Album Reviews

Sneaky Sound System – Sneaky Sound System

(14th Floor) UK release date: 20 April 2009

If you’ve been in a house music club, listening to Radio 1 or watching a commercial TV channel, the chances are you’ll have heard Sneaky Sound System.

This will be through one of two means – the catchy single Pictures, picked out by Jo Whiley for the spring in its step, or the ‘weekend anthem’ that is UFO. Add that to the massive south hemisphere hit I Love It, and the Aussie foursome have a potentially formidable opening trio. All they had to do was come up with some tracks to complement them on an album, and the summer could have been theirs.

At which point the spectre of Madison Avenue hovers into view. The Melbourne group hit the top nine years ago with Don’t Call Me Baby, released a follow-up single that sounded exactly the same, released an album of songs that sounded exactly the same and disappeared without trace. Unfortunately the same fate, album-wise at least, looks set to befall their Sydney counterparts.

We should, however, concentrate on the good news. Pictures is insanely catchy, has a carefree attitude, and works well wherever the house party. I Love It has staying power, too – confirmed by its lengthy stay in the singles chart down under. UFO is a solid third – so if you switch off after that, you’ll be none the wiser.

Sadly from the fourth track onwards things progress steeply down hill, as the lyrical and melodic inspiration runs dry. The vibe strives to remain positive, but the ear quickly tires of insipid lyrics, hackneyed production techniques and beats that, while danceable, would surely soundtrack your footsteps to the bar for the next drink.

For this is a hark back to the 1990s, when dance acts were good for a couple of singles but were well advised to steer clear of the long player format. Sneaky Sound System fall into all the traps those artists did, completing a full set when they attempt a deep and meaningful down tempo track to finish with.

Where to start? It’s something of a competition for worst album track, this – Not My Problem, with its faux anger, is a contender, as is When We Were Young, a half-sung, half-spoken horror. I Just Don’t Want To Be Loved is, if anything, even worse, stammering its way through to a rather unconvincing chorus.

The truth is if you want a commercial dance album, outfits like the Freemasons do this sort of thing with more class and, crucially, don’t forget to include tunes the whole way through. Sneaky Sound System use all theirs up before a quarter of an hour is gone.

You get the picture, then. Actually, you should just go and get Pictures – it’s a good song on its own. Give the album a miss.

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