Album Reviews

Girls Aloud – What Will The Neighbours Say?

(Polydor) UK release date: 29 November 2004

Girls Aloud - What Will The Neighbours Say? As much as a lot of us would hate to admit it, lest it blow our credibility, it’s time people recognised that there is such a thing as great pop music. Robbie and Kylie are the current King and Queen of course, but even groups critically sniffed at such as S Club could produce a gem like Don’t Stop Movin’. Hell, even Britney Spears came up with Toxic, as close to pop perfection as you can get.

Now take Girls Aloud. Ignore the fact that they were created for a television show. Ignore the fact that none of them have particularly strong or distinguished singing voices, and ignore the fact that they appear on the cover of lads mags more often than they do the music press. Instead, concentrate on the songs and you’ll realise that Girls Aloud are one of this country’s great pop acts.

Take Love Machine for example – three and a half minutes of pure joy, taking in a guitar line that sounds like it’s been nicked from a old rockabilly tune, some mid ’80s synth pop and a rousing chorus. It’s what pop music should be all about: fun, silly, a little bit trashy and utterly disposable. It’s not pretending to be anything it’s not and that’s what makes it one of the best singles of the year.

The Show works similar magic, but it’s not just the singles that shine here – Wake Me Up marries a garage rock guitar sound to strange, almost Aphex Twin-like sound effects (I’m aware of how ridiculous it is to compare Girls Aloud to Richard James but bear with me…) and stomps along in a very confident manner, whereas Glitter My Soul (rejected by Britney incidentally) is pure filth in an Essex nightclub (“Spike heels and skin tight jeans, got a fistful of love coming your way… baby come baby come if you know what I mean” run the rather unsubtle lyrics).

Tellingly, it’s when the girls stray from their regular songwriting team that they become unstuck. The appalling cover of I’ll Stand By You is a major mistake – Chrissie Hynde has one of the most sensual, characteristic voices in music whereas Nadine, Cheryl et al don’t. Even worse is Jump, The Pointer Sisters cover version recorded for Love Actually – the girls sound bored singing it and the listener is certainly fed up by the time the song finishes.

The two covers are the only mis-step though here. Deadlines And Diets is a witty, cool ballad of the sort All Saints used to do so well with some sassy lyrics that can’t fail to raise a smile, and Here We Go is just, well, brilliant. Admittedly, it sounds like a carbon copy of No Good Advice, but it manages to include lines like “I don’t do sex but I do second base so I suggest you wipe that frown from off your face” and gets away with it, and throws in a chorus that will have everyone’s inner child dancing in front of the bathroom mirror singing into a hairbrush.

No doubt soon Girls Aloud will be wanting to prove themselves as serious artists, write their own songs and wave goodbye to all this bubblegum pop nonsense. Until that day though, they should be treasured. Damn the sniffy music critics who will pour scorn, What Will The Neighbours Say is nothing less than the pop album of the year.

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