Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 1998 debut eponymous album Five by British boy band Five. Will this album be a 5 star rating, or should you Slam Dunk it into the bin? Read on…
This “16” track CD bursts opens with single Slam Dunk Da Funk, which opens with ‘Five bad boys with the power to rock you’ shouted into the mic. The funky bass and percussive heavy beats are soon in place and it delivers a smooth catchy track. The song introduces the group in much the same way that their sibling group (Spice Girls) by the same creative team did in Wannabe (with ‘M in her place, she likes it in her face‘ vibes). The magic worked well, giving the band a #10 debut UK single. The album is off to a great track.
Next up is When The Lights Go Out which allows the group to show of their more softer and tender vocals. Here, the 90s R&B pop beats give this a really smooth easy flowing sound, and the placement of Abz’s rap fits perfectly, even if he does sound a bit Dick Van Dyke with his ‘clothes orf’ line. I remember this song coming out and thinking it was quite catchy, but it’s actually stood the ravages of time well, proving that it was and is a worthy opponent to anything that Backstreet Boys could release. The track rose to #4 in the UK when released as the second single.
Growling guitars are here now, for a harder rock sound of Everybody Get Up, and the song hangs off of the repeated use of the main guitar sample/interpolation of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll hit. To be honest, it works well with these testosterone-fuelled good looking lads, and even their rapping here makes them sound like they’re a half-credible Run DMC tribute act. It’s wonderfully catchy though, and the challenge not to tap your foot is hard – it resulted in the single hitting #2.
Got The Feelin’ is next, and this time we’re taking record scratches, handclaps, and a lighter more summery tone. ‘Na na na naaa naa’ is a catchy repetitive vocal motif used throughout and it’s joined by some repeating piano notes tinkering in the mix. The chorus is another great sounding catchy element to this song, and it’s uplifting too with lyrics about dancing, jumping around, and feeling alright – this worked a treat, and gave the group a #3 hit.
That’s followed by It’s The Things You Do, and this lands us right into 90’s boyband territory, and could easily have been Backstreet Boys or possibly even Blue. It’s a plodder, but does have some really nice vocals and harmonies that help to show off the boys’ vocal skills.
Next is Human (The Five Remix) which makes me wonder what (or whose?) the other remix was. This is another slick and softer R&B track that allows the boys’ vocals to shine. It’s a fairly minimal song, with a simple beat, soft synth pads, and vocal harmonies. Once again, the rap works a treat, alongside a few sampled record scratches and crowd sounds.
The heartfelt ballad Until The Time Is Through follows this with breathy vocals and acoustic guitars. It’s the kind of song that Boyzone and Westlife might have had suggested to them. There’s definitely a few step-up-from-stool moments here, but it’s a fairly delicate and warm song, it just really could be any boyband whatsoever. It somehow ended up being released as a single though, and landed them a #2 hit.
Satisfied is next, opening with lots of panting, which signals that we’re into horny lad zone, and they are clearly singing to whomever they want to woo to be ‘with me tonight’. It bounces along quite nicely, and that panting actually helps it along, but it just lacks a little in the melody and the chorus feels a bit flat.
It’s time for Partyline 555-On-Line and the initial rapping swiftly reminds me of Skee-Lo’s Wish hit. We’re treated here though to some more of that wonderfully funky bass, backed by a load of samples. The balance between rap and singing over a funky sound, really works well.
The macho shouty approach returns to the opener of That’s What You Told Me, and aside from some dramatic hits and shriek sounds, it’s a fairly swaggering mid-tempo heartbreak track. The chorus line, although repetitive, is actually catchy, but the song is pretty minimal but nice enough.
We’re into a late night jazz cafe as a quiet little trumpet(?) plays, and then suddenly Five turn up to shout It’s All Over as a thick growling synth lead gurgles away. The guys take it in turns to sing or rap in reflection about a love lost, as they’re joined by the brass section again. It sounds stylised to a mix of 90s boy band and some vintage era.
We’re treated to some really nice vocal harmonies and leads in next track Don’t You Want It, alongside some great rapping too. It once again treads the line to the border with Backstreet Boys and Blue, but this is clearly Five.
Next, in Shake, a compare informs us that ‘live from Madison Funky Gardens’ comes Five. Then, oddly, we’re informed that we need to get ready to rhumble, and the track seems to be weird pseudo-medley of 90’s songs include Don’t Stop (Wiggle Wiggle) by The Outhere Brothers, followed by some Little Jack Horner and Humpty Dumpty references. I’m not sure what the hell this is, or who suggested to commit it to tape.
Aptly, that leads on to Cold Sweat, and this throws us into growling guitars meets a kind of late 80’s Bobby Brown sound (think My Prerogative). The track also has dramatic percussion, including a clanging bell in the chorus – I can almost imagine Bobby or even Britney singing this, but Five put in a great turn, and the result is a attitude-filled powerful song with layers of instruments and vocals. It works a treat.
Straight Up Funk follows that, offering you some ‘straight up funk in your ear’ over a slightly sinister sounding song, led by a raspberry-blowing lead synth sound. This is accompanied by menacing rap and vocals (including robo vocals), and it works really quite well.
The album ‘closes’ with My Song, which again takes on some funky bass and layers of nods to some 70s and 80s hits with a sort of knock-off bass line that is-but-isn’t The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’. To me though, this song sounds like it’s just a little bit too painfully slow and that it is busting to go a bit faster.
But wait… there’s then 39 empty tracks before track 55 Switch arrives with a party. This track is a 4m 1s song tucked away a long way back, loaded with party, record scratches, and yet more funky bass. As its title suggests, the track switches style each time the lads shout ‘Switch’. This places it only really a little better off than the messy Shake song from earlier as it flips around in chaos. ‘Off’ is the missing word.
Over all this album is really quite catchy, and has a wonderful funky underbelly, it’s just a bit too long.
I felt daunted having this album finally surface in our review pile, but I was somewhat relieved to find that it’s actually a pretty slick album, and the first third is catchy as hell. There’s some wonderfully funky bass lines in here too, and coupled with angst-filled shouting, occasionally growling guitars and gurgling synths, it makes it a pretty strong first part. Singles When The Lights Go Out, Everybody Get Up, Got The Feelin’ and Slam Dunk (Da Funk) ensure the first few tracks go well, and these great tracks are joined by It’s All Over, Cold Sweat and Straight Up Funk later on.
Sadly though, there’s this baggy bit in the middle, which runs for five consecutive tracks where they aren’t as well formed, or the vocal performance is weaker. Gone are the catchy songs, and in come the generic boy band tracks that would blight UK music charts for at least a further decade. Lurking in the depths of the trough of shame is Shake, which really doesn’t work, and it’s partnered by hidden track Switch – both could easily have been chopped.
The downside to this album is its length, and the weaker mid section makes it a hard ask to try to make it across to the brief joy in the final furlong. If the album had been 12 tracks, I doubt we’d have missed anything, but 17 just makes it a hard task and that’s cost it a star.
- POP RESCUE 2023 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1998 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #1, certified 2x Platinum by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.48 from an eBay seller.
One thought on “Review: “Five” by Five (CD, 1998)”
Human is an 80s song they remixed The Human League – Human This is the old song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1ysoohV_zA
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