Album Reviews

The Ga*Ga*s – Tonight The Midway Shines

(Sanctuary) UK release date: 7 February 2005

The Ga*Ga*s: I’m thinking tousled hair, denim and some kind of indie-rock sound – The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Libertines, that sort of thing, you know. Oh, you thought so too? Well, we were all deceived. The Ga*Ga*s are in fact more Slash and Duff than Doherty and Barat. Early singles and videos have really created quite a stir. But does their debut album live up to this reputation?

Yes, it does. It swaggers with the arrogance of the leather-trousered, flying V toting proper rock stars of yesteryear that are subtly referenced throughout this album (think Aerosmith, Jane’s Addiction and Guns and Roses). It’s rammed with crunching riffs, passionate vocals and likeable pop sensibilities. I really rather like it, and here’s why.

Skipping dinner and a nightcap, The Ga*Ga*s kick off with Sex (hurrah!), a single released a couple of weeks before this album. It’s steamy and sleazy and so forth and it’s pretty aggressive, showing glimpses of Tommy Gleeson’s impressive vocal range as well. Rolling over and lighting up that post-coital cigarette is Left of Centre, a softer and instantly appealing tune, “I want them to remember me” he sings – make a few more like this and we just might!

The structure of the album is nicely encapsulated by this opening duo, alternating good ol’ heavy rockers with straight ahead pop rock numbers. Occasionally knockout riffs and screeching pyrotechnic guitars combine effortlessly with commercial aspects to make for sure-fire hits that ought to push The Ga*Ga*s out of the back pages of Kerrang! and towards a far wider audience. Swallow Me is the shining example of this and pushes hard for the standout song of the album.

But it’s not without competition. Of the heavier tracks, the killer riff on Replica which recalls a little Metallica is definitely not out of the running and Breaking America is up there too. Speaking of Breaking America, it’s very easy to see The Ga*Ga*s doing just that, especially as Lostprophets (a band with which they are highly comparable) have had much success over the Pond recently.

Much as I enjoy the eyes-down, face the front and hammer out giddy overdriven hell that several of these tracks deliver, the beating heart of this album is in its quieter, deeper moments. You’ll swear the Goo-Goo Dolls are filling in for their nearly namesakes on Crash and Burn, which is a well crafted ballad “so I moved on, I waited patiently for her, so long, I held on… so long to you”. Air is in similar vein, with a sing-along chorus that really belongs in a stadium concert.

If I’ve got one issue with this album it’s that some of the lyrics are a little… ummm, well “Sign on to fight in the name of rock and roll / You won’t survive the impact” says it all, really. There’s clich� with a side order of cheese in places here, though this is a minor gripe and barely diminishes the overall quality of the album.

I don’t really understand why The Ga*Ga*s shirked conventional punctuation and put two stars in their name but I think four or five would have been a more appropriate choice given the excellence of this album and the promise of this band.

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The Ga*Ga*s – Tonight The Midway Shines