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Everybody Needs Good Neighbours
What Will The Neighbours Say? - Girls Aloud
Member Name: IainWear
What Will The Neighbours Say? - Girls Aloud
Date: 26/02/05, updated on 28/04/05 (205 review reads)
Advantages: A very good pop album
Disadvantages: Their image seems to have gone all cliched
Unlike many of the reality TV pop acts, I felt that their debut was strong enough for them to deserve a second chance and that they did appear to have a little more staying power than other acts who got their break in the same way. So seeing them get further than acts like Hear’Say and David Sneddon in releasing a second album was no surprise, putting them in territory so far inhabited only by Will Young, Gareth Gates and Lemar among Popstars style acts. However, the second album is a trying time for many acts, as once the hype surrounding an initial release has gone away, groups are judged on their output and now that their place in the immediate memory has been taken by their successors, it’s all about the music.
Early signs, however, were not encouraging. Whilst “Sound of the Underground” was a mixed bag of sounds and influences, the way Girls Aloud have acted since it was released has had much in common with many of the standard bubblegum pop acts around. In a Madonna-like (or maybe even Cher-esque) move, the group’s two brunettes how have blonde highlights, whilst one of the blondes is now raven haired. There also seems to be a sexier image, perhaps trying to emulate Britney and Christina’s recent images.
There has been a pop cover version, much like many pop acts have done, along with a watered down ruination of a classic song, which brings back memories of Atomic Kitten’s lacklustre interpretation of “Eternal Flame”. OK, so it was for charity, but that’s no excuse, even if it didn’t hurt Westlife all that much when they did it. Cheryl Tweedy has even fallen into the celebrity boyfriend trap, once a preserve of soap stars, in dating Arsenal and England’s Ashley Cole.
On the plus side, Nicola is staying true to her red-headed genes and Nadine does still have great legs. But apart from those legs, things weren’t looking too promising even before this album came to be released.
Things don’t look any more promising with the start of “The Show”, with it’s almost techno introduction. Although it turns out to be a little more like pop-techno, much like the early 1980s dance music, it’s certainly more of a dance tune than anything Girls Aloud have done previously, and a far more modern influence than much of the faux disco sounding tunes from “Sound of the Underground”. It sounds more like you’d expect a club remix of a pop song to sound like than a song from a pop act directly.
“Love Machine” takes you back a little, though, with the guitar making it sound very much like the old 60s rock and roll, or maybe even a little like a watered down version of a band like The Strokes. It’s definitely one to get the foot tapping, although there are a few points in the verses where it slows down and becomes more like a straight forward pop tune.
After a promising start, it all goes horribly wrong with I’ll Stand By You”. I wonder if Girls Aloud are counting on a lot of their fan base being a little too young to remember the original. For those that are, it’s not a bad pop ballad, although maybe just a little over done in parts, where the music threatens to over power the girls’ voices. For those that remember the original, Girls Aloud don’t have the power of Chrissie Hynde’s voice, and it’s merely a really weak version of what was a pop-rock ballad. As Britney Spears has already proved, pop acts really shouldn’t try and cover soft rock songs, and this maintains that theory.
What pop acts are more than welcome to cover, however, are other pop tunes, as they can’t do as much harm. The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump” got a working over for the “Love Actually” soundtrack and its retro pop-disco sound is perfect for Girls Aloud. It’s been bought up to date a little musically, with a more dance than disco beat over it, but it’s largely an upbeat pop dance number, and another one that will have many dancing around the room with a hairbrush. Not, me though – I don’t have a hairbrush.
“Wake Me Up” has an almost grunge like guitar over the intro, although it quickly segues into a fairly rocky pop tune. That only lasts part of the way through, however, as the guitar drops away and it becomes even more of a pop tune, although with slightly darker under tones. On first play, I wasn’t entirely sure I like this one, but it does grow on you in time, although it’s not one of their better tracks, and the music does overshadow their voices a little in parts.
The album seems to be working on a 2 up-tempo, one slower number thus far, and “Deadlines and Diets” follows that trend. It’s a pop ballad with a slightly funky edge to it, which could almost be an All Saints or a Sugababes number if it had a little more edge to the vocals and a little more funk to the music. It’s a nice enough little tune to sway along to, though, for all that.
There’s an interesting looking writing credit on “Big Brother”, in that it’s co-written by Girls Aloud themselves, as are a few of the remaining tracks on the album. It’s not a promising start, almost falling part way between a slowed down retro disco sound, much like their own “Some Kind of Miracle” from the “Sound of the Underground” album, mixed in parts with something that sounds a little like a washed out version of Blondie, with the girls just not having the power to match Debbie Harry, as they didn’t with Chrissie Hynde earlier. It’s got quite a nice mid-tempo beat, which isn’t bad to tap your foot to, but that’s really about it, as the vocals don’t do a great deal to improve it and, in fact, just get in the way a little.
