Tits 'n' arse, right? Well, yeah, that's basically what it's all about. Skinny girls showing their skinny flesh to not-so-skinny girls and pubescent boys who are sitting at home, pretending to make out with the one girl that's unfortunate enough to appear on a poster with her mouth open. Tits 'n' arse, always a success. Who cares how it sounds? Who cares that it's mass-produced crap? Who cares about anything, except sales? If it sells, it's good. If it sells, it's successful. If it sells, the faceless middle-aged songwriters stay anonymous, but get ever richer for their anonymity, and the girls...
Well, they get skinnier. Show more flesh. Innocently get their boobs out on holidays for expectant paparazzi a little bit more. Eventually develop drinking problems and end up in rehab, and no one really cares. Because the new band with bigger tits and even more ass has come along, and usurped the throne.
See, that old dictum about history being repeated was almost written for the pop world. Every pop band does the same thing. Break from their management, have the ubiquitous failed solo careers, and insist that they are capable of writing their own songs when they aren't, and should have their hands chopped off to prevent them even trying.
So, when Girls Aloud, the best pop band that the UK has produced since 5ive, started complaining about their manager, insisted that they weren't going to do ridiculous covers anymore and started threatening to write their own songs, it looked like they were swinging precariously over the edge of the deep chasm of pop-failure, resigned, forever, to attempted solo careers, reunion tours, and a life-long friendship with Betty Ford.
Thank fuck there's always that one exception.
Chemistry shows a more evolved, even more dynamic version of Girls Aloud. Complete with speed holes and racing stripes. All moral restraint is thrown to the wind. More tits. More arse. More infectious hooks and catchy melodies. More degenerate lyrics. Nothing that will change the face of pop music forever. Nothing that a million bands haven't done before. Nothing that a million bands won't do again in the next ten years. Girls Aloud know what their market is, and they are sticking religiously to the same formulae that captured that market in the beginning.
Not that it's a bad thing, you understand. Hell, even the album track fodder is almost faultless. "Swinging London Town" is a mix of lo-fi synthesized guitar riffs and tenacious pop melody that breaks down into some Daft Punk-esque electro weirdness. Chemistry is one of those albums on which every track could have been a single, though. The singles themselves are out of this world. The rock 'n' roll influenced "Biology" and the dancey "Long Hot Summer" are two perfect advertisements for the rest of the album, displaying an impeccable mix of rhythm, melody and pop perfection.
Mercifully, there's even fewer shit pop ballads. More time for more dance floor fillers. A few too many fadeouts. No attempts at bad harmonies and some of the least self-respectful lyrics since Britney Spears became a slave for us all. Possibly even a few swear words here and there. Even more sexually depraved than "Love Machine," even more catchy "The Show." Chemistry is a master class in trash pop. A more consistent album than its predecessors, even more contagious and fun and, happily, with none of that much maligned maturity thing that has blighted pop music since its inception.
Too many pop bands like to go off down that imaginary road to serious artistry these days. Too many pop artists like to get ideas above their station. Too many pop artists become so supercilious that they try to tell the mass media consuming public what it wants to buy, and that never washes over well. It's nice to find, at last, a trash pop band that knows its place.
"Girls, all I really want is girls / And in the morning it's girls / Cause in the evening it's girls. I like the way that they walk / And it's chill to hear them talk / And I can always make them smile / From White Castle to the Nile"
I think The Beastie Boys sum it up quite well, really. There is no doubting that a large part of Girls Aloud's appeal is the fact that four of them are world class stunners that most men would give their right nut for a night with... and an ugly ginger. However, that misses the point; Girls Aloud are the finest purveyors of pop music in the United Kingdom at the moment. Sure, they aren't saying anything important in the grand scheme of things, but who cares when they have a back catalogue that includes "Love Machine" and "Sound of the Underground" as stand out tracks? NOT I!
Chemistry is the third album in as many years for the 'Popstars: The Rivals' winners. And while many pop acts would show signs of going stale or running out of steam, Girls Aloud seem to be going from strength the strength. Yes, the album lacks the killer hooks of the cover of the Pointer Sisters "Jump" that made What Will the Neighbours Say so darn good, but this is still a stronger album overall. The band, having dumped manager Louis Walsh, has pretty much done away with the ballads that dragged their last albums down. They've replaced them with pure groove with an electronic backing to showcase their song writers' lyrics in the sultry way that only pop acts can do.
Obvious highlights include the lead off single "Long Hot Summer," which features a great little guitar riff and a chorus so big and beat laden that only a scene kid trying his hardest to look cool wouldn't succumb to it and be grooving with all the people that are able to let their hair down and enjoy themselves once in a while. Album closer "Lacey Racey" is gosh darned hot; with lyrics such as "She's made seduction a work of art / A PhD with her legs apart," it's hard to believe that this is a band aimed squarely at the pre-teens/young teens/gays. Ok, the last one is pretty easy to see, I admit. Yet, this is the appeal of Girls Aloud. They push the right buttons to make them well loved by young girls, the fickle teenage market, housewives, and the big money spinner that is the pink pound. All by getting the right producers and songwriters to make great euphoric pop songs that make you want to dance like it's the only thing you are allowed to do.
Once again, the only let down is the ballads. Girls Aloud are always at their best when playing up the obvious strengths, and singing slow slushy songs just isn't it. "No Regrets" is boring, terribly so. As is "See the Day" which is a song they should have left to Dee C. Lee, and is an awful choice for a Christmas single. While they do have good voices, you just find your mind wandering during these songs. Seriously, girls, leave the ballads to Bryan Adams and keep with the winning formula.
This is probably the best pop album of the year, but then I guess that really isn't saying much these days. It's a shame that there are very few pop acts out there that can at least match Chemistry as an unadulterated pure pop album. This sort of album is always something to behold as something for drunken parties, to give you cheesy lines to use on the opposite sex, and generally to secretly like but never admit to it for fear of dirty looks from your friends. I'm proud, however, to say that I like Girls Aloud. Are you?
7.5 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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