ntro" is, quite literally, an intro: 42 seconds of sports car launch party bass and our five heroes letting us know "It's all about the hangover, it's all about the fame." It's not quite pouting: the only thing Girls Aloud don't do well is showing actual emotion. If you don't "get it" by now, here's the explanation: Girls Aloud, and their overseers Xenomania have pretty much perfected their technique to making music now. Get into the convertible of pop, and drive it full speed into the shop window of whichever genre you feel like acting like a magpie with added sass to today. So much gets joy-ridden over the course of this album: French cafe torch songs, stripper club Southern blues, the poncier end of Britpop, and pretty much every single major innovation in house music over the past ten years.
You can argue that nobody listens to Girls Aloud other than 12 year old girls, raving homosexuals, and formerly-indie music critics, but that's more than enough to sustain a career these days. And, three albums in, we have to be looking at the twilight of the Girls' career: next year will come the Greatest Hits album, followed no doubt by pregnancy, CD:UK hosting jobs, and being evicted from the jungle two days after TV funnyman Stu "I could crush a grape" Francis. For a band that have broken so many boundaries, and danced across so many genres (with a lot more grace than they dance live on stage, admittedly), it's depressing to think that this is going to all be over.
But you can enjoy this while it still lasts. For instance, "Models." You've spent a lot of time wondering what the Pet Shop Boys would sound like if they were a Devo tribute act, right? It deals with men who try to assert their masculinity by sleeping with cover girls (a dangerous viewpoint to take from a band who've always hesitated a few inches away from falling into the jagged rocks of lads mag irrelevance, the reason that Rachel Stevens and Holly Valance are selling zero records whilst Goldfrapp shift units for fun these days), but there's the whole "If you grew up with holes in your Zapatos you would celebrate the minute you was having dough" sub-text of the song: they brag of drinking Cristal in rounds, eating lobster, and actually being the models who get tracked down these days. Girls Aloud are council estate girls made good, the same way the Spice Girls were, and as such there's an actual love of the job they're doing, it's an escape route from their past and into fame, as opposed to those haircut indie bands who would instead be working in their father’s law practice or lecturing in media studies.
Then there's the singles. "Long Hot Summer" was a misstep, fizzy and sparkling, but if pop can only be described as such, then it goes flat long before October rolled on. Not even the Betty Boo rapping could elevate it above a 7/10. "See The Day" is overblown enough a Christmas song to hopefully stop JCB from claiming that Xmas #1, but over the trinity of single releases so far "Biology" is God. Beginning like Meg trying to convince Jack White to go to a lap-dance bar with her, it then crashes head-on into light-as-air Europop, the song is about menstruation or pheromones or something, and OH MY GOD THAT CHORUS is exactly how I imagine ascending into Heaven to feel like, floating yet forceful, it nearly snaps your neck with its little finger.
"Watch Me Go" takes Gwen Stefani's interpretation of J-Pop and then randomly fuses it to some sort of Shampoo-meets-Neneh Cherry girl band rap until all you can remember is Nicola going "I know what you're thinking about, you're thinking about my butt," and really all I'm thinking is that Chemistry isn't quite as good as What Will The Neighbours Say? for reasons not quite tenable. It feels more rushed, and less cohesive, and maybe this is where production line pop has its flaws because eventually you _have_ to get the product out of the door, even if it comes down to rear-loading your album with ballads ("No Regrets" is totally unnecessary to this album, you could run over my dog and I still wouldn't be affected by it). It's not filler, it's just not as cohesive as it could have been.
It doesn't matter though. Girls Aloud on their A- game is worth 20 other modern bands bringing their A+s to the scene. It all ends on their Officially Dubbed By The Blogosphere "Blur" track, "Racey Lacey." Character based roffles about a girl who's a "Phd with her legs apart". It's not all about the hangovers and the fame, it's all about fun. Which is all Girls Aloud can give you. This album is just going to make January 2007's split all the more harder to stomach.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2005-12-12