This is the 2007 album Tangled Up by British girl group Girls Aloud. Does it sound like a beautifully woven piece, or is it just the sound of a bunch of puppets with their strings crossed? Read on…
The 12 track album bursts opens with second single Call The Shots, and this is a superb musical and lyrical example of production house Xenomania’s work. The production is sleek, and the vocals sound fantastically warm and rounded, as the synth-laden backing track bounces effortlessly along. It went on to give them a #3 UK hit single, and that’s perfectly deserved.
Close To Love follows this, laden again with bouncing synths, jointed by a growling guitar. This track is catchy, with some really nice pop vocals throughout. There’s an almost disco feel in the mid section before the guitars burst back in to deliver us into the latter half. It plays on the call and response format of song, and it really races along, but doesn’t quite travel as far as Call The Shots.
Next up is lead single Sexy! No No No… opening with some wonderful distorted vocals on top of some spacey pad sounds. The song also includes a sample of Nazareth’s 1975’s hit Hair Of The Dog, which adds to the track and helps it to be deadly catchy and easily singalong, and understandably gave them a #5 UK chart hit. The song has a fantastic pace to it – racing along to the sound of roaring guitars as the girls’ vocals sound superbly confident, although its speed may challenge the casual singalong fan.
This is followed by Girl Overboard, which has some wonderful 80’s sounding synths to it, reminding me of something from Fancy, Ken Laszlo or more lately Kid Kasio. The track is of course catchy, but lyrically less than the previous songs here.
Third and final single Can’t Speak French follows this, and this is a fun track (as is the Marie Antoinette inspired video). The track is a mid-tempo track, and stylistically different from many of their other tracks – far more jazzy, and perhaps leaning towards something I’d expect from the Sugababes. This gives the girls plenty of time and space to deliver their rich and sultry vocals, which they do with great ease. The track gave them a #9 hit in the UK, although it deserved a much higher placing.
Then we’re onto Black Jacks which takes a harder rockier sound via the chugging guitars and drums intro, and aided by the shouty chorus mid section. It’s nice to hear Girls Aloud taking this harder sound, but lyrically the song is not particularly that interesting.
That’s followed by Control Of The Knife, which again gives us a stylistic departure from what we’ve heard so far. This time, it’s a mixture of reggae and ska here. This gives the track an instant foot-tapping appeal, which helps ensure that the song is catchy. The vocals are delivered effortlessly, and it definitely echoes the Sugababes style again (with whom the group had already partnered with for charity single Walk This Way).
Fling arrives, with the intro sounding like a Star Trek beam up, before the angry electric guitars roar in, as ‘fling baby, fling baby’ is sung repeatedly over the top. The guitars are wonderfully dirty here, and this works well against the angst-filled shouty vocals before switching to a funk sound. This track is fun, but it’s really only the chorus that is catchy and memorable.
Next is What You Crying For which seems to flip stylistically again to…. drum and bass. This sounds very dated, cheap, and is the low point of the album so far. A misuse of Girls Aloud.
I’m Falling follows this, laden with space synth sounds, and lots of electronic drums. The Girls’ vocals flitter around this mess of sound, almost in zero gravity themselves. Whilst the music is probably suited best to a Prodigy album, the vocals feel thrown in randomly.
It’s Damn next which feels like a return to form. It’s a catchy, easy flowing song, a bit 80’s pop-rock, and musically it has a different recording sound, as if the drums are played live. It’s a nice little simple up-tempo pop song.
The album closes with Crocodile Tears, not to be confused with Jimmy Nail’s Crocodile Shoes. We’re treated an almost orchestral song with lots of strings including acoustic guitars. The vocals here sound like they’re given space to breath naturally rather than suffer at the hands of being over-produced, and the lyrics give a catchy chorus. The song effortlessly flows and swells, and this makes this a perfect ending to the album.
Over all, this album is a banquet of late-2000’s music production and styles.
As with any Xenomania production, it is strong, confident, and very well produced. The lyrics pack punches all over the place, and the vocals are right there with them. At times, it is clearly a production team’s effort, and so the variation is not wide (Black Jacks being lyrically quite mundane), but when it does stray it doesn’t always work – most notably in What You Crying For and I’m Falling.
The worst part of this album is the dreadful cover – it gives the air of a contractural obligation before a Greatest Hits album (although it came after one). Girls Aloud are so photogenic, both as a group and individually, that it seems very strange that they’d avoid placing them on the cover of what is a ‘Special Edition’.
- POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2007 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #4, certified Platinum by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Sue Ryder shop