All-Time Albums: #28



1 Intro 0:42
2 Models 3:28
Biology 3:35 (UK single, #4)
Wild Horses 3:23
5 See The Day 4:04 (UK single, #9)
6 Watch Me Go 4:05
Waiting 4:13
8 Whole Lotta History 3:47 (UK single, #6)
9 Long Hot Summer 3:52 (UK single, #7)
10 Swinging London Town 4:02
11 It’s Magic 3:52
12 No Regrets 3:21
13 Racy Lacey 3:06

And so to Pop Royalty, and the third Girls Aloud long-player. Now, I came late to the party, as far as never seeing the Pop Stars: The Rivals TV show that created them and not being that impressed with their debut single at the time. It was the follow-up, No Good Advice, which got me hooked. Big time.

It was, at least until Gwen Stefani’s solo career began, the best slice of thrilling pure pop I’d heard in a long time. The rest of the album was surprisingly good, despite running to about 15 songs. I bought the repackage as well, although the original version was absolutely fine in my opinion. The only annoyance with the era was Some Kind Of Miracle being pulled from release as the third (or fourth) single release.

Fast-forward through 2004 and there were more great singles but a weirdly underwhelming album in the shape of What Will The Neighbours Say?, which arrived in a staggeringly dull and unimaginative sleeve. Some of the tracks were amazing (Graffiti My Soul), but too many felt like fillers. By the time of album No.3 Chemistry, the crap artwork concept hadn’t been addressed. The uniform quality of the material, however, had.

The record label, in its wisdom, decided to thrust Chemistry into the pre-Christmas maelstrom of seasonal efforts and compilations, sacrificing the chance of a decent chart position in exchange for (possibly) greater sales. Which is why the record books will forever have #11 next to this album’s chart run.

Girls Aloud were without equal in terms of singles output during the Noughties, but this felt like the first of their albums to do justice to the brilliance of Xenomania’s brand of hi-octane, inventive modern pop. Cracking 45s like Biology were a given by this point, but the weird and wonderful likes of Wild Horses? The sublime chords of It’s Magic? Waiting’s evocation of The Cure’s Lovecats? If anything, the most workmanlike efforts were two of the singles lifted from the album; Long Hot Summer and a rote cover of See The Day (for the Christmas/Charity market, natch).

Xenomania’s approach has something in common with Mutt Lange’s way of fashioning those ridiculously catchy soft-rock anthems for Def Leppard, Bryan Adams and Shania Twain. Everything has a hook, a purpose. It’s wave after wave of pre-choruses, choruses and post-choruses, with ever-changing melodic tricks thrown in for good measure. On Chemistry, it is relentless.

What the album may lack in one of their signature monster hits, it more than makes up for with one perfectly-crafted gem after another.

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