Today’s POP RESCUE from a charity shop bargain bin (yes, this was true!), is the 1994 debut album Psyche by actors PJ & Duncan, better known now television presenter duo Ant & Dec. Should you be psyched up for this album, or have they wrecked the mic too much? Let’s find out…
The album bursts straight open with their huge hit and third single – Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble – a hugely successful and catchy song, that is impossible to find a flaw in it. It is impossible not to dance/twitch/sway along to this song, and sing along, and not do the hand signal bit at the ‘psyche!‘ lyric. Tucked away within this song, is what i’m pretty sure is a short segment of the growly synth/guitar section of Everybody Dance Now by C&C Music Factory. Despite them having ‘too many lyrics we’re frightened to use ’em‘ the rapping isn’t too heavy, and it gives plenty of space for the music.
Next up is One Look, which sees the duo take on a soulful ballad. This song would not sound out of place on the Eternal debut album of the previous year. This is quite a nice song, and a complete contrast to the previous song.
This is followed by second single Why Me?, which heavily echoes 1992 hit Jump by Kriss Kross. This was their first foray into the UK top 40, reaching #27 in the singles chart. Lyrically, this song doesn’t really go anywhere, but the Kriss Kross crossover in the chorus helps to make it a really catchy song.
She Scores A Perfect 10 follows, and opens with piano and the vocals of Deni Lew, who not only co-wrote this track, but features as the backing singer on this album. Both Ant and Dec get some soft vocals here, with Deni taking the chorus. Deni really owns this track though, and
Lead single Tonight I’m Free is up next, heavily referencing the style of Utah Saints‘ 1992 Kate Bush-sampling hit Something Good. Tonight I’m Free was an edited version of the Rip It Up track that Ant & Dec’s characters PJ & Duncan came up with as band ‘Grove Matrix’ during the 1993 series of Byker Grove.
Next is what may have been their chance at a Christmas Number One – fifth single Eternal Love. This is another ballad, and one that really seems to be aiming at making them sound like an almost-Take That mature duo. The song took them to #12 on the UK singles chart, but it echoes a more mellow version of Take That’s Pray. When this album was released in Japan in 1995, it was retitled making Eternal Love the title track.
This is followed by If I Give You My Number, the fourth single from the album, which gave the duo a #15 hit in the UK. This song feels a little like a Backstreet Boys meets Eternal song. Deni Lew is back with more great backing vocals, taking another prominent role in the chorus. This song is quite up-beat and catchy, and even Ant and Dec’s lyrics aren’t too dated and cringeworthy, and all in all it’s quite nice.
Screaming crowds and an uncredited presenter introduce next song Talk About It (and names PJ and Duncan as ‘Ant and Dec‘). Then the song bursts in, and it’s got a great beat to it, whilst they claim to be ‘the new brand of hip hop’. They even manage a cheeky put-down of Milli Vanilli. Again, we have some echoes of Kriss Kross, and whilst there’s some nice catchy segments, it is quite repetitive and lacking in substance.
A synth ushers in next song Girlfriend – a mid-tempo ballad. Dec’s spoken-word/rap reminds me of East 17‘s hit single Deep. This song is quite dull and wafty. It could have been recorded by anyone… if they could stay awake long enough.
By contrast, Our Radio Rocks is fast, frantic, and very catchy, and a great example of early 90s chart dance (including some house piano segments), even if there’s some duff lyrics in there: ‘you got more pedigree than a Rolls Royce‘. There’s a great beat and bass line on this track, and some nice uses of samples.
Tinkling synths lead penultimate track I Want You in. This is one of three album tracks co-written by the duo. At times, this again sounds like an East 17 track, but also musically like something left over by Enigma. This musical sound, of relaxing soundscapes continues with closing track Free As A Bird, where Deni once again gets plenty of vocal time in the chorus. These two tracks really feel like fillers and wouldn’t have been missed if the album had been cut by two tracks.
..then, lurking at the end at 15m 5s, you get Ant and Dec talking about making their record, and how it’s their first and final album.
Where are PJ & Duncan now?
As Ant & Dec, the duo have focussed on their television presenting careers, hosting shows including I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, and are rarely seen on television individually.
Ant and Dec famously performed Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble on their Saturday Night Takeaway show in 2013, catapulting the track to #1 – giving them their first number one, and a single certified Silver in the UK.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all, there’s some absolute belters on this album, but there’s also some more mediocre ‘mature’ ballad songs which just feels like too much of an odd mixture. Occasionally it sounds a bit dated, but too their credit, in 1994 this would have been completely on the ball.
Now though, it does very occasionally get a little bit cringeworthy. A great debut for two teenage television actors, and one that undoubtedly helped to seal their fate as much-loved TV personalities.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1994 UK CHART POSITION: #5, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a British Heart Foundation bargain bin.