“Hear Me Out” is a slower number, with an almost trance sound to it and this with the vocals sound a little like Portishead, although the vocals don’t maintain this sound for long. Overall, it’s a fairly standard pop ballad, and it could really have been performed by any all female pop group, as there’s nothing that makes it stand out from a crowd of slower tempo pop tunes.
In calling a song something like “Graffiti My Soul”, you always run the risk of the title being the best thing about it. That’s a thought that doesn’t last long, as it’s a song with a decent up-tempo funky sound to it and a bit of attitude. There’s a little almost spoken bit that reminds me a little of the end of “No Good Advice” from the debut album, but it’s got a more laid back groove than that song.
Still in keeping with the 2 up-tempo songs one after another is “Real Life”. There’s another light dance groove running through it, with the piano sound reminding me a little of the 1980s kind of house music, although there are a few parts with hand claps that have a similar kind of feel to Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. It’s a fast pop number that’s likely to be a dance floor filler.
There has to be a ballad next, given the way the album has gone, and “Here We Go” is certainly slower paced that the previous couple of songs, but more mid-tempo than a ballad. There’s another delightfully funky sound to the verses, before the chorus really picks things up a little and the attitude and the chorus, if not the verses, reminds me a lot of the Spice Girls, although it goes a little more towards disco towards the end, again a lot like “Some Kind of Miracle” from “Sound of the Underground” which, as I liked that song, I have no problem with.
If I were a parent, I’m not sure that “Thank Me Daddy” is the kind of thing I’d want my young children listening to, lyrically speaking, although the whole album is a lot sassier than “Sound of the Underground” was. Musically, however, I’d hope they like it as much as I do. It’s got a mid-tempo disco/funk beat to it, and reminds me of the kind of thing they’d play at disco nights at a local nightclub I used to go to. It’s another one that gets the foot tapping and is tough not to dance to.
After the earlier covers, I was worried that the first bonus track “I Say a Prayer For You” was a cover of the soul standard “I Say a Little Prayer”. Fortunately, for the sake of Aretha Franklin and the others that performed the original, that’s not the case. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it would have been better if it had been, as it’s a washed out pop ballad that Atomic Kitten could have done. Not bad, I suppose, but given that most of the album has had dance and funk influences, it’s a dreadful let down this far into the album.
The album ends with “100 Different Ways”, which has a Sugababes or even TLC kind of beat running behind it, but doesn’t have quite the same attitude. As with several others earlier on the album it promises more than it delivers and is a pop ballad with perhaps a bit more of an edge than “I Say a Prayer For You”, but without the attitude it could do with to make it better.
While there is less variation of influences on this album than there was on “Sound of the Underground”, it is a better crafted album, with a bit more attitude and a little bit more of a funky groove. Whilst it’s still largely pop music, it’s managing not to fall foul of too many clichés, and is veering away from the sickly sweet ballad end of the pop spectrum inhabited by Atomic Kitten and Westlife for the most part.
The stand out tracks are the singles, but there are enough decent tracks on the rest of the album to make it worth a purchase, if you’re into Girls Aloud or pop music generally. There’s a hint of the sexiness that Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera have been using to sell records recently, although not too much for Girls Aloud to appear as trashy as they became. There’s a hint of the hip hop sound that the Sugababes have been using to great effect of late, although with more of a pop edge than they have, and Girls Aloud’s most obvious influences stretch back beyond most of the current bands and into funk and disco.
There’s enough variation to make things interesting, although I’m not entirely sure that Girls Aloud have really found their own sound as yet. Without “Pop Idol” being in the immediate memory, I can see this album having a shorter shelf life that “Sound of the Underground”, but with more songs like “The Show” and “Love Machine”, in particular, there could well be another in the offing.
At 51 minutes long, with the two UK bonus tracks my version has, it’s a good length for a pop album. Being a relatively new album, it’s not easy to find it very cheaply as yet, although the £8.99 it would cost from Amazon and play.com is quite reasonable value, given that it’s a decent album. Copies are just starting to appear on eBay, with £2.00 being the cheapest I’ve seen it for, although I’m sure prices will start to come down as the album ages a little more.
Girls Aloud are never likely to win any prizes for album of the year, except perhaps from magazine concentrating on pop music. But that’s the way it should be. There’s not a lot here that’s ground breaking, or even terribly original, but there is much that’s actually rather good. In what was a lacklustre year for bubblegum pop acts, this album doesn’t have any serious competition at present for the best pop album around. If your neighbours are into pop music, I can tell you what they’ll say – buy it now.