesome and if you find you don't agree with that, I can only encourage you to check yourself... most thoroughly.

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